Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Nationalisation at Mobily, Saudi Arabia



Some of the sessions at the ITU conference provided a context for thinking about talent management challenges within the Arab States,  My favourite presentation was a case study on nationalisation from Dr Fahad Alzahrain from Mobily.

To an extent, I found this particularly interesting as I already knew quite a log about Mobily from sitting with some of their managers at Etisalat Academy’s Middle East HR Conference earlier this year.

But it’s also, because I agree with Alzahrain that nationalisation very important.  As he noted, it’s a compulsory requirement by law, and it’s a long-term investment.  It’s also a good example of a process that is often badly broken in many Arabic firms.

I first became acquainted with the issue of nationalisation in a talk by Hani Hirzallah from Barclays when I presented at Fleming Gulf’s HR Strategies conference in Dubai last year.  And since then, I’ve discussed it with many clients and contacts.  And I do agree with Fahad that those companies who treat is as a bit of a numbers game, and play the game, rather than something that’s important (eg by outsourcing some of their expat staff, employing people who never show up for work, etc) are missing a trick.  Alzahrain summed it up nicely: “Since you have to do it, do it right!

So what jeopordises it?  According to Alzahrain this includes:

  • Wrong perception – thinking in stereotypes – a need to educate yourself
  • Absence of good will – manouvering to avoid the governments’ requirements
  • Lack of pro-activity: do not wait for those young people to come after you
  • Influential people’s satisfaction – a small amount of nepotistic pressure gives it a bad reputation.


Alzahrain suggests there is a ROI to :

  1. Natural Retention: Most of (if not all) Saudis prefer to work in their home country.
  2. Cost Reduction: On the long run, they cost a lot less than Non-nationals.
  3. Head Hunters: They will be your best sourcing agency since they are live examples.



Alzahrain also challenged me on the value of theory vs practice.  But if Arabic companies are going to make a success of nationalisation, they need a well thought through strategy, and then they need to implement it well.



Photo credits: Telecom Egypt



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