4 Ways UAE Businesses can Leverage Government Initiatives as 2022 Growth Drivers

Here are four ways in which employers can leverage new regulations to drive growth.

By Brian Habibi, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer, Bayzat

The United Arab Emirates has never shied away from bold decisions. EXPO 2020 amply reflects the national ambition to be a global leader. When the pandemic stalled the hosting of the EXPO, the government initiated one of the world’s most effective COVID responses, including a vaccination program in which (as of 10 January), 100% of the population has received at least one dose and almost 93% are fully vaccinated. All of this has helped to maintain business confidence and accelerate economic recovery. 

As the flurry of private enterprise continues its return to pre-pandemic levels, the government is aware of the myriad ways our world has changed. National leaders have risen, once again, to the moment, and issued several edicts and resolutions in 2021 that will help private enterprises thrive through 2022. Here are four ways in which employers can leverage new regulations to drive growth.

1. Attract talent

Following the success story of remote work – which proved relatively easy to roll out and resulted in very little productivity impact – employers around the world came to realise that their labour markets were expanding. When a UAE-based employee can work for a company in Zurich or Silicon Valley without the need to emigrate, UAE businesses will have to compete for talent with companies all over the world.

UAE leaders have recognised this shift. Its recent launch of remote-work visas – which allow foreign workers to live in the country for a year at a time, even if they are employed by an overseas entity – is evidence that the government sees remote and hybrid work as inevitable future realities. The government also recently expanded its Golden Visas program, which is designed to attract GDP-boosting talent.

These moves represent great opportunities for private enterprise. All that is left is to cater to the moods of the talent pool to ensure that workplaces are desirable. A recent study showed that potential recruits rank flexible, diverse benefits above compensation when selecting an employer. Success in 2022 will require acceptance by employers that they are now the ones in the shop window. They are being judged on whether they can become employee-led, on whether they are proactive on diversity and inclusion, on whether they encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work, and on whether they take the time to personalise the employee journey. 

It is time for a culture change. It is time to become output-obsessed rather than input-oriented. Organisations must allow employees to take ownership of their roles and co develop their KPIs. They must offer perks, flexible working hours and an inclusive atmosphere to go along with remote work tools. People need to feel like assets, not instruments.

2. Drive innovation

UAE companies such as Careem, Souq.com, and Kitopi are huge success stories. But each of those stories deserves a chapter dedicated to the incubators, freezones, and other incentives designed and implemented by a business-friendly, growth-oriented government. The National Program for Coders which was announced last year aims to attract 100,000 skilled software professionals to the country and create 1,000 digital start-ups. And the UAE Entrepreneurial Nation initiative aims to create 20 unicorns in the country by 2031. 

Employers here must rise to the occasion and invest heavily in Learning and Development. Internal mentorship programs and external training schemes should be leveraged to rapidly upskill employees. Offering continuous career advancement through these schemes will also make UAE organisations more attractive to this influx of talent.

3. Go global

The UAE government’s view of its place on the global stage has always been driven by an ambition to lead. The 2021 success of its space program has cemented this leadership position.

Back on Earth, the nation has now moved to a world-oriented workweek. And 100% foreign ownership is now available for enterprises in more than 1,000 commercial and industrial areas, including those in oil and gas, manufacturing, and agriculture. The stage is now set for UAE-based businesses to scale beyond their shores.

Such ambitions, however, bring us back to talent issues. Today, global companies must reflect the aspirations of a global workforce and a global consumer base. Top-down approaches have become antiquated – supplanted by more youthful outlooks and more open cultures. Flexible management styles that place trust in employees will inspire company representatives to serve global customers better.

4. Improve productivity

Another branch of the employee experience, the productivity proposal is simple: governments are aware, as are savvy employers, that healthy, happy employees are more productive. The Dubai government made health insurance mandatory for employers in 2014 and followed this up in 2021 by making mental health cover mandatory – both moves that indicate the emphasis it puts on the wellbeing of citizens. 

The health and wellbeing of stay-at-home employees burst into the spotlight in the early months of the pandemic. Concerns over mental health issues, deteriorating diets, and lack of exercise led to a discussion about a range of perks being made available to remote workers – everything from gym memberships to mental-health services. We can now expect these to become differentiators in the new, global labour market, along with open-leave policies, employee-designed benefits, and a range of activities and counselling services geared towards preventing burnout. 

Looking ahead

The year ahead holds promise. UAE government initiatives are a boon for the nation’s employers. But businesses must embrace them, focusing on customer and employee experiences and adopting the right digital platforms to scale, grow, and nurse the economy back to health.

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