Abu Dhabi Municipality: Talent Management

Summary of the organization and the strategic objectives

The organization under the study is Abu Dhabi Municipality. Abu Dhabi Municipality is a state body responsible for providing public services and ensuring a proper plan for the city’s development. It is under the state’s municipal affairs department, which is also in charge of other municipalities within the United Arab Emirates. The Municipality is also responsible for regulating road networks, developing drainage systems, lighting works, and maintenance services. The Municipality services a population of around 938061. This population is expected to increase to over 3100000 by the year 2030.

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The Abu Dhabi municipality’s strategic goal is to establish an advanced municipal system that will ensure sustainable development and improve people living in Abu Dhabi by the year 2020. The Municipality has employed over 1900 staff, many of whom are UAE nationals. Employment relations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are guided by the Federal Act No. 8 of 1980. The act is based on the ILO model. The law governs nearly all aspects of personnel management.

The law offers the first right to employment to the citizens. Noncitizens may be hired with the approval of relevant authorities.

As a result, all the UAE municipal councils have over 70 percent “Emiratization.” This means most workers are locals who have been employed and developed by the organization to create a sustainable workforce. Each department in the Municipality has its own “Emiratization” program. This makes sure that there is a substantial building of local capacity in the Municipality. Out of the 1900 workers employed, nearly 1700 are the subordinate staff. The rest are department/section heads. All the junior employees are developed through the “Emiratization” program. Most of them have not advanced past the college level. The senior staffs are mainly college and university graduates. However, a few members of the management team were promoted to the management team due to experience, competency, and hard work.

Information source

Most of the information was acquired through a senior member of the staff, whose name is withheld due to ethical reasons. He had a good appreciation of what happens above and below the organization.

Some information was acquired through the use of structured questionnaires. The rest of the story was obtained on the organization’s website.

Business Strategy

The success of Abu Dhabi City Municipality is currently based on two fundamental factors, namely: the “Emiratization” development program and the organization’s strategic goal. By the year 2020, the Municipality hopes to establish an efficient world-class municipal system that will ensure sustainable development and improve people living in Abu Dhabi. In my view, the key issues that have prompted these factors are:

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Human resource is the most significant possession

By introducing the “Emiratization” program, the company subscribes to the idea that human resources are the most significant possession in the business world today, particularly in the United Arab Emirates. Human capital is one of the considerable challenges for companies and organizations based in the UAE. Labour laws limit the number of expatriates that can be hired. Also, the country produces a relatively low number of skilled and competent personnel. Moreover, their expertise does not match the requirements of the industry. Therefore, many organizations have resorted to hiring expatriates, regardless of the numerous challenges associated with the practice (Rashid, 2007, p. 20).

The cost of hiring skilled labor in the UAE is also prohibitive. The high cost of skilled labor is attributed to the high demand for delivery in the country and the scarcity of professional and competent domestic work. The increased demand for skilled labor has also led to an escalation in wages. Companies have been forced to introduce higher remunerative packages to attract highly skilled and competent workers. The rising wages are also attributed to the increasing cost of housing and the general cost of living (Rashid, 2007, p. 22).

The nature of the organization

Abu Dhabi Municipality is a statutory body responsible for providing public services and ensuring a proper plan for the city’s development, hence a non-profit organization. For that reason, most of the organization’s operations are based on significant projects, such as garbage collection, lighting works, and sewerage development. Therefore, the processes are project-based, and the managers of these projects are the departmental heads. Given that person needs to be moved between city projects regularly, it raises issues around how human resources are recruited, assigned, assessed, developed, and managed in such a way as to minimize employee turnover rate and enhance commitment.

Audit of the Current Organization

Is there an appropriate linkage between HR strategy and business strategy?

From the available information, the organization’s main focus is the retention of its personnel and improving service delivery. Given the high cost of developing and hiring skilled workers, there have been many staff “poaching” cases in the United Arab Emirates, particularly by large multinational companies. These companies offer higher remunerative packages and better terms of employment. The Abu Dhabi Municipality is doing everything possible to minimize the rate of staff turnover. For the above reasons, employees are given strategic meaning in the organization, thus appear to be on the organization’s strategic plan.

How to enhance performance

The current business scenario is a typical example of how people make positive and distinctive contributions to organizations. Human Resource strategies support individual strategies, which in turn have a significant impact on business strategies. Also, the people strategy takes into account the interest of all the individuals in the organization. Therefore, by developing a close partnership in the organization, HR strategy can guarantee the sustainability of workers’ proposition and well being of the business brand, as well as influencing accurate deliverables which strengthen, entrench and support business objective, value, and vision (Briscoe, Schuler & Claus, 2008, p. 89). Therefore, HR issues and prospects should continue to be given high priority in the organization to realize the dream of establishing an advanced municipal system for better service delivery and sustainable development.

