HR Management Essay Paper on Challenges and Future of HR Function in the UAE

Abstract

The HR practice in the UAE is plagued with challenges in the management of a diverse and dynamic work force drawn from both nationals and foreign workers. Using Alhosn Gas as a case study, an analysis of the HR practice in the UAE was performed and possible challenges derived from this analysis. In the performance of the research, Mr. Sami al Zaabi HR Director at Alhosn Gas Company was interviewed to derive some insight on the research topic. According to this research, the two major challenges that were derived were management of a multicultural work force, and the issue of emiratization. The use of contractual agreements between the employee and the employers was also a challenge due to the poor legal structures to support an employee, especially foreign workers in the event of work place maltreatment. Future challenges to the HR practice in the UAE was identified as managing the influence of globalization in the work place, and the stringent overreliance on religion and cultural inclinations among the country’s populace.

Challenges and Future of HR Function in the UAE

Section I

Overview of the Company

Question:        How was the Alhosn Gas company founded, what type of business is it involved in and has much has it grown since its founding?

Mr. Sami al Zaabi:  Alhosn Gas is a company that was founded in 2011 and is based in Abu Dhabi. It is a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi gas & oil development company (ADHOC) and was founded as a means of the company refining its operations and service delivery. Its main field of business is in the production of gas and development of sour gas reservoirs in the Shah region (Al Hosn Gas, Abu Dhabi Gas Development Ltd). The company was founded to act as a drilling company and manage to complete projects for oil well drilling operations. In the four years of its existence, it has managed to dig more than 17 wells and plans are already underway to drill more wells. Therefore, the company can be considered as mainly not fully grown since its operations and existence is still in the project phase of drilling the wells. This means that it is yet to generate any commercial value for the products it generates from the oil wells.

Question: At this particular point in time, what is the capacity of production of this company and where and how do you obtain the labor force to achieve that level of production?

Mr. Sami al Zaabi: Since its inception, the company has grown and dug several oil wells. As of December 2013, it had 1067 employees, 410 of which were UAE nationals (Al Hosn Gas, Abu Dhabi Gas Development Ltd). This is a positive move since it is in alignment with the government’s position on emiratization where 41% of its employees are nationals, and the company plans to increase this figure to 50% by 2015 (Al Hosn Gas, Abu Dhabi Gas Development Ltd). The employees of the company are mainly drawn from foreign workers, as the country does not have enough personnel to fill the specialized job segment of the company. Additionally, majority of the UAE nationals do not prefer working in the private sector since their packages are not as attractive as those for government jobs are. This could be one of the major reasons for the minimal number of UAE nationals acting and performing as employees in the company.

HR in the UAE

The Issue of Emiratization

Question: As with most other countries, there is the problem of brain drain where skill people choose to look for opportunities outside their countries. This can have a negative effect on the country. Is there anything your company is doing to solve this problem? If yes, how is it tackling it?

Mr. Sami al Zaabi: One of the prime principles guiding HR practice in UAE is the need to employ more nationals into the companies. This is because statistics indicate that only a meager 45% of the UAE labor force is drawn from the UAE nationals. Therefore, the HR professionals are integrating strategies and methodologies to promote a culture of acceptability and passion for UAE nationals to join the labor work force. In Alhosn Gas, the HR department has integrated programs geared towards promoting emiratization by offering employment to fresh UAE graduates, retaining current employees through benefits and remuneration packages, and offering education and training to employees on improving their knowledge and skills. Additionally, the HR department is mandated by the company to support its employees seeking further education to ensure that the company retains the best talent.

Problem with Contract Agreement and Management

Question: It is evident that there are a lot of foreign workers in the UAE, and inside your company too, I suppose. Being that they are foreign laborers and that they are also many in number, contract agreement and management can be a big challenge. How does your company confront the challenge?

Mr. Sami al Zaabi: Due to the large number of foreign workers in the UAE, the HR personnel is faced with the stiff challenge of maintaining contract agreements between the company and its employees. According to the agreement, terms, and conditions set under the UAE labor laws, it is paramount that an employer ensures that the employee adheres to the full terms and conditions of the contract. A contravention of this contract cannot result in dismissal or suspension from work. However, employees tend to feel marginalized or victimized once their contract is terminated or cancelled due to flimsy reasons. Since the law does not have enough restrictions and protection measures against such employees, it is the role of the HR professionals to act as mediators and ensure that the company’s needs are met, while maintaining the employees’ rights and terms of contract.

