Jobs, jobs, jobs! A look at job creation solutions in the UAE

Last Spring I gave a final exam asking my students (two groups of young Emiratis from all seven Emirates) to address the issue of Emirati male youth unemployment and develop a strategic framework as if they were consulting for the government. I have finally compiled and analysed their answers. I will start with the general introduction and then go through the visions, missions, long term objectives, SWOT, Strategic Decisions, Priority Decisions, Gathering Resources and then Implementation.

I think there are some thoughtful and wise pieces of advice from these students... as many of them begin their jobs (yes, mainly in the army and public sector), we can at least be assured that there are some bright young minds starting their careers!

Much worldwide attention has been given to boys in the Arabian Gulf. In November 2012 The Economist wrote an article “Where are the jobs for the boys?” highlighting the upcoming “job crunch” in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates – where 90% of Emiratis are employed in the public sector. Young men in particular are not eager to gain the necessary skills through higher education to qualify for public sector or high skilled jobs. In May 2012 the New York Times published a piece “In the Gulf, Boys Falling Behind in School” highlighting an education system that is seen as failing the young men of the region. These articles highlight the enormous challenges faced by an education system which does not appear to be meeting the needs of the future generation of young men and the future knowledge based economy of the UAE...

The first step in any strategic plan is to develop a strong and forward thinking vision. Many students wrote of a vision for vocational training, through hands on experience and apprenticeships with "masters". Others spoke of creating programs to ensure youth were prepared for rewarding and productive work - exploiting natural talent and all working to ensure the Nation continues its quest for sustainable economic diversification and strengthen industries.

On to the mission... (and the fine ideas continued). The programs and plans put forward were often seen as in compliment to current educational institutions and universities. They spoke of equal access across all Emirates and encouraging training programs with private industry. The mission was not only to provide training and skills to the currently unemployed, but better prepare youth still in school to better meet the needs of the future economy.

The strategic objectives were bold - but also based on long term needs over short-term results. Some were specific - "By 2018, increase students' ability to enter university without any preparation years from 22% to 40%". Some were were general - "Create incentive and reward programs for students who excel in their studies" and others saw the need to have increased community involvement in the education system. 

Next came their SWOT analysis which they then used to make their "strategic decisions" and then their priority decision. Their analyses were solid, and provided a logical and thoughtful foundation to their decision making process.

The strategic decisions called for the inclusion of the relevant stakeholders to be part of any process - public and private organisations and policy makers and of course the motivated youth themselves. Some decisions involved lowering the starting salary of public employees (yes, this idea came from them) and developing programs for youth to understand the needs of the future economy. Creating more ties with schools (high schools and universities) so that young people understand the world of work and private firms understand Emirati culture in a clearer way.

One of the most well developed answers for the key strategic decision involved the creation of a motivation program - in particular for young men to acquire and develop skills that will be needed in the knowledge economy. Others focused on the development of a vocational program to target the key areas of strategic industrial growth for the nation. 

The required resources named weren't just human or financial - but involved active efforts to encourage the participation of all key stakeholders.

Each student described a plan (in more or less detail, not everyone gets an A or B!) to implement their decision and outlined the metrics they would use to judge success.

The issue of (un)employment in the Arabian Gulf and the wider Arab world is not going to be a simple one to solve - as my students described it will involve work on the part of all stakeholders and new "ways" of training than have typically been used in this region. I also liked that they saw the need for a motivated and active youth population to take advantage of new training and employment opportunities. 

Yes, they make me proud!


Teaching through legends: Learning how to teach strategic principles using stories from the past

Back to school, back to teaching, back to new ideas for bringing strategy and management to life for my students.

I loved my interview with an elder assignment, but I wanted to try something different. I have always been fascinated by the legends and stories that I hear from students - either in the cafeteria, over coffee or in the classroom. I know that parables have been used forever to teach "lessons" and insight into greater wisdom than our own. Will it work for strategy though? (I have my fingers crossed)

The assignment is in groups of two (maximum gentlemen!), and they need to choose a legend or popular story from their tribe, family or even from their Emirate. Then they need to translate it, analysis the content (from a strategy/tactical/operational standpoint) and figure out how they can "teach" one of the concepts in the legend to their fellow students. After this, they will need to develop a ten minute presentation and little (really little, only 1,000 words!) report.

I don't have a theoretical background in oral history - although I think if I ever teach less than 4 or 5 courses a semester (sorry, ignore my complaining!) it might be something for me to look into... but I think this might work. (Hope it might work and I guess even if it doesn't learning for everyone will take place)

I will update this as the semester progresses...

Hmmmm, I wonder if they will let us build a fire outside for the presentations?


Joining the Conversation: How to get our voices heard from the Middle East (2/2)

I must admit this second part of a two part report has been somewhat delayed. But September bring back to school and a return to beloved projects.

Part of the caucus was also a discussion of ways and means scholars working in and on the under-studied MENA region could get our voices/research heard by the Academy of Management and the wider scholarly community.

We were blessed with the presence of senior scholars from the region and working in the region - long time members of the Academy and greatly respected for their research and non-academic work. They provided some useful advice which I will share with you here.

The journey, not the destination

Publishing is not the only goal of scholars (although in a publish or perish world it has got to be in the top two at least) - the research process and relevance to regional problems also need to be addressed.

For young scholars and scholars looking to break into the "community" there are many ways to get "noticed" and improve our craft at the same time. Write to the editors of journals you want you publish in and offer to be a reviewer - and then work at writing good reviews when articles are sent to you. Volunteer to review at the AOM Annual Meeting - and at other conferences you would like to attend, and might not have the budget to actually go to. Membership in any community is earned... this is the best way to "earn" it.

Regional problems make for interesting stories

As management scholars (I believe) we have a duty to address the real issues faced by organisations in our community, country and region. These challenges though also offer up some interesting questions that need to be answered, and through relevancy part of the "so what?" of research is covered. As well, these regional problems can offer interesting new angles on existing theories.

Joining, not starting the conversation

Scientific articles can usually only have about 20% "new" - so issues that seem inherently local such as "wasta" and Emiritisation/Saudisation/Qatarisation need to be framed in the language and framework of existing theory. For example wasta as compared to the Chinese concept of influence "guanxi" or social capital and Emiritisation as an example of affirmative action. 

Be proactive!

To be heard at the AOM Meeting means being on the program - and getting on the program is not always easy. However, there are many divisions looking to internationalize (e.g. have more members from outside of North America), so contact them about your PDW and symposium ideas - become a member of different divisions, volunteer at the meeting... attend functions. 

It was a great caucus, and I hope we are able to follow-up on our enthusiasm last month with submissions for the 2014 Annual Meeting. After another photo of the group I will list some links to websites of divisions I know are looking for more international members and divisions that are quite suited to our needs.

Have a great year!

The Management, Spirituality, and Religion (MSR) Interest Group of the Academy of Management (AOM)

The International Management Division of the Academy of Management 

Management History Division of the Academy of Management