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Article   |   Nalini Suparamaniam-Kallerdah   |   06.12.2021

Nationalising a workforce

Across Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, governments share a vision to introduce greater numbers of their citizens into the workplace. In sectors where safety is critical, Vysus Group is supporting organisations with this transformation.

Workforce nationalisation (or localisation) is a strategic policy to address an over-dependence on expatriate employment in the region. Relying on foreign workers has been a trend in the region for nearly a century since the widespread discovery of oil. This has resulted in some industries with as few as one in four personnel being a national. GCC governments are tackling this policy’s challenges, from education to recruitment, including encouraging more women into work. How can technical experts, such as Vysus Group, help businesses thrive with a new workforce, safely? While defining best practices, principles, process and procedures is crucial in driving an organisation and keeping operations safe, consulting must go beyond technical matters.

Organisational transformation solutions offer the best way forward, empowering companies in GCC states to make, protect and own their future.

First, establishing a robust safety management culture among a workforce will increase operational efficiencies and productivity, reduce risk and enhance commercial success. Looking at any organisation’s health and safety statistics, reported accidents, lost-time injuries and unplanned downtime due to errors will vouch for this fact. Secondly, safeguarding lives and the environment matters in protecting corporate reputation, a boardroom issue in an age of social media. The third point – on an organisation being best placed to own its future – is something we strongly believe in on behalf of our clients and at the heart of our solutions.

Preparing business leaders for transformational change is critical to the process and its success. Being all-encompassing is also fundamental. While it is common to focus on the organisational side of safety (leadership, processes and procedures) and the technical side (equipment and systems), the wider human side can often be neglected. Simply assuming that trained employees will do their job right is, unfortunately, wrong. It is important to consider all the factors that will affect and influence a person in their role. With workplace nationalization, the need to view all three side is exacerbated. Business mergers in the region, which can mean a mix of several different cultures, languages and leadership teams coming together, further make this point.

Put simply, people are tied to everything an organisation does and achieves, which is why human factors is such a multi-faceted discipline. In terms of creating an effective team culture, for example, seeing what is not visible is just as important as what is evident. Schien’s iceberg model may date back some 30 years, but many organisations still fail to challenge their people’s basic assumptions that lie beneath the surface, be that taken for granted or unconscious. On land or offshore.

Eight transformative stages

We have been supporting clients in the region with an approach based on eight main stages, empowering a new national workforce to take charge of safety and risk management.

1. Assessing the safety climate
This is a ‘temperature check’ at all levels of an organisation’s safety practices and risk management, encompassing elements of leadership, management, engagement, processes, procedures, communication, risk management and learning.

2. Conducting a safety culture assessment

Research-based, this typically comprises interview sessions and observations in the working environment, often with peers. Activities can include benchmarking, as well as exploring specific elements highlighted in the safety climate assessment.

3. Conducting a root cause analysis on the critical findings

We apply a variety of approaches, looking at the leading and lagging factors, and examine the critical findings for root causes, identifying clear underlying causes (as per Schein’s model).

4. Developing mapping of positives

Covering areas of improvement and gaps in operations.

5. Devising a roadmap

A structured, phased approach, developed in partnership with the client and covering what needs to be done, introduced and changed to meet leading standards and best practices. A roadmap can range from 1–5 years in length, starting with the priorities.

6. Implementing the roadmap
Organisations typically need some initial help. We have been supporting by facilitating inter-departmental workshops, creating safety resources and materials, and running coaching and training programs – training the next-generation of trainers.

7. Learning and Training – the transformational base
It’s key that leaders, managers, supervisors, support personnel and the front-end workforce all understand the critical transformational elements.

8. Evaluating progress

Checking that the roadmap is on track and refining plans and support accordingly.

Behind every step forward

Organisational transformation requires the careful handling of sensitive commercial information, challenging current perspectives and perceptions and ensuring that all are on board with changes. From senior management to personnel in the field, transformation is a collaborative effort. We have found that building trust through empathy and confidentiality is vital if there is to be an open environment for valuable discussion.

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