How to work from home… not just during the COVID-19 crisis

Coronavirus or COVID-19 is everywhere. The media has made their number 1 topic and it’s become a regular topic of conversation. As a preventive measurement, the Ministry of Education pulled the Spring Break forward and schools and universities are closed for students until 4 April 2020. Parents are worried how online teaching will work for their children – and their work schedule. This is where you as the employer can show your true support.

Flexible working hours

While 59% of organisations offer flexible working hours according to Mercer’s TRS. Yet, working from home is not a common practice in the Middle East. Most organisations still require their employees to be physically present in the office every work day. Work requirements for shop assistants or production workers may mandate this presence. But for office-based employees or key account managers?

Flexible working from home

Allowing employees to work one day at home has become a common practice in the Western world. The home office can give that uninterrupted thinking time, helping employees to advance on their projects in an efficient manner. In November 2019, Prof. Justin Thomas argued productivity could rise even more if employees could work from home two days a week.

Working from home during a crisis

The UAE government announced that certain federal departments have started working remotely. It’s a phased pilot with the intent to have all employees of these selected departments to be working from home by 17 March 2020. The British government could also offer working for home for 3 months to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

As you are reviewing the impact of COVID-19 on your business operations, who could work from home? All employees or specific departments? Do they have the equipment they need to work from home? If they don’t, how quickly can it be provided? How can it be maintained in the employee’s home?

Tips for working from home

Managers often resist employees working from home as they can’t see their employees or what they are working on. These concerns can easily be removed by setting expectations and laying down some ground rules.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Unless your organisation has a well established working from home practice, it’s new territory for all of you. You can use this time to communicate with your employees more frequently. Have a clear communication plan for your employees and stakeholders in place. Answer their questions and concerns. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and say so.

Evaluate how your team members are getting on and offer them individual support. Coaching individuals to handle the new working arrangements can provide them with a certain level of comfort and increase their confidence to approach work remotely.

Provide mental health support to your teams and employees. Media reports can be confusing and possibly are creating panics. Help your employees to reduce anxiety through your wellbeing programmes.

Create a dedicated work area.

Employees should have a separate work space at home. This area should be clutter-free and allow them to focus on their activities.

If family members are in the house, it may cause distractions. They may want to spend time with the employee. Children may not understand that their parents need to work. Employees will need to explain when they are working and when they can play with their children.

Not everyone will have a home office where they can close the door at the end of the day. Placing a room divider in front of the work space can give a similar feeling to finishing the work day and leaving the office.

Get dressed.

This may surprise many. Working in PJs from the bed does not change the mind that they are working. Putting on regular clothes will trigger your brain that it’ll need to shift gears and work on your company’s activities.

Work the regular working hours.

By sticking to the normal working hours, a sense of normality is maintained. Especially in times of uncertainty, this gives comfort to individuals and ensures continuation of business operations.

Did you know that you can also work shift hours from home? Yes, that’s right. there’s nothing stopping you from continuing shift operations and providing your customers with continuous support.

Invest in reliable systems.

Ideally, your company already has an IT infrastructure that is mobile and accommodates for remote work. Dropbox and OwnCloud may be cost-effective file sharing systems for SMEs. Google Docs allows multiple individuals to work on the same file at the same time. Office 365 Business allows online access to the MS Suite for at least 300 users.

Check your home internet connection, too. With schools and universities moving to online teaching, can your internet connection handle your needs plus those of your spouse and children? If you need to upgrade your package, who will cover the costs?

Set goals.

As business continues no matter where employees are working, ensure everyone understands their daily, weekly and/or monthly goals. These don’t change just because they’re not in the office. What are employees working on that helps them to achieve these goals? Help them to prioritise, if and as needed.

Have regular conversations with the team.

Just because employees are not in the office, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them. Phone calls may be the most direct way of speaking with someone. Other tools like Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams allow chat and video functioning. Both options provide immediate feedback while emails may only be read at certain times and are more suitable for longer messages or to document requirements. Slack or What’s App groups may be beneficial as long as they are managed effectively and don’t become another distractions due to their constant notifications.

Take a break.

Similar to working in the office, we can’t be constantly switched on. We need a break. This may be a short tea break to relax the eyes in the morning, a regular lunch break and an afternoon break. Make yourself a cuppa and meet another colleague on a virtual coffee break.

Employees who have their family at home at the same time may wish to take a longer lunch break and spend that time with their children. They may take more breaks during the day and continue working late. As each employee is different, you’ll see over the first few days already what works and what needs to be tweaked.

While we do not know how long COVID-19 will dominate our lives, companies can use it as an opportunity. It will show how prepared your organisation is for a crisis. If you see areas of improvement, work on them now or possibly in a prioritised order. Identify new ways of working, preparing your company for the future and the changing demands.

The future is now. Contact us today and learn how we can help you streamline your HR operations so your business can thrive during these uncertain times.

 

 

How to support an employee diagnosed with cancer

4 February marked the 20th World Cancer Day. Established to raise awareness, clean up misconceptions and reduce stigma, there’s still a lot more work ahead of us. Together with legal firm DWF and specialised medical broker Medstar Insurance, OLAM participated in a panel discussion on how to support an employee with cancer. Here are 4 areas you can support a member of your team who’s been diagnosed with cancer.

