Winning smiles: Employees of THE One on a trip to Hatta. THE One is among the most sought-after employers in 2014 Image Credit: Supplied

It is inspiring to work for a company that pays well. However, more than the financial benefits, highly qualified jobseekers today are looking for greater flexibility and a positive workplace culture. The most sought-after companies in the UAE support and reward excellence, offer a good work-life balance, collaborative environment and ample opportunities for growth.

GPTW survey

The Great Place to Work (GPTW) Institute UAE, part of a global research, training and consultancy firm that recognises the best workplaces in more than 50 countries worldwide, recently announced the most sought-after employers in 2014, based on confidential feedback of their staff and an independent culture audit of their HR practices by the institute.

Maha Zaatari, Lead Consultant, GPTW UAE, says, “GPTW’s criteria for evaluating workplace excellence is based on employee perceptions, which account for two-thirds of the result, and a management questionnaire, which accounts for the rest. Companies that achieve a final score of 70 points or more qualify for the final list of top companies. The annual benchmarking study also assesses the level of credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie within an organisation.”

While DHL scooped the top position on the GPTW list, Microsoft ranked second, followed by Omnicom Media Group, Ericsson and THE One. Ranking from sixth to 10th were FedEx Express, Marriott, Bayt, Weber Shandwick and EMC respectively. Rounding off the final five positions were Emirates Transport, Fun City, Hyatt, Estee Lauder and Mondelez.

When asked how companies can create a healthy work environment, Zaatari says, “Companies need to find ways to continue to integrate best practices from around the world into local workplace culture. When you don’t have cultural alignment within an organisation, the level of trust between employees and the management is negatively impacted. This presents a requirement for introducing programmes for new employees, to integrate them into an organisation’s culture.”

Workplace-related awards such as the GPTW and Gallup Great Workplace Award make jobseekers’ lives easier by giving them insights into winning organisations’ business culture and work ethos.

“Winning organisations average a ratio of nine engaged employees to one actively disengaged employee, which is more than five times the ratio in the US and more than 16 times the ratio for workforces globally,” says Ghassan Khoury, Senior Managing Consultant, Gallup. “Leaders of these organisations understand that employee engagement drives real business outcomes and have mastered how to engage their workforces. Each Gallup award recipient has linked engagement to business outcomes and integrated engagement into four key areas: strategy and leadership, accountability and performance, communication and knowledge management, and development and ongoing learning.”

Communication matters

“We engage our employees through an open-door policy that encourages communication and collaboration. EMC employees from around the world can ask questions or post comments through EMC One, our internal social network or Channel EMC, our internal intranet,” says Habib Mahakian, Regional General Manager, Gulf and Pakistan, EMC.

Another important thing to focus on to run a successful venture is effective workplace communication, say experts.

“We always try to have an open communication with our staff through a daily information newsletter that goes to all departments as well as regular forums to keep our staff informed and involved,” says Michelle Telfer, Director of Human Resources, Marriott Hotel Al Jaddaf and Marriott Executive Apartments Al Jaddaf, Dubai.

The UAE workplace is a source of different cultures and talent, which when coupled with strategic initiatives to engage employees can produce significant productivity and business outcomes, suggests Khoury.

“Engagement activities at Mashreq are driven under a bank-wide programme called the Mashreq Employee Engagement, where each employee is a part of the engagement building process,” says Ashok Gopal, Head — Talent and Performance Management, Mashreq. In 2014, Mashreq was awarded the Gallup Great Workplace Award, a global recognition given to 36 organisations across the world to recognise their extraordinary ability to create an engaged workplace culture.

Training and scope for further career development give companies an edge when it comes to attracting talent. “Regular training and development activities are conducted for all levels of associates, ranging from the provision of basic skills such as communicating effectively to intensive leadership courses,” says Ashroff Shakoor, Director of Engineering, Grand Hyatt Dubai. “These allow associates to develop their potential within the company. Individuals who excel are groomed for senior positions, focusing on the culture of promoting from within.”

While commenting on how employers can keep employees motivated, Khoury says, “The manager is the key to engaging employees in the workplace and it is critical to hire, promote and develop the right managers. A Gallup analysis of more than 3,000 Gulf-based managers across a wide variety of industries outlined the key to great management, and thus keeping employees engaged at work.