Question: Mr. Sami al Zaabi, being the HR of such a big company, and considering that such a scale also means an overwhelming labor force, are there challenges you face, especially considering also that the government is comes in as a third player?

Mr. Sami al Zaabi: The unique environment of HR practice in the UAE provides an interesting avenue to perform a research and assess how its professionals are dealing with the challenges and issues that plague the industry. Additionally, the industry has a unique work force drawn from different countries, as well as labor laws that enforce certain regulations to companies, which may be considered as hostile to the employment industry. HR professionals have a daunting task in maintaining order and labor standards for the company, its employees, and the government regulations.

Question: Do you think it would be worth it to research the matter? Would it be of benefit to human resource management?

Mr. Sami al Zaabi: A research on the subject will be paramount to enhancing the HR practice in UAE by not only identifying the challenges plaguing this practice, but also possible solutions to the problems.

Section II

Literature Review

Managing a Multicultural Work Force

Question: What is the one major challenge facing the management of workforce in your company, or rather in the UAE as a whole? It is noticeable that workers come from across the world. Does the cultural diversity have a role in the management of your workforce?

The UAE is one of the major industries and economies that employ a diverse and dynamic workforce drawn from different fields, geographical locations, religious inclinations, gender, ethnicities, races, among others. All this means that the work force presents a multicultural setting in the work place. Since these multicultural work force represents approximately 55% of UAEs work force, it is paramount that their needs be considered during the period of their employment (Tansky and Heneman 59). This is one of the principle challenges facing the HR professionals in managing a multicultural work force, while simultaneously trying to meet the needs and requirements for government regulations such as emiratization. The latter is a government directive to all companies and their citizens to integrate the UAE nationals into the labor work force in the country to reduce overreliance on foreign workers.

            According to research, one of the strategies being employed by HR professionals in dealing with a multicultural work force is the employment and consulting with cultural experts and professionals on dealing with people from particular cultures. For instance, there is a ban on alcohol and tobacco use in UAE, which is a deterrent to the foreign workers that are heavy consumers of these two drugs. Therefore, the HR practice counters this problem by requiring that all workers sign a contract obligating them to adhere to the terms of the contract such as not using drugs during the period of their employment. However, the HR professionals have to ensure that the requirements do not make the foreign workers feel caged. Therefore, regular leave periods are granted where the workers are free to visit the city for site seeing, or go home to visit their families.

Dealing with Contracts

The use of contracts is also becoming an issue plaguing the HR practice. According to government regulations, a contract between an employee and the company should be adhered strictly. However, once a foreign worker signs the contract, some clauses refrains the employee from seeking legal redress against the company in the event of their dismissal or unfair work place culture being leveled on them. This means that the HR professionals have to deal with these issues of not only standing up for the rights of the employees, but also maintaining the integrity and operability of the company. Therefore, this forms a logjam that needs to be sorted out by the HR professionals.

            According to research, maintaining the employee’s rights in a hostile company is paramount due to its need to avoid legal suits or workers striking. This hostile companies usually experience poor work output by the employees, which could be injurious to the company’s modus operandi and performance. Therefore, the HR professionals are mandated to ensure that this practice is controlled and measures and policies developed to ensure that in spite of the company’s hostile nature to its employees, there are safeguards to ensure that the employees feel appreciated and have a sense of belonging within the company. For instance, one research shows that using and setting up dispute resolution committees drawn from both the company and the workers can be instrumental in reducing cases of poor employee maltreatment. It could also act as a means for employees to forward their grievances, which they believe the company can address to not only meet their needs, but also improve work place efficacy, productivity, and work output.

Government Regulations

Question: how is the HR department dealing with government regulations?