The legal framework

At the time the UAE Labour Law Federal Law No 8 of 1980 (as amended) was written, cancer was not a common illness. Work has changed dramatically since then and it’s not surprising that no special provisions for long-term sick leave had been included in the law.

As such, the general sick leave outlined in Art. 83 of the UAE labour law applies also for patients diagnosed with cancer. Unless otherwise agreed, employees are only eligible for sick leave once they’ve completed their probation period and worked for an additional 3 months. In practice, most UAE based companies offer sick leave after 6 months of service.

Employees then become eligible for sick leave as follows:

  1. First 15 calendar days paid at 100%
  2. Next 30 calendar days paid at 50%
  3. Next 45 calendar days unpaid

Especially for critical illnesses, these sick leave entitlements may not be sufficient and companies can enhance their sick leave provisions. HR policies can grant extended sick leave periods with pay or without pay.

Should an employee have exhausted their sick leave entitlement, the company can legally terminate the employee based on Art. 85 of the UAE labour law. Although the law provides this option, organisations are advised to handle any terminations because of illness with extreme care, dignity and empathy.

Respect the employee’s privacy

Receiving the cancer diagnosis can be a highly emotional moment. The individual may feel overwhelmed, frightened and anxious. The reaction is different for every individual and everyone’s approach to sharing the news with their loved ones will be different.

Every year, there are 10 million new cases of cancer diagnosed worldwide. Yet, when your team members informs you about their diagnosis, it may also be overwhelming for you. Ask your employee how they like to be supported. They may not know the answer then, keep that in mind.

If your team member doesn’t want to talk about their illness, respect that. Don’t share their diagnosis with others inside and outside your organisation without the individual’s consent.

While meant in a positive way, organising fundraisers can have a detrimental effect on the individual. Their story may be abused for a PR campaign while the individual didn’t want to disclose their diagnosis to their own team or even outside the organisation.

Should the individual be okay of a fundraiser in their name, be aware that in the UAE funds can only be raised once the local authorities have approved it. Any fundraising or charitable collections can only be carried out in cooperation with a locally registered charity.

Arrange a meeting with the insurer

Cancer treatments are expensive and a patient needs to understand their coverage. You can help your employee by arranging a meeting with your medical insurer. During this meeting, the insurer should outline the coverage and the claims procedure. It’s vital for the employee to gain clarity of what’s covered and what is not. Financial worries shouldn’t be added to an already complex situation.

Due to the high cost of treatments, the company should arrange for direct billing. This way, the treatment facility sends the bills directly to the insurer and these two parties handle the payment themselves.

Under the pay and claim approach, an employee would need to pay substantial amounts which may be more than their earnings. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the employee to pay for their treatment.

Clarify with the insurer who their direct point of contact will be. Most insurers have a dedicated member of their team looking after assigned clients. Who will support the employee and help them complete the paper work? Will that person also be able to answer medical and treatment questions? Will the insurer or your organisation have a special support hotline or group where the employee could get counselling and support? Does your EAP (employee assistance programme) offer such services?

As the employer, take this opportunity to also review your medical cover. If the annual limits is low, discuss your options to increase it with your broker and/or your insurer. Potentially, you may have to wait until your renewal date.

In addition, review your life insurance coverage provided to your employees. You may also consider the option of providing critical illness cover if that’s not already included in your life insurance. Critical illness coverage is designed to ease the financial burden and given the different types, the short-listed policies need to be carefully reviewed for their fine print.

Offer flexible working options

While many elements may be outside the control of an employee, work can be their only normal place. For many employees with a cancer diagnosis, staying in their job gives them a sense of normality.

When the employee is choosing for treatment locally, the company can show its support by providing flexible working options.

If not already in place, allow for a flexible start and finish of the working day. The employee may use a later starting time or an earlier finish to schedule doctor’s appointments. Also, it gives them an option to still contribute to their team’s projects despite not feeling well.

Fatigue, nausea and vomiting are the most common side effects experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. These side effects may come within 1-5 days after the treatment. While employees may still want to work on those days, traditional 9-5 work in the office may be challenging. If you’re not offering working from home yet, consider it now – for those employees undergoing treatment or all employees alike.

Some individuals may prefer to receive treatment in their home country. When you’re meeting with the insurer, explore the coverage of your medical insurance in that country.

If possible, explore options for your employee to work from their home country. With technology like Microsoft Teams, Skype and Botim, there are numerous options to have face-to-face calls and stay in touch. Cloud technology also provides the ability to access files from anywhere in the world. Alternatively, review your leave policies and implement extended (unpaid) leave periods for the treatment of critical illnesses.

For employees working in shifts, you can look into creating shorter shifts to reduce the feeling of being exhausted. This lets the employee pursue an almost normal work day while having the opportunity to rest when they need to. Once your employee knows when they are feeling tired the most from their treatment, you can schedule that day as a regular off day.

In addition, you may consider a lighter work schedule for your employee. This may come in the form of working reduced working hours. It may also be around the physical work they are to complete. Your team member may not have the body strength to lift or handle heavy items. You can reassign them to a (temporarily) different team.

Organisations can differentiate themselves and become a true supporter for an employee in need.

Find out how you can implement a holistic support programme for your employees diagnosed with cancer. Contact us today.

