How to Manage Workplace Perceptions in the MENA region?

How to Manage Workplace Perceptions in the MENA region

  • Perception management at workplace holds increasing importance as organizations worldwide are adopting 360 degree feedback and peer review mechanisms, to establish collaborative workplaces.
  • Lack of effective perception management can backfire for employees as even positive actions of an employee can be perceived in a completely different (sometimes negative) manner, by peers and management.
  • Some suggestions towards building a good perception at workplace include communicating transparently with your seniors,​being punctual, driving conversations towards productivity and effectiveness (vs. hours pent), taking initiatives at work, seeking feedback from revered seniors and peers, among others.

Perception management at workplace holds increasing importance as organizations worldwide are adopting 360 degree feedback and peer review mechanisms, to establish collaborative workplaces: With collaboration culture increasing at modern workplaces, organizations value employees who can not only achieve their professional goals but also create and maintain healthy and collaborative work places, and most have instituted 360 degree feedback and peer review mechanisms to assess the cultural fitment of employees. Therefore, being perceived in the right light by peers and management is becoming important than ever for employees worldwide, including the MENA region.

Lack of effective perception management can backfire for employees: An employee might face a lot of challenges if he/she fails to manage perceptions at workplace, so much so that even positive actions of an employee can be perceived in a completely different (sometimes negative) manner, by peers and management. A look at some examples below underlines this point.

How to Manage Workplace Perceptions in the MENA region1

Source: Arab Business Review, Askmen.com

As made amply clear by the above examples, the same action can be perceived in different ways by you (the employee) and your peers and seniors.  Therefore, it is important to manage perceptions at workplace, and here are some way on how to do it:

Communicate, communicate, communicate! Whether it is your long-term goals, preference for a good work-life balance or an idiosyncratic working style, make sure that you communicate that to your seniors and peers.  Let your manager that you mean business and that you are interested in fast growth. Also, let your colleagues know that they can bank on you in crunch situations and during fun times!

❝ Arab Business Review spoke to Amanda Brailsford-Urbina, an HR leader who has worked in the U.S. and Qatar, and she reiterated the importance of communication in managing workplace perceptions. “Frequent and ongoing communication is essential so that understanding can be reached about work-life balance. Due to the diversity of the employee groups, there can be totally different perceptions of what is acceptable. For example, someone coming from a country where professionals only take a few weeks off for childbirth will look at a leave of absence differently than someone from a country where a lengthy maternity and paternity leave is common. Organizational cultures vary as to whether not using holiday/vacation time is something to boast about or something of concern. Some organizations honor holiday/vacation time off and don’t call unless there is an emergency. Other companies believe you are on call 24/7. Also individuals of different generations perceive work-life balance and dedication differently. Colleague and supervisor/subordinate relationships will be enhanced by communication about expectations and wishes for work-life balance”, says Amanda. ❞

Be punctual and drive conversations towards productivity and effectiveness, as opposed to hours spent in office: Being punctual and diligent with your work schedule can go a long way in improving your perception. If you don’t do your hours, or often take breaks for personal work people will notice your absence and that will affect your perception negatively. Also, it is important to drive conversations with you manager towards productivity and effectiveness, and not on hours spent in office.

Seek feedback from respected co-workers and seniors, and bond with the best: Interact and seek feedback from seniors and co-workers who have ‘been there, done that’. This should help you identify areas of improvement and also instances where you might have acted as a cultural misfit. Once you identify your actions invoking negative response, start acting to improve on those.

That said, make sure you are seen interacting and seeking advice from seniors and peers perceived in good light by others. Bonding with the wrong set of people is a sure shot way of driving down your perception at the workplace.

Take initiatives with your seniors in loop: Taking initiatives can help you be perceived as a leader and an out-of-the-box thinker, and is usually important for people looking to assume leadership positions since leading a group requires a combination of knowledge and team work.

A couple of points of caution here: firstly, make sure that your initiative is relevant to your team and organization, else you will be perceived as someone who is interested in attention and not results. Secondly, make sure you have the consent of your manager (or the relevant authority) before publicising your initiative; not doing so can be perceived as a sign of insubordination in traditional set-ups.

