For the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to reach some of its Vision 2030 objectives, the race is on to recruit nationals and invest in them to help retain them in businesses through development.
A recent National Labor Observatory (NLO) report shows that the nationalisation rate in the Kingdom’s private sector is rising, with 1,758,558 (Q3 2020) Saudis working in the private sector compared to 81,430 (Q2 2020).
Mona Althagafi, Serco’s KSA Country Director, commented: “Many organisations view nationalisation as just another exercise to accomplish, while in fact there are many layers to this exercise that won’t only benefit the employee but also the employers and eventually the Kingdom. When hiring local talents and training them, you are nourishing their skills and, in a way, giving back to the community and the country. Another way to approach nationalisation is to educate nationals as early as possible on the opportunities that await them when working for the private sector, thus eliminating any concerns they might have for working outside the public sector.”
Training is key and is a facet of nationalisation that is the most often overlooked
Ohoud Alamoudi, Human Development Advisor, commented: “The Kingdom’s 2030 Vision is based on three major axes: a thriving economy, a vibrant society, and an ambitious nation. When the three main axes come together, they create one strong factor that can help achieve nationalisation.
“When we talk about a thriving economy, we talk about a supportive environment, effective governance, and the presence of factors that help this economy to grow and prosper, such as the Partnerships with the Private Sector Program, which was launched by His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud as part of the Kingdom’s vision. Finally, when we talk about the vision and all its existing initiatives today, we see that it depends a lot on creating the right development conditions for the main sectors, which would drive innovation and ensure that we have a workforce capable of achievement.”
Identifying the issue
The problem is that many organisations can view nationalisation as a ‘tick box’ exercise. They are decreed by government regulations or the requirements of a given contract to recruit a local person, and that is what they do. But, in doing so, they completely miss the entire point of nationalisation. Simply recruiting someone to sit in a position by decree of the government or other business requirement undermines the talent available within the market and, more so, completely avoids the core objective of nationalisation – the development of local people.
One of the hurdles to nationalisation within the private sector is that public sector careers can often be more attractive to locals
The right approach
It is essential, then, to approach nationalisation in a way that not only meets the goals of your business but truly invests in the nationals that you recruit. Companies instead need to ensure that they develop the nationals they recruit and truly focus on building a future workforce and management team that consists of skilled, experienced and qualified citizens.
- Training is a key
Training is key and is a facet of nationalisation that is the most often overlooked. To ignore training and development is to completely miss the point and is a disservice to the country that you have operated your business successfully and lucratively in. By taking the time to source the right national for a given role and making the investment required to develop, train and qualify them, you will not only increase their capability to help your business grow but also their engagement in your business and its vision. A company that invests in its people is often much more successful than one that treats them as numbers, and when it comes to nationalisation, that fact remains the same. In addition, investment in training and development will help reduce your attrition rates and support the achievement of nationalisation percentage goals that are sure to be increasingly higher as we progress further toward the goals of the respective visions of each Middle Eastern country.
- Supporting government companies
Nationalisation is also an activity that your business can support even without recruiting nationals directly into your company. As an example, should your business provide services to a largely national or even governmental company, you can adopt a program similar to the ‘Transform, Train, Transfer’model that has been designed and implemented numerous times by Serco Middle East. Put simply, the model uses Serco’s international expertise and capabilities to transform the operations of a client’s business and then provides comprehensive training to the nationals within it.
This training enables the client and its nationals to continue operating to an international standard beyond the culmination of Serco’s contractual commitment to them. At that point, all operational knowledge, equipment, training, certification and qualification are transferred into the client organisation. This approach enables nationalisation by proxy, developing and training Middle Eastern nationals on international ways of working and providing them with the tools and the skillsets required to operate without further support or intervention from international businesses.
- Attracting national skills to private sector
One of the hurdles to nationalisation within the private sector is that public sector careers can often be more attractive to locals. This is both due to a sense of patriotic duty – a commitment to the public sector is to directly support your country – as well as to the traditionally weak approach private sector companies have taken to training and development.
The solution is more collaboration and greater engagement between private sector employers, educational institutes and policy-makers from an earlier stage. As for the private sector, their career paths need to be brought to the forefront and ensure that students know the kinds of jobs private firms can offer them, indirectly supporting their country.
“The Kingdom’s 2030 Vision is based on three major axes: a thriving economy, a vibrant society, and an ambitious nation”
Additionally, real-life experience is invaluable. For example, through processes such as Serco’s internship program, students are allowed to ‘try out’ working in different areas of our business over a six week period, thus broadening their experience to the vast number of available opportunities in the private sector. Furthermore, Serco’s bespoke nationalisation and graduate programs provide a framework for the continued training and development of nationals and offers a rotational program, whereby graduates gain experience in functional, support and contract based roles so they can find where they excel the most.
Sustainability of skills, knowledge and experience within a nationalised workforce is the ultimate goal for governments within the region. The reliance on expatriate companies and workforces, to a point, is coming to a close. As such, we must support the vision of nationalising key positions within our businesses whilst also successfully transferring knowledge into others. Nationalisation is much more than just a tick box exercise, and by investing, developing and training your nationals whilst transferring knowledge throughout local businesses, you support the goals of local government. The future is bright for the region, and we – as international or expatriate businesses – need to continue to support the visions of regional government and continue the growth of this flourishing region.