By Maha Zaatari
A growing number of organisations are recognising the need to create a workplace culture that minimises stress and prioritises employee well-being, writes Maha Zaatari, managing director of Great Place to Work in the UAE
Anyone who follows the news would have doubtless come across headlines on stress in the workplace in the UAE.
However, something positive is afoot and to say that companies are not increasingly aware of the issue would be an unfair characterisation.
In fact, a growing number of organisations are recognising the need to create a workplace culture that minimises stress and prioritises employee well-being.
Not only does this create employee engagement, it has a concrete impact on the bottom-line. We know this to be true not just from data and research, but also qualitative insights from leading industry voices, who stress the increasing investment they’re making in the space, and the tangible returns they’re observing as a result.
At Great Place to Work, we conduct a rigorous audit of participating companies to identify outstanding cultures through a combination of tools that offer insight into employees’ perception of the management’s credibility, staff engagement, and job satisfaction as well as the company’s pay and benefits programs, hiring, and development policies.
This changing mindset is further demonstrated by the growing number of companies who see value in being recognised for creating a thriving and nurturing workplace culture. Companies across the board, whether it’s logistics, technology, finance, media, retail, fashion, FMCG, hospitality, healthcare or manufacturing are becomingly increasingly conscious of the importance of attracting and retaining the best talent.
A simple pay bump, courtesy title change, or an erratic bonus is simply not enough these days to retain talent. Not that it should be discounted, but our research suggests, that not enough companies in the UAE are recruiting for culture fit.
Organisations need to find ways to continue to integrate best practices from around the world into local workplace culture. When you don’t have cultural alignment within a company, the levels of trust, pride and camaraderie between employees and their management dwindle. Fortunately, there is an inherent desire in humans to be productive, so overcoming this isn’t a substantial challenge, but companies need to recognise what needs to be fixed before they rush to remedy it.
UAE companies are increasingly placing greater value on human capital development, and today, there is a noticeable improvement in the standard of HR practices.
Furthermore, employee satisfaction is going to be of critical importance over the next decade as the UAE aims to diversify its economy in the post-oil era. It would become paramount for companies to attract and retain the best talent in order to achieve sustainable growth. It is incontrovertible that organisations that focus on human capital to enhance the happiness of its people will play a key role in the UAE fulfilling its ambition to become the happiest country in the world.
Interestingly, although creating a great workplace culture requires consistent effort, it’s not as difficult to accomplish as many companies might believe. If we take this year’s list as an example, there were several key drivers that were common across list makers.
The top performing companies in ‘Great Place to Work’ focus on high levels of communication and involve their staff to create the culture they want to work in.
Great employers express their appreciation and recognition of employees through unconventional practices that go beyond monetary perks - verbal recognition and appreciation in fact go a far longer way, and while financial rewards are indeed important, they are not enough to retain a high-performing employee in a toxic and stressful work environment.
Evidently, none of the above initiatives require great financial investment. They just need a clear strategy from the senior leadership and the willingness to drive change for the better. A happy, engaged employee, who feels valued is more productive and will often go far beyond their call of duty to achieve the company’s vision and goals. Our data and research can also help identify areas where a company may be lacking and provide insights to improve workplaces.
We like to think we practice what we preach, so our advice to companies is to shine a light on the importance of employee well-being as it not only defines companies but us as a society. The faster that organisations recognise this, the faster we will be able to create more thriving businesses and positive communities that are healthier and happier. Everybody wins.
Maha Zaatari is managing director of Great Place to Work in the UAE