‘Work­place well­be­ing should be key pri­or­ity for busi­nesses’

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Our Cor­re­spon­dent

The qual­ity of a school never ex­ceeds the qual­ity of its staff, there­fore our first chal­lenge in this stage of our growth, is the re­cruit­ment of out­stand­ing ed­u­ca­tors in a com­pet­i­tive global mar­ket

The Well­be­[email protected] Event, a lead­ing global event se­ries tak­ing place in 11 cities glob­ally, will be staged for the fourth year in Dubai, UAE on March 3, 2020 at The Ad­dress Ho­tel, Dubai Ma­rina. The event pro­vides HR and well­ness pro­fes­sion­als and busi­ness lead­ers with the op­por­tu­nity to learn from ex­perts and their peers about the lat­est well­be­ing and men­tal health de­vel­op­ments and suc­cesses that are en­hanc­ing in­di­vid­ual and or­gan­i­sa­tional per­for­mance in firms across the Mid­dle East.

Mus­cat Daily is the re­gional me­dia part­ner for Well­be­[email protected] Events which are or­gan­ised by the UK-based Sonas Events Ltd.

Alan Wil­liamson, CEO of Taaleem Group, one of the UAE’s largest educ­tion providers, will be a key speaker at Well­be­[email protected] Event in Dubai. In an in­ter­view, Wil­liamson, who in­spires the lead­ers of to­day to be­come the lead­ers of to­mor­row, spoke about work­place well­be­ing and staff well­ness.

We’re thrilled that you’ll be join­ing the Well­be­[email protected] Event in Dubai. Can you tell briefly about your­self and Taaleem Group?

It has been an in­cred­i­bly busy but ex­cit­ing first year in my new role with Taaleem which has a di­verse port­fo­lio of schools, across a va­ri­ety of cur­ricu­lum and con­text. Our board has am­bi­tious plans, es­pe­cially in terms of ex­pan­sion and we are busy build­ing a new, sec­ond cam­pus to cater for the over­whelm­ing de­mand for places at our Raha In­ter­na­tional School in Abu Dhabi. The or­gan­i­sa­tion is also play­ing its part in rais­ing stan­dards lo­cally through part­ner­ships with the au­thor­i­ties where our ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence is be­ing used to de­velop and ad­min­is­ter other groups of gov­ern­ment and pri­vate schools. A ma­jor pri­or­ity for us at the mo­ment is to make sure that we have suf­fi­cient tal­ent and re­sources in place for us to play a greater and more prom­i­nent role across the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor in the re­gion.

As the CEO of Taaleem fam­ily of schools, what chal­lenges does your in­dus­try face when it comes to staff well­be­ing at work?

The qual­ity of a school never ex­ceeds the qual­ity of its staff, there­fore our first chal­lenge in this ex­pan­sive stage of our growth, is the re­cruit­ment of out­stand­ing ed­u­ca­tors in a very com­pet­i­tive global mar­ket. Our staff well­be­ing starts at the very early stages of this global search. A proac­tive, em­pa­thetic and en­gaged HR de­part­ment is es­sen­tial to the suc­cess­ful on­board­ing of new re­cruits. It is also es­sen­tial that their many ques­tions and con­cerns can be an­tic­i­pated, an­swered, their fears al­layed, and their con­fi­dence buoyed for them to make, what most see as a ma­jor life de­ci­sion.

The re­ten­tion and well­be­ing of ex­ist­ing staff is a top pri­or­ity for any school. We are all acutely aware of the work-life bal­ance chal­lenge. The con­cern­ing is­sues around it must be reg­u­larly vis­ited to try to en­sure that teacher burnout, dis­il­lu­sion­ment and de­spair can be recog­nised early and reme­died ef­fec­tively. For all staff, both new and ex­ist­ing, reg­u­lar progress re­views are cal­en­dared where pro­fes­sional, well­be­ing and per­sonal is­sues can be aired and ad­dressed. It is im­por­tant that I, as a leader, spend as much time as is hu­manly pos­si­ble at ‘the chalk face’ ac­tively lis­ten­ing and en­gag­ing with our staff.

