– From the website to the workplace

Rabea Ataya is CEO of
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Rooted with one leg in technology and with one leg in services, stands with a well-established reputation as a leading authority in the region on all questions related to jobs. The company’s core activity is the provision of an internet-based marketplace connecting global job seekers and Middle East-based employers. The company has also leveraged its wealth in interaction with job seekers into an auxiliary career services business and into research activities.

Revenue generation at is based on fees that employers pay for posting job offers. But as the company does not collect fees for employment agreements emanating from usage of their site, cannot provide information on the number of contracts reached on the marketplace each year. However, the number of registered users is reported to be above 7 million and growing and the number of organizations that post employment offers is cited as 40,000.

There is money in the employment marketplace for and the firm has reached profitability within a relatively short time from its creation in 1998, according to chief executive Rabea Ataya. Yet it nurtures an approach to profits that differs from most companies. 

Every year sets a profitability target which is kept at a ‘low-level’; any profit exceeding the targeted margin will be reinvested into the team, Ataya tells Executive. “The company is willing to trade off profitability to achieve gains in how recognized, respected, and admired it is. We are far more focused on touching people’s lives than we are on profitability,” he says.

The organization’s employee-centric culture is cited by the Great Place to Work Institute (GPTWI) as an outstanding feature in the culture audit evaluation for the 2012 Best Companies to work for in the UAE list. As an example, GPTWI mentions daily training sessions prepared by team members and shared across the company’s locations. 

Based on the trust-index survey responses of employees and GPTWI’s culture audit, retained the same position in the 2012 and 2011 best companies lists. For Ataya, the repeated success in the GPTW process is “one of those feathers in our cap that we value with the greatest amount of pride,” he beams. 

Every person joining the team is tuned in to the company’s vision, which Ataya says is “about trying to build a Middle Eastern institution that is globally recognized and respected; and the way we hope to build that is by empowering people to lead better lives.”

The participation in the first GPTW process helped the company in understanding areas in which could further develop its strengths in 2011 and remedy weaknesses that it was not previously aware of. 

Gaps between responses by managers and junior employees to some trust index questions showed that while managers were well aware of the organization’s values and focus on maximizing’s role in improving people’s lives while maintaining profitability, employees were not made equally aware of these values and approaches. As one of the results of the GPTW participation, management increased efforts to enhance internal communications and explain these approaches more deeply.  

In other aspects of its employee focus, supports wellness-orientated lifestyles among its team members through initiatives such as providing baskets of fresh fruit in all pantries. Other sponsored activities throughout the year include team sports and lunch sessions in which the company invites speakers to address “topics that relate to improving people’s general lifestyle and quality of living,” Ataya says.

Ataya considers very steep hierarchical structures to be a hinderance to forming creative environments. Based on the realization of how important his sense of freedom while at work is for his own wellbeing, he made it a priority to give people in the organization the chance to replicate the same experience in their own working lives, saying: “The single most important thing that I can impart on the organization is letting people have that freedom.”

Alignment with the culture is a high priority in selecting employees and Ataya is confident that most workers are “seeking to live toward realizing our values. In all relationships with clients and employees and job seekers, we try to leave a positive impact on their lives.”

Thomas Schellen

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