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17 January 2017Last updated
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Here’s how to make your job work for you

We spoke to HR and employee engagement experts about the top three things that affect our lives as career women – motivation, work/life balance and gender equality – and asked them how you can make your job work for you

Tabitha Barda
6 Sep 2016 | 10:00 am
  • Bev Mileham.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM

Bev Mileham

South African, 54, general manager of employee engagement company Biz Group and mum to Bronwyn, 26, and Megan, 24

Are you genuinely passionate about your job? As much as the concept is bandied about on CVs and cover letters, it’s very easy to get disheartened or disillusioned when the economy feels uncertain and companies tighten their purse strings and seem to stop caring about the welfare of their employees. But when times are tough it is more important than ever for staff to be kept happy and engaged – Bev Mileham, whose own company Biz Group has won the SME category of Great Place To Work in the UAE twice, explains how you can keep yourself or your team motivated even in less favourable circumstances, and it won’t cost a penny… 
Tap into ‘native genius’

“If you’re the leader of a team, there is a very simple way of getting the best out of your people, but actually very few leaders do it. The simple secret is to take a genuine interest in your team members’ lives outside of work; make a conscious effort to find out what makes them tick, what their passions and priorities are. Not only does this help people to feel valued, but you understand them more and at the same time you tap into their ‘native genius’ – meaning their innate strengths, what they do easily and freely. This pays dividends in the future; for instance, at Biz Group, we have three people who we discovered are naturally very artistically talented. Even though they are based in unrelated departments (one is in finance; one in client services; and one is a logistics manager), we decided to send all three of them on a graphic recording course. They now do all of our graphics and video work themselves – it’s a win-win situation as it means that those team members feel motivated because they’re getting to do something they really love and are good at, and we don’t have to pay for an external agency to do it for us. The finance lady is so passionate about doing videos for us that she even volunteered to come in and do it during her annual leave (we pay her for her time of course!), which just goes to show how much it has motivated her.

Become more agile
”When it comes to keeping teams motivated, the latest thinking according to the Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report by Deloitte is all about organisational agility. This is illustrated by the example above, and means that people still have their home base at work (for example the finance/ client services/ logistics departments with our staff) but that they dip into other departments based on their skill set (for example, design in the above instance). This kind of agility means that people are able to grow within the organisation and are encouraged to work in a more collaborative way as they move between different teams, and it also means that companies are getting more out of their resources. Another win-win.

Motivate yourself
”So what if you are struggling with motivation at your own work? Of course you could change jobs, but it isn’t always so easy. There are some strategies you can use to keep yourself motivated and therefore happier in your current situation. Firstly, ask yourself these three questions: ‘What is the purpose of my job and how does it align with my company’s purpose? Who am I serving? How do I measure myself?’. We did this exercise with our receptionist – a job that some people might think isn’t that interesting. She decided that, as the first port of call for all visitors and staff through the office door, she serves anyone coming in the door, and her overall purpose is to enrich their lives, which aligns with our company’s overall purpose of enriching people’s lives. So first of all we changed her job title from receptionist to chief first impressions officer, to reflect her purpose and to underline the important role that she has in the company.

“She then set about finding a way to measure her effectiveness: she determined that she would try to make every person who walks through the door smile – whether it’s a staff member, visitor, the DHL guy, the air-conditioning guy, whoever. She now has a chart on her desk and every time she makes someone smile she gives herself a tick. If she doesn’t make them smile she gives herself a cross. And if she makes someone laugh then she gives herself four ticks. At the end of the day she adds up all her ticks and she has her measure of how well she is doing. She’s turned her job into something she can be truly passionate about.

“It is amazing what can be achieved when people are inspired to come to work, happy, engaged and love what they do while they are there, and fulfilled when they go home. This is what we call a happy and engaging place to work, and this is what we believe we have achieved at Biz Group. We have also created a HappyPLACE model, where we help organisations achieve the same. Happiness, especially at work, is so underrated, which is why we are so excited about His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai’s happiness drive, and are delighted to be part of achieving happiness at work.”

