1.Why did you decide to start working in the Middle East?
This Month’s spotlight is Carol Spiers the well known writer on Stress Management for the BBC News and Gulf News. Here Carole shares her story of how she began working here in the Middle East. Carol is currently offering workshops on Presentation skills for Women and Stress Management. ( See her website, contact details below)
1. Why did you start working in the Middle East
I established the Carole Spiers Group, an international stress management & employee wellbeing consultancy in London, in 1987. The business comprises an International team of trainers who deliver Human Resources and interpersonal skills related training programmes and a nationwide employee counselling and critical incident debriefing team available in the UK.
I have been a professional speaker for the past 20 years and, in 2005, I was invited to deliver a keynote speech on Managing Workplace Stress to an HR seminar in Dubai. The feedback I received was over and above what I had expected as companies in the Gulf region were generally not familiar with issues such as organisational change, employee wellbeing, building resilience and stress management.
We were approached by many companies in Dubai to help to manage the frenetic pace of expansion during the boom that preceded the recession. When the economic downturn arrived, our expertise was in demand in order to manage the unexpected but vital organisational change.
2. What is your vision and mission?
Our mission is creating management teams able to build personal resilience; to enhance employee wellbeing and to minimise stress.
Managing stress starts at the top and hence the reason why our business focuses on delivering Masterclasses to top teams and delivering keynote presentations to conferences and seminars. Executives in the GCC region tend to value international expertise provided by recognised consultants who can show them the key drivers for the retention of top talent, the reduction of absenteeism and the achievement of competitive advantage.
3. What do you see as the challenges for the Gulf region in terms of human resources?
The region is now recovering from the recession with a smaller but more efficient workforce.
HR professionals now need to bring in up-to-date policies and procedures and to ensure that they are implemented and become a part of the manager’s skillset. Working within a multi-cultural society brings with it both challenges and richness. Individuals need to value the differences and the cultures in which they work and live, and to see other ethnicities not as a threat but as a benefit.
Employees need to be valued and recognised for what they do which builds loyalty and commitment to the organisation. Although some employees are on short-term contracts, they should nevertheless receive as much recognition as someone who is employed on a long-term contract.
What is going to be your biggest challenge in the next 5 years?
We need to ensure that our training initiatives are fully sustainable and that organisations have a plan of action that will carry them through the next 5 years. Teleseminars are an excellent use of employee’s time and expertise can be brought in easily from one part of the world to the other for the benefit of individuals and teams in the Gulf region.
Given the frenetic pace of working, our goal is to provide the tools to help employees manage their work life balance so that they perform more productively. We cannot change the stressors, but we can provide the skills so that employees are resilient to manage change, bounced back from adversity and deliver optimum performance.
4. What are the skills and competencies that you consider are needed in order to meet the region’s talent requirements.
Vision and values must come from the top. The senior Board needs to be very clear about its corporate goals and business direction and be able to deliver this message clearly to its management team who, in turn, need to convey it to the workforce, both in writing and verbally. This is often easier said than done, and many employees (and managers) fail to fully understand and efficiently implement the Board’s vision.
Enhanced and effective communication skills are imperative for all managers. For some, it comes naturally but not for all. With all the various different cultures that there are in the region, good communication that is understood at every level, is essential.
Any instance of intimidation or bullying behaviour needs to be identified and dealt with immediately and not left to another day because HR or management are unsure as to how to deal with it. Training initiatives on how to recognise and manage bullying in the workplace should be compulsory for all managers and in particular HR personnel.
Many managers in the Gulf region need to upgrade their professional speaking skills. Some have excellent skills and are able to speak effectively on a one-to-one basis, however they do not always have the required delivery style and capability to persuade and influence an audience to their way of thinking. Some managers also need to learn how to motivate and inspire their teams to take action and deliver more.
Managers need to ‘walk the talk’ and only in this way will they find out exactly how efficiently their department is working. Team leaders should be the eyes and ears of their immediate manager and they should be trained and motivated to report to them on all relevant matters affecting productivity.
Accidents and mistakes will happen and staff need to be resilient enough to bounce back quickly in order to continue with their work. However, there is no doubt that many would benefit from resilience training to help them do so.
There is no better investment than interpersonal skills training for your employees. With the right training and motivation, they are indeed the key to the success of your company. Encourage entrepreneurship both within and outside your organisation. Ensure that people take ownership of their own work and their department and are made accountable for success. Accountability and personal responsibility need to be accepted at all levels of business.