Benefits all round at work

The Life: The secret behind some of the world's most successful businesses is that they treat their staff well, according to experts. And a consultancy has just launched to help companies here improve.
Farrukh Kidwai says there are always areas where a company can improve its performance. Jaime Puebla / The National
Farrukh Kidwai says there are always areas where a company can improve its performance. Jaime Puebla / The National

The first perk, free M&Ms on Wednesdays, was a bit of fun, but nothing to write home about.

But SAS Institute employees were soon receiving more and more benefits. And they kept getting bigger.

Today, staff at SAS, a software company based in the US, can also work out in a 66,000 square foot fitness centre, practice their putting or get a massage - all during working hours.

This extensive list of extras helped SAS to come out on top in the Great Place to Work Institute competition in the US for the past two years.

Microsoft finished first in the Top Companies to Work For search in the UAE this year, while Zayed University and The One also made the final cut.

But there are numerous actions companies in the UAE can take to boost productivity, profit and the health of their employees, experts say. The Great Place to Work Institute, which is based in San Francisco, has an affiliate branch in the UAE that conducts the same search for the top businesses to work at. It has now set up a consultancy service to help companies improve their relationship with employees and provides some tips:

Focus on employee well-being

"You can't be a great organisation long-term and be sustainable without having a focus on your people," says Michael Burchell, the co-author of The Great Workplace and partner and director of Great Place to Work Institute UAE. "You have to have a focus on your people as well as your products, services and strategy."

Farrukh Kidwai, the chief executive of Best Companies Group and Great Places to Work Institute UAE, says: "You cannot say that a company is 100 per cent the best. It cannot be. There are always areas of improvement any company, [whether] they win the award or they don't win the award. It doesn't matter."

Employees in great workplaces trust the people they work for, according to the institute. They also have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with. "Every morning when they're ready to come to work the staff should say 'I'm going to work'. Not, 'oh my gosh, I have to go to work today'," says Mr Kidwai.

"If an employee doesn't feel like that it means that an organisation doesn't care for a person."

Bring out the best in employees

Managers in great workplaces consider bringing the best out of their employees as a vital part of their role. The best workplaces in the UAE, such as Zayed University, The One and Microsoft, share these kinds of qualities.

But most workplaces here have "a lot of opportunity", says Mr Burchell.

"While the UAE as a country is very focused on growing and being positioned as a commercial and financial hub in that region of the world, it is still a very young country and so the HR practices and policies and how employees think about the workplace is pretty new and young as well," he says. "I would say that by and large when I talk with most organisations, they're OK. They're good; they're not great."

Look at how leaders lead

Workplaces in the UAE tend to suffer from two issues. The first is the challenge of managing a diverse workforce.

The second is another common issue companies face around the world: managers in the UAE tend to be more focused on profit than people.

Yet companies such as Microsoft and others on the list are incredibly profitable because they treat their people well, and a lot of leaders in the UAE haven't made that connection yet, says Mr Burchell.

"Part of what I want to do and part of we want to do in the UAE is change the conversation," he says.

"You can actually make a lot of money by treating your people well. At the end of the day they are the ones that provide the customer service, make the product [and] do the work."

Published: November 1, 2011 04:00 AM


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