General Information and the History of the Company
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is a governmental transport organization in the UAE that was founded in 2005 to ensure that the transportation system of the country is developing to fulfill the needs of the rapidly growing economy. RTA’s mission consists in ensuring the innovative advancement of the UAE’s transport system; the vision of the organization is described as “Safe and Smooth Transport for All.” The values of the company include its corporate reputation, distinction, and success, leadership, and teamwork, strategic partnerships, and the quality of the customer service. To sum up, the company values the most important aspects of its work; human resource (HR) management and development are one of them (“Vendor Guide” 3-9).
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RTA carries out an immense number of duties. According to the official site of the Government of Dubai, RTA is “responsible for planning and executing transport and traffic projects in Dubai, preparing legislation and strategic plans, developing other integrated solutions of road system and marine network that are safe and in line with the city’s economic development plans and the highest international standards” (“Roads and Transport Authority” par. 1).
The total number of RTA’s services that are offered to individual and corporate customers amounts to 173 (“Popular Services” par. 1). In other words, the company needs to ensure the continuous development of the UAE transport infrastructure and is responsible for the management of all the related issues. Given the scope of its responsibilities, RTA includes the following agencies: “Marine, Public Transport, Traffic & Roads, Rail, Dubai Taxi & Licensing” (“Roads and Transport Authority” par. 2). By dividing its responsibilities between the agencies, the company has been able to improve its efficiency.
RTA is a government-owned institution, a regulatory and administrative body, which determines some specific features of its competition (“Roads & Transport Authority” par. 2-3). In general, the company is a natural monopolist (in particular, in terms of legislation). At the same time, RTA has to compete for some of its projects, but the competition is not always made public. For example, such as the story of Dubai football stadium for the 2019 Asian Cup, the permit for the construction of which the company won this year (Bhatia par. 1-7). The information about the course of the competition and its participants were not disclosed. Still, the primary functions of RTA are not under the threat of competition, which is most important for a governmental body and provides it with the chance of enhancing the quality of life in the UAE without being distracted by other issues.
HR Department (General Overview)
Functions and Activities
The company’s Human Resources and Development Department (HRD) is responsible for the HR management in RTA (“Vendor Guide” 11). Ms. Kawther Kazim, the Executive Director of HRD, states that the Department strives to achieve excellence by encouraging its employees to “adopt the highest global practices and standards” (“News/Events” par. 3). This is the primary aim of the department; it is subdivided into goals and achieved through various activities, some of which can be mentioned here. For example, as the Executive Director claims, RTA seeks to develop sound leadership and works to improve and promote relevant practices. This objective is being achieved with the help of special workshops and training.
Similarly, the company works to develop the skills of its employees and empower them since such is the path to its excellence (“News/Events” par. 3). Indeed, the “RTA Strategic Plan 2014 – 2018” states that the Seventh Goal of the company (the advancement of RTA) includes the development and improvement of human resources as a primary objective (25). This particular objective is achieved with the help of a number of strategic initiatives. Among the latter is the attraction of talented personnel (with especial emphasis on the Emiratization), the development of their talents and capabilities, and the improvement of the working environment. Apart from that, RTA strives to develop and implement policies that would ensure the possibility of such initiatives. Finally, the employee feedback system that the company has created is subjected to continuous improvement (“RTA Strategic Plan” 25). To sum up, RTA HRD is responsible for the various aspects of HR management that are eventually aimed at the improvement of the company’s performance.
Success and Failures
The work of the Corporate Administrative Support Sector and HRD has been noted and recognized. For example, in the year 2014, the company gained the “Best Career And Skill Paths” award from Insights Middle East Call Centre Awards. In 2013, the retention and motivation program of the company was also proclaimed to be the best during the same Awards ceremony. Apart from that, RTA received awards for its excellence in leadership in 2012 (“RTA’s Obtained Awards” par. 6). It can be concluded that the activities of HRD bring company recognition. At the same time, the primary aim of HRD is to ensure the smooth operation and development of RTA. In other words, its main achievement lies in the continuous development and success of the company as a whole, and even though the effect is not immediately noticeable, HRD contributed greatly to the creation of the highly skilled and professional workforce.