Create purpose-driven goals

The new year is soon upon us. With that, individuals often create their New Year’s resolutions and organisations start their goal setting process. Applying the SMART approach to defining goals is nowadays standard. Still, we see employees working towards these objectives like a check box activities. Could purpose-driven goals make a difference?

The purpose-driven generation

Millennials in particular are seen as a purpose-driven generation. Not seeing an alignment between their company’s mission and their personal ones can lead Millennials to resign. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 has seen “strong correlations between those who plan to stay in their current jobs and those who said their companies deliver best on financial performance, community impact, talent development, and diversity and inclusion.”

While purpose-driven goals can be used as a retention tool for Millennials and Gen Z, other generations can’t be ignored. Other generations don’t simply view their role as an income-generating activity anymore and are also thriving towards a connection of organisational and personal goals. For them, Simon Sinek’s famous why question is just as important as it is for Millennials.

The link between companies and individuals

Although goals should still follow the SMART approach, it’s time they also include the purpose of this objective. Individuals will be able to work towards specific and realistic goals in a more determined way when they understand the rationale or “why” behind it.

Larry Fink, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Blackrock, outlined in his annual letter to CEOs the importance of understanding and expressing its purpose:

“Companies that fulfil their purpose and responsibilities to stakeholders reap rewards over the long-term. Companies that ignore them stumble and fail. This dynamic is becoming increasingly apparent as the public holds companies to more exacting standards. And it will continue to accelerate as millennials – who today represent 35 percent of the workforce – express new expectations of the companies they work for, buy from, and invest in.”

Purpose powers performance

Individuals can prioritise their daily actions to achieving their purpose-driven goals, which in return leads them to create habits. This will also impact the culture of the organisation and companies can see a change in improved attraction, engagement and retention as described in Harvard Business Review’s “Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization”.

Consider the purpose of your organisation, department and team. How will that mission be connected with the individual employee?

Cases in the pharmaceutical field highlight how changing patients’ lives can motivate and inspire the individual employee. In 2014, Ludwig Hantson, CEO of Baxalta, a spin off from Baxter, followed the mission of rapidly developing innovative products (“Science for a better Life”) and created a purpose-driven leadership for his top 200 leaders. During a 12-month-long strategic and cultural transformation, he reconfirmed that purpose powers performance.

Patagonia has been long recognised as a leader in connecting its mission with that of its employees. Amongst its four core values is building the best product:

“Our criteria for the best product rests on function, repairability, and, foremost, durability. Among the most direct ways we can limit ecological impacts is with goods that last for generations or can be recycled so the materials in them remain in use. Making the best product matters for saving the planet.”

Managers can see their daily work impact the organisation’s mission and are able to articulate their purpose to the team. Willis Towers Watson outlined in this following example how employees can contribute to the company’s purpose:

  • “Be really good at their jobs by serving their immediate constituents (i.e., customers, other employees, owners, etc.) to deliver on our promise/purpose
  • Focus on the results (both long- and short-term) we need to achieve to sustain our market position, remain a viable organisation, and continue live out our purpose
  • Demonstrate behaviours that exemplify our values every day and in every way. These include:
    • Collaborate and team effectively
    • Be open and inclusive to all views ensuring we get the best ideas moving forward
    • Act with integrity and honesty
    • Learn by doing and teach others no matter where you sit
    • Balance risk with agility with the aspiration that decisions are made a the appropriate pace to the need and circumstances”

As organisations are struggling to create and consequently benefit from high-performing teams, Korn Ferry has looked into purpose and its link to performance. Purpose is energising, motivating and inspiring. It will take performance to new levels. Isn’t that what we all want when setting objectives?

Start your purpose-driven performance today and benefit from a highly engaged workforce. Contact us and find out how we can help you create high performing teams with purpose-driven goals.

Increase employee engagement with personalised total rewards

For decades, rewards programmes in the Middle East were relatively straightforward. Salary packages consisted of basic salary, housing allowance and transportation allowance. Many organisations provided an annual leave ticket and health insurance as benefits. Companies differentiated between employees on a single or family status, where, in the latter case, dependents were also covered. Despite this, compensation and benefits approaches followed a rigid one-size-fits-all approach.

These days, companies are recognising the need to modernise their total rewards programmes. While other HR areas have evolved, most total rewards programmes remained inflexible, focusing on experience and company seniority. They seem to have forgotten the employee. Leading companies are consequently transitioning to a personalised total rewards experience.

The benefits

As more studies are conducted in this area, the evidence is also supporting the move towards personalised total rewards. Paid back in higher employee engagement and increased business results, both the employee and the organisation benefit from personalising total rewards.

Payscale found that employees who do not understand the pay process are 60 percent more likely to leave the organisation. (Dave Smith, “Most people have no idea whether they’re paid fairly,” Harvard Business Review, December 2015.) Can your organisation afford this?

Companies have 27% fewer regrettable new hires in the first year, according to Willis Towers Watson. Deloitte also found organisations with highly engaged employee experiences have a 2.3x greater than average 3-year-revenue growth.

Understand what your employees value

While organisations may have the best intentions when creating or reviewing benefit plans, employees may have a very different perception. Moving towards a more diverse workforce with part-time employees, contract and project staff and a multi-generational workforce, employees have different needs. Companies may wish to segment their employee groups further, e.g. critical roles, highly sought after skills and high potential employees.