The organization can apply HR strategies at different phases of business strategy. The stages include the planning stage, development stage, and implementation stage. During planning, HR strategy is useful in accessing unique information, gaining insight into the current workforces’ general competency, and the interrelationships among the employees in the organization. During the development phase, HR can employ its expertise in managing change. In this case, the HR strategy helps in understanding the significance of business strategy, organizational values, and culture. Lastly, during the implementation stage, HR strategy provides technical proficiency while at the same time distinguishing HR strategy and business strategy.

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How effective is the organizational structure in supporting the operational and strategic goals of the business?

Abu Dhabi Municipality is a public institution owned by the United Arab Emirates. The institution embraces a functional organizational structure with a three-tier hierarchy, whereby the employees work in different departments based on what they are required to do. The Municipality is headed by a chairman. The chairman is flanked by three departmental heads. Under the departmental heads are various section heads. This kind of organizational structure is efficient to the institution as it adds up to the strength of the experience of every department. For example, all the program directors work in the same department; hence there is an interplay and exchange of knowledge, information, and ideas to support each other. This cost structure is significant due to the institution’s economies of scale. However, due to the centralized nature of this structure, there are some disadvantages. Communication between departments is not critical, but where it does fall down is in terms of moving people across sectors in order to grow healthier people and also meet their career aspirations, which have been raised during the selection and recruitment process, and represent a principal reason for joining the organization.

Specialization is the main focus of the organizational structure. Each department consists of a group of employees who have the same skills/profession. The top management, particularly the chairman, is the overall coordinator of the institution. In addition, the role individuals play in this institution is the primary basis of classification to the various departments. The chain of command is straight and efficient, and there is an excellent chance for employees to develop both vertically and horizontally in the organizational tree. Therefore, the organizational structure is wholly integrated with the corporate strategy so as to attain the strategic goals of the organization. In other words, organizational structures support HR strategies.

The entire operations in Abu Dhabi Municipality are highly dependent on its strategies. The organization’s structure and processes are tied to each other. Before the organization introduces a new concept or project, it has to carefully consider every facet of the system needed to support the organization’s strategy. This is one of the reasons behind sustainable development in the organization. The departments in the organization and individuals in charge are focused on supporting the aspirations of the organization. Generally, this is usually achieved through a combined effort and resource mobilization.

In addition, Abu Dhabi Municipality has adopted a ‘Management by Objectives’ approach, whereby it develops dedicated employees who are conscious of their responsibilities, as well as the strategic goals of the organization. Therefore, the employees are encouraged to put more effort in order to realize these goals. This management technique also enhances communication and harmonization as responses are received continuously. In addition, employees are involved in the decision-making process and the setting of strategic goals. For this reason, they do not feel like they are alienated.

How to enhance performance

Without a doubt, the organization needs to embrace some elements of matrix structure, which is a combination of divisional and functional design to improve communication, coordination, and flexibility. I refer to some aspect of the matrix structure since the Municipality functions best with the current system. The matrix structure combines the best of functional and divisional structures. The organization should not rely entirely on specific departments to carry out individual projects. Instead, it should use teams drawn from different departments to take advantage of their strengths, as well as makeup for their weaknesses. The borrowed matrix elements will enhance dialogue across various departments, thus doing away with the current insularity. There are other issues that would benefit from strategic input and action, for instance, retaining key talents. There is currently no consensus on a method of maintaining critical skills other than the top hierarchy. This is not presently considered strategic and will not be quickly addressed within the current structure.

Is the culture of the organization as supportive as it could be? Would the introduction of culture in line with SHRM be feasible and enhance business performance?

Many studies have been conducted to establish the impact of organizational culture in HR and business strategy. Some of these studies emphasize the importance of culture and change efforts on organizational success. They match different forms of culture with varying types of systems. They stress that a mismatch in corporate cultures and strategies may lead to implementation problems (Torington, 2008, p. 89).

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Abu Dhabi Municipality embraces a positive and collaborative culture. The workers are so fond of the values, norms, and practices in the organization. This is because the organizational culture is well defined, and the workers have no problem in applying them. The management is sound and resourceful and offers excellent leadership. No form of discrimination is entertained. Hence, all employees are treated equally and fairly. The directors are all available and reachable. The workers are very dedicated to their work and always strive to achieve the organization’s goals.

The strong culture in Abu Dhabi Municipality is principally attributed to the way the current administration is running the organization, or probably the top management may have imposed the culture in the organization. Nonetheless, I won’t be surprised if the latter was the case since culture is firmly entrenched in the organization. As a matter of fact, employees of the Municipality have embraced the concept “self-managing team.” The proponents of this concept describe it as a fundamental change in the conventional approaches and top-down organizational structure. The idea of “self-managing teams” has transformed the traditional and commanding design into a more involving form. This means that employees in the current structure experience life in a different way than employees in the previous structures (Wellins, William & Wilson, 1991, p. 3).

