x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The case for Emiratisation

The Life: Workforces across the country are to welcome 20,000 Emiratis as a part of the recently launched Absher Initiative, which calls on the private sector to take part in advancing Emiratisation.

Visitors attend a career fair in Dubai in March. The private sector has been urged to help more Emiratis to get into the workforce. Jeff Topping / The National
Visitors attend a career fair in Dubai in March. The private sector has been urged to help more Emiratis to get into the workforce. Jeff Topping / The National

Workforces across the country are to welcome 20,000 Emiratis as a part of the recently launched Absher Initiative, which calls on the private sector to take part in advancing Emiratisation.

The initiative is based on four pillars: job creation, training, encouraging nationals to join the private sector and launching strategic partnerships. Because most leaders in the private sector have not had the privilege of working with Emiratis, let's discuss what to do when they join your team.

First of all, leaders need to defy the myths, which the market is ripe with.

As is common with myths, many here are unfounded, fabricated or exaggerated. If you listen to conversations in the expat community, a common myth is that if you hire a national, he or she will take your job.

When I hear this, I like to ask for examples of when this has happened in reality. Rather than having personally experienced it or even having detailed personal examples, the myth-bearer refers to a nebulous "friend" (whose name or exact details they cannot remember).

Another insulting myth is that nationals will not work hard. Just the other day, I listened to a leader who said he would hire any Emirati who would show up before 8am and work past 6pm. So I asked, "What time do you usually reach the office?" Without recognising the inconsistency he replied, "Around 9.15 each morning." This myth is unfounded as a generalisation of the local workforce and needs to be kept in check.

When welcoming national colleagues to your team, begin by believing in their ability and attitude. Your belief is fundamental in maintaining their conviction that they will succeed at your company. When a leader does not believe in his team, the followers quickly see through this and it impedes their performance. Uphold high expectations and lead to make them come true.

The next action for any leader is supporting the growth of his team. Emphasis should be given to nurturing the local workforce's achievement orientation, including capability, self-efficacy, behaviour and resilience. This action has a direct mutual benefit.

Be brave and assign challenging work to overcome a recurring historical breakdown.

There are stories of locals turning up to work and their managers refusing to give them any real work. When work is not challenging, employees lose interest. Why should we expect anything different in the local market? The UAE's history proves that when given challenging work and an environment to perform, Emiratis deliver. The final point is to spend time learning from your local colleagues. If you allow them, they will provide tips on how to work and lead that may be different from your native background. These sneak peeks should inform your self-improvement agenda.

In short, my advice when welcoming an Emirati colleague to your team is to lead them like you do every other team member whom you expect to succeed.

As Emiratisation is a national priority for 2013 and an important factor in developing the economy, I hope that every leader in the private sector, whether at local companies or multinationals, supports it.

Tommy Weir is an authority on fast-growth and emerging-market leadership, an adviser and the author of The CEO Shift. He is the founder of the Emerging Markets Leadership Center