The issues that HRD has been encountering include those that are generic for the UAE businesses. The issue of expatriate labor force management, Emiratization, and women involvement have been plaguing RTA HRD, but these challenges are currently being managed, and certain positive results are being achieved in this respect (Al Munji 9). Still, it can be affirmed that the issues are not completely resolved yet, and the company is currently in the state of change in this respect.
The Role of the HR Department in Development and Change Management
It has been demonstrated that HR practices play a most important role in change management as it is a driver for modernization and innovation (Bruns 2-4). As a result, HR Departments are also regarded as a source of productivity improvement, which has been reflected in the abovementioned goals of RTA’s HRD. In RTA, these aspects of HRD work can be illustrated by the employees training management and diversity management that has rendered the company into a state of current organizational change, which is described below.
The Role of HR in Employees Training and Orientation
The significance of employee training and goal orientation for the development of a company has been proved (Liu et al. 195-197). It has become a natural aim of HRD to train the employees, develop their skills, and provide them with the performance and learning goals that are both challenging and attainable (“Working at RTA” par. 1; Rasool et al. 734).
RTA seeks to develop its employees, and this aim is being pursued in part with the help of regular training and workshops that target the administrative leaders of the organization. As the Executive Director of HRD explains, effective leadership is particularly important for this managerial level since it is their responsibility to “pave the way for employees to adopt the highest global practices and standards” (“News/Events” par. 3). In other words, the improvement of leadership is rightfully regarded as one of the ways of improving productivity. However, RTA also believes that empowerment elements and the basics of effective leadership are beneficial for all the employees in general.
An example is the recent leadership skills workshop that was held in cooperation with Abu Dhabi University and Robin Sharma, who is an expert in HR and development. This workshop was devoted to the strategies of continuous performance improvement as well as “leading without a title,” that is, displaying leadership skills regardless of the position, should the necessity arise (“News/Events” par. 1-4). As the Executive Director of HRD explains, the basic leadership skills are empowering and beneficial for individuals regardless of their title, and they can be “polished” with the help of similar workshops and training worthwhile (“News/Events” par. 5). To sum up, the mentioned workshop demonstrates the intent of the company and HRD to improve its leadership practices and empower employees while helping them to develop and grow.
The importance of Diversity for RTA
The key reason for the usage of diversity management in RTA consists in the fact that the workforce of the company is naturally diverse due to the specifics of the UAE population.
Indeed, diversity can be considered a characteristic feature of the UAE’s population that is the result of its rapid development. According to the data from the World Bank that can be viewed in the charts of “World Development Indicators,” the population of the UAE has been growing steadily until the late 1990s. At that period, a significant boost in the population growth rates was experienced (up to 15% per year), which, however, appears to have significantly decreased by 2013. From the same data, it follows that the total population of the UAE amounted to above 9 million people as of 2014. This fast growth is being explained in part by the active immigration into the country that has been developing rapidly and needed employees while the immigrants required jobs. As a result, the percentage of expatriates is extremely high in the UAE. As of 2014, it amounted to 80% (“UAE” par. 4).
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According to the CIA, the major ethnic groups of the UAE include “Emirati: 19%, other Arab and Iranian: 23%, South Asian: 50%, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians): 8%” (“UAE” par. 4). About three-fourth of the population is Muslim, but the expatriates have brought other religions into the region. About 9% of the UAE population is Christian; other religions (such as Parsi, Sikh, Jewish, and so on) are practiced by less than 5% of the population.