Instead of being given orders by those in the chain of command, employees of the Municipality participate in nearly all the operations of the organization. Self-managing teams are organized into distinct groups. The management’s responsibility is only to offer guidance and direction. As a result, self-managing team members solely depend on the government for guidance and linkage with other departments.

Each and every employee in the organization is well trained to carry out any job function. Therefore, they have certain powers to make a decision on behalf of the organization. In addition, they can also plan their own schedule, make inquiries, and connect with other teams. This concept has helped Abu Dhabi municipality to minimize bureaucracy and save costs by eliminating low-level managers. In addition, it has also been used to enhance motivation, productivity, and commitment among employees.

Besides collaborative and self-managing teams in the organization, Abu Dhabi municipality’s culture can also be described as competitive, structured, collegiate, esteemed, and highly rewarding. This appears to be the general perspective with reference to the culture that is most suitable and supportive of the organization. I highly agree with this view. Additionally, I recognize the organization’s effort in ensuring employees realize their full potential.

How to enhance performance

At the moment, the organization has established one of the best HR practices and, therefore, the only thing that is needed is thorough implementation. For that reason, Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) would be very valuable in supporting and enhancing business performance.

Are there adequate processes in place to find and develop future senior managers?

Currently, the organization has established the “Emiratization” development program for junior employees. One of the main objectives of the “Emiratization” development program is to help employees become more effective in their work and to be able to adapt to other jobs in the organization. However, for the development of employees for senior management positions, the organization uses both a graduate trainee program and professional training. Given the high cost of developing and hiring and scarcity of skilled workers, Abu Dhabi Municipality usually targets fresh graduates. These graduates go through a rigorous training and development program. The organization participates in job fairs where they meet potential candidates one on one. At these events, the candidates have the opportunity to attend the organization’s presentations, get hold of the leaflets, and interact directly with the employees of the organization. Abu Dhabi Municipality’s yearly expression has almost become a common practice. It provides the organization with a chance to meet probable candidates in person (Sokun, 2004, p. 12).

Abu Dhabi Municipality also invests heavily in professional training. Each year, the company sponsors around ten people for college and university education. The sponsorship is based on merit. In other words, the support is part of the company’s reward system. The training can either be full-time or part-time. Professional training takes place within a framework of the partnership between the organization and local academic institutions. This ensures that the training offered is in line with the organization’s goals and objectives. The expertise acquired through professional training not only helps in getting employees accustomed to the new technologies but also contributes to new innovations and the creation of many ideas.

Abu Dhabi Municipality is dedicated to continuous professional development. This is evident through numerous activities in the organization. They differ from traditional classroom training. The training programs consider multiple factors in order to develop employee wholesomely. They include role coaching, regular meetings, work rotation, interim assignments, teamwork, extracurricular activities, and many more. From my own viewpoint, the organization has put in place nearly all the necessary processes to find and develop future leaders in the organization.

How to enhance performance

The company should introduce professional training in the “Emiratization” development program to facilitate the promotion of junior employees to senior management positions.

Is individual performance management as effective as it could be, and is the right emphasis placed on intrinsic and financial rewards?

As already been mentioned, employees of the Municipality have embraced a “self-managing team” model. This model is more effective than other conventional models. It allows the delegation of duties, which in turn enhances performance among employees. The model is based on teamwork. In addition, it creates a favorable working environment for workers, thus increases their devotion, reliability, and readiness to enhance performance and overall productivity.

The self-managing teams have eliminated the roles of the supervisors. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, the model does not give workers excess freedom and tolerate waywardness. Instead, it limits workers’ freedom to develop activities. In other words, a member of the team is keeping an eye on each other.

The organization’s reward system is based on employees’ performance. The rewards are not only used to draw and preserve the workforce but also to motivate the staff. Financial rewards are usually boosted by intrinsic motivators and other schemes. This is because the organization believes that monetary compensation, which is reinforced by inherent motivators, can have a positive and long-term impact on the personnel. Thus, both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators are significant (Karageorghis & Terry, n.d., p. 2). As a result, the reward system is organized in such a way that it offers the best blend of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. In a nutshell, the right emphasis is placed on intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. In addition, the concept of “self-managing teams” has enhanced individual performance in the organization since the whole team is keeping an eye on each other.

How to enhance performance

Even though employees are given the freedom to make confident decisions on their own, they have to be approved by the management. The organization should also establish appropriate rules and measures that restrict HR functions and decision-making. All these will avert wayward behavior among employees.