To learn more about their employees, companies shouldn’t just rely on the anecdotal stories from line managers. Employee surveys can give deeper insights into what employees need and value.

Wen Wan, director of talent and rewards at Willis Towers Watson, confirms “any initiative aimed at improving the total rewards experience must take into consideration what employees value most and how those preferences differ by employee segment.”

Total rewards and HR teams can analyse the data, identify recommendations for the most relevant programmes for employees and build tailor made programmes for the different employee groups.

Consider the various TR components

A few years ago, leading companies in this region moved from providing numerous separate allowances to one consolidated allowance. This was to simplify the administration process and to educate employees about the total package approach. Employees are ultimately responsible for how they spend (or save) their salary.

Despite an apparent still fixed approach to total rewards, 12.8% of companies participating in Informa’s 2019 Compensation and Benefits Employer Survey have already implemented flexible benefits. A further 22.9% of participants are considering introducing flexible benefits.

Compensation

While many organisations have moved from fixed grade and step salaries, broader salary ranges give line managers more flexibility in deciding an employee’s pay. They can define the basic salary based on the criticality of the role, possession of skills critical to future success or, at the time of a salary review, achievement of team goals.

Benefits

Companies can offer more flexibility to employees when it comes to benefits. In the UAE, Mercer at its post-TRS survey meeting identified medical insurance, dental and optical insurance, life insurance, and annual leave as four components ripe for flexibility. Employees can swap these at one time during the year (i.e. at renewal date), reducing the concern of increased administration.

Wellbeing

Rising healthcare costs are a global issue. It’s not just the cost for medical appointments and prescriptions. 1 in 5 absences at work is due to workplace stress. The Global Wellness Institute calculated the cost of ill-being as high as 12% of the United States’ GDP. Companies need to realise the importance of well-being and make it a priority.

Even though wellbeing programmes need a holistic approach, organisations can start with purpose-driven activities for their staff. Linked to their industry, companies can emphasise specific initiatives. For example, pharmaceutical companies can focus physical wellbeing while financial institutions financial wellbeing.

Flexible working

In direct conjunction to wellbeing, employees are craving for more flexibility at work and a better work-life balance or integration. Businesses can review their working arrangements. Core working hours with a flexible start/finish and working from home can be implemented without a lot of bureaucracy. Leading companies offer working from other offices for a longer period (e.g. over the summer), allowing employees to strengthen relationships with colleagues in other locations and possibly combining this time with their annual leave.

Recognition

Instead of waiting for the year-end performance review, more organisations are offering frequent performance check ins. While bonus payments are still only at the end of the year, line managers can use recognition programmes to acknowledge their staff’s performance. Monetary awards like cash and gift cards may be given. More research has found that non-financial recognition (e.g. dining experiences, social recognition) contributes to an individual’s happiness and has a longer lasting impact.

Utilise data and technology

For most organisations, flexibility stops with their IT systems. The administrative burden is too much to provide their employees with the flexibility they so desire.

Total rewards and HR teams should review their current procedures and streamline operations to optimise their internal and external resources. The region remains split on HR technology. While 31.9% of the participating companies in Informa’s 2019 survey will stick to excel programmes for data analysis, 44.7% of participants invested in technology compared to 2018.

By using technology, organisations can support their employees to make informed decisions and create an employee grade experience, which is characterised by its simple, convenient and personalised nature. Intuitive self-service at the push of a button provides the easy usage employees are looking for. Total rewards and HR teams can tailor their communication and education for employees according to the individual’s interests and needs.

Measure the cost and impact of your programmes

As with any other programme, total rewards and HR teams need to track and measure their personalised total rewards programmes. Business leaders will be interested in the financial costs and the non-financial impact. The financial costs may be kept neutral, although the more targeted spend will create non-financial returns. Leading organisations have seen positive impacts on employee engagement, their ability to attract and to retain employees.

Surprisingly, leading companies that have already implemented personalised total rewards are not talking about their financial ROI. Especially in times when we can expect an increase in skills shortages and a continued war for talent, it’s part of their overall employee value proposition (EVP) and their strategy of being an employer of choice.

Make a start and prioritise

The decision to move to personalised total rewards may be taken quickly. However, the implementation may require some time and businesses need to prioritise:

  • Offering more flexible working arrangements can be the first step.
  • Adding more health and wellbeing benefits may be reviewed prior to the annual renewal date and the insurer and broker may be heavily involved.
  • Creating more personalised communication and aligning the total rewards/HR experience to the organisation’s brand may be a cross-functional project.
  • Improving the organisation’s technology for administration purposes and employee communication may be a larger financial investment.

Find out how personalised total rewards can increase your employee engagement. Contact us today.

 

Improve your employee retention with stay interviews

Annual employee engagement surveys are a common activity these days. More and more companies are also conducting pulse surveys, asking only a few questions on a more frequent basis. While these are for your entire employee population, a stay interview can be very personalised. A stay interview can give your organisation additional insights and identify specific actions to retain key talent.

What are stay interviews?

Most organisations conduct exit interviews. The leaver is asked about the reasons for their decision to move on. A standard question is what would have made you stay. As exit interviews generally take place on the leaver’s last working day or even after they’ve left, it’s too late. The employee is gone.

