What unique factors might you face as your team grows?

Dealing with people as your SME grows: four UAE challenges

‘People management’ isn’t always an area SME leaders specialise in, but as your company grows and hires more people, there’s a fair chance you’ll need to move beyond the basics.
A wide range of consultants, manuals and courses can help with this, but a more relevant question to answer is: what are the unique aspects to running a UAE team, and how do you tackle them? We’ve rounded up four key issues.

Finding leaders
In the UAE, many people are often strong in a profession or particular skill, and come here to progress and excel in that. They may not necessarily be a good manager as well, yet often find themselves having to ‘double-up’ in that role too: only 34% of Dubai SMEs, for example, have a formal organisational structure. The number of ‘pure’ or highly-trained managers is possibly lower here than in other parts of the world. Equally, there’s also often less focus on and time available for leadership training, in our fast-moving economy: again, only 26% of Dubai SMEs provide employees with ‘need-based’ or comprehensive training. (Source: SPI Group 2013)
The best way to tackle this? Identify individuals with leadership potential as early as possible, and support them in acquiring leadership qualifications. Also create a formal structure as soon as your SME merits one.

Affording HR
At the smaller end of the SME spectrum, Human Resources can often be a cost it’s hard to cover. In other economies, an HR Manager is often filled (at this level) on a part-time or semi-casual basis, but the ‘full time or nothing’ nature of employment contracts (and the responsibilities they entail for an employer) makes that less common in the UAE.
Result: SMEs have to take the step up to full-on HR sooner than they might like, if they’re to have this vital people management support in place. Or face delivering HR-related functions themselves.
You could tackle this by looking for innovative solutions. Could you share an HR resource with another SME, or try ‘virtual HR’ services available online?

Balancing worldviews
There are numerous cultures and sub-cultures in the UAE, far more than in most economies. People have different cultural associations when it comes to, for example, being criticised, being handed responsibility or taking the initiative. It doesn’t mean that one way is right and another wrong, but it does mean behaviours are likely to differ significantly.

To tackle this, you need to earn and understand cultural expectations and traits, and factor them into the ways you handle employees. You could also ensure your SME has a good mix of nationalities at senior levels.

Lack of long-term commitment
The UAE workforce is transient. People come and go constantly, and the security of long-term commitment is weaker – for both employee and employer – than it is in other markets. The consequences on your company culture can vary: uncommitted employees, frequent churn hampering progress, cliques of ‘different eras’ forming and so on.

You can tackle this by trying to create a ‘one family’ culture, and by looking to incentivise loyalty far beyond the gratuity system: shares, bonuses, promotions etc.

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