Is the “equal rights” policy simply to meet legislation? If so, is there a business case to go beyond this?

As I had mentioned earlier, employment relations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are guided by the Federal Act No. 8 of 1980 (article 14), which is based on the ILO model. The act calls for equity, social justice, and safety and security for all citizens. However, in matters of employment, particularly in the public sector, priority is given to the locals. Out of the the1900 staff employed by the Municipality, only 200 are women. The organization’s management attributes this low number to a lack of interest and coded customs of the patriarchal male-dominated Islamic society. Being a public institution, Abu Dhabi Municipality has put in place all the necessary measures in place to attract more female workers to the company. The measures include extensive maternal leave, a lower threshold for hiring women as compared to the male counterpart, equal pay, anti-discrimination policy, and flexible working hours, among others. Thus, the similar rights policy is part of the organization’s strategic goal of empowering the locals and improving their standard of living.

How to enhance performance

On matters of equality, the organization’s hands are tied since they have put all the necessary measures to attract female workers in the organization. For that reason, it is upon society to empower and encourage women to join the workforce. In addition, the organization should introduce modern methods of performance management. The current approaches include a balanced scorecard management system and a strategic performance management system, among others.

Is the worker’s relation policy the most appropriate in terms of introducing change and enhancing employee commitment?

Abu Dhabi Municipality typically consults its workers in a timely manner on significant changes in the organization, especially when the changes have a massive impact on their positions and work. The consultation usually takes place in accordance with the laid down procedures and timeframe. The organization’s relation policy is based on effective means of communication and consensus-building, a secure and efficient working environment, and commitment and motivation for all the employees. According to the organization’s management, the organization’s relation policy has helped to promote communications at all levels and expanded areas of interest between all employees. In addition, it has helped in expressing and preventing conflicts and promoting mutual trust among the staff. Therefore, an organization’s relation policy is comparatively suitable for managing change and strengthening workers’ commitment.

How to enhance performance

Even though the organization boasts of an excellent employee relations policy, it can be strengthened by minimizing its bureaucracy.

Is the organization effective at introducing change?

Change is a universal aspect of many organizations. The ability to cope with such changes is a competitive advantage to an organization. This is mainly attributed to the worker’s relation policy in the organization. The main drivers of change are technological advancements are stiff competition, and fluctuations in the economy.

How to enhance performance

The organization’s capacity to manage change can be augmented by embracing Kotter’s stages for effective change management. These stages include developing a sense of necessity, developing strong partnerships, developing vision, conveying the idea, workers empowerment, creating interim goals, consolidate achievements, and internalizing the change (Kotter, 1996, 88).

Two priority areas recommended for action

Two priority areas the organization should act upon are organizational structure, performance management, and training regime. Without a doubt, the organization needs to embrace some elements of the matrix structure to improve communication, coordination, and flexibility. In addition, the organization should introduce professional training in the “Emiratization” development program to facilitate the promotion of junior employees to senior management positions. This will increase workers’ commitment and loyalty.

O the other hand, performance management is a systematic process that is cyclical in nature. From a primary point of view, it consists of three stages: planning, midpoint discussion, and performance evaluation. The planning stage entails meeting employees to establish main goals and actions that support the realization of business objectives. The meeting also involves discussing employees’ career objectives, ambitions, and other business related activities. Mind point discussion, on the other hand, involves a halfway review of the employees’ progress in realizing the organization’s strategic goals and making adjustments where necessary. If possible, the management should carry out a progressive dialogue regarding job performance. Lastly, the ultimate performance evaluation is based on the agreed goals. This is where necessary action is taken against poor performance, while excellent performance is recognized.

Change management issues

In order to achieve the above changes, the organization needs to rationalize its culture, HR strategy, and leadership style. Given the fact that these changes can arouse emotions and even affect organizational performance, the organization should uphold the culture of honesty, morality, trustworthiness, and mutual respect. The organization should also strengthen the worker’s relation policy to consolidate and institutionalize the changes. Lastly, the changes require visionary leadership, which is an overall and flexible style of leadership.


Briscoe, D, Schuler, R & Claus, L 2008, International Human Resource Management: Policies and Practices for Multinational Enterprises, Routledge, New York. Karageorghis, C & Terry, P n.d., Balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for success, Web.

Kotter, J 1996, Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press, London.

Rashid, M 2007, Arab Human Capital Challenge: The Voices of CEOs-PwC, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, Dubai.

Torrington, D, Hall, L & Taylor, S 2008, Human Resource Management, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey.

Ulrich, D 2009, Result-Based Leadership, Harvard Business School Press.

Wellins, R S, William, B & Wilson, JM 1991, Empowered Teams: Creating Self-Directed Work Groups That Improve Quality, Productivity, and Participation, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

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