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Title: Emirati engagement in the private sector : an action research initiative in a local bank
Author: Cook, V.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6058 4554
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has grown rapidly since independence in 1971, but much of this growth has been fuelled by expatriates. The UAE’s workforce now totals c.4.2 million, of which only 225,000 are Emiratis. Of more concern, just 10% of these are employed in the private sector (UAE Ministry of Labour cited by Salama, 2013). With 150,000 Emirati workers entering the job market by 2020 (Salama, 2013), this over reliance on public sector employment is not sustainable (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2012). The private sector employment of Emiratis however, has proved problematic. Private sector employers have traditionally perceived Emiratis as unattractive employees and Nationals are not generally attracted to the sector. Nevertheless, there are Emiratis who have succeeded outside the government. Developing an in-depth understanding of why they engaged with the sector and how they succeeded within their organisation is critical to address the current challenge and attract more to do the same. We currently know little about the motivations and factors that influenced the career choice of Emiratis who joined the private sector and their subsequent experience. This study considers these questions and utilises the concept of employee engagement to frame the Emirati employee experience. The UAE’s banking sector is by far the largest employer of private sector based Emiratis. This research, therefore, explores the situation through the perspectives of Emirati employees that have joined a mid-sized local bank in the last three years. It is the first study of its kind and makes a three-fold contribution to producing actionable knowledge. Firstly, the findings will help the UAE private sector to attract new Emirati employees and strengthen existing engagement efforts to address the status quo and achieve, inter alia, a more effective Emirati workforce. Secondly, it explores the applicability of employee engagement in the UAE’s banking sector. Thirdly, it contributes towards the current public policy debate about how to encourage greater Emirati participation in the private sector. The study was shaped by the social constructionist philosophy and used mixed methods and an emergent approach to study the phenomenon in depth. Data was collected through; semi-structured interviews with 15 Emiratis, 5 formal group discussions in the form of action learning based sets, and an organisation wide quantitative survey. The research specifically adopted the principles of Action Research including iterative cycles of reflection and experiment/action and case study research. Significant issues were found for Emirati employees, including; challenges in building Meaningfulness, finding a trustworthy working environment, developing a career path, learning from colleagues and coping with significant social pressures. These challenges were explored in action learning sets where a collaborative effort was made to address the problems surfaced. The research confirmed the relevance of the employee engagement model but highlights the importance of a contextual perspective in order to surface the priority areas for action. It also moves the debate away from the overwhelming focus on pay and working hours, to much more subtle considerations that will need to be addressed by individual organisations.
Supervisor: Akbar, H. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.B.A.) Qualification Level: Doctoral