The greatest places to work in theUAE
The moment the 2014 Great Places toWork (GPTW) list was released, Thomas Lundgren, CEO of furniture store The One, called a meeting of his staff at their Jumeirah office. While The One remained the number one local company on the list, it had slipped down one slot to number five, from the fourth position overall it had enjoyed the previous year.
“It was to congratulate them, as well as discuss strategies to get better,” says Thomas.
The One staffers are already a pretty satisfied lot. And why wouldn’t they be? Their benefits include flexible working hours, employee bonding programmes with drumming sessions, training and development programmes, extended maternity leave, new mothers are allowed to work part-time, a great health insurance package, laughter yoga sessions (where staff learn to laugh and let go off their tension together), a relaxed dress code, fitness classes at the office, a welfare fund with equal contributions from the employer for emergencies, sporting events, employment of people with special needs, an attractive bonus scheme and 40 per cent discount at The One outlets.
They also get a monthly breakfast where deserving staff are rewarded, free lunches for warehouse staff and staff participation in social welfare schemes in developing countries.
With such an active interest in staff welfare, Thomas really didn’t need to go for certification from GPTW, a US-based company that rates great places to work from the staff’s point of view in 42 countries. But he did, and like the previous four years (The One figured among the top six of the 15-company list all four years), he plans to keep at it.
“I never believed in these company rankings, but in 1994, while working on my business plan forThe One, I read a magazine article on the top 100 US companies,” he says. “That is where my dream was born – a dream of creating the world’s best company to work for.
“When I heard about GPTW launching a list for the UAE in 2010, I was still quite sceptical, but decided to give it a go just to get an idea of whereThe One stands.
“It is a globally recognised ranking in 42 countries across the world. Today I am a believer, since this survey gives us an indication every year of how employees in each of our business units feel and we can use that data to improve.”
That is what most companies on the UAE’s top 15 list have to say. The annual list was released last month. Multinationals DHL, Microsoft Gulf, Omnicom Media Group Mena and Ericsson took the first four positions. Obviously, it’s simply not enough
now for companies to think a good salary is the way to attract talent – or to make their company a great place to work.
Take 13th-placed Hyatt for instance. Each June, Hyatt hotels around the world participate in Celebrating Our People, a week-long event that recognises the company’s “most important asset and their tremendous dedication”.
So what exactly is it that makes an organisation a great place to work? “Our 25 years of research indicate that all great workplaces share a common thread – a high degree of trust in the workplace,” says David Robert, partner and director of GPTWUAE.
“We collect a significant amount of data related to best practices, which we share frequently with clients, but no one set of best practices can guarantee that a company will be a great workplace.
“Every company is different and no two companies will take the same path. However, the single most important factor that drives high trust is the effectiveness and strength of the relationship between employees and management.
“Great workplaces are not built based on what they offer; they are built based on how the programmes are implemented.”
Essentially, it is a company’s employees who determine whether it makes the list. GPTW’s evaluation process consists of two parts.
The first is an anonymous survey of the employees, called the Trust Index. This measures the trust the staff have in the management.
The second part is the Culture Audit – a survey of the management policy and how it measures up against global standards.
The results of both surveys are analysed and scored by a team of consultants. The Trust Index makes up two-thirds of the final score and the Culture Audit one third.
All registered companies have to meet minimum thresholds to make the grade. No company scoring less than 70 per cent in overall scores is considered for the list.
Any company that has done business for two years and has 50 employees in the UAE can approach GPW to be assessed. For more info go to www.greatplacetowork.ae.
A local angle
Where do UAE companies stand compared to companies in other parts of the world in terms of work culture? “Great workplaces will look and feel different depending on the country, market or culture they are in – but at the core of every workplace is trust,” says David.
“How trust gets built or broken also looks very different from culture to culture, but from our perspective all employees want three basic questions answered: Where are we going, why is it important, and how am I doing? All great workplaces have leaders who consistently answer these questions for employees.
“The top companies in the UAE, although they may look and feel different from top companies in other parts of the world, consistently answer these questions.”
Is there a formula that makes for a good workplace culture?
“There is no formula,” says David. “Each company must spend the appropriate amount of time understanding who they are, where they would like to go, and the best path to get there.”
This often requires in-depth data gathering and an effort to get all the leaders on board. Once the company has the support of all its leaders, then it’s the right time to begin action planning. What a company decides to pursue will depend on the results of the data gathering.
‘Great workplaces will look and feel different… but at the core of every workplace is trust’
Google, the company that was number one on GPTW’s World’s Best Multinational Places toWork 2013, achieved it partly through Google Reach. The programme sends a small group of Google staff to an evolving area to help local organisations and small businesses address development challenges. In 2013, 47 Google staff travelled to Ghana and New Delhi, India.
The company’s Donations for Doers programme encourages