Monday, 23 February 2009

Dubai a global leader? Not in this case!

By William Franklin, Client Relations Director of Maven Training Ltd.

With its gleaming spires reaching into the hot blue desert sky, each one promising prosperity, aspiration and possibly 5-star hotel service, it is hard to imagine that Dubai is behind the world in anything. However, that is exactly what is happening with regards to Dubai’s positioning on the world economic stage.

Having just returned from a week spent in Dubai on business development, I was amazed at how clearly the Dubai ‘business-scape’ was six months behind that of the UK. The business community is collectively holding its breath and business leaders wait to see when the financial cycle will turn and allow them to plan for future investment. During this time basic decisions are being postponed or even cancelled pending a wider strategic review with the most visible being the closure of many regional offices of international companies.

Despite this communal breath-holding of the business community, countless staff continue to drive into work each day as evidenced by the traffic jams on Sheikh Zayed Road being no less painful. And what is each of them thinking about while sitting in their car? Mostly – and one can only presume – are seeking clarity on their own skills set and whether it is sufficient to (a) keep their existing job, (b) find another job or (c) change career. It is these staff that business leaders need to proactively engage to help their business through these difficult times.

So where does this all fit into the comparison with the UK market? Well as the business development director for a leading training company specialising in project and programme management training, I have had direct experience of what the Dubai market is going through since August 2008. A form of national hysteria gripped the market, especially at the time of the collapse of Northern Rock and then Lehman Brothers, and everyone held their breath. But as we know you can’t hold your breath for ever, and sure enough by the end of December 2008, demand from organisations to upskill their remaining staff and develop their own methodologies returned stronger than at any time in the previous six months. With the crash forcing management teams to take decisive actions, reverting to basic principles became the preferred strategy whether it was geographic presence, core product line or simplified corporate structure.

Reverting to the sunny skies of Dubai, organisations should take heart from the experience of the UK market. Based on the timeframes in this blog, I would expect that rationale behaviour of the Dubai market to return in April or May this year. This means that internal HR Training teams only have another two months to put into place updated individual training plans aligned to the new corporate strategic goals as identified by the CEO. If you wait for the market to show tangible signs of recovery, you may actually miss out on another six months of skills development.

Is this too optimistic a view? If you are reading this in Dubai you may think so, however I would recommend canvassing opinion from your UK contacts to check this out yourself.

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