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This research paper investigates organisational behaviour issues faced by four main business entities established in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The paper identifies change as one of the organisational issues that the companies are currently facing. The firms considered include Emirates Airlines, Emirates NBD, Dubai RTA, and Dubai Municipality. The respective organisations have undertaken significant changes in their strategic and operational practices in an effort to strengthen their long-term success.
The change initiative undertaken relates to the implementation of new technology and the formation of strategic partnerships. In order to understand the change being undertaken by the respective organisations, the researcher carried out a field research to identify the issues that the firms are facing in their change implementation processes. The paper compares the success and consequences of the actions undertaken by the organisations. Subsequently, a conclusion on the approach taken and suggestions on how to sustain the contribution of the respective change initiative are outlined.
The contemporary business environment in the UAE has undergone considerable evolution over the past decades. One of the most notable changes entails stiff competition. The respective industries have encountered an increment in the number of players, hence new products. Despite the emergence of new products and business models, the industries’ future is bright due to the high demand for the products and services offered. For example, the banking industry will continue to act as the link between the deficit and surplus units in the global economy.
In spite of the future market potential, the players will continue to encounter challenges due to the existence of diverse macro-environmental factors such as change in customer expectations and economic dynamics, regulatory requirements, demographic and technology changes, and new competitors. Ates and Bititici (2011) emphasise that the “rate of environmental movement will increase and the pressure on organisations to transform will grow over the next few decades” (p. 72).
In the light of such macro-environmental volatility, the industry players must determine how to cope with the environmental changes; for example, by determining on whether they will position themselves as industry shapers, followers, or defensive against the prevailing changes (Cabrey & Haughey, 2014). Some of the dominant players in the aforementioned industries in the UAE include Emirates Airlines, Dubai RTA, Dubai Municipality, and Emirates National Bank of Dubai [Emirates NBD]. In a bid to achieve long-term excellence in an environment characterised by a high rate of dynamism, it is imperative for organisational leaders in the four organisations to undertake change management successfully.
Current research on change management
The concept of change management has evolved considerably over the past decades. Currently, organisational leaders and management practitioners are focusing on developing strategic initiatives to drive change programs. Research on the strategic initiatives has been spurred by the need to minimise the cost associated with implementing change, hence the probability of gaining a high competitive advantage. Firms in the contemporary business environment are shifting from the western business approach in an effort to align with the cultural changes.
The shift has been encouraged by the recognition of the importance of adapting to the changing business environment. A study conducted by the Cabrey and Haughey (2014) shows that firms “lose approximately US$ 109 million for every US$ 1 billion invested in all projects due to poor project performance” (p. 4). Only a few firms (18%) succeed in implementing strategic initiatives in an effort to align with the unpredictable business environment.
Organisations are increasingly focusing on the best practices that they can integrate in an effort to implement change and minimise the costs associated with change initiatives. According to Cabrey and Haughey (2014), change management has focused on a number of areas over the past few years. One of the areas relates to strengthening organisations’ core competencies and internal capabilities.
Zafar and Afzal (2008) affirm that managers have identified organisational capabilities as a core differentiator. Therefore, firms are focusing on how to develop and entrench change management capacity and resilience. This approach has stimulated firms to constitute change management offices, whose responsibility is to facilitate change implementation, thus contributing to positive organisational wide performance (Mazzei & Quaratino, 2013).
In addition to the above aspects, the current research on change management is focusing on how to increase leadership support during initiatives. Some of the aspects that researchers and management practitioners are emphasising on entail more visibility and involvement amongst the top cadre managers during the change lifecycle (Brockner & James, 2008).
Field data – analysis and interpretation of the data
In a bid to understand how the challenge posed by change management on the respective organisations [Emirates Airlines, Dubai RTA, Dubai Municipality, and Emirates NBD], a field research was conducted. The research entailed an online survey and a focus group was selected from the four organisations.
