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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Dubai's Majid Al Futtaim leads from the front

MAF's Leadership Institute is dedicated to enhancing the business acumen of its 40,000 employees

Majid Al Futtaim's Leadership Institute in Dubai is designed to help employees develop their skills in the workplace. Satish Kumar for The National /
Majid Al Futtaim's Leadership Institute in Dubai is designed to help employees develop their skills in the workplace. Satish Kumar for The National /

A few weeks ago Darryl Speech posted an article on LinkedIn in the hope that potential Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) recruits would read it.

Entitled "Don’t Tell Me, Show Me", the article included information and images about MAF’s Leadership Institute, which occupies the fourth floor of the company’s regional headquarters in Dubai.

“I noticed the people hitting my LinkedIn were the people I was going to be interviewing. I wanted them to really understand it,” says Mr Speech, who is MAF’s chief learning officer.

“Mr Majid made a conscious decision to invest a considerable amount of money in designing [the institute]. A lot of companies talk about learning and development but maybe they do the training in a basement with no windows. Here it is the exact opposite. This is pristine space with beautiful sky and open windows and an outdoor patio area. And it really just screams to all the employees that we are serious about this.”

MAF launched the Leadership Institute last year to function as a custodian of values, promote the MAF leadership model and ensure a consistent flow of top talent. And with almost 40,000 employees, there is a need to ensure an organised talent management and planning process.

The list of courses the institute offers is extensive and includes longer and one-off programmes. Some of the more comprehensive courses include Engage, Emerge, Grow and Lead.

“On top of that we have MAF talks and, if we are doing mergers and acquisitions, we might have a series of courses on how to do that more effectively when it comes to post acquisition integration and onboarding. We have courses on that,” says Mr Speech.

“We have several schools within the institute, under a lot of different curriculums. So we teach everything from customer experience, to leadership development, to analytics and technology. We are in the developing phase of a micro MBA right now. So we are even offering those type of courses.”

The institute will feature three schools in all: The School of Customer Experience, which will launch before the end of the year; The School of Analytics and Technology; and The school of Leadership Development.

Employees are selected to study the programmes in various ways.

“We work very closely with our colleagues in human capital, so performance management and all the tools they use to assess talent and, of course, we partner with the businesses,” says Mr Speech.

“If the businesses are going into new ventures – they are trying to let’s say do a digital transformation, or whatever they are attempting to do, we work closely with them to make sure that whatever needs to be accomplished from a learning and development standpoint. And we also help them identify who would be the best people to upskill and put through the different programmes.”

Last year, which was the institute’s first year of operation, almost 300 students graduated from courses.

Nermeen Negm, the senior marketing manager, development, at Majid Al Futtaim – Properties, who manages a group that is responsible for the marketing of all shopping mall projects, from inception to opening, completed the Lead programme. She says the Leadership Institute differs from traditional workplace training.

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“I learned how to develop high-performance teams through a technique that is centred on building team character,” she says.

She says she developed a set of techniques for her team to guide its direction, improve communication and maintain members’ energy levels. As a result, she says, she was able to boost the team’s focus and drive.

“I believe that one of the greatest takeaways from my experience at the Leadership Institute is the ability to apply the techniques that I learned immediately in real-life scenarios,” adds Ms Negm.

And for many, the benefits extend outside the workplace, too.

“I have become better at working with others by applying valuable techniques relating to collaboration and conflict resolution, for example,” says Ahmed Derazi, the manager, corporate communications, corporate marketing and brand department, Majid Al Futtaim - Holding, who graduated from the Grow programme, which is designed to help middle managers become better listeners, be more empathetic, understand others. He took part in various one-day workshops covering topics such as digital media and analytics.

He says he works with many colleagues across different brands and markets, which requires him to coach a diverse group of people on how to communicate effectively.

“Going through each module of the Grow course has helped equip me with the skills I need to connect with people, talk to and address them in a way that helps develop them into better communicators,” he says.

“The courses have also enriched me as an individual, outside of work. For instance, I am much better equipped to cope with everyday challenges and I am a much happier person as a result,” added Mr Derazi.

And this is exactly the point, says Mr Speech.

“We wanted to do the type of learning and life-changing enhancements that go even beyond the workplace. The confidence in these people – their ability to solve problems, their ability to handle difficult conversations, the ability to know themselves.

“Our programme starts with leading yourself, then leading others, then leading the team and then leading the company. Learning how to lead yourself is such a wonderful skill," adds Mr Speech.

"And a lot of these folks had never had this type of training and now they have you can definitely see a measurable difference."

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