Helen McGuire

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British, 34, co-founder and MD of flexible-work recruitment agency Hopscotch.ae and mum to Clementine, 20 months, and Arlo, two months

There’s no such thing as part-time work in dubai, right? Actually, now there is. Helen McGuire co-founded recruitment agency Hopscotch.ae six months ago to help match mums and those looking for flexible work with relevant opportunities out there in the market place, as well as to offer one-to-one coaching, free skills workshops and a sounding board through their in-house trainers and recruiters – all of whom are women and mums themselves. She tells us why she hopes the region will follow the rest of the world and offer more flexible forms of employment…
Finding work/life balance

“I wanted to start up Hopscotch because I have seen too many very capable, skilled and brilliant women have to leave work – not by choice – once they’ve had kids or moved abroad for their husband’s job, simply because they can’t find a role that fits in with their lifestyle. There is a huge talent pool out there that we, through Hopscotch, now have access to – which is a brand new bonus for both the women themselves and the economy.

“Flexible can mean many things. For us at Hopscotch it should mean that the work fits around your commitments – whether that’s work from home, freelance, part time, core hours in a full-time office job or a temporary contract. We offer everything and have a huge demand for full-time hours from our candidates, too – but perhaps working around school hours rather than 9am-6pm every day.

“The UAE is way behind other countries at the moment when it comes to flexible working. In other regions flexible working and not losing women after maternity leave or because of changing circumstances is a recognised as not just a nice-to-have but a must-have. It is simply too costly for firms to lose such a huge chunk of their skilled workforce, so the UK, Europe and the US are way ahead of us.

“But this is changing and multinationals here are already 100 per cent supporting the idea in this region. There are many studies, particularly in the US, that show that flexible work is such a growing trend that it will simply take over more traditional roles in the future. Looking at the success we’ve had since launch, I would predict that to be true. In a world that can change more quickly than it ever has before and which is more connected globally, an uncertain economy seems to support flexible work better on the part of the employer and the employee. We also work with graduates and those at university and see that they, in fact, prefer this way of working.

“In terms of negotiating more flexible hours for yourself, it all depends on your employer. For some employers, it’s a learning curve and for some industries or particular jobs the idea may not work at all. But if you think your employer is progressive and supportive then, to put it simply, it costs their bottom line less to keep you flexibly than it does to lose you, find someone else and train them to do your job. You are a valuable asset and becoming a mum only adds to your skill set and capabilities in the workplace!”

Asma Bajawa

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British, MD of HR consultancy People First, and mum to Mohsin, 32, and Safinaz, 29

We recently came across a tongue-in-cheek article by The Cooper Report called ‘Non-threatening Leadership Strategies For Women’. Its ‘advice’ included putting smiley faces in emails to try come across as more friendly, and not being too direct when setting a deadline so as not to come across as too bossy. Although it was satire, it made us realise how many of these things we do daily at work, and yes, it probably is to make people like us more. We asked MD of People First whether women tend to shy away from assertiveness at work in a way that men don’t, and what this means…
The gender divide at work

“There’s no denying that the gender equality movement across the GCC still has a long way to go. So the issue isn’t whether women shy away from assertiveness or not, the issue is not having a balanced scale of equality. When men and women both have an equal chance to contribute to the economy, workplace, community and home, they are enhancing an entire society and country. Thankfully, the work culture and professional values in the UAE are changing rapidly; not only are we seeing more women in the workplace, we are seeing more women in senior management roles and as business entrepreneurs. At the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, women constitute 43 per cent of its investors, while the city’s businesswomen’s association boasts 14,000 members. In the past 10 years we have seen women taking on government positions with Shaikha Lubna Bint Khalid Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, appointed as Minister for Economy and Planning in November 2004 and subsequently promoted to her current post as Minister of Foreign Trade. Shaikha Lubna holds the distinction of being the first woman to hold a ministerial post in the country and her efforts have led her to be rated within the Forbes magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

“This is all great progress. Research shows that companies with gender equality perform better and this is the key to achieving sustained economic growth.

“Gender equality and gender inclusiveness should be encouraged across the UAE if organisations want to be progressive, fair and benefit from gender diversity. This will take time and requires patience. Changing mindsets which have been shaped and influenced by decades of tradition will take years to change, however development in recent years are showing promising trends in the right direction.

“In my opinion, today’s challenging business environment demands both men and women to perform at their best. Men and women must be able to engage with others in a collaborative manner so that they can work together and focus on what the individual brings rather than what gender he or she is.”

Tabitha Barda

Tabitha Barda

Deputy Editor