This paper reviews available HR literature with the view to discussing and analyzing how Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), a public-sector organization in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has implemented HR practices.
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Available evidence demonstrates that human resource practices not only provide a substantial contribution to performance and competitiveness in public and private sector organizations, but also serve as a triggering agent to positive organizational outcomes such as greater employee commitment, lower turnover, higher productivity, superior service performance, and better financial performance.
A growing body of strategic human resource management research has shown that HRM practices are effective in not only attaining the continued viability and success of the organization but also in retaining the best talent and strengthening corporate strategies.
Drawing from the discussion and analysis, it is evident that the organization is yet to benefit from available HR practices due to challenges in implementation, misalignment between the HR practices and the organization’s overall goals and objectives, as well as structural and organizational weaknesses associated with available HR practices.
ADEC must deal with these challenges and make substantial investments in the implementation of bundles of HR practices to stem employee turnover, enhance employee performance and productivity, as well as improve employee motivation, commitment, skills and competencies, engagement, and loyalty. It is evident that to gain competitive advantage and develop the capacity to retain and motivate its employees, ADEC must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the combination of HR practices that fit its strategy and drive the organizational agenda.
There is a mounting evidence base demonstrating that human resource practices provide a substantial contribution to performance and competitiveness in public and private organizations (Kim, 2012) and that these practices are associated with positive organizational outcomes such as greater employee commitment, lower turnover, higher productivity, superior service performance, and better financial performance (Jiang, Lepak, Hu, & Baer, 2012).
A burgeoning body of strategic human resource management (HRM) research has revealed that HRM practices can be effectively used to not only attain the continued viability and success of the organization (Ribeiro & Semedo, 2014) but also to retain the best talent and strengthen corporate strategies (AlZalabani & Modi, 2014).
Yet, despite the fact that many studies have shown that human resources are fundamental determinants in establishing competitive advantage and determining the overall success or failure of organizations (Kaya, Koc, & Topeu, 2010), a significant number of companies have not developed mechanisms that could be used to ensure the effective implementation of HRM practices (Kim, 2012). The present paper reviews available literature in discussing and analyzing how Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) has implemented HR practices.
HRM practices form the foundation supporting the way an organization’s human capital will operate to fulfill the goals and objectives of an entity (Kim, 2012), and have been defined in the literature as explicit actions employed by companies to attract, motivate, retain, and develop employees (Ribeiro & Semedo, 2014).
Some of the most implemented HRM practices include selection, training, performance appraisal, career opportunities, promotion opportunities, rewards and recognition, recruitment, employee participatory programs, and workforce planning.
To gain competitive advantages, an organization must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the combination of HRM practices that fit the firm strategy and drive the organizational agenda (AlZalabani & Modi, 2014). We argue in this paper that ADEC is yet to achieve such an understanding due to the high levels of employee turnover and lack of motivation.
Overview of the Company
Established in 2005 as part of government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the main objective of ADEC is to develop and implement educational policies, procedures, plans and programs with the view to enhancing the education of UAE nationals in accordance with international best practices and standards (Borderless Network, 2011).
Another function of ADEC is to develop strategies that work to support national development goals and objectives. ADEC participates in the hiring of teachers, improving access to quality education, preserving UAE culture and heritage, developing successful careers, engaging education stakeholders, and elevating the quality of schools to international standards (Abu Dhabi Education Council, 2012; Abu Dhabi education Council, 2013).
The organization has a fully operational HR office that runs under the arm of support services. According to the interviewee (Heidi Atkins, ADEC’s principal human resource officer), ADEC has three departments that play the roles of HRM in the organization – EMT Support, AMT Support, and School Operations. ADEC uses two companies (Canacom International and Teachaway) to recruit teachers from international labor markets for work-related postings in schools within the Abu Dhabi emirate.
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Companies must demonstrate effective practices of human resources not only to achieve sustainability in HRM but also to retain the best talent and remain competitive due to their unique human resource capabilities (Ribeiro & Semedo, 2014). This section assesses the HR practices employed by ADEC in its management of human resources.
The HR practices to be evaluated include compensation and reward systems, career development and education programs, employee performance and evaluation systems, HR planning and managing a diverse workforce, as well as workforce planning and recruitment.
