fmME 10th Anniversary: Nationalisation in GCC FM

Experts talk to fmME about how companies can attract and retain GCC locals as employees – and achieve their nationalisation targets

Marwan Othman, Imdaad.
Marwan Othman, Imdaad.
Suhail Masri,
Suhail Masri,
Richard Naylor, DTZ Saudi Arabia.
Richard Naylor, DTZ Saudi Arabia.

The last decade has seen a surge in the rate of employment nationalisation across the GCC. Driven by determined public programmes, some of the regional economy’s busiest industries – such as construction and banking – have reported a boost in the number of GCC locals employed by both, government and private sector organisations.

Job portal’s Nationalization in the GCC poll, conducted in April 2015, revealed that 60% of UAE respondents believe their current workplace has effective localisation policies, with 37% believing that the policies are ‘very’ effective. Suhail Masri, VP of employer solutions at Bayt, says four in 10 respondents (43%) of the survey stated that the average position of national talent working at their company is comprised of senior management.

He continues: “Interestingly, 46% of respondents didn’t know, or couldn’t say whether their company plans to hire more local talent in 2016. Up to 38.2% of the respondents [answered affirmatively], while 15.7% said that there were no plans to hire local talent in the year.”

It is altogether likely that these questions will elicit vastly different responses in the next decade, by when the UAE’s Vision 2021 will have added 20,000 jobs aimed at nationals to the private sector. Moreover, as Masri points out, the UAE “is not alone in its efforts”.

“All GCC countries have all implemented similar programmes to fill nationalisation quotas,” he adds.

Indeed, the region’s FM sector is also working towards the accomplishment of these aims. As Richard Naylor, chief executive for DTZ’s Saudi Arabia operations explains, the kingdom’s Saudisation scheme is “very well-established”, and is devised appropriately in relation to its employment targets.

“The challenge we face as a company within the FM market is finding Saudi nationals that are both suitably qualified for the vacancy, and also interested in working within the sector,” Naylor continues.

“Historically, FM has not been seen as an industry of choice for Saudi nationals, unlike other sectors such as banking. Therefore, there are no formal training courses in country and recognised FM bodies such as Middle East Facility Management Association (MEFMA) have historically struggled to gain the traction I’m sure they would’ve hoped for.

“This is partially due the low level of maturity and understanding of the FM industry, but also due to the sheer size of the country [and its employee pool]. Given all of the above, trying to find a suitable local candidate to fill an FM vacancy remains a challenge.”

In the kingdom, due consideration must also be given to the country’s gender segregation laws when employing for roles where male contact is likely, such as that of a receptionist. Rising foreign investment means companies that use English as their business language will seek candidates that can work with these requirements, Naylor adds: “More importantly and like all candidates regardless of ethnicity or gender, the candidate must show enthusiasm and passion for the role.

“Historically, we have often found it very difficult to retain good, enthusiastic young Saudis as they quickly recognise that their nationality coupled with experience of working for a multinational puts them in high demand, which often leads to them progressing very quickly within the industry. More recently, a slowing down of the general economy in Saudi Arabia has seen us able to retain our nationals for longer.”

Naylor is optimistic about opportunities for Saudi job-seekers that display “talent, hard work, and commitment”. Indeed, FM companies across the region are already investing in employee development programmes with a view to retaining and increasing national employees.

Marwan Othman, executive director for human capital and administration at Imdaad, attributes Imdaad’s 8.5% Emiratisation rate across senior and middle management levels each to the company’s Elham programme.

He adds: “One of the major drivers behind our successful internal Emiratisation efforts is our Elham program, which we launched as a pilot initiative in 2014. Elham, which means ‘to inspire’ in Arabic, features highly competitive compensation packages and professional development programs geared towards cultivating strong and diverse skill sets.”

Othman expects Elham to boost Imdaad’s Emiratisation rate at middle and senior management levels to 11.5% each by 2017, but is quick to opine that such nationalisation targets must be followed regardless of government mandates: “A more nationalised workforce across the public and private sectors is vital to reducing unemployment, especially among youth, and ensures the sustainability of the country’s economy overall.”

Like Naylor, Othman also refers to the same factors hindering rapid nationalisation – education, and the FM industry’s perception: “One of the biggest challenges to nationals interested in pursuing a career in the UAE’s FM sector is the general lack of awareness about FM concepts and our industry’s [role] in national development.

“The FM industry needs to intensify its efforts to introduce more people, particularly Emirati youth seeking employment, to FM as an exciting and lucrative profession that can help uplift our economy, the environment, and society as a whole as well.

“Another major challenge is finding the right training and qualification programmes. Our Elham team visits various local colleges and universities to provide deeper insights about our line of business, the career opportunities and benefits it offers, and its relevance to the youngsters,” Othman concludes.

“Properly preparing UAE nationals for the realities and requirements of FM is an aspect that our industry needs to sharpen its focus on in the future.”


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