With stay interviews, you have an opportunity to find out where an employee stands right now. It’s an opportunity for an organisation to learn more about the individual’s needs and explore how to retain them. Stay interviews also discover areas which make the employee want to resign.

When to conduct a stay interview?

Stay interviews can be conducted at any time of the year. They can be informal chats or formal meetings. Ideally, the stay interview is a face-to-face meeting to underline the importance the company places on it. A stay interview could take as little as 15 minutes or could be a longer conversation.

Who should be involved?

The direct supervisor should meet with the employee as it also aims to create and deepen trust and open communication between the two.

The line manager needs to be willing to hearing the employee’s feedback. Active listening is key to successful stay interviews. Line managers may need to receive a (refresher) training. Line managers will need to be mindful that, while they may disagree with the answers, they are hearing the employee’s current reality.

Stay interviews aren’t performance discussions where the line managers provides the employee with suggestions to enhance their performance. It is therefore all about the individual, their desire to stay and grow with the company.

Should the line manager and the employee have a rocky relationship, HR may support such stay interviews. Alternatively, external survey providers may provide an additional level of safety and create extra room for honest answers.

What are some sample questions?

Stay interview questions should be easy to answer questions with tougher ones to discuss as the meeting progresses. They should also express your commitment to the individual.

Stay interview questions include:

  • Do you look forward to coming to work when you brush your teeth in the morning?
  • What do you like most about your work and the company?
  • What do you like least about your work and the company?
  • How happy are you working here on a scale of 1-10 with 10 representing the happiest?
  • How would your day working here look like if it were a 10?
  • Do you feel that you are part of a bigger vision and mission? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe that your work has meaning? How can we work together to make your work more meaningful?
  • Do you feel “fully utilised” in your current role? If not, what could we change?
  • Are there additional things that we can do to take more advantage of your talents and interests?
  • Is the company providing you with opportunities to grow and develop as a person and as a professional?
  • What would you like to learn here?
  • What can I as your line manager do differently to support you the best? What can I do more/less of?
  • Are you treated respectfully by your co-workers?
  • What type of feedback would you like to receive about your performance? From me as your line manager? From co-workers?
  • How would you like to be recognised?
  • Have you ever thought about leaving the company? If so, what might tempt you to leave?
  • Is there anything else you want to share that we did not cover?

What happens after the stay interview?

Most stay interviews are documented. Best practices recommends going further. HR should collate and analyse the input before sharing the results with managers. Together, the organisation can identify which feedback to implement and how, looking for quick wins and possibly phased approaches, as part of their retention strategy. As such, it’s of vital essence that the organisation is willing to take actions after conducting the stay interviews. If not, it may give the employee just another reason to leave.

Are you afraid of losing your key performer? Conduct a stay interview and uncover areas of concern. Uncertain how to link it to your overall HR strategy and initiatives? Contact us and find out how we can help you make low-cost changes making a big impact for your employees.

The benefits of HR Policies

We are working in one of the world’s most multi-cultural regions. Individuals from all over the world are coming to work in the Middle East. They are bringing their skills, excitement and hope as well as their beliefs and value systems. Leading a team where languages, viewpoints and behaviours may differ so substantially can be a challenge even for experienced line managers and HR teams alike.

Policies can support creating a common ground for all employees regardless of their background.

What are policies?

While top management determine the guidelines for the business, policies break these down further and define how the business runs. They support the strategic growth, the day-to-day operations as well as organisation’s culture.

What are the benefits?

Written HR policies provide numerous benefits to an organisation.

As companies are growing and hiring new staff, common standards need to be communicated. HR policies help all employees get and stay on the same page and support the company’s culture.

Companies can base their policies on best practices, set to foster innovation, increase the employee experience and strengthen the competitive advantage. Local companies can benefit from the flexibility which the UAE labour law gives them to adjust HR policies issued by their global head office to their specific requirements.

Determining the delegation of authority, roles and responsibilities are clarified for everyone. This, in return, reduces misunderstandings and ensures smooth workflows.

As such, well-written policies provide an opportunity to strengthen employee relations. Reflecting the needs of both parties, they describe the performance and behaviours expected from the employees and the support and guidance given by the company. Should any disciplinary actions need to be taken, they provide a clear framework for consistent and fair treatment and are to prevent lawsuits, as much as possible.

Hence, HR policies consequently serve as a reference point for all people matters.

Which policies to include?

The local laws outline a limited number of required procedures only. Chapter VI of the UAE Labour Law Federal Law No. 8 of 1980 and its amendments describes disciplinary actions whereas Law No. 2 of 2015 against Discrimination and Hatred focuses on the prohibition against discrimination in an employment context.

Companies can therefore decide which policies they implement depending on their needs, provided they do not conflict with the local laws. Typically, companies choose to cover the following areas in their policies:

Recruitment

Organisations can define how they link their strategic workforce planning with the operational recruitment activities like selecting candidates and rehiring former employees. Policies may also include an employee referral programme or deal with the recruitment of family members and relatives.

Code of conduct

Companies can set their own standards of behaviour in their code of conduct, which reflects the organisation’s daily operations, core values and overall company culture. The handling of bullying and harassment situations may be described here, too.

Compensation and benefits

Policies can outline the company’s approach to rewarding employees, eligibility of benefits and allowance and evaluating jobs. They may also include how the company will address salary reviews.

