Thursday, October 20, 2011

Building a Workforce

One of the most interesting things about UAE is the idea that UAE Nationals, or Emiratis, are the minority making up only about 15% of the total population in the UAE. Coming from the US, it's hard to imagine and truly understand. It would be like another culture with a separate language moving into WI and taking over. Imagine if rugby or cricket became the WI sport of choice and we had off for Christmas, but only a small few actually celebrated - instead, the majority of the population celebrated Dwali or something else you were unfamiliar with. It's very interesting to contemplate.

When the UAE was formed 40 years ago, the vision was to create a world center of business, finance, art and tourism - a garden in the desert - and it was clear that this would have to be done with outside help (and a lot of oil money of course!). And so, the expat arrival began with the task of providing ideas, experience, access to methods and materials and as a result Dubai and Abu Dhabi are much closer to that original vision. Along the way, however, it has always been the goal to "teach a man to fish". In other words, the expats were brought in to help the UAE Nationals learn and eventually take over the work of the country. That has happened in some areas and industries and not as much in others and there are big concerns and a focus on "Emiratization" - a bit like the diversity goals in the US, but much more targeted and specific.

Now, the UAE has gotten so big so fast that the idea that expats will work themselves out of their jobs seems ridiculous ... or at least many many years off. But that doesn't change the end goal, which is to equip this Nation to lead itself and be self sustaining by sharing our knowledge and expertise with our National counterparts. In my role in Leadership Development, it's a key objective and one that is taken very seriously at Eithad. We are constantly talking about how to attract more Emiratis to the business and once there, how to continually develop them to higher roles within leadership. Because the airline industry is new to the UAE, it's almost impossible to find experienced Emiratis in the field so the company has developed some amazing programs to develop young Nationals in the field of aviation and then bring them on board at Etihad. It's a brilliant approach, but one that takes time, which can be frustrating when you want to see UAE Nationals in high level leadership roles now.

An interesting challenge and plenty of job security that's for sure!

Got a question, a comment, a suggestion for a topic? Leave me a comment here or an email at I'd love to address your specific questions rather than come up with random topics that may only interest me. :)

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