The focus group was comprised of eight participants [2 representatives from each organisation]. The interviewees were selected from all managerial levels. The choice of these levels of management arose from the recognition of their role in facilitating organisational change. A set of self-administered questionnaires was issued to the participants in an effort to understand their approach towards managing change in their respective organisations.
The respondents from Emirates NBD cited change in customer expectation with reference to service delivery as the major challenge currently facing the company. In their opinion, the banking industry is experiencing significant technological changes such as an emergence of online and mobile banking platforms.
The respondents emphasised that Emirates NBD is under pressure to align with the technological environment by investing in the emerging technologies. However, the respondents argued that the change initiative with reference to new technology is exacerbated by the numerous security threats facing the UAE banking industry. The respondents affirmed that customers are increasingly demanding secure banking services when selecting their preferred banking institution.
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The change has arisen from an increase in security threats that are currently associated with e-commerce platforms such as mobile and online banking services. Despite the security threat, Emirates NBD has an obligation to offer competitive banking services, which is only possible through the integration of e-commerce platforms. The existence of security threat with reference to electronic money transfer services has posed a challenge to most financial organisations. Therefore, Emirates NBD might experience significant difficulties in its quest to convince its customers to use the new technologies due to the low level of customer trust. Such an occurrence will reduce the continued usage of the implemented digital platforms.
The respondents selected from Emirates Airline cited intense competition as one of the major challenges that the organisation is currently experiencing. In an effort to cope with the intense competition in some of its market, the respondents affirmed that the company entered a partnership agreement with Qantas Airline. In their opinion, the partnership is aimed at strengthening the Emirates Airlines’ competitiveness in the Australian market through code sharing.
The code-sharing agreement is intended to last for 10 years. However, the respondents argued that the existence of organisational culture differences between the two airlines might affect the firm’s performance. The respondents cited the existence of differences with reference to values and norms between Qantas Airlines and Emirates Airlines’ operations as the major hindrance towards attaining the desired objective.
Additionally, the respondents were of the view that the difference in operational practices between the two organisations might lead to resistance towards the plan. The respondents asserted that the partnership might lead to the loss of control in addition to some employees at the managerial level losing their authority in order to conform to the partnership agreement. Such an occurrence might lead to a high rate of employee turnover due to lack of job satisfaction.
Similarly, the respondents selected from Dubai Municipality argued that the institution is restructuring its operations in an effort to remain competitive. According to the respondents, Dubai Municipality is committed to positioning Dubai as an attractive investment destination in the UAE. One of the aspects that the Municipality has focused on entails ensuring that operational activities are conducted on safe premises.
In a bid to achieve this goal, the respondents cited the implementation of the e-building control system, which is aimed at improving service delivery within the municipality. The Municipality’s decision to integrate the e-building control approach is aimed at enhancing service delivery to customers. Subsequently, the Municipality will be in a position to offer engineering supervision services through the established online portal.
The directive is expected to be fully implemented by 1 May 2015. The respondents affirmed that this move might lead to increased employee resistance. In their opinion, the respondents argued that some of the employees within the Municipality might perceive the implementation of the e-building control system as a threat to their job security. Such a phenomenon might affect the Municipality’s capacity to implement the new technology successfully.
The respondent from Road Transport Authority argued that the body is undertaking extensive changes in some of its functional departments. The respondent cited the changes being undertaken by the traffic control department. According to the respondents, the Authority is in the process of changing its traffic control system by using a system that will utilise the phone lines. RTA will ensure that all the traffic signals in Dubai are controlled using the 3G technology.
In their opinion, this approach will provide RTA with a high operational efficiency. RTA will achieve a high efficiency in managing traffic congestion in all the road junctions. In their opinion, the respondents affirmed that the 3G technology would promote timing and coordination of the traffic signals.
Furthermore, the respondents argued that the new technology would minimise the department’s cost of operation. For example, traffic control will be transformed into a wireless technology. Thus, the need to install cables and lines in all the signals will be eliminated. Despite the Authority’s commitment to enhancing its operational efficiency through the new technology, poor implementation of the new project might hinder attainment of the intended benefits.