Through my in­ter­ac­tions I have found that our in­dus­try-lead­ing salary and ben­e­fits are im­por­tant to teach­ers. How­ever, it is rarely their num­ber one pri­or­ity; job sat­is­fac­tion, pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and the map­ping of a pro­gres­sive ca­reer path for them of­ten out­weighs pure fis­cal gain. Their sense of well­be­ing is fos­tered from the knowl­edge that we as an or­gan­i­sa­tion are ac­tively en­gaged with them and strive to recog­nise their worth. We are for­tu­nate that be­ing a large or­gan­i­sa­tion, we can take a holis­tic view for and of our staff, to en­thu­si­as­ti­cally plan with them to achieve their per­sonal and pro­fes­sional goals. We are proud that many of our mid­dle and se­nior lead­ers have ‘come up through the ranks’.

What trends or strate­gies have you seen de­vel­op­ing over the past 12 months when it comes to well­ness at work?

Firstly, we have in­creas­ingly ac­knowl­edged that well­be­ing and men­tal health in the work­place are recog­nised to be of key strate­gic im­por­tance for a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. We also recog­nise that be­ing a teacher is a stress­ful vo­ca­tion. To this end, we have em­bed­ded in our schools, struc­tured sup­port and guid­ance through peer sup­port, line man­age­ment and an ex­ter­nal em­ployee coun­selling ser­vice. Taaleem part­ners with an ex­ter­nal em­ployee as­sis­tance pro­gramme provider to en­sure the men­tal health and well­be­ing of our staff is pro­tected. Em­ploy­ees who face im­me­di­ate, con­cern­ing per­sonal or pro­fes­sional dif­fi­cul­ties can ul­ti­mately con­tact me per­son­ally and in con­fi­dence.

What are you most look­ing for­ward to about Well­be­[email protected] Event? I al­ways look for­ward to lis­ten­ing to in­spir­ing speak­ers and learn­ing from the panel dis­cus­sion ses­sions to hear of what works in or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­dus­tries dif­fer­ent to our own. The lat­est re­search on staff en­gage­ment, sat­is­fac­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity is al­ways fas­ci­nat­ing; also, the ini­tia­tives that are work­ing well for oth­ers. Who wouldn’t want to hear the lat­est re­search that shows that ‘Ping Pong is a proven, cost ef­fec­tive ap­proach to well­be­ing in the work­place’?

What's your vi­sion for the work­place of the fu­ture, in terms of em­ployee en­gage­ment, cul­ture and well­be­ing?

It is fas­ci­nat­ing to spec­u­late what the work­place of the fu­ture will look like in terms of em­ployee en­gage­ment, cul­ture and well­be­ing. We can be cer­tain that there will be many jobs in the fu­ture that don’t ex­ist to­day. We can also be cer­tain that ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) will play an in­creas­ing part in all of our lives, hope­fully to re­lieve us of the more mun­dane tasks and ro­bot­ics of the more phys­i­cal repet­i­tive tasks.

In terms of em­ployee en­gage­ment and as more time is avail­able for crit­i­cal, re­flec­tive and in­no­va­tive think­ing, men­tal and phys­i­cal health will be cru­cial to a pos­i­tive and pro­duc­tive life. For well­be­ing, I hope that in the cul­ture of the fu­ture work­place, more and more peo­ple will be en­cour­aged to share their feel­ings and ex­pe­ri­ences in a pos­i­tive and sup­port­ive work en­vi­ron­ment. A ma­jor fu­ture chal­lenge I see is how to fa­cil­i­tate this when in­creas­ingly the workspace is not phys­i­cal and fu­ture work­forces are en­gaged re­motely on vir­tual, col­lab­o­ra­tive projects.

Any tips on how the del­e­gates at Well­be­[email protected] Event can get the most out of this one-day event?

I would sug­gest don’t be afraid to in­tro­duce your­self to peo­ple you don’t know or en­gage with peo­ple you find in­ter­est­ing and in­spir­ing. Forge a re­la­tion­ship and keep in con­tact with them!

Any­thing else you would like to say? The Well­be­[email protected] Event will be an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand your net­work and knowl­edge as well as in­spi­ra­tion for new ini­tia­tives in your or­gan­i­sa­tion.

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