Job creation should not be a zero sum game

This article appeared originally in Gulf News: link to original article

Tawdheef, the leading recruitment and career fair in Abu Dhabi as the website states, has on offer 6,000 jobs this year. So, everything else being equal, Tawdheef alone can stamp out unemployment in a couple of years. Bad joke, I know.

Anyway, a single company is offering the majority of these jobs. I don’t know how serious this is and I will tell you here why. I applied to the same company more than a year ago and after speaking to someone who spoke to another at a higher management level, commonly known as “Wasta”, my application was considered.

After the talks, I received a call from the company, not to schedule an interview, but to inform me that they will call again in two to three weeks to schedule an interview. The call never happened, and my calls were never answered.

Another company, also offering jobs at the career fair, sent one of its employees to seek CVs for personnel specialised in finance. I got an automated reply a month after sending my CV saying that other candidates fitted the role better. Yes, they hired engineers and sent them to do CFA courses.


Slow or nil recruitment process, slack career growth, long periods of service before promotions, and the 1-4 scorecard to evaluate an employee…these are all symptoms of ill-advised recruitment policies and trigger a graduate’s despair and then an employee’s frustration.

At government institutions and semi-government ones on a less severe scale, overstaffing exists. Whether we like this or not, it’s a fact that the right Emiratisation measures applied in the private sector will assist change and turnaround.

Meantime, government overstaffing is a reality that we need to accept if we are to change, with nine out of every 10 employees working in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are in a government or semi-government institution (Bloomberg 2014). As part of their contribution to bringing down unemployment, these institutions are supposed to create a given number of jobs.

Estimates have ranged at about 2,000 annually. To create that given number within an allocated annual budget, you can either hire more or pay more. Hiring more is what reflects in higher Emiratisation percentages and reduces unemployment. Given that same budget, hiring more demands deferred promotions and limited career growth opportunities.

Making it tough for employees to get a promotion is the fact there is no smart objective grading system. Instead, employees are given a score of 1-4 based on their contribution. So a score of 4 is of an employee whose contribution exceeds expectations and impacts on the entire organisation.

A score of 3 is one whose contribution exceeds expectations and impacts that individual’s department. A score of 2 is one who meets expectations, and whatever is below are ones who you probably shouldn’t have hired in the first place.

Overstaffing remember? Here is the catch; there are quotas for each score not to be exceeded within a department with the majority given a score of 2. So even if you had more employees who deserve higher scores, you cannot give them higher scores.

If anything, this reminds me of a university grading system were a college requires professors to redistribute grades. For example, 10 per cent in a course get an A, 20 per cent get a B, 40 per cent get a C, 10 per cent get a D, and 20 per cent get an F.

I will be thrilled if 6,000 UAE nationals are hired this year as Tawdheef has announced. I also hope that such employment takes place in private companies who are more efficient recruiters. And I hope they will not end up as employees in entry-level positions or stuck in training programmes that drag on and on.

Moreover, I hope that government and semi-government institutions will not hire fresh graduates to achieve targets after which they block their career growth and kill enthusiasm. Do not get me wrong here as I am not in the business of criticising any profession or HR practice.

I want for the public sector to have A Teams in action and A Teams in development and recruitment based on these needs. I also write for the private sector to be more responsible in creating jobs, training UAE nationals, and providing clear career paths.

This is, for sure, only possible given one’s willingness to learn and develop, with those unwilling to grow in their careers being the exceptions here.

The thought that I want to leave you with is: Would you rather have an A team and pay them ridiculous amounts or hire everyone?


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