In other words, the people of the UAE are culturally, religiously, and ethnically diverse. Apart from that, other diversity naturally exists in the workplace of the UAE businesses (caused by age, education, and so on), but this aspect is generic for any country. Another specific of the UAE workforce consists of the fact that female workers form a relatively small part of the workforce (“Dubai Plan 2021” par. 29). This is a more or less generic feature of Muslim countries. Still, gender diversity in the workplace does exist in the country and needs to be managed as well.
Diversity Trends in RTA
The primary trends in diversity and diversity management in RTA that are being covered by the media include Emiratization and the involvement of women in the workforce. Both initiatives correspond to the needs of the UAE workforce.
The Emiratization level that has been achieved by RTA is truly impressive: at the CEO level, the number of Emirati employees amounts to 100%; for the department directors, the percentage level is 90%; 79% of section managers are also of the native population (Al Munji 9). While the issue of Emiratization may seem controversial at first glance, it should be pointed out that this government-level initiative is caused by the specific conditions in which the UAE finds itself. Indeed, no more than 10 percent of the workforce in the private sector of the UAE is constituted by the native population (Toledo 39). Given the small percentage of the Emirati, it appears only logical to protect the rights of the group on various levels, including governmental. The balance between the protection of the rights of the native population and those of other groups can only be managed within an organization: no universal guideline can be provided for this since every case is special.
Similarly, RTA strives to involve women in the company and has achieved a certain level of success in the field. For example, as of 2010, 49 Directors and Managers of the company were female; one woman took the position of a CEO; 722 women were employed in the RTA in general (Al Munji 9). In 2011, 208 (46%) of the employees of the Corporate Administrative Support Sector, to which HRD belongs, were female (“Statistical Second Quarter Report 2011” 4). In other departments, sectors, and agencies, the diversity of the employees varies, but the tendency towards the involvement of women is visible. This is the result of the carefully pursued policy of the HRD. The two initiatives (Emiratization and women involvement) have been carried out in line with the government guidelines and have been encouraged by the Government of Dubai Human Resources Department (Al Munji 9).
While other aspects of diversity management are, no doubt, attended by the company when needed, they are not as extensively covered in the media and reports. It can be concluded that the mentioned aspects are the dominant elements of the Department’s diversity activities.
Diversity Benefits for Employees
Diversity or, rather, the lack of discrimination is known to improve job satisfaction among employees. Proper management of diversity that includes the understanding of the needs of the diverse workforce has a most positive impact on job satisfaction as well (Pitts 334-326). Job satisfaction, in turn, reduces turnover intent and the performance of the employees, which helps to empower them. Particular types of diversity (educational and age diversity) can improve the experience and knowledge exchange among employees, which is beneficial for their skill development but may require additional management (Ilmakunnas and Ilmakunnas 250-251). Finally, it should be mentioned that diversity in the workplace tends to introduce employees to various cultures and may broaden their understanding of the world (AlMazrouei and Pech 82). As a result, their tolerance can increase, which is, in turn, beneficial for diversity management.
Alternative and its Outcomes
Given the diversity that naturally exists in the context of the UAE, avoiding it appears to be almost unbelievable. Naturally, it is possible to promote Emiratization to an unhealthy extent, but diversity is not limited to citizenship or religion. People are naturally diverse in terms of their abilities and needs. For example, the needs and interests of graduates differ from those of the people who are going to retire in a couple of years. Similarly, there are differences imposed by various types of disability. Still, it is possible to imagine the results of ignoring the fact that the workforce of RTA is not a homogenous mass but a number of heterogeneous groups of individuals.
Efforts aimed at the decrease of the diversity in the workplace in RTA will reduce the talent and skill influx for the organization. If the skills, experience, and capabilities that are essential for a position do not depend on another characteristic (such as gender or race), discrimination of the employee based on the latter feature will result in the loss of a potentially valuable employee. Apart from that, from the point of view of Corporate Social Responsibility, discrimination of any group of the population of the UAE (and the world) is extremely unethical. As a result, by decreasing the diversity, RTA would discredit itself both within the UAE and in the eyes of the representatives of other countries and companies where diversity management is regarded as an important part of HR-related activities. This is especially true for developed countries.
