Banking on people and policies for growth

Companies must recognise the value of good staff.

Companies can empower staff members in a number of concrete ways even when there are budgetary constraints in place in the current environment.

Our panel of experts has some tips that can help recognise valued staff in cases where pay increases may not be feasible for organisations in 2010.

Panelists participating in this roundtable discussion are Arijit Basu, Assistant General Manager, Honda Motor Middle East; Jody Gleason-McGinley, Human Resource Manager, General Motors Middle East; Friedrich Blomerus, HR Manager, Cisco Middle East; Ehab Anis Hassan, Group Chief Human Resources Officer, National Bank of Abu Dhabi; Trivikram Jayacham, Human Resource Manager, Acer Computer ME; and Niranjan Gidwani, Senior Vice-President, Eros Group.

What are the innovative ways to reward employees and keep them happy at a relatively low cost?

Arijit Basu: It will be extremely difficult to retain star employees at a low cost so it should be a reasonable cost in line with market trends. Companies should provide clear and succinct information to employees and show them the larger picture. This helps employees recognise why they are doing a job at a particular time and also helps prioritise jobs in their day-to-day work schedule. This will make employees feel a part of the team.

Jody Gleason-McGinley: We encourage our leaders to use their interpersonal skills to get to know their employees and recognise that people are different and respond differently to motivational factors.

We often recommend leaders use a collaborative approach. To find out what motivates people, ask them! It's also essential to develop trust, respect and rapport in order to create a climate for motivation. People are often motivated by their own ideas, so asking employees to identify and stretch targets helps to foster a sense of optimism. Then [one can proceed with] recognising and rewarding their efforts.

Showing appreciation for positive behaviour increases the likelihood that people will repeat the behaviour. Recognition can be as simple as saying, sincerely, "thank you" or a more formal recognition in an all staff meeting. Other innovative, low-cost ideas include: e-postcards or spontaneous recognition awards including plaques or vouchers.

Friedrich Blomerus: Firstly, flexible work practices including mobile working and working from home can be rewarding. Secondly, immediate recognition with office-wide visibility (country-specific) on demanding engagements and projects that were completed successfully, formal recognition at country team events and thirdly, one-off monetary bonuses for exemplary contribution to business success.

Ehab Anis Hassan: The best way to keep employees happy is by job enrichment. This can be done by empowering them and ensuring there is a fair playing field in regard to performance-related income. That means rewarding the stars and making them feel special.

Trivikram Jayacham: The basic approach is the same for any successful organisation. It is important to maintain a balance between people's objectives and corporate objectives.

We recognise contributions made by teams and individuals who deserve the extra recognition and acknowledgement. Rewarding and recognising the contribution of employees on a half-yearly and on an annual basis is a good way. A company should grow talent internally. Sending staff on higher education and training and development programmes can be more instrumental in the development of people.

Niranjan Gidwani: People are the assets of any organisation, hence companies should ensure that they reward their right people, their skills sets and talent. Some top motivating techniques can be going for an 'employee of the month' reward programme wherein the employee receives a certificate and cash prize.

The human resources (HR) department of the company can announce names of employees by sending a mail within the entire organisation. Having monthly motivational rewarding programmes can also help. Long service awards and 'employee of the year' awards are good tools for rewarding people. Internal promotions through structured performance appraisal systems, helps, too.

Smaller things like annual picnics, doling out inter-department performance awards like cash prizes, free movie tickets, lunch and dinner parties and personal thank you and congratulatory notes from senior executives go a long way. Companies can award their people on the spot for their ideas and talent for doing the right things for the organisation.

What are the factors that can help in higher retention and in building a stronger, more connected corporate culture?

Arijit Basu: A sense of belonging in the company is vital. Nobody can give his/her best when he/she knows they might lose the job. Secondly, compensation must be based on capability and there should be a scientific approach to appraisal. Lastly, employees should have as much clarity on their future prospects as possible.

Jody Gleason-McGinley: It's important for employees to understand how what they do contributes to corporate objectives and that what they do is valued. With this level of understanding, employees and leaders can work together to create objectives and goals. It's also important for leaders and employees to have regular one-to-one discussions on performance to objectives as well as development opportunities that support career planning.

Leaders need to ensure they provide clear, candid, constructive feedback and that they empower employees with challenging assignments.

Friedrich Blomerus: Maintaining an employee-centric work environment by facilitating a healthy work-life balance is important. Career development and management, with annual performance reviews clearly linked to competitive rewards and compensation, helps. There should be a focus on inclusion and diversity initiatives to harness all the talent of a diverse employee group. Special interest employee resource groups allow for divergent and innovative contributions to the business. Utilisation of technology to conduct real-time face-to-face business engagements, either from the office or at home, can also be helpful in this case.

Ehab Anis Hassan: A clear vision and strategy is a must, where one sees the impact of their contributions toward the overall goals of corporate strategy. Building and having a learning culture is also critical – employees need to work in a place that provides growth opportunities.