Compensation and Reward Systems
According to AlZalabani & Modi (2014), compensation and reward systems are significant factors that keep employees motivated to not only work hard but also to try to achieve the goals and objectives of the company. Available literature has underscored a positive relationship between compensation and employee performance (Jiang et al., 2012), and also supported the assertion that effective reward systems enhance employees’ commitment towards the job and pushes them to deliver more (AlZalabani & Modi, 2014).
Pay and benefits in workplace settings are often referred to as the tangible and intangible rewards of work (McConnell, 2003). As postulated by Fogleman and McCorkle (2009), a compensation package includes non-monetary compensation (any benefit an employee receives from an employer or job that does not involve tangible value – e.g., job security, flexible hours, opportunity for growth, praise and recognition, task and enjoyment, and friendships), direct compensation (employee’s base wage, which can be an annual salary or hourly wage plus any performance-based pay an employee receives), and indirect compensation (includes everything from legally required public protection programs such as social security to health insurance, retirement programs, paid leave, child care or moving expenses).
ADEC has a compensation policy which pays the organization’s teachers between 168,000 and 240,000 AED per year (equivalent to an annual salary of between US$46, 000 and 66,000). One of the incentives related to the compensation policy is that the salary for teachers recruited from international environments is tax-free (Abu Dhabi Education Council, 2012).
Analysts argue that this salary regime is 30% higher than what international schools pay in the region; however, it is yet to translate into increased retention and job satisfaction for teachers due to absence or inadequate provision of other HR practices that are important to teachers.
This scenario gives credence to the assertion that HR practices should be provided as bundles rather than in isolation for them to be effective in motivating employees to work hard and to achieve the goals and objectives set by the organization (AlZalabani & Modi, 2014; Jiang et al., 2012). Furthermore, the pay is not as higher as that of other UAE professionals in the same job ranking.
The company has designed and implemented a reward system to attract and retain key members of staff. The rewards include (1) security of working in a government school, (2) flights yearly for self, spouse and up to three accompanying dependents under 18 years of age, (3) housing with generous furniture allowance, (4) medical coverage for self, spouse and up to three dependents, (5) two-year renewable contract, (6) one full month gratuity for each year of service, and (7) cultural and academic orientation (Abu Dhabi Education Council, 2012).
In an ideal situation, such a reward system could serve to attract and retain good employees, motivate enhanced performance, reduce absenteeism, develop employee skills, facilitate organizational culture and strategic objectives, as well as define and reinforce organizational culture (McConnell, 2003; Kim, 2012).
However, according to the interviewee, this is yet to happen at ADEC because the organization has problems retaining teachers, as demonstrated by the 60% turnover rate. Teachers do not get any pay rises and there is a misalignment of HR practice of compensation and rewards with the overall objectives of the organization.
Newer teachers end up receiving more pay than older teachers who have been in ADEC for a longer tenure, resulting in high levels of dissatisfaction and low morale. Available literature demonstrates that job dissatisfaction and low morale are mediating factors for absenteeism, poor performance, and turnover intentions (Kim, 2012).
Career Development and Education Programs (Emiratization)
Much of the work on employee career development revolves around the continuous training of employees with the view to ensuring that they achieve market or laborforce oriented skills and competencies. Training and career development are often perceived as synonymous components in HR practice and are generally described as learning processes that comprise the acquirement of knowledge, skills, competencies and abilities that are requisite to the successful performance of the job (AlZalabani and Modi, 2014).
Career development is an essential component of HR practice as it not only influences employees’ productivity and attitude toward their job, but also serves to help them achieve the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to work efficiently in sustaining and improving current work activities (Kaya et al., 2010).
Career development is believed to nullify the influence of factors which cause dissatisfaction of employees at work, with available literature demonstrating that employees who are exposed to effective and holistically-designed career development programs not only require less supervision in their work jurisdictions but also tend to demonstrate optimal morale and low turnover (Kim, 2012).
Although ADEC has a position of performance and career development manager within the HR office, it does not appear to have achieved much in terms of exposing teachers to life-long or contract-based career development programs.
According to the interviewee, much of the work of the performance and career development manager revolves around (1) providing access to information, advice, and guidance to handle careers, (2) availing employees with opportunities to develop skills and abilities, (3) improving social and professional inclusion, and (4) motivating superior performance at work by giving employees a clearer sense of direction and purpose.