Ask your manager to share your successes with others: Your manager can help you improve your perception and build your brand name at workplace. When you complete your tasks successfully, your manager is a happy man. It is at this time you can ask him to share your success with other team members and/or senior management, so that your hard work does not go unnoticed.

Work on important projects (and give them your best!) to enhance visibility: Getting involved in important project gives you more visibility and improves your perception with senior management. Always keep your eyes open get the information regarding important projects, and discuss with your manager on how you can be a part of such projects. Such projects are double-edged swords, so make sure that you give it your best and come out with flying colours, and do not let your manager and peers down.

Avoid using phone/workstation for personal use: Employees who attend unnecessary phone calls at workplace and use their office workstation for personal tasks are likely to attract negative perceptions from peers as well as managers. If you are majorly seen on phone interacting with your near and dear ones then you are perceived as an employee who is wasting his bandwidth on unfruitful task. If some urgent personal task needs your attention for which you need to use official resources you should keep your manager informed.

We hope some of these points will help improve your perceptions at workplace, and would like to hear your thoughts on what else can be done to maintain a perception at work.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation

A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation

  • One of the main reasons of the dissolution of numerous major corporations is the lack of vision and appropriate strategies for coping with the fast pace of business trends & technological innovations.
  • The Management Mix Guide is a 7 step referential platform for developing corporate strategy; it is also a guide for reengineering, & restructuring and dynamically managing the change.
  • The Guide is based on nine organizational elements to be analyzed & formulated taking into  consideration the impact of the five micro-environmental factors and four macro-environmental factors.
How can companies & organizations assure a sustainable strategic development?
One of the main reasons of the dissolution of numerous major corporations is the lack of vision and appropriate strategies for coping with the fast pace of business trends & technological innovations.
NCR, Wang Laboratories, BBAC are companies that have been vanished long time ago; and more recently major names such as Delta Airlines, General Motors or World Com have also disappeared.
In view of the above, a Managerial Guide is recommended which is implemented in hundreds of companies & organizations in specific industries such as the Banking & Finance, Telecommunications, Healthcare, Information Technology, Pharmaceuticals, Food Processing & other industries such as Machinery Manufacturing.
The Management Mix Guide is a referential platform for developing Corporate Strategy; it is also a Guide for Reengineering, & Restructuring and dynamically managing the change.
The Guide is based on nine organizational elements to be analyzed & formulated taking into consideration the impact of the five micro-environmental factors and four macro-environmental factors.
A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation1
The seven steps for implementing the 9-5-4 Guide are as follows:  
  1. Analyze the micro-environmental factors:  Competitors, Customers, Substitutes, Partners & Suppliers;
  2. Analyze the opportunities & threats in the macro-environment: Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural & Technological (standard PEST analysis).
  3. Identify the organization’s stakeholder’s constantly evolving needs.
  4. Analyze the organization’s strengths & weaknesses in the nine organizational elements, Each element elaborated separately in the following page.
  5. Formulate the Strategy regarding the 9 organizational elements.
  6. Set an action plan & implement the strategy.
  7. Continuously monitor & evaluate the strategy.
The nine organizational elements are as follows:
  1. Strategy: After revisiting and restating the Organizational Vision, companies should develop the corporate strategy, which includes the organization’s strategic orientations & objectives, based on the existing and required resources and assessment of the micro & macro environments in which the organization operates.
  2. Processes: Optimization, standardization & streamlining of the organization’s management, operational & supporting processes by controlling process related risks and ensuring the continual monitoring & improvement of the management system through the identification of KPI’s. Various types of international management standards are adopted, according to the industry and the needs of the organization.
  3. Talents: Development of a customized competency based talent management system for attracting, developing and retaining talents. The talents will implement the formal processes and informal processes for achieving operational and strategic objectives.
  4. Structure: Development of the required competencies and layers and setting the communication lines, the reporting system & cross-departmental coordination systems for supporting the achievement of the corporate strategies and organizational vision.
  5. Marketing: Development of a marketing plan by setting a Market Monitoring System for transforming information into intelligence and then into initiative in terms of new products and services, a pricing policy, a placing and a promotional policy by taking into account the constant changes of the customer behavior and the market requirements.
  6. Sales: Optimization of the sales process through the seven steps sales model and establishment cross-selling & up-selling approaches. In addition, development of sales channels in different geographical regions.
  7. Customer: Being in the center of the stakeholders, the company will develop a customer satisfaction and loyalty policy; the customer experience management system will be set and some specific procedures will be identified such as: loyalty programs, satisfaction surveys & complaint management systems.
  8. Information technology: Development & optimization of a holistic Information Technology policy that will support the implementation of the processes, including but not limited to Information security Management system.
  9. Resources: Development of financial Management and asset management systems for optimizing the exploitation of the resources.
A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation2
The Strategic Management Guide presented above has proven its efficiency in numerous corporations. Management Mix experts constantly monitor the results & performance of companies implementing the guide and provide customized recommendations to reduce the managerial waste (muda) and cope efficiently with the environmental changes.

