By Elie Khouri, Chief Executive Officer at OMG
It is a common known fact that employees want a lot more from their jobs than a big salary. It’s less common for that fact to be taken seriously here in the UAE – but that’s changing. Once associated as a sunny tax-free haven where expats can make quick and big money, the UAE has dramatically evolved over the years and so too have the expectations of its residents.
Earlier this week, OMD UAE released the results of its Future of the UAE survey with several trailblazing insights. To me, some of the most interesting statistics to come out of the survey were residents’ changing attitude to work.
The study found that more than 83% of UAE residents admit to being concerned about their work-life balance, that’s a statistic significantly higher than the global averages (32%, 45% and 61% are the averages for Australia, Singapore and the USA respectively). What’s more, 40% of women in the UAE said they are worried about being a good parent which probably explains why 55% of women say they are most likely to switch jobs every couple of years. Perhaps most troubling (and least surprising) is the overwhelming 96% who say they have ‘working guilt’ and wish they could spend more quality time with their family.
If you think there’s nothing extraordinary with these findings, consider how the lack of a work-life balance is shaping UAE’s residents attitude to employment. The Future of the UAE study found 66% of residents say they want to start their own business, citing work-life balance concerns as a top driver. In fact, it found that 3 in 5 Emiratis and Arabs believe that being self-employed is more attractive than working for a big corporation.
Let that sink in for a bit – more than 60% would rather take on the risk and uncertainty of entrepreneurship than work for a big corporation and earn an equally big salary. This is a radical shift from the UAE of 20 years ago when working for a multinational corporation was the epitome of success. From the ongoing regional political issues to the changing values of the centennials, there are several factors contributing to this shift in attitude – and we need to take it very seriously. So what should we do?
- Accept that employee turnover will keep increasing: The days of spending one’s entire career in a single company are over. Embrace the fact that employees are keen to constantly try their hand at something new – instead of resenting employees for being ‘disloyal’ increase their mobility within the organization. Encourage employees to take on roles in different departments to sharpen their skillset and try something new every couple of months.
- More autonomy and flexibility: Give working mum and dads the flexibility to honor their commitments at work and at home. Most likely, that will probably mean allowing employees to work from home or at odd hours – but look harder to understand the specific issues your team members are dealing with.
- Encourage intrapreneurship: Tap into employees’ entrepreneurial inclinations by providing them with the opportunity to be disruptive innovators at your workplace. Recognize and reward the budding entrepreneurs within your organization by giving them the opportunity to treat your business as their own.
Giving employees a reason to stay committed and engaged at work means doing a lot more than setting up a foosball table, lava lamp and a few bean bags – we need to accept that this is as true in the Emirates as in any part of the world. The sooner we realize we need to embrace the changing values of this current generation, the quicker we will see our companies flourish with sharp minds staying dedicated to pushing the boundaries at a job they love.
Art work featured in this post: Vik Muniz “The Thinkers” and Aboudia ”Untitled”