The cumulative effects of such focused functions, according to Kim (2012), entail attracting and retaining the best people, equipping employees with the skills and abilities needed in contemporary labor force, increasing the level of employee satisfaction and loyalty, as well as decreasing turnover intentions.
However, in the case of ADEC, it is evident that the organization still faces low levels of teacher morale and satisfaction, higher levels of staff turnover, as well as incapacity to attract the best pool of human resources.
As acknowledged by the interviewee, ADEC is unable to keep enough teachers in the school system due to lack of career development opportunities coupled with other HR malpractices such as poor contractual terms/agreements and disproportionate compensation packages. Again, this points to a misalignment between the set HR activities for career development and what the organization is able to implement on the ground.
The UAE government, through organizations such as ADEC, has taken the initiative to nationalize the human resources using a process known as Emiratization (Chartouni, n.d.). The process, according to this author, is aimed at increasing the employment of nationals in the private sector and decreasing the size of the expatriate labor force. The interviewee acknowledges that ADEC’s education programs have failed in the Emiratization effort in spite of the fact that its schools underscore the Emirati culture.
The labor provided by expatriates is still cheaper and deemed as more productive compared to that of nationals in the same job rankings. This shows that UAE’s Emiratization policy and education programs are yet to achieve the desired results (Emiratization, 2009).
This view is reinforced by Chartouni (n.d.), who argues that the Emiratization strategy continues to be faced with difficulties in implementation due to issues such as “demographic imbalance caused by a high proportion of expatriates working in the region, challenges of public and private sector employment, reliance on expatriate employment, high rates of unemployment among nationals, and subsequently the need for sustainable development as well as effective governance of human capital” (p.2). ADEC needs to design and implement educational programs that address these issues for Emiratization to be successful.
Employee Performance and Evaluation Systems
Employee performance and evaluation is an important practice of human resource management as it is known to guide employee work-oriented attitudes and behaviors (Kaya et al., 2010). As postulated by Buckingham and Goodall (2005), performance evaluation is intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of human resource policies in an organization and also to drive employee engagement, high performance and success in meeting set targets.
As noted by Selvarajan and Cloninger (2012), employee performance and evaluation systems are important tools that are used by an organization’s management to assess where an employee did or did not excel in his or her job-related activities, implying that an effective performance appraisal and management system is a fundamental component of the organization’s HRM effectiveness.
Indeed, employee performance and evaluation should serve as a means for providing feedback that can lead to enhanced performance, motivation and loyalty, as well as employee engagement.
ADEC scores dismally in terms of employee performance and evaluation as the strategies espoused by the performance and career development office are not implemented according to the set plans. The evaluations, when done, are factored into a two-year rating system and psychometric tests are administered to employees to determine performance over the two-year period.
Emerging literature demonstrates that psychometric evaluations may not serve as the best indicator for employee performance due to bias and subjectivity of variables (Selvarajan & Cloninger, 2012). As acknowledged by these authors, it is effective for organizations such as ADEC to develop systems that motivate staff to employee performance rather than rely on psychometric tests to evaluate performance.
According to the interviewee, ADEC does not have in place full-proof employee performance and evaluation systems as most of the organization’s performance appraisals lack accuracy, credibility, and satisfaction. Indeed, incidences have been reported of teachers who have ended up being promoted due to perceived high rankings in performance evaluation yet their respective classes continue to perform poorly when compared to international standards.
Such a scenario, according to the interviewee, has led to low performance and lack of motivation on the part of teachers hired by the organization. Research is consistent that “employee reactions to appraisal in terms of perceived employee fairness, accuracy, and satisfaction are important components of appraisal effectiveness because these perceived employee reactions can motivate employees to improve their performance” (Selvarajan & Cloninger, 2012, p. 3064).
Consequently, ADEC needs to reinvent its employee performance and evaluations and invest in their full implementation not only to guide employees’ work-related behaviors and attitudes but also to improve employee engagement and facilitate high performance.
HR Planning and Managing a Diverse Workforce
Organizations the world over have traditionally utilized HR planning to ensure that the right person is in the right job at the right time (Elegbe, 2010), and also to plan how the firms should move from their current manpower position to their desired position (Jackson & Schuler, 1990). HR planning is aimed at not only ensuring that organizations and individuals receive maximum long-term benefits, but also forecasting a company’s future human resource needs and planning for how those needs will be met.
