Q&A: Thamer Fahmi: “Benefits were always looked at as an additional requirement – not a priority”

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 23 Mar 2016

Halliburton's senior global benefits specialist on important changes in management thinking about employee benefits in the UAE

Thamer FahmiNew trends are emerging in the way organisations approach benefits and wellness, with senior managers supporting and approving an increasing number of workplace initiatives as a strategic way of engaging their workforce and reducing medical costs. People Management spoke to Halliburton’s Thamer Fahmi to find out more.

What are some of the new trends in benefits and wellness in the UAE?
Benefits in this part of the world were always looked at as an additional requirement and not as a priority. The way the issue was tackled was from a year-on, year-off approach, with no visible strategy. Now benefits teams are being asked to do more with less, that perception is starting to change.
 
Managers are now supporting employee education about benefits and how to use them, while accepting the implementation of wellness initiatives for a healthier and more engaged workforce.
 
With our medical partner at Halliburton, we have set up a life engagement platform that creates competition across different countries by setting targets. In the old days, such initiatives wouldn’t even be planned or have the proper manpower behind them.
 
Studies show that improving an employee’s benefits package can lead to increased motivation at work and more commitment to stay. Does this vary between different age groups?
An employee passes through different growth cycles depending on their age and social status. Usually it’s safe to assume that at a younger age compensation is a bigger incentive. As time passes and you grow in stature, you realise how benefits are important for you to be able to sustain your lifestyle. An employee who’s being offered a rich benefits package has less to worry about in the bigger scheme of things, which leads to higher commitment.
 
Do organisations in the UAE help employees plan ahead sufficiently for retirement?
Retirement and security (R&S) has been on the agenda for quite some time. With the growing trend of expats opting to stay in the UAE after retirement, more emphasis is slowly being directed towards coming up with solutions to cater to that need. Generally, this is still at the developmental stage. However, once the market becomes less volatile it will be something that could be offered to everyone rather than the contractual basis approach.