The government regulations in the UAE also protect the employer-employee relationship once the latter signs a contract. Under the law, once the employer has instituted a contract, it is their prerogative to deal with the employee as they consider fit when executing the needs of the company, as long as the work is cognizant with the human rights and parts of the labor laws. In some cases, especially in the manufacturing and industries sector employees are forced to work for 14 hours per day, though overtime is paid. This is in contravention with the government law that requires that the country’s labor should only work for eight hours per day, and 48 hours per week with the necessary compensations paid for overtime work. In contrast, private employment where contracts have been signed, the workers may work continuously for six days and 14 hours per day, which is an unfair human practice.

            According to Mr. Sami Al Zaabi HR Director at Alhosn Gas Company, this scenario is replicated at Alhosn Gas where the pressures of adhering to certain deadlines have forced the company to institute measures where workers work overtime. However, the company has developed a strict time guideline and leave periods where workers are compensated for the long hours not only with better remuneration packages, but also with better leave periods to ensure that they rest and recover from the long working hours. According to research, the HR professionals are mandated to develop policies, systems, and structures to promote a culture of employee protection of their labor and human rights.  

International Laws

Question: how is the HR department dealing with the changing global trends of common international relations and adherence to human rights activism?

Another issue plaguing the HR practice in the UAE is the need to adhere to international laws and standards that advocate for gender equality. In the UAE, majority of women are not supposed to work or perform other activities considered as normal in other countries. This limits their employment opportunities and other basic rights due to religious and cultural inclinations. Therefore, the HR professionals are mandated to strike a balance between adhering to international human rights advocacy, and managing the needs of the organization, the country, the religion of the country, and their cultural inclinations.

According to research, since the HR professionals have measly powers to effect any change to the rules or laws of the land, their only avenue to countering this issue is through public and organizational sensitization. This should be crafted in a manner that ensures that its content is educative, rather than discriminative, offensive, or prejudicial (Tansky and Heneman 322). For instance, Mr. Sami Al Zaabi HR Director at Alhosn Gas Company believes that the HR professionals could provide the company with a blueprint on favorable positions for women and the value it would add to the company such as improving on the emiratization drive. However, in spite of this positivity in promoting gender rights, the HR professionals would still be faced with the challenge of finding favorable candidates with the necessary educational and skill experience to fill any of the positions being advocated. Therefore, this would serve as one of the future challenge for the HR practice.

Section III

Methodology

In the performance of this research, the methodology employed was a blend of quantitative and qualitative research. This was paramount due to the need to acquire a wide scope of information on the research. The quantitative research methodology employed was interviews and content analysis. The interview was conducted on Mr. Sami Al Zaabi HR Director at Alhosn Gas Company. The content analysis was essential to assess the large pool of information and derive quality data that is pertinent to the research. The qualitative research methodologies employed were online research for eBooks, journals, and newspaper articles, as well as the online access to the Alhosn Gas website from which valuable data and information were retrieved (Storey 266).

The online eBooks and journals were important for retrieving information on other researches that have a high similarity index to my research, as well as their outcomes, methodologies and discussions. The importance of the use of journals was informed by the fact that both professional and academic experts accredit them. For instance, the online eBooks and journals had a wide scope of information on general HR practices, as well as those being used in the UAE. This was important since information derived from newspapers and magazines were not accredited as to their authenticity and accuracy. They only provided keywords for use when performing the research.

Section IV

Outcomes of the Research

            The results revealed that the HR profession in the UAE is marred with numerous challenges in striking a balance between meeting the needs of the employees, government regulations, company regulations and standards, and religious and cultural inclinations of the country. Therefore, Mr. Sami Al Zaabi HR Director at Alhosn Gas Company believes that better strategies need to be employed and implemented to enhance their work output and employee management. A general observation was that the future of the HR practice in the UAE was plagued with major challenges as the practice struggles to adapt to the changing global trends, as well as the country’s future goals.

Another discovery of the research was the stringent labor laws being used by the government in the management of the country’s labor force. According to the data and information retrieved, the government has enacted measures to entice UAE nationals to join the labor force by providing a policy framework where the government uses both laws and public relations to promote the emiratization ideology. Another outcome of the research was the poor protection o foreign workers in the country by the government due to the laxity in laws aimed at achieving this objective. Therefore, the HR professionals believe that it their duty to enact laws, policies, systems, and structures to ensure that the rights and needs of the employees are upheld and promoted, respectively.