According to Jackson and Schuler (1990), HR planning “includes establishing objectives and then developing and implementing programs (staffing, appraising, compensating, and training) to ensure that people are available with the appropriate characteristics and skills when and where the organization needs them” (p. 223).
As postulated by Elegbe (2010), HR planning may also encompass the development and implementation of programs that are aimed at enhancing employee performance or improving employee satisfaction and involvement with the view to advancing organizational productivity, quality, and innovation.
ADEC has a fully-fledged office of workforce planning and recruitment within the organization’s HR department. According to the interviewee, the mandate of the office revolves around the development of manpower plans, implementation of recruitment requirements, as well as development of succession strategies.
However, a major weakness of ADEC’s HR planning policy is that HR planning is focused on the short-term as witnessed by the provision of two-year renewable contracts for hired teachers. The organization has also delegated much of its HR planning functions to the two hiring agencies (Canacom International and Teachaway), leading to high levels of teacher dissatisfaction and turnover.
The misaligned HR planning strategies, according to the interviewee, have further led to lack of organizational effectiveness and absence of successful integration between the company’s short-term and longer-term business objectives and plans. The interviewee further acknowledges that, due to ineffective HR planning strategies, ADEC is unable to attract and retain the right teachers (employees) in the right jobs at the right time.
Available literature demonstrates that the need for private and public companies to embrace workforce diversity continues to be echoed as management becomes increasingly aware of the many benefits and diverse perspectives associated with these work teams (Ewoh, 2013). Indeed, according to this author, “diversity as a lexicon in human resource management furnishes immediate access to a large pool of knowledge, skills, and abilities required in the accomplishment of organizational goals and objectives” (p. 107).
Implementing HR practices that ensure a diverse workforce, according to Jiang et al. (2012), not only helps in attracting capable employees and retaining them in the workforce but also provides the workers with opportunities to share knowledge and learn new skills. Kosky (2007) notes that effective communication and respect should be useful tools in the management of a culturally diverse workforce as each individual brings into the organization a unique set of expectations, values, and behaviors.
ADEC has a section in its HR department that manages diversity in the organization’s workforce, particularly in light of the fact that the organization recruits people from various countries and diverse cultural backgrounds. However, the Emiratization programs implemented by the organization seem to be in conflict with workforce diversity programs as nationals appear to be favored over expatriates.
As acknowledged by the interviewee, the workforce diversity programs espoused by ADEC appear to have structural and organizational weaknesses as they are yet to translate into increased retention of international workforce judging by the high levels of employee turnover.
ADEC employees are often harassed by students in public and private schools in the Abu Dhabi emirate, further giving credence to the weaknesses inherent in the organization’s diversity programs (Abu Dhabi Education Council, 2012). As acknowledged by the interviewee, there is need for ADEC to develop policies that not only enhance acceptance of different views and behaviors but also embody the best aspects of all cultures within the work setting.
Workforce Planning and Recruitment
Workforce planning is an active HR strategy that largely encompasses the development of thoughtful methodologies in areas of recruitment, retention, and succession planning with the view to enhancing the skills of employees both by hiring high-quality individuals and by improving the level of skills in their current workforces (Jiang et al., 2012; Johnson & Brown, 2004).
Workforce planning, according to Johnson and Brown (2004), is “a process that includes defining staffing requirements (both staffing levels and competencies), identifying current staff availability, projecting future staff availability, and calculating specific differences between staffing supply and demand” (p. 380).
Some of the elements included in an effective workforce plan include training and development, recruitment, classification, competencies, selection and staffing, succession planning, diversity, internal and external forecasting, retention, compensation, performance, skill gap analysis, supply and demand forecasting, environmental scanning, detailed statistical demographics, benefits, work/life issues, reporting, redeployment, action planning, as well as budgeting (Armitage & Mohindra, 2012; Johnson & Brown, 2004).
Recruitment strategies go hand-in-hand with workforce planning and are intended to ensure that employees have the skills needed for task performance and the competencies required to remain competitive in work-related contexts (Jiang et al., 2012). Recruitment and selection practices, according to Kaya et al. (2010), facilitate organizations to not only acquire the appropriate human resources in line with their aims and objectives but also to respond to market opportunities and threats in a proactive and market-oriented manner.