Leave

Besides mandatory leave, companies can support their employees’ wellbeing by providing additional leaves, for example, time off for parental and caring duties, sabbatical or study and exam leave.

Learning and development

These policies address the company’s view on training and can point out the resources available for employees to acquire and develop their skills. They can lay out the criteria for reimbursement of any employee-initiated training, if it is relevant to the job, or special assignments for the employee to gain new experiences.

Performance

Performance policies assist companies applying fair performance assessments. They can also provide guidance on how to deal with unacceptable conduct and help employees improve. A disciplinary policy is normally also in place.

Although there is no limit on the number of policies a company may have, a reasonable and practical approach should be applied. Companies should therefore evaluate the specific needs for their business, however, it is recommended to have the following policies at a minimum written and communicated to all staff:

  • Bullying, harassment and discrimination
  • Code of conduct
  • Disciplinary
  • Grievance

Just as the business evolves and changes, HR policies need to have an option to adjust to the changing business requirements or legal mandates. Do your policies provide you with that flexibility?

HR policies are an effective way to look after your organisation’s and your employees’ needs while providing guidance to handling common workplace issues. Contact us today and learn how we can draft tailored HR policies fit for your business needs.

35 knowledge sharing ideas to move your business to the next level

In the past, knowledge sharing appeared to be a primary concern when an employee was serving their notice. These days, it’s been recognised that knowledge sharing is vital all year around. It can’t be a priority only when an employee handed in their resignation. Just how do you create a knowledge sharing culture in your organisation today?

What is knowledge sharing?

Knowledge sharing needs to move beyond the mandated and formal way of exchanging information amongst teams or individuals. For too long, knowledge has been viewed as power and subsequently been without from colleagues. Holding back of information may not have been based on malicious intentions. The employee may consider the information as confidential or may not even know that others don’t have the same access to information.

Organisations are thus facing the challenging of making knowledge sharing an integral “process of transferring or disseminating knowledge from one person to another person or group.”

Over 20 years ago, Davenport and Prusak already highlighted the route to creating a knowledge sharing culture in their book “Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage what They Know”: “The short answer, and the best one, is: hire smart people and let them talk to one another. Unfortunately, the second part of this advice is the more difficult to put into practice.”

Create a learning and knowledge sharing mindset

Organisations can start today and build the right environment for a learning mindset. Employees need room to speak up, experiment with their ideas and develop thoughts and concepts further. Companies in return can listen more to the feedback their employees are sharing with them. Employees often know (best) where a process has a bottle neck or how to enhance the company’s products and services. Listening to these suggestions recognises the voice their employees have, encouraging them to speak up and share more in the future.

Companies can encourage employees to share their insights and knowledge on 3 levels:

  1. Individual
  2. Team
  3. Organisation

While many knowledge sharing activities take place face-to-face, there are plenty of opportunities for subject matter experts to utilise technology and share across borders. Interactive sessions, for example games, create excitement around learning and knowledge sharing, which then can foster collaboration, improve communication amongst team members and strengthen the actual team.

It can be debated whether organisations should incentivise knowledge sharing. Providing financial rewards may set the wrong message. It’s feared that employees may withhold information on purpose and only release it against a “ransom”. This sounds counter-intuitive to working together as one team.

In contrast, other companies make knowledge sharing part of the job. Such companies recognise and reward the behaviours that support a knowledge-focused culture on an individual or team level as part of their continuous performance process. In addition, these companies evaluate the quality of the contributions made by the individual or team. For them, it’s not just about sharing data but also the value of the information shared.

35 ideas for knowledge sharing activities

Many may be surprised to read about the numerous ways knowledge can be shared. Like individuals having a preferred learning style, some knowledge sharing activities may be more appropriate depending on the objective.

Ideas for knowledge sharing activities include:

  1. Onboarding/induction training
  2. Case studies
  3. Company library
  4. Cross-functional discussions
  5. Team meetings
  6. Department meetings
  7. Townhalls
  8. Lunch and learn sessions
  9. Job shadowing
  10. Job rotation
  11. Process descriptions
  12. Process maps
  13. Games
  14. Interviews
  15. Task force
  16. Project close out reports and lessons learnt
  17. Coaching
  18. Community spotlights
  19. Innovation zones/labs
  20. Knowledge sharing events
  21. Online forums
  22. Newsletters
  23. Technical blogs
  24. Webinars
  25. Conferences
  26. Subject matter expert lectures
  27. Six Sigma councils
  28. Video demonstrations
  29. Brainstorming
  30. Master classes
  31. Workshops
  32. Benchmarking
  33. Communities of practice/interest
  34. How to guides
  35. Knowledge repository

Reap the benefits

Organisations focused on collaboration have realised the importance of open communication and regard it as essential to continuously enhancing their own processes, products and services. They invest and train employees on how to best share knowledge. After all, they’ll be looking for quality contributions.

With 49% of employees in the UK being mismatch to their current job. Sadly, they don’t feel supported by their company to obtain the appropriate skills.

Knowledge sharing increases the capability within a team and, as such, can bridge the current disparities between job and incumbent. More importantly, when knowledge sharing becomes an integral part of an organisation’s learning and development strategy, companies are 58% more likely to build the skills to meet future demand.