Given the concern of RTA with its strategic partnership (that is stated in its vision and mission), such an outcome would be considered unfavorable. In general, for the sake of maintaining its reputation, a business should be guided by ethical principles, and in terms of diversity, its maintaining and management are required.
In case the already existing workplace diversity is not managed properly, first of all, all the benefits of proper management will be lost. Naturally, the loss of benefits should not be accepted in any organization. Apart from that, discrimination at the workplace will once again handicap the management of talent. Since the job satisfaction of the employees will decrease, their turnover intent will grow. This will result in a drop in workplace diversity and lead once again to all the mentioned undesirable outcomes.
Perhaps in a more heterogeneous environment, the issue of diversity management would not be as acute, but in RTA, the specifics of the UAE population compel HRD to develop relevant strategies. Not managing diversity or attempting to decrease it in this particular context is counterproductive. Instead, it is more logical to enjoy the benefits of proper diversity management, which RTA intends to do.
RTA Diversity: its Benefits and its Difficulties
The outcomes of diversity and its management are, unfortunately, not always completely traceable (Ilmakunnas and Ilmakunnas 251). Still, particular tendencies have been singled out with the help of research in this field.
The most important outcome of diversity for a company is the possible improvement of its productivity. Indeed, as it has been pointed out, discrimination stifles the allocation of talent, but diversity management promotes it. Apart from that, particular types of diversity have certain specific outcomes that are positive: for example, age heterogeneity results in improved education and experience dispersion, which is beneficial for the skills of the employees and their performance. However, it should be pointed out that such an outcome may require a level of management, for example, the encouragement of experience exchange among employees through meetings or workshops (Ilmakunnas and Ilmakunnas 250-251).
The modern trends in management, including employee involvement and empowerment, need to be complemented with diversity management since they bring out the differences in the workforce (Shapiro 320-321). Therefore, in the case of using modern and more effective management styles, diversity management can further improve its effectiveness. The positive attitudes of employees that result from proper diversity maintenance and management also contribute to the improvement of productivity, but it should be pointed out that diversity does not always lead to positive reactions. In fact, diversity may cause misunderstandings, and the latter is likely to hinder the working processes and even cause conflicts (AlMazrouei and Pech 74-85). Naturally, this is the primary reason for the necessity of diversity management. It is not enough to simply allow the diverse employees to work together, the process needs to be coordinated, and the challenges of diversity need to be understood on every level.
Diversity: the World and the UAE
Since the workforce of the UAE is ethnically and culturally diverse, significant diversity management challenges arise. Some of these challenges have attracted the attention of the government. These governmentally attended issues include the Emiratization and women involved in the labor force. Emiratization endeavor appeared in the 1990s, and, given the persistence of the problem, it is still promoted by the government (Toledo 39). Indeed, immigration has caused the problem of insufficient involvement of the native Emirati and resulted in a high level of unemployment among the citizens in their own country. In this respect, for the sake of diversity preservation, the interests of the native working population need to be defended. The problem is being resolved with the help of the government’s endeavor at Emiratization and, in particular, the involvement of Emirati women in the labor force.
In general, the involvement of women in the labor market of the country is not very high, but this situation is being rectified nowadays in accordance with the government’s efforts to manage the diverse population of the UAE effectively (“Dubai Plan 2021″ par. 29; Toledo 39-40). It can be concluded that the diversity trends of RTA perfectly correspond to the governmental recommendations in the field of diversity management.
In other countries, diversity is among the most popular but still underdeveloped management trends (Shapiro 320-321). Companies all over the world strive to improve their diversity management strategies, and modern research is aimed at facilitating this process. A most popular modern approach to cross-cultural management that has been developed by Geert Hofstede. This theory presupposes characterizing cultures according to various parameters that allow comparing them and, what is more important, defining the strategies of diversity management. In general, the UAE culture has been characterized as quite traditionalistic, collectivistic rather than individualistic; apart from that, Emirati people have a relatively relaxed attitude to time management, and their society is distinguished by a high level of power distance and uncertainty avoidance (“The United Arab Emirates” par. 1-5; AlMazrouei and Pech 78-82).