According to the interviewee, ADEC has an HR section that caters for workforce planning and the recruitment of teachers and other professionals to fill arising positions.
Although the actual recruitment of international teachers has been outsourced to two independent companies (Canacom International and Teachaway), it is the HR section that is primarily concerned with designing and developing strategies that direct the recruitment process in terms of skill gap analysis, supply and demand forecasting, succession planning, staffing, environmental scanning, competencies, job requirements, as well as job specifications.
As described in the emerging HR scholarship, these components must be included in an effective workforce plan (Armitage & Mohindra, 2012; Johnson & Brown, 2004). The interviewee agrees that strategic workforce planning is still a comparatively new practice for ADEC, implying that the organization is faced with a mounting number of international employees who are eligible for retirement but is finding it extremely challenging to fill specific mission-critical jobs such as those requiring leadership and management.
This drawback can be associated with the low-quality employees being hired by the organization and points to a misalignment between the workforce planning process and ADEC’s overall strategic plan and vision of “becoming one of the five best public education systems in the world, [hence] enabling students to become world-class learners able to fully participate in a sustainable, knowledge-based society” (Borderless Network, 2011, p. 1).
Overall, the interviewee is in agreement that more harmonization needs to be done to ensure that ADEC’s workforce planning and recruitment practices have a positive impact on the satisfaction of employees and attainment of higher levels of competencies and skills in the workforce.
The present paper has reviewed available HR scholarship in discussing and analyzing how ADEC has implemented its HR practices. Drawing from the discussion and analysis, it is evident that there is a mounting evidence base demonstrating that organizational HR practices provide a substantial contribution to organizational performance, competitiveness, employee commitment, low turnover, higher productivity and quality, superior service performance, organizational success, and talent retention.
From the discussion and analysis, it is clear that ADEC is yet to develop effective mechanisms that could be used to ensure the effective implementation of HRM practices in work-related contexts. This has resulted in low employee morale, higher levels of turnover, minimal employee commitment to the goals and objectives of the organization, inferior service performance, as well as low productivity.
Specifically, ADEC has put in place a compensation policy and a reward system for its employees; however, these strategies are yet to translate into increased retention and job satisfaction for teachers due to absence or inadequate provision of other HR practices that are important to teachers.
Additionally, although ADEC has a position of performance and career development manager within the HR department, it is yet to achieve much in terms of exposing teachers to life-long or contract-based career development programs, leading to failure to attract the best talents as well as inadequate employee skills, competencies and abilities.
Moving on, ADEC scores below standards in terms of employee performance and evaluation as the strategies espoused by the performance and career development office are not implemented according to set plans. Furthermore, ADEC has a fully-fledged office of workforce planning and recruitment within the organization’s HR department; however, a major weakness is that HR planning is focused on the short-term as witnessed by the provision of two-year renewable contracts for hired teachers.
Finally, ADEC has an HR section that caters for workforce planning and the recruitment of teachers to fill arising positions, though more harmonization needs to be done to ensure that its workforce planning and recruitment practices have a positive impact on the satisfaction of employees and attainment of higher levels of competencies and skills in the workforce.
Clear gaps in HRM practices have been identified. These gaps require to be addressed for ADEC to be successful in attracting, retaining and developing its labor force. Following this discovery, the following recommendations are proposed for ADEC to leverage on available HR practices.
- ADEC should implement HRM practices in bundles rather than in isolation to achieve the competitive advantages associated with strategic HRM.
- ADEC should develop strategies and approaches that aim to align its set HR objectives with the overall goals and objectives of the organization.
- ADEC should invest more resources in implementing available HR practices to impact how work is done on the ground and also to achieve the competitive advantages associated with these HR practices.
- ADEC should consult HR professionals to remedy the structural and organizational weaknesses associated with available HR practices with the view to improving the retention of employees by practicing HR best practices
- The organization should design some of its HR practices (e.g., career development, performance evaluation, diversity programs, as well as recruitment and selection) in such a way that they are able to minimize employee turnover and fuel performance, motivation and competitiveness in the future rather than evaluating them in the past.
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