The Reality About CB
As globalisation continues to make the world a smaller place, nowhere is the problem of globalisation seen as clearly as it is in Qatar. The fact that Qatar’s population is considered a small population, only six percent of Qatar’s workforce is made up of Qataris due to an overwhelming number of expats.
What does that leave for us?
As we move forward, it’s important that as Qataris we maintain our way of life, but also develop our local people as an important resource in our own country. What would happen if this large group of expats were suddenly attracted to a new country or for any reason moved on from Qatar? Would we then be left with a vacuum of jobs without the knowledge to fill them?
Of course, the real concern is that as Qataris we should have the power to influence the organisations and companies that affect our economy, our environment, our culture, and our future. That concern has led to the 2030 Pillars of Development focused on making a better future for our country.
Our Pillars, Our Future
Pillars for our national vision were created to focus on important aspects of our lives. When it comes to human development that includes: Education, health, and capacity building/workforce development. This human development pillar is focused on helping Qataris “increase their role in all sectors of their country’s economy.” A great step in identifying what needs to change and what we need to improve upon within our borders.
What is Capacity Building (CB)?
Capacity building is a way to build a strong, native workforce of smart, flexible people who can take on the future of their native economy. According to The Urban Capacity Building Network, it also includes “organisational development, the elaboration of management structures, processes and procedures, not only within organisations but also the management of relationships between the different organisations and sectors (public, private and community).”
The management of relationships is part of the ability of individuals and leaders to connect with others and maintain communication within organisations. It also includes collaboration, marketing, and communications. In addition, The United Nations has defined capacity building as ‘the ability of individuals, institutions, and societies to perform functions, solve problems and set and achieve objectives in a sustainable manner.’
Why is it important?
Having the capacity to fulfill our job opportunities means we would be able to ensure that, we as Qataris, have the means to support ourselves. Fortunately, with the boom in the Qatar economy, there are many jobs created right now in different industries, such as in food security, museums or sports. Nevertheless, many of these jobs are not yet filled by Qataris, due to:
a. Lack of relevant technical skills
b. Lack of believes in Qataris workforce; whether by Expat or Qatari Executives
What matters in this article is the second.
In order for Qatar to hold the FIFA World Cup in 2022, there is a long list of goals for us to achieve. Developing an immense infrastructure, transport, and entertain thousands of people and players expected for this big event creates a large burden on our country to keep our promise and show our best example to the world.
Another thing to keep in mind is that “Many of the roles and job titles of tomorrow will be ones we have not even thought of yet.” Michael Rendell, Head of Human Capital Consulting, PwC. So, not only do we need to build our capacity for the work that exists today, but also we need to be prepared to join in or create the new businesses of tomorrow.
Yet, even as we work towards these goals, we find resistance.
Is what’s happening in Qatar opposing the change that needs to happen? Here are some real examples that contradict one of the main pillars in 2030 vision, CB.
Challenging Leadership Style and Succession Planning
Leadership and succession planning within some organisations is turning into a way to maintain a gap between qualified Qataris and existing senior positions. To begin with, we are seeing those in the position of power, Expats or Qataris, whom are finding it difficult to trust in their fellow countrymen, distancing themselves from others and building unnecessary layers of management due to what appears to be interest in maintaining their own job security.
Creating Roadblocks for potential Qataris
Facilitating the path of success in some organisations have turned into roadblocks for potential Qataris. Capable Qataris in some organisations were downgraded from senior positions to mid management levels by newly appointment CEO to ensure job security. The main point is around the fact of creating roadblocks in front of potential Qataris as #1 agenda point for a CEO level.
In organisational development, changing and refreshing the structure is a healthy practice, nevertheless, it becomes totally unhealthily, when the roadblock is set for a Qatari and within 30 days an announcement goes out on hiring a retired expat pensioner in the same position of the Qatari.
Another disturbing trend is witnessing Expats alienating others from top positions within a corporation. This is done in different ways such as preventing senior Qataris from attending core meetings, disconnecting Qataris from business forums, and finding ways to ensure that their negative reports on capable Qataris performance is aligned with CEO’s negative pre-judgment.
Moreover, our cultural use of the “Majils” where employees often meet with VIP clients or some board members. Apparently, these effective network visits by the employees, make some of the CEOs nervous that their employees might leak or share information that they don’t want to get to board members or VIP clients. Surprisingly, they will do their best to prevent employees from these visits by sending memos warning employees not to contact any of the board members or VIP clients. Some employees were even threatened on to lose their jobs if any further visits were made.
Strange Un-identified Practices
Some executives are setting up Qatari employees for failure. In a few instances we have seen some companies where Qatari employees are given neither work objectives nor any specific responsibilities, yet they are unexpectedly given negative reviews or harshly judged on these nonexistent objectives. In addition, senior Qataris are sometimes ignored while upper management relies on expats in even junior requirements to ensure the fully alignment with no further judgment and again job security.
