Nationalisation in the GCC: A former HR leader’s perspective

By The HR Observer

Robert Mosley is a global remuneration expert and HR consultant. His main areas of expertise range from job analysis, description, and evaluation, extending to grading schemes, pay structures, industrial relations, and performance appraisals. He was for about 13 years, the SVP for HR at Emirates. Having worked in the GCC for over 25 years, his knowledge about the cultural and procedural requirements of Nationalisation is thorough. He has been offering training for a variety of Informa’s course over the past 15 years.

He was in Dubai at the Compensation and Benefit Forum last month and we had the chance to sit down for a chat about one of the region’s hottest HR topics.  We discussed the general attitude about Nationalisation, figures and statistics in the GCC countries, as well as some of the points that the Nationalisation training course will focus on.

Q: How do you describe the local attitude about nationalisation in the region?

A: We tend to over talk about Nationalisation to the point that there is a risk of almost isolating the nationals. They actually prefer to be considered as a part of the pack. As a result, they are often happy to discuss this topic and at the end of the day, they are the ones who will contribute the most to Nationalisation because of their vested interest in the topic. In most companies, the HR professionals whose work is focused on Nationalisation are often nationals since they understand the culture and the need for training and development. So, they are open to discussions and work towards realistic goals.

Q: In countries like Kuwait and the UAE, is the gap relevant to training and development or is it a result of the number of locals?

A: There is a gap in certain areas on abilities and skills, which can be filled. Therefore, development is integral for the next 5-10 years in the GCC. I think that everyone is aware of and is committed to fulfill this gap. Any company with a Nationalisation programme has to have an integrated development plan and support systems. These programmes should be laid out for the nationals as well as the expatriates, because they can’t just communicate to one half of the equation. Here, training and development is key. If Nationalisation is going to be successful, and given that nationals are the scarce resource that normally attracts the higher pay value, this should be justified by delivering high performance. That is the real challenge for the HR.

14248262150_96c028da76_z

Q: What are the current figures of Nationalisation across the private and public sector in the region?

A: Each country in the region is different. UAE and Kuwait are at one end of the spectrum, Oman and Bahrain are at the other end of the spectrum, and Saudi and Qatar are in the middle.

In some places, there is approximately 80% expatriates to 20% nationals in the private sector, while, in others, it can reach up to 95% against 5%. However, in some of the labour-intensive industries like the hospitality sector and the airline industry, the number of expatriates can be even higher than 95%. Statistically speaking, if the private sector was to try to achieve 10% of Nationalisation, where the nationals are only 20% and 50% of them are already working in the public sector, there would be a deficit. For every company to actually reach its quota, the percentage of nationals as a whole would need to be around 30-35%.

Oman at the other end of the spectrum, where the nationals are about 70% of the total population, the private and public sectors are over 60% nationalised.

Q: Does the UAE promote Nationalisation as much as the rest of the GCC?

A: The public sector definitely promotes Nationalisation. Also, companies that are partly owned by the government but operated and managed as private sector companies have clear numerical targets that have to be achieved in terms of Nationalisation. For instance, Dubai Metro has a definite target to be achieved. Likewise Jumeirah Group, even though they are in the hospitality sector and has lower level of nationalised workforce, one of their KPIs is to hit the Nationalisation target every year. Some of the private sector companies have such targets as well, but then again due to the relatively lower number of Nationals in the country, it is not strictly achievable at this stage. Recently in the UAE, there has been a low rise of unemployment among the nationals the age group of 18-25.

In Oman, however, with the number of nationals, companies should be hitting their Nationalisation target. Otherwise, there would be high unemployment rates. That is why they are likely to lay emphasis and also pressure on the Nationalisation schemes in order to get the nationals into the work place.

Q: Do you expect to see a lot of nationals in the new Nationalisation training course that you are now offering with Informa?

A: It is the first time for us to run this course. My other courses are mostly on compensation, performance management, personnel policies and procedures, among others. This new course is going to focus on a very wide range of issues from recruitment to development, grade structures, progression mechanisms, pay scales, and all the other issues that need to be considered for UAE nationals. I think it will be a very popular course and I think that more than half of the delegates will be nationals. The key delegates will probably be the nationals who work in the HR sectors whose jobs involve the promotion of Nationalisation. We have certainly done a lot of research in the last 6 months about whether such a course is needed, and the feedback is looking very positive. The course will not be just about UAE Nationalisation; it applies equally to Qatar, Oman, Saudi, Kuwait, and Bahrain. I’m quite excited about it.

Robert Mosley will be leading the Certification in Nationalisation Strategies course starting from the 7th to the 10th of September at the Address Hotel Dubai Marina. 

Do you like this article? Sign up to receive our newsletter  for HR insights delivered to your mailbox.

ramybayyour