The article is written by Raffy Semerdjian for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

 

E-commerce HR in the Middle East

E-commerce HR in the Middle East

 

  • The speed of UAE’s development have compelled its citizens and expat community alike, to be active catalysts
  • Joining a yet still in its infancy Industry within the ME region, The ‘.com’ genre has many challenges
  • Ensure that you in HR have your creative doors open at all times, take benefit from all the material that is already out there
  • A new age HR, be it service rewards, policies and the biggest player and differentiator ‘CULTURE’
  • We in this region have a lot of potential, an array of cultures and can utilize everyone’s talent in making this an incredible ‘Silicon Valley of the ME’

I have had the privilege of living in Dubai for over 30 years and in those years I have seen some massive and impressive developments – Developments that helped the UAE secure ‘EXPO 2020’! These business & operational changes and the speed of the country’s development have compelled its citizens and expat community alike, to be active catalysts in this infectious need to excel.

I chose to be a part of this exciting journey and took a plunge into a then globally renowned yet still in its infancy Industry within the ME region and joined the ‘.com’ genre. I became a member of the ‘COBONE’ family when it was only 6 months old and have embarked on a rather steep and intense learning curve. We have flourished spectacularly from, Cobone, a daily deal website, to Triperna, a comprehensive Travel Partner. Coming from over 5 years of thorough conservative Banking HR, my idea that I could comfortably apply the same principles were quickly shattered. I determined, rather quickly, that HR in this industry was a different beast. A new age HR was what was required and although not already known to me it was an exciting prospect, one that I was keen to discover and implement. Policies for common classifications within HR, such as hiring, communication, talent development, rewards, performance management, required considerable adaptation and a certain amount of creativity before appropriate application.

Due to the newness to the region, we lacked solid E-Commerce knowledge and skillset. Thus it was inadvertently necessary to reach out globally for knowledge, people and strategies. What I recognized was that it was essential that you are quick to adopt and implement what is required within HR, be it service rewards, policies and the biggest player and differentiator ‘CULTURE’. This is the one aspect that is so evidently thick within the group, the underlying VALUES that bring a group of people together in an online company and it is quintessential to be one of the first standards that you must formalize and announce.

My tips to you, although I too continue to learn, for HR within this exciting Online World are:

  1. Formalize the underlying energy, ‘Culture’, that brings you all together
  2. Be ready to be very creative, remain fluid without losing structure
  3. Get socially active online (FB, Twitter,  etc), to live within is to understand
  4. Thorough Change Management techniques and knowledge application.
  5.  Hiring will require different innovative methods, use attributes in place of experience, realize an individual’s ability to adapt
  6. Reward systems need to be clearly linked to Performance & Growth
  7. Keep processes simple and transparent
  8. Constant Communication

