Monday, May 04, 2015

Today's Times of Oman ran with this rather juicy headline: Replace expats in all top jobs with Omanis: Majlis Al Shura.

The story reports that members of the Majlis Al Shura said, "Nationals should replace expatriates in all managerial and leadership roles and positions". The article then goes on to report that Omanis with same qualification and educational certificates as expatriates should received the same wages and benefits as they do.

An "expert on manpower issues who didn't want to be named" (I don't blame that person!) was then reported as saying: "The suggestion by the members is not a studied move. Omanis are still not ready to be replaced at top managerial posts. How can we replace all top positions with Omanis when they may not have the experience or qualifications"?

I'm not going to reference the article anymore, but for further reading, you might want to check out the comments section of the ToO facebook page for this particular story.... some interesting, and disturbing at times, comments.

Again, this is a situation where people are getting polarised behind one end or the other: Yes, bin the expats camp, or the No, what are you thinking camp.

Should Omani's be in all of the top management jobs for companies here in Oman? The answer, boys and girls, is - No.

The answer is much simpler than degrading ourselves to the possibly racist stance that someone of a particular citizenship should have a particular job, primarily because of their citizenship. The answer is simple: The best person for the job should be who is in a top managerial position. That could mean that person is Omani, Indian, Brazilian, or whatever.

If Omani's want to lead businesses, then its quite simple: start your own company and be successful, or be the best person for the job.

But there is of course another side of this story: There are expats who are in managerial positions who, possibly, are not the best person for the job and are possibly limiting the business prospects of that particular company.

There are people who will hire their own countrymen over others, there are employers who will pay salaries based on where people are from (in some cases) but I think this one is a bit harder to define. There is a market rate for labour in the Sultanate, and further afield. If someone wants a British trained and experienced Engineer (for example) the salary must be attractive enough to tempt that person away from the UK, and thus needs to be competitive with UK salaries. The same goes for a Sri Lankan Engineer. The question of what salaries should be, should be tied to what are the global market rates for these people? As for people hiring from their own countries... this could be better restricted by a stronger HR involvement in the hiring policies of companies here, which is already highly Omanised, so the tools are there to start the change.

Should an Omani engineer, who has an Engineering degree from SQU be paid the same as a British engineer with a degree from Cambridge University (the UK's current top Engineering university)? Probably not. Why? Cambridge's degree is harder to obtain and has a better reputation.

Should the same Omani who has their degree from SQU from 2014 be paid the same as the Brit with the Cambridge degree and 25 years of experience?  Probably not. Why? 25 years of experience.

There are always exceptions to every rule, and after nearly 8 years here in Oman, I've met some truly highly intelligent and capable Omani's. I've also met a lot of people that aren't - both Omani and expat alike. Like it or not, education in Oman needs a total overhaul. People need to fail. People need to work hard (I'm not saying people don't work hard already). Once education is sorted out, everything else will flow from there, with the small bump being those expats that are hanging onto their jobs and will refuse to go easily. But they can be dealt with.

The suggestion from the Majlis Al Shura to Omanise all top managerial positions in companies here in Oman is, at this time, just a suggestion to the Ministry of Manpower. Should the Ministry of Manpower take that suggestion as an instruction? I don't know. Stranger things have happened. It's been said time and time again, business doesn't just happen because the Government says it should. There needs to be opportunity and there needs to be success in order for a business to thrive. If I was a business owner, I'd hire the best person for the job 100% of the time if I could, because that would be the best thing for my business and thus I could grow it, and make more money, and also create more jobs.

Times are changing, and expats should remind themselves that they are guest workers here, and things come to an end. I've done nearly 8 years here, I've worked on some incredible projects and enjoyed a great life, the highlight being the birth of my 2 children here in Muscat and that will always mean Oman will have a place in my heart. But things always come to an end, eventually. It's good to remind yourself of that from time to time!

le fin.


Anonymous said...

Every single person here wants to be an astronaut but they don't understand it takes hard work and then still changes are slim. While with the attitude mostly displayed the chances are a lot higher becoming a successful burger flipper at the local McD

Anonymous said...

I would say that, in general, if there is an Omani who can do your 'top level' job, with the same quality of education, experience, for same salary, work the same hours, achieve the same KPIs and bring the same benefits to the job then your employer is not going to go to the bother of paying your airfares, housing, international salary and getting you a visa and dealing with the Omanisation numbers.

Terry said...

I say this every time the Omanization topic comes up. Omanization should have nothing to do with replacing certain jobs or Omanization quotas in companies. These things will solve itself if:

a) The entire education system is overhauled and brought to an international standard

b) A skilled immigration system is employed.

Everything else is just knee-jerk bullcrap that is taking realistic local employment nowhere.