This should be appealing to every business, in particular small companies. Employees wear multiple hats in start ups and smaller companies on a regular basis. Pro-active knowledge sharing reduces dependencies on one person. Even in medium-sized organisations or large corporations, the number of key individuals with no backup can be trimmed down. There are no excuses for allowing key person dependency risks.

Employees can experience the benefits and synergies of knowledge sharing almost immediately. The more they put in, the more they get out. Once the dialogue is started, employees recognise how their knowledge about internal procedures, products or industry developments increases. This, in return, leads to new ideas and ways of working. As Josh Bershin found, it may result in 37% greater employee productivity and 26% greater ability to deliver “quality products”.

More importantly, knowledge sharing has shown to have a positive effect on employment engagement. Gallup found only 14% of employees engaged in the MENA region. In comparison, the US and Canada have with 31% the highest engagement scores worldwide. Employees who can share their insights and help their colleagues feel more motivated and contribute more to the organisation. As knowledge sharing isn’t restricted to the company limits, individuals may take it to external platforms or industry events, contributing to a higher level. Not only can the company gain more presence, the individual also benefits from increased exposure.

Knowledge sharing becomes the competitive advantage for organisations.

Are your staff talking to each other? If they left tomorrow, how would your business operations continue? Contact us today and learn how we can help you capture your staff’s expertise before they walk out of the door – with it!

25 ways to recognise your employees without breaking the bank

Employee appreciation goes back to the basic human needs in the workplace and yet, too many companies are wasting time and money on ineffective recognition programmes.

Earning a steady pay check only contributes to the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, being able to look after one’s basic needs. While working in a safe environment follows, recognition is linked to Maslow’s levels affiliation/belonging and esteem, which fill an individual’s life with meaning. Especially for millennials, purpose-driven work is a must.

When a manager appreciates their employee’s efforts and achievements, it increases the feel good hormone, oxytocin, within the employee. It’s a simple action by the manager with big implications for the organisation. For one, the manager strengthens the organisation’s culture for recognition. At the same time, the employee’s satisfaction, motivation and productivity increases, as Deloitte discovered.

Now, isn’t this something we all want?

“Take time to appreciate employees, and they will reciprocate in a thousand ways.” Bob Nelson

Yet, we still see companies not offering recognition schemes, whether of an ad-hoc or structured nature. Some businesses may quote current market conditions as preventing them from implementing a new appreciation initiative which, as they perceive it, comes with a heavy financial investment. The benefits of more productive and engaged employees, however, should outweigh any concerns.

25 ways to recognise an employee or team

An effective recognition scheme doesn’t have to cost the world as these 25 ideas to acknowledge an employee or team show:

  1. Put a simple sticky note with a personal message on their screen
  2. Thank an employee via email by using one of these 8 templates
  3. Recognise the individual’s or the team’s efforts in meetings
  4. Issue a certificate of appreciation
  5. Pay for a course in the field of one of their personal interests
  6. Announce the “Employee of the Month” and “Team of the Month” during the staff meeting
  7. Provide a travelling team trophy to recognise entire teams
  8. Send a thank you letter to the employee’s family, their family time may have been cut short due to the employee’s time travelling or working extra hours on a project
  9. Publish an article about the employee in the company newsletter
  10. Hand out a wellness voucher which employees can use for a massage, mani-pedi, yoga or spinning class
  11. Shout it from the roof top and post about the employee’s achievements on the company’s social media
  12. Give them a bowl of fruits or cookies
  13. Provide a parking spot close to the entrance, especially during the heat of the summer
  14. Let the employee present to senior leaders and gain exposure to them
  15. Give them cinema tickets for the employee and their family
  16. Name an office, lounge, conference room or any room in your office building after the employee
  17. Create a wall of fame where employees can recognise their peers
  18. Bring in a recognition cake for the team
  19. Offer flexible working hours or extended lunch breaks for a week
  20. Bring the employee their favourite drink for a week
  21. Invite family members to recognition events
  22. Send them to an unexpected training course or conference
  23. Prepare a food hamper to share with their family
  24. Have a senior leader take them out for lunch
  25. Give them time off to volunteer with a charity of their choice, works also well for team bonding

These 25 options can be given on an impromptu basis while recognising the team of the month can become part of the regular staff meetings.

Offering timely recognition, a leader is underlining their genuine belief in the employee’s efforts and achievements, regardless if the employee has carried out an outstanding task or is steadily enhancing their own performance, attitude and behaviour.

When an employee expects to be rewarded, this entitlement neutralises the positive effects of recognition programmes seen above. If no award has been provided, the employee’s attitude may become even sour. They may become disengaged and feel resentful towards their management. By keeping it unexpected, the entitlement mentality can be limited.

Benefit from motivated and engaged employees. Call us on +971-52-2516322 and find out how we can set up an effective recognition programme for your company.

How National Bank of Fujairah implemented a highly effective employee wellbeing programme

Over the last 3 years, National Bank of Fujairah (NBF) has won many coveted HR awards across the region. Following its success in 2016 and 2017, NBF’s HR team has again been awarded “Best HR Team” this year. In 2017, Korn Ferry recognised the bank among its list of high performing organisations in the Middle East. It has been also awarded the “Innovation in Employee Engagement” prize and received the “Mark of Excellence for Nationalisation Initiative of the Year” in 2016/17 at the HR Excellence Awards.

