Q&A: Maha Zaatari: “Better workplaces will stop staff leaving”

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 30 Sep 2015

Building a positive corporate culture will reap rewards, says the managing director of Great Place to Work UAE

The UAE has a culturally diverse workforce, which poses an exciting – yet challenging – task for HRs. Maha Zaatari, managing director of Great Place to Work, United Arab Emirates (UAE), talks to People Management about how employers in the country can inspire and effectively engage staff to perform to the best of their ability.

What do you think are the most effective ways for employers to create a motivating workplace?
Our extensive research and experience shows that the key to keeping employees motivated and highly engaged in any organisation is enhancing relationships between managers and employees through open and transparent communication – that builds a high level of trust. Once trust is built, the company can look for all these perks that keep employees happy and motivated every day they come to work, like having flexible working hours, and organising celebrations to bring employees together and enhance camaraderie.
The UAE is a very dynamic market and we have heard employers complain about employees switching from one company to another. However, if businesses strive to have the right culture in place and work extensively at providing internal development opportunities, then employee will be less likely to leave.
In summary, a great workplace is a place where you trust the people you work for, you take pride in what you do and you enjoy the people you work with.
How do employees’ motivations in the UAE differ from elsewhere?
While the basics remain the same, studies around the UAE national workforce show there should be definitely some customisation while developing motivation schemes for employees. UAE nationals are highly motivated in a job that will provide them with a clear career development plan. In addition, flexibility in workings hours and part-time jobs for working mothers is a key element of motivation.
At a time when companies are more financially conscious, how can organisations motivate their staff without having to resort to monetary incentives?
Motivation schemes can be very effective, at a very low cost. Salary, bonuses and other monetary incentives alone are no longer what keep employees motivated. It is more about having the right culture in place – a culture that conveys the company values in each and every interaction.
Companies can also opt for a big list of non-monetary appreciation schemes, while adopting practices that inspire employees and make them feel this is not just a job, like involving them in social responsibility activities. Once again, it is about making sure that the relationships between managers and employees are strengthened.