The real working Omanis, young entrepreneurs are not always getting the right support they need from the government.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

I would comment but I wouldn't bring anything educated to the table and I agree with all your points.

Anonymous said...

I'm constantly trying to recruit Omani's and rarely can a candidate even turn up for the interview on time. "For fear of being racist" - the whole policy is racist if you've go that much fear... How would all of the top 7 family companies operate without the middle management blockers that are there now, or Omani replacements without experience and referring the rudimentary every day. The answer is simple, they wouldn't have it and for that very reason it won't happen. If one looked at the largest employment sectors outside of the public sector in the modern world; construction, retail, manufacturing, agriculture etc what interest or opportunities are there for Omani's in these sectors, none due to countries age, location and unwillingness to learn an artisan trade. When I need some plumbing fixed, an Omani doesn't come to fix it! When I explain that in the UK such a person could earn RO60k per year they don't understand. A Kuwaiti Imman delivered a speech that focused research he's found on the GCC and working attitudes. The study found that the average GCC public sector employee works for 27 minutes a day...... I rest my case!!

Anonymous said...

Australia tried this in the 70s and failed in the oil industry for sure. The key messages are:
1. An Omani only needs to be better than the worst expat to get a job, and there are plenty expats who don't add enough to justify keeping an Omani out of a job
2. If you want world class expertise and management however, you do need to work with world class an example, sportsmen of every country go overseas to match it with best so they can improve. Without this exposure from expats and sending time overseas, Omanis will only reach mediocre levels.
3. The question is balance between the two - and not enough attention is paid to recruiting expat managers and experts who are good at coaching and mentoring Omanis.

When I develop Omanis, I ask them with each new job to not just turn up but be MAD - make a difference to the job and the company. If they do this the sky is the limit, but if not they can't expect to advance.

Let's get good coaches among the expats and Omanis who will make a difference.

Anonymous said...

Managing an expat work-force is the difference between ending up with Zimbabwe or ending up with Hong Kong.

Jimbo said...

The only way oman is going to get there is if the following happens:
Education system is a mess, there needs to be an Even playing field, it is rife with cheating and nepotism, right name also gets best exam results and therefore best job. Certificates and degrees then become worthless. everyone knows this, it is the elephant in the room. The bright kids must be really angry about this as they get caught up in the same stigma, unfairly. By the way ministry of education website is appallingly bad in its own presentation and use of english. They are all in Denial about the education problem, and it aint a river in Africa.
if omanisation is a structured policy that follows some common sense rules like:

Long term succession planning based upon competency based job specs, Competency in management is what this is about, not a name and an office.
Involvement of expats from the start to train up and help select their successors as part of a long term succession plan, that way ex pat Managers know there end date and they can plan ahead for family schooling etc and not worry daily about the brown envelope at one months notice to meet MOM Omanisation percentages.
Incentivise ex pats to train their successors, with an end bonus if the successor meets the KPIs and milestones set. That way the expat stays the course to the end and doesn't "accidentally" spill coffee all over his computer
Split the ex Pat Managers job down into bite size chunks that less experienced Omanis can take on. That way you will increase numbers as well as omanisation.
Concentrate on the "skills" of management , rather than picking "managers" who have the biggest PHD, right family name etc. Leadership and good management is a skill not an academic level.
Allow the ex pat to come back for short mentoring periods, to help support the newly promoted Manager.

Oman Government also needs to understand that a balanced society has white and blue collar workers. that can only happen in Oman if the top building companies and others accept that paying a foreigner 3 OMR a day is unacceptable and that omanis need to do this work but for a fair wage. of course that would mean Building companies only making 12% profit like they do in europe instead of 60%. So aint gonna happen i guess.
Unless all departments admit to the problems, internal and external then it will go nowhere and we will continue this cycle of omansation to appease the people while actually doing damage to the economy. in 1998 PDO shell produced nearly 1 million barrels a day, it now produces under 1/2 of that, but with 3 times as many Omanis, and despite better technology for enhanced recovery, i rest my case.

Anonymous said...

It's OK - Majlis Al Shura have a quota: they have to say so many stupid things each month or their salary gets cut. Lets try and remember a few recent hits.

Oh yes that would be free electricity and water for citizens. That is a top idea when the government revenue just went through the floor.

Oh and the 84% vote for a blanket ban on alcohol just like Saudi Arabia - so they can attract lots of tourists like Saudi does to replace the oil revenue that just dropped by half but without the holy sites and the haj.

With people with such an incisive grasp of the political realities like that standing ready to take the helm I feel sure Oman's future is entirely safe.

Anonymous said...