Initially it may seem like a lot of work and believe me it is! But if done systematically, it paves the way to stable growth. All you have to do is ensure that you have your creative doors open at all times, take benefit from all the material that is already out there, communicate appropriately and implement ensuring you have everyone’s ‘Buy In’. HR plays an instrumental role in shaping the company especially within this industry. Being in this part of the world I believe we have a lot of potential in doing it even better as we have an array of cultures, we can utilize everyone’s talent in making this an incredible ‘Silicon Valley of the ME’. I look forward to sharing my in-depth analysis of various aspects that I have listed above delving into actual activities and hopefully assist newcomers and possibly add to the knowledge base any way that I possibly can. Until then – Onwards and Upwards!

The article is written by Tahira Khan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

 

Arab Public Administration & the Transition from e-Governance to m-Governance

Arab Public Administration

  • Development of a robust ICT infrastructure has helped Arab nations adopt e-governance at a fast pace.
  • GCC countries lead the pack when it comes to e-Governance readiness, but other Arab countries have also started developing citizen-centric e-governance programmes.
  • However, all governments in the region are yet to adopt mobile-based applications for delivering e-governance services.
  • Arab governments will need to continuously upgrade their existing knowledge and attitude towards e-governance to remain in the lead, as shown by the example of UAE, whose e-governance framework has evolved over the years to meet changing requirements, and is currently considered one of the best in the world.

Development of a robust ICT infrastructure has helped Arab nations adopt e-governance at a fast pace. Arab countries are looking to upgrade their existing public service delivery infrastructures, and according to a survey, the average e-governance development index in Western Asia continent largely comprising of Arab countries was above the world average, i.e. 0.5547 to 0.4882 in 2012. The performance is driven by the growing investments aimed at building digital knowledge-based economies that has led to development of the ICT infrastructure in the region. High internet penetration in the region has enabled hosting of government web portals to share information.

Further, telecom companies in the region have transitioned from voice services to provide bundled telecom services with 3G / 4G services on smart phones, and fibre-optic networks.  As a result, internet usage in the Middle East is higher than the global average and the citizens in the region are often classified as heavy users of electronic social networks having high dependence on digital communications. This all-round development and usage of internet in the Arab world has laid the perfect ground for e-governance in the region.

GCC countries lead other Arab countries when it comes to e-Governance readiness. GCC nations have been making efforts to induce eGovernment in their societies and promote digital transformation and literacy. These governments are competing among themselves to develop a new knowledge-based economy, which will reduce their dependence on oil, and enable them to make their products and services competitive on a global scale. As part of these efforts, they are creating service oriented and citizen-centric operating models, and developing electronic operating environments that have the potential to support the e-Citizens model.

Key initiatives launched in these countries include network readiness, infrastructure readiness, service availability, citizen inclusion, and development of a national identity management infrastructure. Further, technological advancements have enabled these governments to provide ‘citizen services’ through multiple delivery channels such as the internet, smart phones, or contact centres. At present, conventional service counters are the most-used channels; however, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, that own evolved government portals, provide lot of citizen transactions online. According to an Arab Advisors Group report, 20% of the portals provide messaging services via mobile, whereas 65% of the portals deliver transactional services.

The leadership position of GCC countries is reflected in the results of the Arab world’s 2013-14 e-Governance Development Index recently published by MRD and Orient Planet. Further, according to United Nations 2012 Survey, UAE ranked 28th (up from 49 in 2010) on the global e-government development index. Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, ranked among the top 100 countries worldwide.

Arab Public Administration 1

 Other nations have been following these e-governance leaders and there has been a significant development in adoption of citizen-centric e-governance programmes in the Arab world. The e-governance movement is not limited to GCC nations only, and this is reflected in the fact that by August 2013, 18 Arab countries had electronic government portals – these countries included Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen.

The increased penetration of the smart phones will lead to increased usage of e-governance portals and other offerings through mobile channels; however, all governments in the region are yet to adopt mobile-based applications for delivering e-governance services. Most countries in the Arab World have built their base for e-government services, however, provisions for m-applications and social media for service delivery is yet to be integrated completely. The larger and the richer countries are have been adopting the social media and m-applications in public services at a higher rate than the smaller ones.