Comparison of data
The qualitative data obtained from the field shows that the four organisations are facing a potential challenge in their quest to implement the desired changes. The change initiatives have arisen from the need to enhance operational efficiency, competitive advantage, and long-term excellence. For example, the intense competition in the UAE banking industry has stimulated players such as Emirates NBD to implement emerging mobile and online banking services.
Similarly, RTA and Dubai Municipality have undertaken similar moves as evidenced by their decision to implement new technologies. However, the success of the organisations in implementing the new technologies will depend on their efficiency in managing change. One of the aspects that the three organisations must appreciate in implementing the new technologies entails the human element.
The contribution of the new technologies to the organisations’ performance will depend on the expertise of the workforce. On the other hand, Emirates Airline might experience culture clash in implementing its partnership agreement with Qantas Airline. Therefore, one can argue that the success of the respective organisation’s in implementing change will depend on the level of acceptance and commitment of the employees on the desired change.
In an effort to promote acceptance and commitment with reference to the intended change, Emirates NBD, RTA, and Dubai Municipality have developed a training program aimed at equipping their workforce with the requisite skills to operationalise the changes. Moreover, Dubai Municipality has developed a comprehensive handbook that is intended to guide customers on how the electronic system will work (Khaleej Times, 2014). On the other hand, Emirates Airlines has created extensive awareness on the purpose of the partnership agreement with Qantas Airlines. The actions undertaken by the respective organisations are likely to promote the contribution of the change initiative in enhancing their long-term excellence.
Conclusion and suggestions
The field research on the four organisations shows that they have appreciated the importance of adjusting their operations in order to align with the macro-environmental changes. Subsequently, they are in the process of implementing diverse change initiatives intended to entrench their competitiveness and future excellence. The firms have mainly focused on technological changes and competition. Despite the fact that these forces can influence their performance negatively, Emirates Airlines, Emirates NBD, Dubai Municipality, and Dubai RTA have perceived the changes as a source of competitive advantage. This aspect is illustrated by their decision to implement change initiatives aimed at avoiding the negative consequences.
Despite their commitment towards the change initiative, it is imperative for the firm’s management team to implement effective change management practices. Some of the aspects that the firm should consider are outlined herein.
- The organisations’ top management should ensure that the change initiative is designed effectively. Thus, it should contribute to the organisations’ performance and the employees’ wellbeing. Some of the approaches that the top management should consider entail effective communication during the change implementation process and training. The organisations’ management team should ensure that the employees charged with the responsibility of implementing the change have the adequate skills and expertise. The employee training will enhance the effective with which the change is implemented successfully. Moreover, training will contribute towards the employees’ personal development.
- The process of implementing the change should not be left to the lower level managers and their subordinates. On the contrary, it is imperative for the top management to be involved in the change implementation process. The role of the top management should involve providing leadership during the implementation process.
Scope for future research
After successful implementation of the change initiative, it is imperative for the organisations’ top management to consider the most effective strategies to adopt in order to sustain the benefits achieved. Thus, the organisational leaders should evaluate how to develop core competency and capability with reference to managing the benefits acquired. This aspect will aid in strengthening the organisations’ competitive advantage. For example, the organisations should focus on transforming the implementing change initiative into an inimitable source of long-term competitiveness.
Ates, A., & Bititici, U. (2011). Change process; a key enabler for building resilient SMEs. International Journal of Production Research, 49(18), 5601-5618.
Brockner, J., & James, E. (2008). Toward an understanding of when executives see crisis as opportunity. Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 44(1), 94–115.
Cabrey, T., & Haughey, A. (2014). Enabling organisation change through strategic initiative. New York, NY: Project Management Institute.
Mazzei, A., & Quaratino, L. (2013). Designing organisational change from a grounded research project. Journal of Management and Change, 30(31), 166-181.
Zafar, A., & Afzal, B. (2008). Strategic management; managing change by employee involvement. International Journal of Sciences, 3(2), 205-218.