Getting your workforce to see the bigger picture

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The UAE’s 46th National Day is a celebration of our heritage and the vibrant vision of our founding fathers. The country is one of the fastest growing economies in the world owing to the exemplary foresight of our leadership.

Dynamic partnerships between governments, organisations and institutions — which focus on improving the lives of all citizens — are critical to our collective future. This embodies our values, which is why we place so much importance in collaborating with all stakeholders to reach our goal of achieving inclusive sustainable growth.

The UAE government’s policies to ensure a sustainable development model that preserves the environment and achieves a balance between economic and social progress is focused on improving the quality of life for our society. As the 60th anniversary for Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Holding approaches, the inevitable question for us is: How do we preserve our heritage?

In recent years, it has become glaringly obvious that to build a meaningful and long-lasting legacy, businesses can no longer rely on financial performance alone. In light of evolving social, economic and environmental challenges, companies need to embrace sustainability as a core value in their corporate culture to preserve our heritage in the years to come.

While decision-makers around the world are making sustainability a priority, if corporations wish to have impact they will need to embed social responsibility in all aspects of the company — from waste management and sustainable raw material sourcing, to employee health and safety and community engagement. A robust framework and reporting mechanism is key to setting goals and increasing transparency.

At the same time, companies must recognise that it is employees who lie at the very heart of their operations and are responsible for corporate culture, business performance and for a future that we as leaders envision.

It stands to reason then that our people hold the same critical position in our sustainability objectives as they do in our offices and work sites. Which is why as part of our “Working as a Family” focus, employee welfare and happiness sit high on our agenda.

And an integral goal for our own sustainability framework — ensuring employee happiness supports national aims. As the UAE has been ranked the happiest country in the Arab World (UN Happiness Report 2017) and 21st happiest nation in the world, a content nation is high on the list of UAE government goals. Both the UAE Vision 2021 and the Dubai Plan 2021 to create a “city of happy, creative and empowered people” affirm government commitment to happiness.

Having been awarded the UAE’s Happiest Workplace this year, our stance on employee happiness is two-pronged — promoting vocational growth and employee welfare.

Equipping employees with new and enhanced skills makes strong business sense as well as helping foster a challenging and positive environment. Training the people who play a vital role in company growth is a sound investment with the returns being in the form of an unskilled and committed workforce who work to the same goals we as management do. Alongside our other training initiatives and leadership programmes, Al Naboodah Group Enterprises launched a trade school in 2016 aimed at unlocking the potential of unskilled and skilled workers with trade-specific skills training.

The results speak for themselves as employee engagement rates in the organisation reached an all-time high of 95 per cent this year.

The second focus for any employee happiness strategy is simple yet efficient — building a culture of care through employee engagement activities, community outreach programmes or professional development opportunities. A second is to become more inclusive, allowing employees to play a role in carrying out objectives that are critical to the company. As an example, we asked Al Naboodah Group Enterprises employees to join me in signing a Group-wide pledge, asserting our dedication to sustainability.

Commitment to employee happiness needs to be rooted in our long-term strategies. Sustainability and employee welfare will have to move beyond boardroom discussions and fall into implementable action plans that step by step measure both our path to the future and the UAE’s.

To mark UAE’s 46th National Day, let us all seize the opportunity to preserve our heritage and work towards a sustainable future for our country.

The writer is Chairman of Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Holding.

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