I have a new graduate trainee - started really well, keen, eager to learn. But then it got a bit hard for him - I asked him to do something on his own, you know like produce something original with lots of guidance. Wall-hit. Serial absenteeism, I have a headache, my back hurts, my sister is ill, me - "you really need to do this"; him - "inshallah". Zero productivity. This is someone with a 3.7 GPA from SQU he has 10 days left on my rotation and I fear the worst... WTF do they teach them at SQU?????????

Anonymous said...

"Top Level Job" = big job, big salary, nice desk, and no responsibility for actually delivering anything in their tiny minds. Who wouldn't want that? My cunning plan is big salary, crappy job title and crappy desk and continuing to be the adult presence actually delivering everything they can't do and making damn sure they know it - in the nicest possible way. It is called symbiosis. Being an expat CEO or similar is equivalent to permanently having one foot on the aircraft steps with the added option of some jail time thrown in.

Anonymous said...

The Majlis Al Shura members should start a company with 100% Omanis and compete with the so called “Expat” companies. There should be competitions in the labour market. It brings out the best. Just because you are a Omani does not guarantee that you can do all the jobs done by Expat. People who make these rules and regulations should do some ground work before implementing them. See the result of omanization of drivers – School buses, Gas delivery, goods delivery to site etc.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

I would personally like to see Oman Omanize all unskilled labour and make a minimum wage for unskilled labour that is decent. That is the TRUE deal of Omanisation. If they can't do that, and then round themselves out with the trades (and I should say ourselves because my kids are Omani) then Omanisation will never exist and our economy will never be sustainable. Not ever.

And dealing with tourism, we (my Omani family and their village) is working on a tourism project and I can tell you, I don't really blame the tourism minsitry for their incompetance, because people (Omanis---not all but sooo sooo so mnay) just don't understand wat tourists want. It isn't the same as what they want as tourists so they don't get it. It is a lot of whining and begging to be heard to get anyone to change their mind. I am like, I am an expat, I am a tourist, I love this place, let me tell you why people come to see it and what would make them come more and stay longer and what they spend money on... and it is sooo sooo so hard. my husband has given up, lol, and they are his family. So I can imagine, trying to do this on a national or regional scale, rather than one sole project... I'd die.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that the education system needs an overhaul. I think a change is coming, though. I teach Omani students in the US, and I've had the opportunity to have some very bright students in my classes. They give me hope for Oman's future. They're hard-working and motivated to be the best and do the best. I hope that after they finish their degree here, they'll have major impacts back home.

Anonymous said...

Many Omanis whose fathers can afford to send them to study in the US leave after a few years in Oman because they are more intelligent, more qualified and more driven than almost every Omani that is supposed to be managing them. The main exception is those who are employed by their father's company or group of companies.
So many of them either return to the US to work with their peers form their classes or go across the border to the UAE where there is a real culture of advancement and a meritocracy.
Many of these highly competent Omanis are embarrassed by the now stereotypical Omani time waster and wasta layabout because they feel lumped in with them, as if they are in a higher position not because they have earned it, but because they are getting a free ride because they are Omani.

Anonymous said...

Omani Princess- the fact that your husband's family's tourism businesses are not successful lies at the feet of the Ministry of Tourism and Omran in a large part because they have fostered this dream of Oman being a tourist destination but are totally ineffective in being able to do anything except wilfully waste money and give tenders to the cheapest bidder, regardless of their competence to fulfil the tender.
Of course the family doesn't know what tourists want, all they know is that they have been told that opening a tourist business is the right thing to do because tourism is the country's next cash cow.
A large part of the Ministry's remit should be grassroots development and training of these entrepreneurs and monitoring their progress at a regular interval. Imagine how many SMEs they could have supported and set on a path to success if they hadn't pissed away all that money on sending a sailing boat with a Frenchman on it from France to wherever in the Caribbean.
Oman isn't doing anything unique here- there are plenty of countries who have developed effective tourism dependence from very little but there are few that are making such a hash of it due to the very people responsible for developing and driving it in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I like Oman and the Omanis, but I cant help feeling that the country will be an absolute disaster when the oil (and expats) run out.

I remember working with an Omani science graduate who couldn't use excel....

You would think Oman would be investing in solar for the day the gas does run out.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

It isn't that they aren't successful----tourism business, all of ours have been---but they aren't easy to make them better. People (Omanis I know) while they are ok taking money from tourists, they don't actually WANT tourism, and that overall, I can't blame the government for. I just find mismanagement between ministries (lack of communication, transparency and clear processes) causes delays and ruins the ease of tourism as a viable business for local investment...

And for solar power;) it is very very hard and close to illegal to do. I've asked about doing it on smaller projects... I don't think the government wants it yet.... I meanin UK we have it and think of how much sun we have in London? Anyways... depressing subject...

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