These awards reflect NBF’s journey towards HR excellence and its commitment to creating a stimulating working environment. The last eight years reflect this unwavering commitment to driving employee satisfaction and creating a highly engaged workforce.

Earlier this month, we met with Mr. Abdulla Aleter, Head of Human Resources, and learnt how NBF overcame the challenges when implementing their wellbeing initiatives. We are excited to share his tips and lessons learnt with you and show how they managed to achieve ROI on their wellbeing initiatives.

When Aleter started in 2010, the bank had to identify new ways to engage employees. The 2008 financial crisis also left room to increase staff efficiency and do things differently. NBF’s CEO, Mr. Vince Cook, Aleter and NBF’s management team embarked on a change journey which would transform the bank by 180 degrees and make it one of the most sought-after employer brands in the UAE.

Take stock

To understand where they stood, the first employee survey was conducted in 2010 whereby around 15,000 comments were submitted. Aleter has read each and every comment then and continues to do so. Despite the number dropping significantly to roughly 1,000 comments in the last survey, Aleter appreciates honest feedback from all employees.

For Aleter, listening to NBF’s employees is crucial. Employees provide diverse and innovative ideas and suggestions to the business. They also share what’s important to them, rather than what management thinks employees value. Aleter pointed out that each of NBF’s activities had to focus on the employee and their needs. Now, this should be the norm. Yet, we’ve seen numerous companies emphasise revenue over employees, questioning what “HR” stands for.

Act on the feedback

Aleter also emphasised the need to act upon employee feedback as a next step. His team grouped feedback into specific categories and then assigned each action to a specific action owner. This way, progress could easily be tracked and nobody could shy away from their responsibility to improve the bank’s operations. For him, accountability and communication of progress are key to NBF’s successful transformation.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

This is also a valuable reminder for every organisation: Take time out and define the appropriate communication strategy. Decide on the different channels for each employee group before implementing the actions resulting from the employee survey.

For NBF, it was clear. Each manager had to play an active role in the communication process. Aleter’s team designed and carried out management training sessions to prepare leaders for the appropriate messages, handling employee queries and supporting every staff member during the transition.

Based on the feedback from employees, CEO Cook and Aleter announced the upcoming initiatives to all employees. Amongst others, NBF launched its Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) – the first by a local bank.

A holistic approach

NBF took a number of strategic decisions when designing the EWP. The EWP was to take a holistic wellbeing approach including aspects of body, health and mind. In addition, it was to be offered to employees and family members alike. This placed NBF ahead of other organisations in the UAE which generally implemented one-off wellness initiatives. Only in recent times have we seen an increase in interconnected wellbeing programmes offered for employees and dependents in the region.

Active teams

The bank has expanded its sports groups over the years and has become the main sponsor for the NBF Fujairah Run, the inaugural event took place in December 2017. In addition to running, employees cycle, play badminton and cricket and can even learn to swim. Aleter shared the remarkable story of one employee who was afraid of being in the water. Curious to learn how to swim after witnessing the headway his colleagues made in the pool, this employee approached the coach, took small steps and has now pledged to a swimming race.

Healthier choices

Believing that healthy minds come from healthy bodies, NBF continuous to encourage its employees to lead a healthy lifestyle by making small behavioural changes like staying hydrated. Upon noticing that employees were showing more interest in being physically active, the bank supplemented this lifestyle change with re-educating staff about their diet. Aleter proudly shared that some employees even managed to lose some weight, with one individual shedding 20 kg. All these lifestyle changes also left a positive mark on the usage of NBF’s medical insurance. With the rising cost of healthcare, this is an important benefit for any company these days.

Connected teams

The sports groups have further impacted employees at work and helped to build connections within and across departments. Spending more time in a non-work and more relaxed environment helped to improve communication and deepen relationships between team members. Furthermore, silos across the organisation were broken down, increasing productivity and consequently business performance.

Personal matters

For NBF, the EWP also spreads to any personal issue an employee may be experiencing at home. Aleter explained that it’s essential to give employees the support at work to also address their personal issues with the right financial, legal and relationship advice. As such, NBF engaged AXA ICAS to provide independent, confidential and qualified counselling services in person or over the phone to NBF employees and family members, available 24/7 and in multiple languages.

The returns

Over the years, NBF has reiterated its view of employees as the most valuable assets the bank has. The bank’s actions and programmes echo their beliefs. The investment in its EWP has certainly paid off for NBF. The bank has become a highly performing organisation with a highly engaged workforce. Its reinforced commitment to staff welfare and wellbeing has created a supportive culture which empowers employees and allows them to grow both personally and professionally. All these actions established NBF as a leading organisation and employer of choice for expatriates and Emiratis alike. The bank’s business results are indicative of this success.

If you are planning your wellbeing initiative, consider Aleter’s most important tips for a successful Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP):

  1. Treat your employees as human beings.
  2. Work with your leadership team.
  3. Actively listen to your staff.
  4. Act on the feedback no matter how small.
  5. Keep employees aware of the progress.
  6. Don’t worry. Business results will follow automatically.

We’d like to thank Mr. Abdulla Aleter for his time and sharing NBF’s journey as one of the leading HR team’s in the UAE. Shukran!