Qatarisation: Creating careers for nationals
Human capital creation is one pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030, and the National Development Strategy 2011-2016 suggested the way forward, in the short term. Qatarisation is the process of creating a quality employable talent pool of Qataris. To understand where this effort lies in the view of leading corporates, The Edge spoke to a variety of stakeholders to gauge the impact the initiative has had.
While being wealthy, the hydrocarbon rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have a unique similarity: they are all dependent on expatriate labour. In November 2005, Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah, the fourth GCC secretary general, warned about the possible consequences of the situation. “The GCC countries need to look at the massive presence of expatriates basically as a national security issue, and not merely as an economic matter.” These concerns have led GCC states to create nationalisation plans to ensure that more nationals are employed in all sectors.
In an attempt to decrease the dependence on foreign labour, Qatar started its own national plan: Qatarisation. In her research paper entitled, Qatarization Policy – Implementation Challenges (published under the aegis of Brookings Center Doha), Maryam Al Subaiey, Qatari writer and entrepreneur, wrote, “The reason this strategy is crucial to Qatar’s development is that it constitutes an investment in human capital that ensures knowledge transfer for future generations of Qataris. It therefore plays a significant role in the creation of a knowledge-based economy. In this context, the World Bank was asked by the Planning Council of Qatar and the Qatar Foundation to carry out an assessment that would help to formulate a vision for a knowledge-based economy – part of the National Vision 2030 initiative. The vision promotes economic incentives and governance frameworks which support a knowledge-based economy through investing in education and learning, innovation, and information technologies.”
Speaking with leading corporates in Doha, The Edge found out about their Qatarisation policies and what is in the pipeline for the next couple of years.
The Policy Initiative
HSBC, in the words of Abdul Hakeem Mostafawi, CEO of HSBC Qatar, has a history that spans 62 years in the country. “From the outset, HSBC invested in the development of its workforce and offered great career prospects for its diverse employee base. As an international bank in Qatar, it has always been a priority to invest in the local talent as part of its contribution to the Qatar National Vision 2030 and also to ensure the connectivity with the business community of the country.”
Incidentally, Mostafawi mentions that the longest serving employee in the history of HSBC worldwide, Hajji Qahtani, was a Qatari national who retired last year after working 54 years for the bank in Qatar.
According to Erhama Al Kaabi, senior advisor to the CEO, at RasGas, Qatarisation is not a mere number to be achieved. “For us, it is a commitment to support and promote the development and success of Qataris who add value to the company.” Al Kaabi adds that the company’s goal is to build a competent, talented workforce of Qatari nationals through clearly-defined roles, responsibilities and meaningful assignments, ultimately creating a high-performance working culture in which people thrive and are fulfilled in their professional lives.
“From the outset, HSBC invested in the development of its workforce and offered great career prospects for its diverse employee base.” – Abdul Hakeem Mostafawi, HSBC.
Al Kaabi reveals that RasGas’ overall Qatarisation rate currently is 38 percent, which, given the competitive labour market for quality national employees, the company considers a success, and “one that we intend to build on”.
For Standard Chartered Bank Qatar, the main reference when it comes to talent is the Qatar National Vision 2030, in the opinion of Charles Carlson, CEO of the bank in Qatar. The vision, Carlson mentions, has human development as one of its four pillars, with the aim of creating a capable and motivated workforce through training and development, in addition to ensuring the existence of the right mix of expatriate and local labour.
In this context, Carlson also mentions that the bank’s recent support of the Qatar Finance and Banking Academy’s training initiative, Kawader, is testament of their drive to make sure that Qataris receive the best and highest training in the financial sector. “This,” Carlson says, “will encourage Qataris to join the sector and join us where we aim to provide further training and development as well as exposure to our international markets and experience. Our goal is to empower highly qualified Qataris and groom them for leadership positions within the bank, locally and across our markets globally.”
Commenting on HSBC’s Qatarisation policy, Mostafawi tells The Edge that this is part of the overall development plan for the bank’s workforce. “We take priority in investing in current Qatari employees to ensure that we develop their talents and prepare them for future leadership positions in the bank.”
HSBC focuses on recruiting fresh graduates who have an interest in an international career through the graduates programme (Tomouh) and then invest in their continuous development as future leaders in the bank. “At the moment,” informs Mostafawi, “three Qatari graduates are part of this programme in Qatar and four more will be recruited this year.”
The bank also invests in scholarships for high school graduates who aspire to have future careers in banking, says Mostafawi.
RasGas’ Qatarisation plan, says Al Kaabi, is underpinned by five strategic themes, including: developing and institutionalising an integrated planning process; creating employment and development opportunities for nationals; building strong mentoring and coaching capabilities; continuing to develop relationships with the education sector.
To this end, the company offers a well-defined career development framework that provides the tools and support for clear career planning. Qatari employees are provided with diverse, best-in-class training that focuses specifically on their needs, including orientation sessions for less-experienced staff, skills development training and English language courses.
“Our goal is to empower highly qualified Qataris and groom them for leadership positions within the bank, locally and across our markets globally.” – Charles Carlson, Standard Chartered Bank.
The aim is not necessarily all about the numbers, states Carlson on Standard Chartered Bank’s Qatarisation policy. “Our aim is to hire highly qualified Qatari talent,” Carlson adds, “We know that is now possible given the various competitive training and development programmes offered through reputable institutions.”
Commenting on recent news reports that Qataris will comprise 90 percent of all jobs in the public sector by 2016, Carlson mentions, “The 90 percent is a number that only aims to solidify the concept of taking onboard talented Qataris, and in line with Qatar’s National Vision 2030.”
The way forward
Talking to The Edge about the immediate Qatarisation plans within HSBC in the next two years, Mostafawi says that the bank has recently recruited a number of high school graduates who will now start their university careers. “During their studies, we will offer them internships over their holiday breaks and we will also guide them through the mentoring programme that we have in the bank,” Mostafawi adds.
Additionally, HSBC is currently recruiting candidates for the Tomouh programme whereby employees will undergo a two-year intensive learning programme that will include a stint in the regional office in Dubai and global hubs in London and Hong Kong as well as exposure to different departments within the bank. “Once they complete this programme, they will be ready for leadership positions within HSBC in Qatar,” mentions Mostafawi.
RasGas is working towards a goal of 50 percent Qatarisation in permanent positions within a reasonable time period, and has recently implemented five-year rolling plans which include realistic annual targets to ensure that they meet that goal, says Al Kaabi, adding, “We recognise that retaining Qatari staff will be increasingly challenging as the economy diversifies, but our plan is to continue as we have, striving for the progress and prosperity of our people by providing a supportive working environment that offers opportunities to learn, grow, be challenged and ultimately, rewarded, as Qataris fulfill their personal potential.”