Also, governments in the region will need to continuously upgrade their existing knowledge and attitude towards e-governance. Current e-governance practices in the Arab world have been shaped and influenced by IT vendors or consultancy firms, and there is a need to upgrade these practices to keep in-line with evolving citizen requirements. Such an upgrade will entail much more than just a technology upgrade; instead it will require a fundamental change in thinking where governments will need to act like service providers and treat citizens like customers.

Among other things, there is a need to provide single window system and integrated platforms to enable faster citizen transactions with the government. Such systems should also sustain the momentum of complex, cross-departmental projects, promote good governance, and ensure easy solutions to the change management challenges of governments. Finally, such systems should allow the governments to monitor their e-governance development and evolution.

Long story short, some Arab countries have made good progress in their march towards e-governance, but a lot remains to be achieved as online public administration systems are in the process of being implemented in most countries. And for countries already having such systems in place, it will be important to continually upgrade those to meet e-citizen standards being followed worldwide. The following case study of steps taken by the UAE should be useful for other countries looking to adopt e-governance best practices.

UAE – a case study for successful e-governance implementation in the Arab World

UAE adopted the e-governance path way back in 2001 when it launched an electronic card known as the eDirham to collect service fees. After that, the country has continuously built its e-governance prowess and today the nation is considered to have one of the most advanced and world-class information and communication technology infrastructures. UAE was ranked third in Accenture’s list of leading digital governments. A timeline of e-governance implementation in the UAE is appended below.

UAE Federal e-Government Evolution

Arab Public Administration 2

Source: European Journal of ePractice

One of the reason for the success of the e-governance model in the UAE is the hybrid approach where the government departments create new online services, while the central authority work towards building the common parts required by all departments, such as payment and customer support. This approach leads to standardization, cost savings and rapid execution. One of the examples can be “Markabati,” a portal from the central authority enabling people in UAE to connect with every aspect of vehicle service in the public and private sector. All the services can be found and transacted through the portal.

Further, the UAE e-governance system has adopted latest technology trends, and seeks to move from e-government to m-government. The country has one of the largest smart phone and mobile penetration rates in the world. The government had announced its plans to set up the region’s first lab to test secure ways to offer residents m-government services. Citizens would be able to deal with government departments via their smart phones without any restrictions on time. UAE has plans that all the government departments should be able to provide a one-stop store for applications and enable all transactions through a single login. Other initiatives include the building of a federated identity management system to provide secure, unique and tamper-proof digital identities to its citizens.

All this is a part of UAE’s Federal eGovernment Strategic Framework from 2012-2014, which covers more than 35 initiatives across four vital eGovernment areas:

  1. Strengthening the regulatory framework and governance mechanisms for eGovernment in the country.
  2. Infrastructure support of information systems in the United Arab Emirates.
  3. Launching and providing eGovernment applications and services.
  4. Development of effective mechanisms for performance management.

Arab nations looking to develop effective e-governance systems will need to develop long-term frameworks (like UAE) that meet their local needs and are in line with contemporary e-governance standards.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Are you a business pirate or good captain?

Are you a business pirate or good captain

 

  • Research shows that many former employees reported that they were rarely engaged, inspired or recognized in a way which matched their professional and emotional needs.
  • Today’s employee is more aware about what he expects from the employer. The items that top the list are respect, honesty, appreciation, encouragement and a feeling of being on a path of growth within the organisations that they serve.
  • Most successful entrepreneurs would agree that their employees are their prize assets, to be treasured and supported. 
  • To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to think about the people in your company as your potential passengers on a huge rowboat, and as a Captain of the boat you need to give your passengers compelling reason for why this journey will be interesting, rewarding and even fun.
Workshops on performance management generally end up bombarding you with terms like KPI Measurement, 360 Evaluation and other statistically based tools that you can use to get more out of people. It’s important to consider the following when business owners grapple with the question of how to get their own employees to perform more, do more and give back more:
 
Think of the time when someone else was calling the shots and before you became an entrepreneur.
 
