What does HR digital innovation mean in a geography where HR can still be regarded, even from the eyes of business leaders, as pretty traditional, both in terms of its strategy and operational output.

Times are changing here in the Middle East, and ChapmanCG’s MEA team were delighted to be joined on two consecutive days by groups of pivotal regional HR Leaders who openly shared their challenges and success stories, all in respect to the innovation of HR best practices in Middle East today. The roundtables were co-chaired by Ben Davies, President (ChapmanCG) and Abby Walters, Middle East and Africa Director (ChapmanCG).

Data Analytics

It’s no surprise that our conversation tipped quickly into the arena of workforce analytics and the region’s increasing ability to leverage data and analytics in a way that is much more powerful than ever before.

A Regional HR Director at a major oil and gas giant spoke of a platform they created that successfully collated the results of 23 “data points” from participating employees, which were then used to accurately predict the departure of its key employees.

Similarly, an HR Leader from a global consumer business discussed how they leverage extensive data to drill down in to the backgrounds of the most successful employees (post first year of service), which then shapes its ongoing future talent acquisition methodology.

Concerns surrounding the importance of not hiding behind metrics, keeping eyes open to unpredictable behaviours and ensuring everything is a balance, were voiced.

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Talent

Enhancing talent acquisition through digital means is ensuring prospective employees to the Middle East are much better connected and engaged throughout the often lengthy, and traditionally disorganised, recruitment processes.

A TA Head for Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe spoke of the recent surge of referred talent in his organisation. Internally-referred talent is now being digitally tracked and employees are being rewarded for their efforts within slick timeframes. Hiring through referrals is proving invaluable here in Middle East, where cost-cutting in difficult. It works especially well within the close confines of this small, well-networked market. In many operations, referred employees have tended to stay longer and become more productive, more quickly.

A Talent Management Director for a leading, regional telecoms house is enjoying use of a raft of online assessments that help identify business and social skills of potential future leadership. The use of online psychometric testing was, however, met with mixed favour. Many regional leaders lamented the absence of any geographical or cultural consideration in many of the pan-global psychometric offerings.

However, there was a communal understanding that successful employee management should be face-to-face and not replaced with an app.

Internal Communications

In a world that is evolving rapidly at every turn, HR Leaders need to ensure employees receive efficient, speedy corporate communication, even before employment has commenced. The power of numerous smartphone or tablet-based apps was discussed, ranging from those which had the ability to onboard and induct new hires—so alleviating the wasted “first few weeks” in a new job—to others offering fast access to a full library of the organisation’s policies and codes of conduct.

Gamification is certainly proving popular through the region with successful use of “quiz apps” to test understanding of new policies, enhance performance management processes and help build rapport amongst the employee population.

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Power of Social Media

The attendees all agreed as to the significance of first-class social media presence for a growing organisation in an emerging market such as the Middle East.

Strategies that some forward-thinking Middle Eastern companies are adopting include creating mentorships through co-leadership – by pairing a millennial with a senior executive. On one hand, the millennial brings rich experience with social media, and contributes valuable input on how to communicate with the company’s younger (millennial) potential customer and employer base. On the other hand, the younger colleague has the opportunity to learn from his or her more senior mentor about the organisation/industry.

Interestingly, we discussed some stringent cultural restrictions in the region in this regard. Employees of some of the Islamic banks spoke of the tight publishing policies that exist in their teams, and the levels of consent required before comments, articles, photographs can be uploaded on the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Technology and Workplace Wellbeing

From decreased healthcare costs to increased productivity, the benefits of wellness programs are widely known. An overworked, unhealthy workforce leads to a less productive one. Middle East and Africa HR leaders are realising the impact that a proper wellness program has on engagement as well retention, and even here we can start to see the impact of digital capability.

A handful of Regional HR Leaders applauded the use of Fitbit and other health “apps” amongst their employees, and where reward systems are linked to high performance/scores, they are seeing a real increase in motivation.

On a different level, sleep hours and patterns can now be recorded through the Fitbit app which has introduced a new Sleep Schedule feature. It helps users track sleep patterns better, and over time bring sleep consistency. Taken to extreme, Executive Teams can utilise this sleep data to ensure that the most major decisions are made for their business at a time when they are well-rested and the most alert.

Learning

This is quickly becoming an area for tech-savvy specialists, requiring a very strong grasp of the latest eLearning applications and platforms, in addition to more traditional Learning methods. Learning programmes in the Middle East are gradually becoming more complex, and as technology progresses, more about broad-based organisational capability development. Due to advances in technology, most Learning applications are now real-time and are easy to use on a mobile phone. Individuals can complete modules, receive feedback, and understand areas for further improvement immediately, without the guidance or intervention of a coach or trainer.