All these aspects need to be taken into account when managing Emirati employees, and, as demonstrated by AlMazrouei and Pech, the managers of UAE companies realize this fact regardless of their own cultural background. The authors carried out a number of interviews with the UAE managers who acknowledge that the cultural differences between the leaders and the followers require specific management strategies. An example of such a strategy is the management of collectivistic and individualistic trends, with the former being more beneficial for the native population and Eastern expatriates and the latter valued by the expatriates from the Western countries or Australia (AlMazrouei and Pech 82). Hofstede’s research is a significant part of the cross-cultural diversity management and cross-cultural studies of the modern-day all over the world (Minkov and Hofstede 10-12).
Given the fact that the population of the UAE is culturally diverse, cross-cultural management can provide valid guidelines for diversity management in the UAE. It is not clear if the HRD has been implementing this approach or another similar one to manage its diversity more effectively. Still, given the success of Emiratization and women involvement programs, it can be suspected that the approach of the Department is adequate at the very least.
Nowadays, diversity is a fact of life. Diversity, as such, does not necessarily contribute to the successfulness of an organization, but its effective management results in employee satisfaction, which has an impact on the quality of their work and reduces their turnover intentions. Apart from that, it serves to improve the reputation of a company. Ineffective management, on the other hand, leads to increased turnover intention, decreased job satisfaction, and motivation and hinders the empowerment of the workers. In other words, the management of diversity is important for any organization that exists within a diverse environment and involves employees with diverse backgrounds. Given the fact that the UAE does provide RTA with a diverse workforce, the company needs to ensure wise diversity management, and it is HRD that is responsible for the response to this challenge.
Relevant Cases that Happened at the Company
Apart from the achievements of the HRD, other relevant cases should be mentioned. An important aspect of the HRD work lies in the fact that its actions are being coordinated with the governmental HR Department. Through the meetings with the authorities from the Department, HRD defines its priorities and provides information concerning its strategies and achievements. An example of such meetings is the visit of Her Excellency Amal Mohammed bin Udai, Director General of the HRD of the Government of Dubai, during which she expressed her appreciation of the RTA HRD strategy and programs, including those aimed at Emiratization and skills development (Al Munji 9).
Problems Faced by the HR
Apart from the natural challenges that an HR department is bound to encounter and is supposed to manage (those related to attraction or retention, for example), the following specific issues that seem to be of concern for RTA HRD have been discovered during the course of this research.
From the mentioned reports, it can be deduced that the company is currently in the state of transition. The change that takes place in terms of diversity is related to Emiratization and women involvement processes. The achievements of the Department are undeniable, but the state of change itself is an issue that requires specific management. It is a challenge, and given the progress of the Department, it can be suggested that it has developed a proper program and strategy.
Apart from that, it is noticeable that most of the HRD’s diversity management efforts are aimed at the two mentioned aspects of diversity. At the very least, these issues and relevant programs and strategies receive the best coverage in the Official Monthly Magazine of Dubai’s RTA and other media. Such an endeavor is understandable: the same issues are highlighted by the UAE government (“Dubai Plan 2021 Enters Implementation Phase” par. 21-29). However, it should be pointed out that while governmental encouragements are of primary importance, the specific case of a specific organization is most likely to introduce other, more “custom” issues, which do not appear to receive similar coverage in the case of RTA. This could be the result of their insignificance, but a report about the management of diversity in terms of workplace processes organization or an article about taking into account the specific needs of the diverse workforce would dispel all the concerns and improve the information flow.
