GNcareers, from Gulf News

Trends in HR industry

DulscoAnke Fierke, HR Manager, Doka Gulf

HR Thought Leadership Series by Dulsco

Recently, Anke Fierke, HR Manager, Doka Gulf spoke with Amjad Khan, General Manager, Manpower Services, Dulsco.

Doka is a globally operating formwork company and even today, a family run business. As a company whose roots go back over 150 years, there is one value that has remained constant throughout; the capacity for understanding. By understanding the exact requirements of our clients, Doka’s passion for delivering bespoke solutions has remained at the heart of the company’s innovation, leading to greater practicality and efficiency, serving to make it one of the top choices in formwork for contractors and consultants alike. While understanding products and services is second nature to the company, Doka also comprehensively understands the construction process, enabling it to use the insight to provide the most effective solutions for its clients. Through understanding where expenditure can be reduced, or where performance can be optimised, Doka’s whole-of-project understanding has helped it to consistently save clients time and money.

What are your thoughts on the key contributions that an HR department provides to a business?

Anke Fierke: HR was traditionally an administrative function, specialising on payroll and recruitment. Most HR activities were focused on keeping the daily administration running. Today, requirements of organisations have changed and the trend is moving into an HR department with more diverse functions.

Today’s workforce in the UAE is more knowledgeable, mobile and demanding than ever before. Furthermore, many multinational companies based in the UAE are operating on a global scale. As a result, many companies have realised the need to position HR as a proactive business partner that understands and supports the implementation of an organisation’s strategy and mission. The value that HR can contribute as ‘business partner’ has been recognised and proven. Key contributions include talent and performance management, succession planning, personnel development, change management, restructuring and employee relations.

This approach has become important, especially in the UAE, where market conditions can change quickly. A purely reactionary approach is not enough anymore to stay competitive. Personnel development and training measures have the power to contribute to employees feeling more integrated and valued in the company. This, in turn, can reduce staff turnover.

What are the challenges in recruiting candidates in UAE?

Anke Fierke: Every sector, industry and company has its own specifications and challenges when it comes to recruiting candidates.

In general, the market is starting to be more candidate driven again, a perception I share with several HR colleagues in the UAE. Talent is available locally and internationally, willing to relocate to the UAE.

Today, prospective employees have higher expectations of this market, opposed to a few years ago when positions were scarce. Besides salary, employees also ask for benefits which may include appropriate housing and schooling allowances as well as possibility to progress their career and receive training. It is an outdated perception to employ staff and expect them to stay long-term without effort on the employer’s side.

From an employer’s perspective, there is a challenge of finding the right experience and attitude within budget. This poses three challenges for recruiters:
1.Finding new ways of recruiting, including looking for candidates out of the country and approaching candidates that are not actively seeking new employment
2.Designing total remuneration packages in line with local benchmarks while staying within budget
3.Ensuring a work environment that is supportive as well as challenging

Doka is keen to retain employees long term not only due to the high specialisation of our business but also as a family run company that values employees as part of the Doka family. It can be costly to lose staff, not only in terms of recruitment costs but also in terms of knowledge. It takes years for instance to train an engineer on specific products. When it comes to staff retention, we need to be adaptable, flexible and come up with new ideas.

Our most recent project is called ‘Intrapreneurship.’ The aim of this project is to create an environment where every employee acts as an entrepreneur within Doka – thinking and acting as if Doka was their own company. The program encourages staff to take full responsibility for their tasks while also allowing them a certain freedom in finding their own ways of successfully completing tasks. This increases an employee’s sense of ownership, strengthens their understanding of individual work and has better impact on our business.

Another aspect of Doka’s staff retention is making use of our internal talent pool. Wherever possible and feasible, we tend to promote and/or transfer staff from within the company. This expands and retains our knowledge pool and also contributes to staff satisfaction.

We also take care of the wellbeing of our staffs’ families by providing medical insurance to every employee and their family in the UAE.

Often temporary staffing/outsourcing is considered to accommodate peaks in business activity, reduce visa and admin hassles, and optimize costs. Does your company use outsourced staff? Can you tell us a little more about your experiences?

Anke Fierke: Temporary staffing/outsourcing provides great opportunities for businesses that are project based, for instance contracting where they have fixed timelines. Movements here are easy as the company has no liability towards an employee in terms of payroll or visa.

Doka is a premium formwork supplier and not a contractor. We differentiate ourselves from other formwork suppliers with our expertise and people. We do not simply provide formwork material but offer individual solutions to each client and their project, along with our service portfolio. In order to keep these standards, Doka operates mainly with permanent staff. Our people are always up to date with the newest industry standards. We only occasionally hire staff-members to catch up with an increased, temporary work load.

What do you think is the next big shift you expect / want to see in the HR function?

Anke Fierke: The construction sector in the UAE is fast-paced, deadlines are tight and have to be met. Since many construction companies are striving with business at the moment, there may be a lesser urge to invest money, time and effort in value-added HR activities that have not been implemented yet.

That said, as a business partner, HR can provide invaluable resources to support a company’s strategy and enable stakeholders to meet their goals. Every company can benefit hugely from having the right people at the right place - who share the vision of the company. HR ensures those people have the right skills, knowledge and motivation to achieve outstanding growth. Attracting talent is important. Retaining knowledge and developing employees to their full potential is just as essential. It subsequently has a direct effect on the profitability and the productivity of the company.

I am confident that HR contributes significantly to these goals and will demonstrate its value in all departments and business models over the next few years.

The construction sector in the next decade is expected to flourish in the UAE. Here, it is important to remember that the market will most likely remain employee driven. HR will have a significant contribution within a company to strategically implement changes, providing excellent working conditions, robust career plans and an attractive work environment. In my opinion, HR is a crucial function to prepare a company for the next wave of talent acquisition.