Trivikram Jayacham: A corporate culture is a combination of winning and caring and this is built on four pillars – human nature, customer is number one (people, customer and shareholders), contributing to wisdom and being pragmatic and accountable.

Retention is always a key issue and keeping company-developed talent is always a priority. In today's environment, the only thing that one cannot replicate is people's working style and corporate culture.

Bringing in motivational speakers, who talk about non-skill, functional topics that focus on the core development of a person is good. Other initiatives like one-on-one coaching sessions also support the core development of people.

Niranjan Gidwani: It's all about managing talent. It's very important and crucial for a business to retain its star performers.

We believe in a simple strategy, which includes providing a good and healthy work environment, competitive salary and incentives, involving employees in decision-making, empowering employees to do the right thing, rewarding employees at the right time, job rotation, providing a growth path for career progression and standing by them and supporting them in bad times.

Is there benefit in the use of non-financial rewards in an expatriate environment?

Arijit Basu: Yes. Rewards need not be always financial. We feel recognition is the key. Other ways that can be used as non-financial rewards could be training to lift employees' capability, which will help lift his/her competence and thus help reach his/her future goal. Parent company/factory visits expand employees' thinking process and help them to think out of the box and visualise the larger picture. Last, a day off/special holiday outside the official organisation can help boost morale.

Jody Gleason-McGinley: Definitely, as stated above.

Friedrich Blomerus: Yes, many expatriates are now evolving their approach to the UAE in that it now fulfils family and lifestyle requirements and has evolved from a short-stop, high-income destination as more expatriates consider the UAE as their home.

Ehab Anis Hassan: Yes, always. Appreciation and a 'thank you' go a long way! Employees deserve recognition for their contributions.

Trivikram Jayacham: Definitely, yes! Simple things like staff transportation go a long way in expressing a caring culture. Other small initiatives like providing two annual leave tickets enforce a caring corporate culture. Casual leave is another important issue.

Niranjan Gidwani: Generally, in an expat environment, an individual looks at learning new things that will add value to their career. In this competitive world, we ensure that our managers are upgraded in line with the external world by involving them on a timely basis in training. Also, we send our employees for higher studies based on their interest and job requirement so that they add value to the system and bring change.

What does it take to attract top talent and become the employer of choice?

Arijit Basu: All the above facts, which means professional evaluation and compensation in line with the market.

Jody Gleason-McGinley: Besides competitive compensation and benefits, a company must develop its reputation as an employer of choice, by ensuring employees have rewarding, challenging assignments.

Friedrich Blomerus: A solid brand is vital coupled with a healthy balance sheet. A meaningful employee value proposition is needed to attract top talent.

Ehab Anis Hassan: The main attraction is the opportunity to develop. This, in my opinion, is of paramount importance. A high-flier would want to work in an organisation that invests in their overall learning and development.

Trivikram Jayacham: Employee satisfaction is very important and one should conduct surveys and run programmes that raise satisfaction levels. I believe it is important that employee benefits and development are not offered as a one-off, but are maintained consistently.

Niranjan Gidwani: Vision, mission and association with top-notch brands can make a company stronger and attract talent. We believe in the three Ps, that is people, policies and processes. These three can make a company grow stronger from day to day.


We believe the most innovative way to keep employees happy is by caring for them. Companies must ensure employees grow, learn and progress so that they can constantly upgrade their skills. We believe in a total rewards approach. Pay and recognition philosophy focuses on looking at total rewards where priority is given to performance-based rewards, career progression and opportunities to realise individual performance.

Other tools such as monthly recognition awards, are great motivational tools as employees are recognised across the organisation for their achievements in the previous month. Building a feeling of trust, developing talent, encouraging employees to take initiative and risk, empowering and supporting them should be

integral to the company. This can make a company the best place to work in, with an open and connected culture. Some tools that companies can use are getting employee feedback through focus groups, meetings and fora. A robust system of goal-setting and performance measurement should be in place, helping to reduce subjectivity and provide career opportunities.

A comprehensive training and development plan/strategy should be put together to constantly engage and develop each employee. I believe in encouraging and involving employees in inter-departmental projects and organisation-level projects. A spirit of volunteerism and engagement should be encouraged. Fun activities such as bowling championships or soccer matches promote a friendly and fun culture. Non-financial rewards are very important. Financial rewards are merely the 'hygiene factors' that any organisation must have to attract talent.

However, it is non-financial rewards that are the real 'motivators'. A sustainable culture, which is the sum total of employee recognition, rewards, development and supervision, is critical to employee productivity and retention in the long run. The expatriate worker is also looking for growth, development and a sense of belonging in this market and companies that recognise and promote this will succeed over time.

To become an employer of choice, a company has to believe that talent attracts talent. The key is to hire top tier talent and leadership to attract others of the same calibre and maintain this approach throughout their lifecycle with the company.


- The writer is Human Resources Manager, Dunia Finance


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