By Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)
Watching a promotional video about Dubai in an Emirates Airlines flight gave me goose bumps to say the least. From breathtaking views of the modern skyline of Dubai to smiling faces portraying traditional hospitality as well as diversity, the message was impactful. To the outside world, the UAE is a place where diverse people from all parts of the globe work together efficiently. The UAE’s success in establishing a robust infrastructure, foreign direct investment, tolerance of different religions, and diverse demographical population, are used as evidences of that very statement. In addition, promotional videos, written media, and global forums repeatedly portray that this diversity acts collectively towards the shared goal of the country’s progress
While this statement may be true in many cases, the UAE also faces a unique challenge in achieving certain objectives due to its diverse nature. The latter may often lead to an inability to act as a single body towards shared goals; this has created a level of inefficiency that comes at a significant price. In reality, records have showed that the UAE has witnessed a great amount of inefficiency in processes, decisions, and as a result in growth. This is realized on a daily basis by entrepreneurs, employees, policy makers, as well as social servants.
Whether it be different nationalities, organizations, or contracted parties working together, there will always be some factors contributing to the resistance of each party to work with the other. Some examples of the inefficiency that has negatively impacted progress in the UAE include lost revenue from licensing delays, brand weakening due to inappropriate customer care, and disregard for local processes and customs. Although the list can continue forever, what is important to focus on is transforming these inefficiencies to productivity and managing the UAE’s diversity wisely. In my opinion, the inefficiency in businesses may be caused by the country’s diversity and it can be addressed through aligning the interests of all involved parties. In order to do so, 3 factors need to be met:
First, there needs to be a clear goal defined by the parties working together and roles should be explicitly defined. When the goal is unclear, the sense of creating value is lost. In a diverse environment, this lack of clarity and absence of a common drive can create different perceptions of what the end result should be. Therefore, having a shared clear goal and explicitly defining roles can significantly transform inefficiency to productivity.
Second, after the goal has been established and clearly defined, there needs to be clear incentives that motivate individuals to work towards the goal. These incentives can be pertaining to personal beliefs or preferences or the incentives can be financial. I recently witnessed this when working with the health authorities to establish a medical center in the UAE. At first, the employees I was interacting with were unwilling to cooperate with me. However, after I highlighted the projects’ benefits to the nation and as a result to their families and friends, I had their full commitment. Furthermore, financial incentives can also be a good way to ensure compliance and timeliness. For example, if licensing authorities or government entities were responsible to reimburse companies for the lost revenue caused by delays, the situation would be very different. Having such fair incentives or disincentives helps align diverse environments’ interests hence transforming inefficiency to productivity.
Last but not least, there needs to be recognition. This is often forgotten about by most corporations or individuals trying to achieve team work. The effort put in by each individual needs to be appreciated and the appreciation needs to be shown. This factor is especially valid in diverse environments where Fair appreciation needs to be maintained to avoid the perception of prejudice. Appreciation can be expressed in the form of a simple thank you or tokens such as gifts, promotions, etc. It is crucial to maintain a standard level of recognition. The existence of such a system may ensure the maintenance of productivity.
Although the UAE is a place of opportunity that attracts people from all around the world to its fruitful environment, we have witnessed that the diversity could also be a serious cause of the expressed above inefficiency. We can choose to either live with this inefficiency and proceed or strive to improve to produce even greater results that will benefit not only companies but also the society and the nation. In order to improve, I believe this inefficiency can be transformed to productivity through aligning interests by clearly defining the goal, placing the correct incentive schemes, and recognizing efforts.
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.