By Fran McElwaine
Regional Director, Hill & Knowlton Middle East
The Gulf Region is experiencing exponential development and economic growth and with that comes an increased interest from an international business audience.
However, in a region dominated by family businesses - which have thrived up until now on a traditional and patriarchal management model - how are the region’s executives coping with the market-enforced transition to modern professional structures? Are employees motivated to meet ever increasing demands on productivity? How are managers coping with the ongoing change inherent in a dynamic and growing economy?
We commissioned a professional survey to help quantify what, if any, might be the important developmental issues facing managers across the Gulf.
The findings provide some scary reading. Although managers in the GCC understand the importance of communicating with employees, many are failing to get the message across.
The study discovered a communications disconnect between managers and employees. For example, the vast majority of managers (84%) think they explain their organisation’s strategic objectives to staff - unfortunately only half of employees agree.
This is a vitally important issue for corporate managers across the Gulf as companies are under mounting pressure to lift productivity. Today’s global talent pool is becoming increasingly mobile and the ability to engage employees and align them with a company’s strategic objectives is the key to better motivation, productivity and talent retention.
A possible reason for this communications disconnect is that many managers do not feel empowered to communicate, or even make decisions. Eighty one per cent of Gulf managers believe making decisions increases the chances of being blamed for errors. This is perhaps why 31 per cent freely admit they blindly follow decisions made by others without fully thinking through the consequences.
An information vacuum
Only half of employees surveyed think their manager is very useful for obtaining important information and lack of effective communication has led many employees to look elsewhere. Similarly fifty one per cent of middle managers themselves rely on external media and friends for information about their job – which shows worrying potential for a Chinese whisper effect.
In order to create real potential for companies to improve staff retention, morale and productivity, our findings indicate that the solution is down to providing a better context and structure for internal communications. Internal messages, whether via a meeting, post-it-note or a sophisticated intranet, should be as well thought-out as a company response to a high profile journalist or major shareholder.
At a minimum, companies in the Gulf should regularly survey their employees to find out what information they need to support their jobs, what information they believe the company should be communicating, and their preferred channels of receiving the information. Employee engagement levels should be measured at regular intervals - this becomes increasingly important as organizations begin to move outside their country of origin.
A company works best when its talent is focused on a common goal, but if managers in the Gulf are failing to get the message across clearly then that talent becomes a waste of valuable resource. In a dynamic and changing business environment the transition from traditional, patriarchal management models cannot just be led from the top. All levels of management need to feel empowered with the knowledge and crucially, the skills, to disseminate information through their organization. Only then can they feel confident about making the right decisions.
This is a summary of a report carried out for H&K Middle East by You Giv Siraj. For a downloadable pdf of the full Report, ‘Getting the Message Across’ please visit http://www2.hillandknowlton.com/crw/gtma/