In one organisation there was an urgent need for a senior hire. A new CEO was in place and was attempting to get a best friend, someone who had already been fired from another organisation, rehired into this senior position. While blaming Human Resources for any delays in finding a candidate, he was working with another group of employees, outside of HR, to get this friend hired.
Yet another example, a CEO, friends with a junior employee, had the habit of visiting his friend on a daily basis. In addition, these gatherings could last for hours in his friend’s office where the CEO would be helping his friend in typing some e-mails in reply to executives! Even in the case when the senior executives, the direct report, required him for an important meeting, he instead prefers to spend his time with his friend and ignoring the needs of the company.
As you can see, the standard leadership practices occurring in some of our companies are a stumbling block for Qataris. Poor hiring decisions and practices by other executive roles are not only putting companies at risk, they are creating a vacuum of motivation for Qatari employees. Why try for a top position when the CEO makes decisions that leave high calibers out of the loop?
In addition, it’s possible that they are simply using those individuals that they feel comfortable with, but at the same time are making terrible decisions. These practices that they use may not necessarily be used to work against Qataris, but these processes are certainly not helping us or our companies.
It all starts from the hiring point!
A good work environment should include encouragement and support from one’s peers and superiors. It should also include encouraging top performers to continue their rise. Instead, there seems to be a focus on employees who don’t necessarily fit the organisation, but fit the CEO’s need for blind obedience.
In many cases the reality will relay on re-hiring pensioners and former employees whom are friends of the CEO. This rehiring seems to build a loyal following of non-Qataris and creates groups of employees who are a disadvantage to the organisation. This gives the blind obedience which is required for the CEO’s job security.
Bypassing Hierarchical Structures
Often CEOs are seen by passing the organisational hierarchy by the CEO being well-connected to juniors. This connection can lead to different activities, such as, the increase of rumors coming from the juniors, the CEOs circumventing executives and going directly to juniors for a multitude of things, the executives being cut out of the loop of information, and conflicts not being resolved between CEOs and executives.
One of the most surprising realities, one CEO was known to call juniors while executives were on leave, as well as, in a somewhat threatening way, warn juniors to be loyal to him and not to their direct report manager. Another CEO was even known to draft e-mails on behalf of a colleague and send them out with the colleague’s name, including ones to the CEOs direct report, in order not to have to deal with direct conflicts.
Playing the blaming game
Having toxic CEOs is never more apparent then when, instead of being supportive, they point their fingers at employees anytime something goes wrong. Not just any employee, but only the ones they do not count as a friend.
For example, seeing CEOs that do not communicate decisions that are necessary for a project, but then asked by the board about delays, the CEO will point their finger towards the department as the reason behind the delay. Or even when the work is ready and simply waiting for the final decision from the CEO, and the issue is delayed because of that decision, the CEO blames the employees for the delay.
Some CEOs will never blame their “personal” friends whom are employees within the same organisation even though as per the Key performance indicators they are the weakest in the organisation in terms of achieving the targets.
Dis-encouragement is Widespread
As part of this toxic environment, there is little encouragement for employees. For example, one CEO gets extremely disappointed and upset if a member of the team positively appraises another member or department. In one instance, an executive mentioned that he appreciated another executive for the support he received. Immediately the CEO interrupted and said, “It’s strange that you are giving a compliment while you used to complain about this function a year ago.” The executive replied, “That was a year ago but things are now much more positive.” The CEO replied, “I can’t believe that!”
In offsite meetings when the main objective was supposed to be team building, a CEO asked some of the executives to criticize each other. He then seemed to step back and watch the activity with a grin. Other offsite meetings, for example employee gatherings or town hall meetings seem to get canceled often and gives employees little opportunity to ask questions. This all is strange activity for anyone who is meant to be a leader.
Without open and direct communication, it deadlocks a company’s ability to grow, change, or reach internal goals. Knowing that a CEO does not support his employees is a detriment to our personal growth, and as members of staff who need to learn and grow into higher positions, it’s a poor example to set. A broken chain of command creates delays in any product development, plus with all of this dis-encouragement when the CEO walks around the company it is taken negatively, with employees worried about their own job security.
We need to know that our management will hold us up, have our backs, and support us as we learn, grow, and embrace change.
Management Controlling Tools
Management tools used within many organisations are beginning to appear as ways to keep real calibers from moving up in company structures. These tools are mainly used to promote and endorse a CEO’s friends. Plus, devices are used to ensure that expats and Qataris are less likely to work together.
When it comes to Qataris, often we are seeing delays in career development. Those who have worked hard to obtain promotions are told that they “aren’t ready” or are told they aren’t qualified enough. It also appears that any time a Qatari begins to come close to a senior level position, something is planned that holds them back, keeping them from getting close to a CEO position. And, when it comes to year-end appraisal time, CEOs will often give downgraded responses that were unexpected.
CEO’s friends are often approved for requests that may not have anything to do with the company’s goals, given exceptional promotions even when these same friends are not meeting targeted goals, and given top performance appraisals even when they do not meet the expectations of the position.