Were they always fair, honest and engaging?
 
Did they inspire you, reward you and make you feel as if your role was both important and appreciated?
 
If they did, chances are rather high you might still be working for them and not be your own boss today.
 
The answer might be that many employers get distracted by their own pressures and often suffer a short-term memory loss of what it’s like to work for someone else.
 
Countless surveys have revealed that many former employees reported that they were rarely engaged, inspired or recognized in a way which matched their professional and emotional needs.
 
One ‘old school’ motivation technique for getting the most out of people was the fear- drama scenario was based on “do this or you’re fired!”
 
Today people who work in your company have more awareness of what they expect from an employer. The items that top the list are respect, honesty, appreciation, encouragement and a feeling of being on a path of growth within the organisations that they serve.
 
This is not a wish list, but common sense for any employer to embrace, empathize with and deliver. Employees today, as a rule, spend more time at the office than with their actual family. Employers who will retain their team members should not lose sight of the fact that they are the parents of these people too who devote their waking lives to make commerce possible within the enterprises.
 
If this sounds too warm and fuzzy to some employers who see their staff as problems, overheads and liabilities, experts suggest that the owner might be doomed. They will experience high turnover, under performance, and be only left with incompetent staff who tolerate such pre-historic attitudes in people management, and care less about taking the company from where it is today to better one tomorrow. Or worse, harbour resentment about you more every day.
 
Do your employees all share your vision? Do you even have one now, as many entrepreneurs may have originally had a vision, but circumstances have put them in survival mode and turned them into fear and panic merchants.
 
If you are committed to being in business, think about the people in your company as your potential passengers on a huge rowboat.
 
Where are you taking them? Is there a safe way to get there? Are they boarding willingly?
 
Are they excited about the journey ahead?
 
Do they have a reason to paddle faster, more consistently and in rhythm with the rest of the rowing crew?
 
Is there any reason for them to wake up earlier, prepare for duty by doing pre-warm up exercises or studying navigation which is not even their job, but you got them interested, fascinated, totally engaged and excited.
 
Pirates may have whipped their crews in the past, or their captives on board, in order to move their ships when the winds died down. If this technique works for you today in your business, well, good luck!
 
However, most successful entrepreneurs would agree that their employees are their prize assets, to be treasured and supported. Funny, weren’t pirates actually looking for treasure?
 
Consider another scenario, what I call the ‘BBQ Test’. Imagine that some of the employees in your company were invited to a neighbourhood barbeque. Some of the other guests who worked in different companies began to chat about their work experiences as many often do. Then they turn to one of your employees and ask the magic question, “Hey, what’s it like working for your boss, my sister in law is looking for a job, would you recommend she apply for work there?”
 
The test is actually a testimony of your investment in goodwill, forward thinking, deliberate campaign of nurturing your team relentlessly by creating an eco-system of sharing and inspiring a compelling future. As a business owner, you will never be the proverbial ‘fly on the wall’, but today you have the opportunity to prepare your troops for this scenario.
 
This is not to say that KPI metrics will be overlooked, for that is the reason you need employees. However, the nuance is if they like it, sense they are appreciated and made to also feel part of a family that respects and encourages their future in that organization.
 
So the next time you feel frustrated by lack of productivity within your ranks, imagine that you have a boat, and are actually selling tickets to a join you on an
amazing voyage.
 
As the seller, you will have to give your potential ticket buyer a compelling reason why this particular voyage will be interesting, rewarding and even fun.
 
You would have to explain to these ticket buyers that as captain, you would ensure that the voyage would be safe, that they as passengers and ‘crew- members’ will be well looked after, appreciated and trained to do other tasks along the journey.
 
They will be part of a team that loves to win, a team that feels part of a family. Could you sell tickets to your team today?
 
If not, you perhaps need to rethink how you are engaging your passengers and getting them prepared to willingly row into the future and win races with you because you made them love it.
 
Be a great captain!
 

The article is written by Michael J. Tolan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review