Coming of age: HR in the Middle East

Written by
Changeboard Team

05 Apr 2016

05 Apr 2016 • by Changeboard Team

From making the CEO your best friend to building effective company values, the HR Summit and Expo 2015, which took place 15-19 November 2015 in Dubai, was characterised by important themes and big name speakers. Three business gurus led each day, but plenty of insights were also provided during workshops and seminars. Authors Ram Charan, Fons Trompenaars and Jim Kouzes set the agenda for each day. Ram Charan called for HR directors to “be regarded as the number one in your company after the CEO”, with speed of decision making and adoption of technology vital in the new world of business. Fons Trompenaars advised the audience to “forget globalisation, what we need is reconciliation” in his fascinating keynote address.


Balance is key

For Trompenaars, the key to effective leadership is the ability to reconcile opposites. He urged HR to recognise differences, saying: “If you have a value, add the opposite. To be successful, you need to reconcile opposites and balance both out.” The final keynote session was given by The Leadership Challenge’s Jim Kouzes, who revealed that 86% of executives believe the world faces a leadership crisis. He examined the characteristics of great leaders, before sharing his five practices of exemplary leadership and practical tips for inspiring growth in yourself and members of your team. 


This year’s event had a major focus on peer-to-peer learning, with many of the stand-out sessions coming from the workshops. Tanfeeth’s CEO Suhail Bin Tarraf and chief people officer Hessa Al Ghurair detailed how data analytics has revolutionised their HR strategy, allowing them to recruit an impressive 90% of appointments internally. The importance of wellbeing – both personal and from an employer perspective – was striking, while issues around nationalisation and the vagaries of employment law in the region drew strong engagement. However, the clear uniting theme of the summit was of an HR function asserting its authority. No longer beholden to Western practices, HR in the Middle East is technologically savvy, diverse in leadership and is becoming increasingly attractive to new recruits.

HR Excellence Award winners

Employer of the year: Apparel Group

Innovation in executive and leadership development: Abu Dhabi Police GHQ 

Innovation in employee engagement: Emirates NBD 

HR tech and analytics utilisation: Tanfeeth

Innovation in leadership and development: First Gulf Bank

Innovation in recruitment and employer branding: Al Futtaim

Nationalisation incentive of the year: Etihad Airways

HR team of the year: WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff

HR professional of the year: Shatha Al Maskiry 

HR’s rising star: Amna Almahri