HR Department’s Coordination with Other Departments
HRD is a part of the Corporate Administrative Support Sector and is directly subordinate to its CEO (“Vendor Guide” 11). The latter is in direct subordination to the Chairman and Executive Director, who is, in turn, subordinate to the RTA president. As of 2011, the number of employees in the sector amounted to 445 (“Statistical Second Quarter Report 2011” 4). The Department is, therefore, responsible for the HR management of the company in general, which makes it a particularly vital part of RTA that is necessary for the smooth operation of the entire organization. As a result, HRD needs to ensure coordination with other departments and promote its strategies and programs on the organizational level.
The diversity management strategies employed by HRD are most modern and consistent, and it would appear logical to propose keeping up with their implementation. The problems that are faced by the Department indicate the issues that might require additional consideration. The specific issue (the state of change) may require change management, and the following recommendation is suggested for the facilitation of the process.
As has been mentioned, the Department appears to focus very extensively on the issues of Emiratization and women’s involvement. These diversity aspects are admittedly among the acutest. Still, while they are highlighted by the government, they are naturally not the only ones that the department has to deal with. Apart from that, even these issues do not receive extensive coverage in the organizational reports and the official magazine of the company. It is understandable that other departments tend to provide results that visible immediately. Still, neglecting the programs that are being carried out by the HRD has another consequence: it stifles the information flow and hinders the understanding of the changes that are taking place in the organization.
For change management, it is important to ensure that the need for change is realized by the people who are going to be involved in this change; it is employees in the case of HRD (Beitler 12; Ott, Parkes, and Simpson 406-409). Articles and reports, especially those in the official magazine of the organization, would increase the understanding of the diversity-related changes in RTA.
Moreover, not only the government-encouraged aspects of HRD activities need to be highlighted. The government provides guidelines that are general for the country, but every organization may have its unique problems and structure, which is why the HRD should not hesitate to implement customized solutions and provide coverage for them as well. This aspect will be beneficial for the company in general. Indeed, from the missions, vision, and statistical reports of the company, it follows that RTA takes the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) very seriously. CSR, however, presupposes the responsibility of an organization with respect to all the groups of its stakeholders, which includes employees. In other words, by providing the coverage concerning the diversity trends in RTA, the company will improve its consistency in CSR promotion.
Finally, this recommendation could improve the coordination between HRD and other departments as it ensures the increase in the information exchange between them. The recommendation is not connected to the direct responsibilities of the Department, but it has a supportive character.
Diversity management in the UAE is necessary due to the fact that the population of the country is extremely diverse. The diversity management in RTA HRD is developed, implemented, and covered in the media in correspondence with the guidelines of the UAE government. They are approved by the governmental HR Department. The primary achievements in this respect include the continuous Emiratization and women involvement processes. Other aspects of the work of the Department include the development of HR-related policies for the company as well as attracting, training, and retaining HR, and providing them with a safe and healthy environment.
Diversity is the most significant part of the latter. Given the fact that HRD is dealing with the company as a whole, it is a vital part of RTA’s structure that is ultimately meant to ensure the continuous improvement of its performance. The development of HR is one of the main strategic objectives of the company, and it is HRD that is busy with its achievement. However, in the course of this research, it has been noted that the coverage of the HRD policies in the media (and even in the official RTA magazine) appears to be rather deficient.
For example, in terms of diversity, only the aspects of Emiratization and women’s involvement receive sufficient coverage. As a result, it is suggested that HRD pays more attention to covering the strategies and the results of its efforts in the media. The aim of such a suggestion goes beyond the mere improvement of information flow. Indeed, given the fact that the company is still in the middle of change processes (especially when diversity management is concerned), the coverage will ensure the understanding of the said changes, which is necessary for successful change management.
HRD has received awards for its achievements in terms of HR management; apart from that, its Emiratization and women involvement programs have yielded significant results. It can be concluded that the Department has the right endeavor and is committed to achieving its goals. In this respect, it is important that the work is kept up, and the new initiatives are carried out in a similarly consistent manner.
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