On the other hand, another very strange incident occurred at one company where a Qatari was entitled to a promotion. This employee applied for and was rejected three times for the promotion that was well-deserved. It was only after an accident and the death of the employee that the promotion was given by the CEO!
Unlike a good leader that should be pulling teams together to support each other, expats and Qataris are having a hard time working together due to the tools used by CEOs. An example, is building a break in communication channels by sending contradicting instructions to nationals vs. expats to ensure that the conflict will always exist.
One situation that supports this is when a CEO mentioned his acceptance on a project to a Qatari executive while on the other hand mentioned his rejection to the same project to a non-Qatari executive. Both executives were in conflict for couple of weeks and when the subject was raised again to the CEO, he refused meeting both executives together. One can only assume that it was to ensure that the conflict will continue between both.
When it comes to twisting information, the CEO ensures that the KPIs and performance figures are always cooked by his friends to flatter the business, even when the organisation is underperforming. Or when the CEO presents decisions that he personally had made, he basically uses the board as a reason behind any decisions, especially if it’s a decision not supported by executives or others within the company.
High caliber workers have a hard time making progress when their time is micromanaged. We’re finding that many high calibers are being questioned for arriving even just a few minutes late; whereas, CEO’s friends could have over a hundred days of late attendance but receive no inquiries.
Having such negative work environments, is it any wonder why some Qataris and high caliber have a hard time working for our largest corporations? When working hard on a project just to see it fail because we don’t belong to the CEO’s special team, it’s crushing to our self-esteem and our interests in being in business.
Back to Capacity Building
Much of what we are seeing in our companies is the opposite of capacity building. Having a strong, flexible native workforce can’t occur within the structures that exist now in some organisations. What we need are safe and supporting work environments.
How capacity building is acquired?
As this articles tends to provide solutions, not only raises challenges, I will be sharing with you some fundamentals, not limited to, required for our CB.
Qatar Moving forward
The decline in Oil prices, economic diversity, and instability in the region may lead to a decrease in immigrants willing to work in Qatar and we could be left with a lot of missing pieces. Although the picture I’ve painted earlier reflected the real challenges facing CB, right now we do have some Expats that have brought a lot of good and positive work experiences to the region.
Only six years away is the 2022 World Cup. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to showcase locals making a difference in our companies by the time our country is filled with visitors? Perhaps even a few CEOs?
A transformation of any sort must be spearheaded by its own people. But how do we create momentum for Capacity Building for our own people?
It begins with empowerment. Empowerment comes in many forms, but it should start from upper management. If management is giving fair and equal opportunities to all employees, then there should be a large number of Qataris moving up the chain of command in companies as well as recognized for outstanding work. That empowerment obviously is not occurring in some places.
Empowering employees includes encouraging employees to test out new methods and allow for a safe failure, communicating effectively and openly, defining roles clearly, requiring accountability from all employees in the same manner, rewarding employee efforts, giving employees an opportunity to be independent, rewarding self-improvement, and fostering communication.
Obviously there needs to be change within our companies in order to bring about the goals and pillars that have been set forth for our country. Knowing that capacity building is one of our pillars, we recognize that we have a problem and things need to change, but where does that change come from?
Call to action
Leaders in Qatar need to invest in their people and consider an organized process for vetting and training Qataris to be included in company requirements. These changes might include:
- Restricting expats contracts with a duration to ensure knowledge transfer
- Changing the mindset from “money making” to “capacity building” among all nationalities in Qatar
- Activating a committee that looks at disputes/appeals/disagreements and decisions within a short timeframe
- Focusing on quality in all we do
- Consider creating a requirement that companies have a certain percentage of locals in top positions; otherwise the CEO of the company will be penalized.
organisations need to step up and ensure that they are supporting the country that gives them a great location to work by considering:
- Filtration of all mid-management and senior positions by positioning qualified Qataries, with a follow up plan on the achievement
- Applying 360-degree evaluation across the board to ensure fairness
- Ensuring good hiring practices so that individuals who have been fired for poor performance aren’t hired back and that good employees are chosen for the right jobs
Company leadership: If you are in the leadership position of a company, have the company audited.
- Is it flexible?
- Is it supporting all workers with an honest and fair accountability?
- Is there training available for employees?
- Do you offer employees ways to take on special projects and learn new skills?
And, if you’re a responsible leader in the community, mentor others!
On an individual level, as citizens, we need to be responsible for creating our own positive work environments and to be informed, be smart, be insistent. Prove that we have the knowledge to succeed and the tenacity for the long run.
This means that Qataris should be learning everything possible and finding our way into the top positions of organisations in order to learn, grow and be ready to shift directions as our economy changes.
We should do what we can to:
- Take initiative
- Take on special projects (you’ll learn and grow when you take on new things)
- Inventory our skills and figure out what skills we need to work on
- Find a business mentor
We can find a way to make our Pillars a part of our life and make our work lives a pleasure, instead of a burden. Join me this endeavor and let’s make Qatar a great place to work for all.
CEOs, Qataris and Expats, please be the change we need to see.