Employers par Excellence

Everyone deserves a good job. Thus, a challenge is afoot in corporate Arabia and it mandates companies to improve from within: to become a great workplace. For the second time ever, ten companies in the United Arab Emirates are being recognized as the Top Companies to Work For in the UAE. 

The list of these exemplary workplaces has been researched and produced by the UAE arm of the global research and training firm the Great Place to Work Institute (GPTWI) in partnership with Executive.  The ten companies that emerged on top passed the scrutiny of a thorough employee satisfaction survey, called a Trust Index in GPTWI terminology, and a culture audit, or assessment of their corporate behavior. The trust index score, which is based on employee responses to a confidential survey, accounts for two thirds in the ranking of a company.   The 2012 list is led by big business names: FedEx Express followed by Microsoft Gulf, the hospitality group Marriott International in third.  Three homegrown companies also made the list, furniture retailer Total Home Experience (THE) One (5th), online employment market Bayt.com (8th), and the human resources firm Dulsco (9th).

As an annual benchmarking study, the GPTW list is only in its secondary function a ranking exercise and celebration of the best companies in achieving workplace excellence. The list’s primary function is to induce a process of continuous improvement in the value that workplaces provide to their employees and teams, to their owners and shareholders, and ultimately to their communities and societies on national and regional levels. 

“We want every company in the UAE and the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] to be a great place to work. Whether we will be able to achieve that in 20 years or 25 years or 100 years, I don’t know. But we are very aggressively going at it,” said Farrukh Kidwai, the chief executive officer of the GPTWI in the UAE. According to Kidwai, the institute has surveyed over 6000 companies and more than three million employees globally and lays claim to being “the world’s largest databank of information when it comes to great places to work.” 

This portfolio of information and insights was originally the work of an American journalist and has grown over the past 27 years to cover 45 countries today. The selection of companies for participation in the GPTWI survey and audit process is based on an approach akin to that of a ratings agency, whereby companies have to agree and actively register to be part of the process. This methodology may not necessarily be representative of the whole landscape of eligible employers, but the track record of the GPTW rankings in the US indicates that firms which enroll in the process early on after GPTWI’s entry into a market have a distinct edge in developing their workplace quality and enhancing their employee satisfaction, thus improving their human capital base with substantial benefits to profitability and bottom lines.  In the UAE the process is still in its infancy; the skew toward Dubai-based ventures suggests that awareness has yet to spread more toward Abu Dhabi and the other emirates. 

Besides recognizing the top 10 places to work in the UAE, the GPTWI published its first specialized list featuring three top companies to work for women and Emiratis just after Executive had completed interviews. The research into best companies for women and Emiratis is to be developed into full lists by GPTWI UAE. The organization is also working on geographic expansion of its presence and coverage to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other GCC countries. 

The top companies for women to work in the UAE are General Electric Middle East and North Africa, THE One, and Omnicom Media Group. GE and PepsiCo are the two companies highlighted for their appeal to Emiratis. 

Very notably in the 2012 results, employees have given their organizations substantially improved marks when compared with the average scores which the top ten companies reached in the trust index surveys a year earlier.

Congratulations are in order.

Thomas Schellen

Thomas Schellen is Executive's editor-at-large. He has been reporting on Middle Eastern business and economy for over 20 years.

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