Monday, 26 November 2012

Multi-sport complex for Bidbid area

It was some time ago I wrote about my views on the importance of sports for developing a competitive, just-do-it mentality.
It seems that others see potential in sports development as well. According to the Omani press,  yesterday was signed an agreement to implement a $300mn worth greenfield sports complex development  for Fanja Club, known as the defending champions of the one Omani Football League.

The integrated project in Al Seeh Al Ahmer is planned to include outdoor sports facilities for football and tennis and indoor sport hall for sports like handball volleyball, basketball and swimming. The integrated feature will be completed by a 5-star hotel, 60 villa units and a small golf course and other leisure elements.

Such integrated sport complexes are known for some time, especially in urban context in Europe. In many cases these huge areas (often ex horse racing tracks) became centrally located through the gradual expansion of cities, so they are facing a mismatch between value and functional utility. Through such integrated re-development, value is unlocked  while maintain the sports and social function.

In this case I am not aware of enough details to provide a proper opinion, but based on the public statement it seems there is quite a bit of conceptual uncertainty in the scheme. First of all I am not sure such a complex needs a 5-star hotel, a 4-start would seem a better match. What they mean buy a small golf course: par-3, 9-hole, 6-hole or eventually a themepark-like minigolf? How will professional sports be wed with access to public, or it is just meant for professional sports? Will the sports demand be enough to sustain a full time medical center or intention is to have a fully blown sports clinic to service the whole country? The circulated amount seems way too big for any possible payback within a reasonable time frame. And so on...

Let's look at the bright side: even if nothing will happen which I hope will not be the case, there is talk about sports development and that increases awareness on its importance.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The asset called employee contd' - Motivation

It is not difficult to differentiate between a job done by a motivated and a non-motivated employee. Lack of motivation can hardly be compensated even by the most of experience there is. Sooner rather than later the sings of ignorance and apathy will be show on the job done.
In contrary when we are dealing with a motivated team, the sky is the limit, even if the sky is actually never really reached.

While there are many elements to it, I found that there are three major things that make or break employee motivation:
  1. 1. Job security – How much effort you’d put in a work knowing you might not be around next month, or next year to witness the consequences. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean a job for life and that you cannot be dismissed even if you are clearly not doing your best to perform. I mean an environment where team members are not sent away without a clear explanation, where before somebody is sent away is given clear messages about his performance and given the chance to change and improve, where if somebody is fired there is subsequent communication to the team on explaining the main reasons (without discrediting the ex-employee) of his/her departure.
  2. Sense of direction and progress – it is difficult to push hard without knowing what are you pushing for. Letting people know where is that they should be heading and how is that relevant for the team progress as a whole, is key. Same as the appraisal of where we are on our route to those goals (or where we think we are).
  3. Recognition and reward – even the best steering can only get you that far without the fuel for the engine. A pet on your back can do much more than most managers think. Let alone some modest but clear words of praise (avoid being cheese, that sometimes does more harm than good, especially in front of peers). Finally a good asset’s worth and paycheck has to be in balance. You cannot defy the market value for too long (some employees are mastering this skill though.)

Notice, I put the money in the third group. Not that I would not welcome a raise and it would not improve my motivation, but in general there is a whole lot that can be achieved before giving a pay raise. Provided the other conditions (job security, sense of direction and progress and recognition) were not met before.  You would often hear people saying that “I am a mercenary and I am here for the money but…” this and that…
I always take this with a grain of salt. The explanations that usually follow relates to elements under 1 and/or 2. Obviously this might not apply to everybody but in my experience of working with superiors or team members, they typically proved to be the reasons for lack of motivation. What about you?

Photo by: Helder Almeida

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The asset called employee contd' - Aquisition

Like with any asset let's start with the acquisitions, recruitment that is. It is probably the most difficult HR decision for an employer. No matter how many HR professionals are around you equipped with an arsenal of tests and interviewing techniques, it still remains more often than not a shot in the dark. The more sophisticated the assessment tools, the more books and blog posts are written in how to "read and trick" them if you are an applicant.

I noticed that in case of companies and organization in Oman a nice CV with the right buzzword and professional acronyms will do most of the job. Probably there is an overreliance on the academic and professional track record of the candidate, and less emphases on it's personality and non-technical, soft skills required for the task at hand.

Of course I am aware of most factors that distort the process such as, quotas to follow, wasta etc. but some of those you'll find in other economies as well.

I have interviewed for a junior and mid level position around 70-80 people so far and hired around 8-10 in the last 16 years, in my various earlier positions. I can say that in perhaps two cases I was absolutely certain it was the right hire. In most of the other it was the least doubtful choice and in one case we went for a risky approach but did not really paid off.  I learned that the best approach for me is trying to understand the candidate from the following three perspectives:

  • 1. motivation - is (s)he really up for this, would  this job  put him/her on fire, at least for the first 12 months or so. How does this position fit in the candidate ambitions etc.
  • 2. ability - does (s)he have the skill set required to perform the job. And I don't only mean the background, as most of the technical knowledge is not learnt in schools anyway, but more the essential soft skills, personality, social skills (especially when it comes to sales or team work), learning skills (are they systematic learning by doing persons or quick learners - learning by watching types etc.)
  • 3. fit  - do you as employer feel comfortable spending more time with this person than with most of your friends or even family? Is there a natural click, a "kind of like this guy" feel? This is probably the most sensitive one. Rationality should be put aside and instincts should be at play here.

Anyways, no matter how hard we try it will remain -more often then it should- a trial and error game.  One thing for sure, do not let your HR do all that work for you, get involved from as early as you can. As team leader you will bring in the real perspective and look at the candidates as potential colleges not as people to fill positions.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The asset called employee

There are too many countries in the world that would envy the infrastructure Oman has and is about to have.  But what about the people the soft power of a country so to speak? The hardware which is pretty much there worth only as much as the software that runs on it.  Obviously it can always be running on imported apps and home made programs but better to have a well established own operating system, an open code that is ready to continuously improve and learn from outside inputs.

I have worked in organizations which had as only assets the people at their desks. They did not own the desks though, nor the buildings  or computers, no cars either. Everything was leased. So they had to make sure talent is retained and accounted for as well utilized asset. One can imagine that in these environment there is a lot of effort put in continuous development, retention, personal and carrier development programs, performance management etc. Much like the maintenance work in a factory or in a computer park. I also worked in organizations that lack all of this. Totally. The only thing they had is some sort of rationality regarding the employer-employee relationship, stemmed mainly from a master and servant customary setup. This came though with some degree of fairness but totally random and limited in capacity. Much like a family business with lots of personal involvement, emotion and all. Needless to say both have advantages and disadvantages and both have their own role in an economy.  Problem is when one or the other is missing.

I don't think there is anything new in saying that is key to the sustainability of the Omani economy to  have the institutional practices of being able to continuously maintain, refresh, and at times to rewrite the software. And I am not referring to a checklist to include in quarterly reports to the board, but more to a culture, a belief that my employee is my value, the better he does the better I do. So I better be spending time and effort in making sure he/she is at its best.

Not being an HR professional I can just write from my own experience of working under both styles and leading a team under the former. So I have decided to share some of the low hanging fruits that I think are easy to implement, cheep and have almost an immediate impact with regards to employee satisfaction, commitment and performance. And I hope you'll find them applicable to Oman. So maybe you'll find something of use if you are leading and/or managing (there are two very different things) people in Oman. Stay tuned.