Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has said the results of an employee satisfaction survey of government workers are unacceptably low, and he gave managers six months to improve morale.
In his latest push to improve efficiency in the public sector, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai expressed disappointment at a study that showed employees in five government offices had relatively low job satisfaction.
Sheikh Mohammed said that, while some showed satisfaction was as high as 93 per cent, only 60 per cent of employees at five offices said they were satisfied at their workplace.
“These percentages are unacceptable,” he said on Twitter. “Employee satisfaction is key to customer satisfaction. We are giving the managers of these bodies six months to change the working environment. The government’s most valuable capital is its employees.”
This month, the Dubai government issued new workplace regulations that include wider benefits for employees — including more leave, promotion opportunities and a "working from afar" option.
Annual leave was increased from 22 days to 25 for grade 8 employees, with grade 7 workers getting an increase from 15 days to 18.
A week ago, Sheikh Mohammed led a delegation in a surprise visit to Dubai International Airport to assess their services. During his visit, he urged staff to "raise the bar" for customer service.
It was not the first time he made an unannounced visit to a government agency.
National Editorial: Efficiency is a happiness factor
In 2016, he visited the Land Department and Department of Economic Development for a spot check at the start of the working day — only to find that no one had turned up for work.
The next day, in response, he ordered nine senior officials at Dubai Municipality to retire.
“He certainly wanted to send a message,” Mona Al Marri, director general of the Dubai Media Office, said at the time.
“Timeliness starts at the top and we won’t go after the employees when their bosses aren’t there.”
HR professionals in Dubai said on Monday that employee dissatisfaction in government offices can be triggered by a number of factors.
“There are many ways to increase engagement and high salaries and pay increases are not necessarily a motivation for employees to give their absolute best,” said Amena Baig, managing director at Ultimate HR Solutions.
“Management first needs to be trained on how to empower their employees to improvement engagement.”
Ms Baig said six months is a suitable amount of time for management to bring in changes if they really do wish to do so.
“I totally agree with Sheikh Mohammed’s thought process,” she said.
“If your employees are happy at work, they will take care of your customers. For employees to be happy they have to feel engaged.”
She said research has shown that highly engaged teams are 21 per cent more productive, 22 per cent more profitable and exhibit significantly lower employee turnover.
Having the wrong manager in place is another major issue when it comes to staff satisfaction at work, said Vijay Gandhi, regional director of the Korn Ferry Hay Group.
“If you do not have the right manager in place then you are going to struggle to meet the needs of the employee,” he said.
“It is not just about money and holidays there are many factors that have to be taken into account.”
Mr Gandhi said working hours and a work to life balance are at the top of any employee’s list when it comes to finding satisfaction in the workplace.
“A lot of firms do not offer the right development programmes either,” he said.
He said it is not uncommon for companies in the “western world” to offer a rotation programme which allows both the employee and employer to find the right fit for them.
“Finding people doing a job that is not right for them is very common here,” he said.
“Also finding out that a job is not what you expected when you took the role is very common as well.”
He said many of these issues would be resolved by the government adopting rotation programmes to find the best role for their staff members.
“You find rotation programmes in the oil and gas industry here but otherwise they are not very prevalent,” he said.
Mohammad Osama, managing director of the Gulf Recruitment Group, also said that the biggest threat to employee satisfaction comes from having the wrong people in management positions.
“Generally I find that few people complain about a lack of work and life balance and are more affected by having the wrong person leading them,” he said.
“It is quite common for people to be promoted because they excel in the role they are currently in which does not necessarily require people management skills.”
He said the problems only arise when they reach a leadership role having received little, or no, people management training.
“It is extremely common for someone to keep getting bumped up the ladder because of their performance,” he said.
“Performance should not be the only criteria though. There should be a skills gap assessment but sadly HR is not as strong in this region as others.”