x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Emiratis explain why they resigned

GCC conference hears Emiratisation process is hindered by a clash of expectations between local staff and western employers.

DUBAI // A low retention rate for nationals is undermining the Emiratisation process, according to a survey of more than 6,000 nationals who had recently resigned from corporate positions, which found that 60 per cent had left because of insensitive management.

The study, by the government-sponsored Emirates National Development Programme (ENDP), revealed a lack of career progression, insensitivity to religious customs and dress codes and the absence of a mentoring culture as the most frequently cited reasons nationals resigned their posts. However, speaking at the fourth GCC Nationalisation Summit yesterday, Kamraan Siddiqui, career adviser for the ENDP, said a reluctance to work long hours and unrealistic expectations of quick promotion were also factors in the high percentage of nationals who left their jobs.

"Within Emirati families there is a negative perception of certain commercial sectors, especially real estate and hospitality. There is also a strong wish among nationals seeking employment to work within Emirati teams that understand traditional customs, etiquette and dress codes. "Long working hours, shift systems and uniforms are very unpopular and are frequently cited as reasons for resignation. Secure positions in government departments and Islamic banks are favoured as promotion is guaranteed after certain periods of service and there is a sense that they are contributing to the development of the country."

The ENDP has the job of providing support both for nationals seeking work and for employers trying to comply with Emiratisation regulations. One part of this process was closely monitoring more than 20,000 nationals who were currently in or seeking employment in the corporate sector. Mr Siddiqui said one issue that arose frequently was that nationals expected to be coached and mentored by senior staff whereas their employers expected them to be self-sufficient and to overcome challenges through their own initiative.

Dr Tommy Weir, executive director of the EM leadership centre and an expert in the recruitment of nationals into senior positions, said that tensions between local employees and western employers were often a result of different management styles prevalent within the corporate cultures of contrasting regions. "In the GCC there is too much emphasis placed on prestige and position. If a national has a degree from Harvard or Cambridge they expect to have a senior role in a company, even if that qualification does not provide them with the skills for that role. There is not enough emphasis placed on performance.

"Similarly the local culture judges success on a position attained rather than performance in that position. Expat CEOs and managers forget that the UAE is a first-generation corporate society and that corporate principles that may be established in the West are new to this region." Abdulrahman Saqr, head of Emiratisation at Lloyds Banking Group, said cultural awareness programmes and the economic slowdown had given reason for hope that Emiratisation would become a natural process.

"To some extent young Emiratis ... have had everything provided for them," he said. "This combined with a lack of career counselling has been an issue and a barrier to the Emiratisation process. But this is changing." From an early age, children were now being given career information and advice. Some traditional barriers, such as literacy rates and proficiency in English, were also much less of an issue.

The conference concludes today. tbrooks@thenational.ae