Section V

Discussion of the Research Outcomes

The research showed that the HR practice in UAE operates in a very intricate and effectual environment. Accordingly, these HR professionals have had to change their modus operandi and tap into the core teachings of their education to propose, compose, formulate, design, and implement strategies and policies that would be essential in meeting the needs of their respective organizations (Storey 114). From the interviews gathered, it was evident that the HR professionals could be considered as useful professionals for a case study in HR management in a multicultural world with stringent religious and cultural inclinations that are not representative of the global trends.

Enactment of Organizational Policies

Some of the strategies that should be employed to enhance the HR practice are the enactment of organizational policies that support some of the challenges and proposals of the HR practice being suggested. This would be paramount since it is vital that as the HR professionals try to adapt to the global trends, organizations should also be adaptive to changes in the global business and management trends. One of the strategies being employed by Mr. Sami Al Zaabi HR Director at Alhosn Gas Company is the education and training of its employees on not only knowledge and skill development, but also on strategies and means of improving their work output. For instance, it provides workers with voluntary and compulsory seminars aimed at improving the employee’s social, psychological, financial, and physiological welfare.

Use of Performance Appraisals

One of the new approaches to the field of HR management is the use of performance appraisals to assess the work output of employees, as well as their contribution and importance in the organization. In the UAE, this strategy is important since the HR professionals can use this strategy to root out employees that are not performing their duties and responsibilities effectively. According to this strategy, majority of workers could face sacking if they do not conform to organizational standards. This strategy, while effective, could also be disastrous to the UAE labor force since majority of the employees being integrated into private companies have zero to minimal experience in their field of profession. Therefore, in spite of the promotion of the emiratization program of hiring UAE nationals, their lack of knowledge, skills and experience could act as an impediment under these performance appraisals. This is because some companies recommend that the appraisals be conducted biannually, which could be insufficient to the new UAE employees to have acquired the necessary skills, knowledge, and competencies to perform assigned duties and tasks.

Section VI

Final Purport

            The development of the research resulted in the generation of several pertinent outcomes that affect the HR practice in the UAE. Using Alhosn Gas as a case study of the HR practice in the UAE, major challenges, and issues were drawn from this company. Foremost, the issue of dealing with a multicultural work force was a challenge to the HR professionals to maintain the needs, issues, and requirements presented by this unique workforce (Tansky and Heneman 212). Another challenge derived was the need for emiratization of its work force to ensure more nationals join, without compromising the organizational systems, structures, goals, and objectives. This is further complicated by the need to educate and train these employees on work ethics, output, productivity, skills, and knowledge, which could be arduous and expensive for the company to manage and implement.

There was also a logjam presented due to the government laws and regulations regarding the labor force protection in the country. According to some HR professionals, these laws and regulations set by the government were acting as impediments to the promotion of good working conditions for its workers. The contractual agreements signed between the employers and employees are acting as problematic when promoting the rights and needs of the workers, while maintaining the organization’s modus operandi, systems, and structures. Therefore, this research provides avenues and solutions to these issues plaguing HR practice in the UAE, and gives possible strategies to counter strategies to sort them. The use of Alhosn Gas as a case study was also paramount in the assessment of some of the HR practices that they have used to ensure that contractual agreements are met, and employee’s rights are upheld. Future issues in HR practice in the UAE were also analyzed and possible solutions given only to the current issues plaguing the industry. In future research, focus could be made on the effect of emiratization on HR practice, or the challenges of managing a multicultural work force.

 

Works Cited

Al Hosn Gas. Emiratization, training and development, and Why Alhosn Gas. Abu Dhabi Gas Development Ltd. 2015. Web.

Storey, John. (Ed.). Human Resource Management: A Critical Text. London, UK: Cengage Learning EMEA. 2007. Print.

Tansky, W. Judith and Heneman, L. Robert (Ed.).  Human Resource Strategies for the High Growth Entrepreneurial Firm (Hc). New York, NY: Information Age Publishing. 2006. Print.