Local flavour: Emiratisation in the FM industry

Is Emiratisation a priority for the FM industry?

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management, Emiratisation, Fm industry

The UAE government is encouraging creation of jobs for Emiratis. Is emiratisation is a priority for the FM industry?

The rate of unemployment for UAE nationals stands at 20.8%, and with the public sector saturated, the private sector is fertile ground for employment opportunities.

The FM industry is contributing to the cause by working towards increasing the percentage of Emiratis it employs.

Imdaad says its nationalisation plan is progressing as scheduled, with 50% of its top management executives now comprised of UAE nationals.

Safiya Al Matroushi, Imdaad’s director of human resources, says: “Imdaad has always considered Emiratisation as one of its major priorities. We feel that we have a responsibility towards our country and its community, by nourishing our national talent and ensuring they are recruited and developed to eventually become FM professionals and leaders.”

QBG also follows an Emiratisation policy. Atul Sinha, general manager, says: “For a company like QBG Services, Emiratisation is a prerequisite to achieve success. This is not thrust on to the clients but tailor-made to suit their needs, and ensures the optimum utilisation of available local talent.”

Understanding Emiratisation
However, it is important that firms and individuals understand what Emiratisation means, and awareness plays a key factor in improving statistics of UAE nationals employed not only in the FM industry, but across the private sector.

“2013 is being promoted as a year of creating jobs for UAE nationals, therefore the concept of Emiratisation needs to be understood and developed across all industry sectors, not just FM.

Employing Emiratis and Emiratisation is often not very clear and the benefit this may mean to businesses is also not understood. However we have seen a significant rise in the demand for UAE nationals this year from the FM industry.

We envisage this will increase as the industry understands the concept of Emiratisation more and the value this can add when employing a young, well-educated workforce,” explains James Maltman, managing director of Engage Selection, which is a corporate member of the Middle East Facilities Management Association (MEFMA).

Redha Al Kaabi, lead engineer for facility maintenance, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) agrees and says awareness is important for Emiratis too, not just businesses.

Al Kaabi was attending a MEFMA training conference when she added these kind of events were useful and called for an increase in workshops to spread the word.

Maltman adds that as MEFMA’s recruitment partner, Engage Selection will raise awareness on Emiratisation across all sectors of the FM industry.

“This will include information on what Emiratisation will mean to potential employers and employees. We will also be visiting schools and colleges in the UAE to build awareness of the FM market.

Employers also need to do their part and move on from outdated stereotypes about Emiratis and promote job opportunities within their organisations and industry sectors,” he says.

Managing director of Macro International, Bill Heath, says his company welcomes applications from UAE nationals. He says that on a large project in Abu Dhabi, the firm’s staff has a number of Emiratis, and the company actively seeks to develop them.

“It’s important for us as an international business working in the UAE to be culturally aware. To support this we have held cultural awareness sessions for our staff members and have been in contact with a local university about internships.

Although it is necessary to employ a wide range of nationalities in the UAE, it is equally important to recognise the drive to train and develop Emiratis where we can, in support of the longer term vision for the future,” he adds.

Nasif Kayed, the general manager of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in Dubai, is an active speaker on the topic, and gives lectures about Emiratisation across various industries.

“The concept (of Emiratisation) is being confused in the industry. Though the companies that have tried it have succeeded,” he says.

QBG is a firm that has done so: it employs 150 Emiratis for its various projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “In recognition of our efforts, QBG was awarded The Tawteen Award for Emiratisation by the Abu Dhabi Tawteen council last month for being a pioneer in the FM industry for hiring a large number of nationals,” says Sinha.

Besides currently employing cashiers, customer service and fleet management staff for projects, QBG plans to hire several Emiratis in skilled categories like engineers and technical staff this year.

“While Emiratisation enables good nationality mix, local understanding and easy access to the desired skill sets, it also enables quick response to urgent projects as this bypasses the visa processes required to hire expat staff,” explains Sinha.

Challenges faced
Al Kaabi, who initially studied construction management, explains many Emiratis do not view facilities management as being a prestigious field like engineering.

“I was one of them before, but I realised FM is more interesting. There is a very competitive market in the UAE for service providers, and Emiratis can gain a very good experience from them,” she says.

Al Matroushi further points out that one of the challenges faced by FM companies when attracting Emiratis is the limited awareness about the concept of facilities management.

Imdaad organises visits to local colleges and universities to create awareness about integrated facilities management, and regularly takes part in local career fairs and Emiratisation open days.

Sinha says a problem is that it is taken for granted that UAE nationals will not fulfil various FM requirements, which QBG proved wrong when it hired local supervisors for fleet management in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Kayed adds there can be training issues, but from the organisation’s end. “If nobody takes the time to mentor or train an Emirati employee, then it becomes boring for them.

I’ve heard of people contacting HR who say they have nothing for them. If you hire an Emirati who has never done a job before, just train them like you would train any other employee.”

He further points out cultural challenges. “In government institutions, timings are different. You pray in the morning, go to work, finish by 2pm and the rest of the day is for family.

But in the private sector you work 9-6 or even longer. When women are put in a position where they haven’t seen their children all day and it’s already 7pm, it becomes a problem. We might come across as being picky, but this is our culture, our point of view and our religion. Firms have to understand that.”

Bright future
But with the UAE government highlighting Emiratisation in various initiatives, the future for nationals in the private sector workforce looks positive.

Kayed says the well-being of staff — both Emirati and expatriates — is important. “We stick to our own unfortunately and this needs to change. This is what Dubai is all about — existing in tolerance and understanding.”

Sinha says his firm turned the ‘high turnover of local staff’ myth on its head by utilising the services of Emiratis for over two years in various sectors and this has only emboldened the company’s drive to hire more UAE nationals.

“The biggest advantage of hiring Emiratis in the FM industry is that most of the time it helps private companies to win government contracts due to their extensive social networks.

It is a fact that compared to expatriates, Emiratis have wider contacts with influential decision makers, both in government departments and organisations as well as private companies.

This definitely is a major advantage to the company as a whole as it facilitates business growth and market share maximisation,” explains Al Matroushi.

Maltman agrees and says Emiratis have intimate working knowledge of the UAE and the region, including how government departments work and wide social networks. “By employing Emiratis, employers can tap into this knowledge,” he concludes.

Emiratisation going forward
The UAE government is making Emiratisation a priority, with the Absher programme coming into play.

This initiative will be monitored by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, and supervised by the President of the UAE, and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The Absher initiative is set to create 20,000 jobs for UAE nationals in the public and private sector in the next five years.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, also said 2013 would be the year of Emiratisation. “The year 2013 will be a year of creating jobs for UAE nationals...that will be a national priority for which all efforts must unite.”

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