Many state owned companies in the Gulf region are managed with dual HR policies with separate salary bands, hiring & firing policies, KPI’s and such. One policy applies only for national workers and the other one for expat workers. Sometimes the policies are formalized; in other cases they are semi-official but generally applied.

Main difference between policies is the elevated level of protection of national workers and on average higher incomes than expat peers, although with exceptions.
This dualism has its roots in traditional Arab culture *) and is still a common habit, also in the oil & gas industry. It may be obvious that maintaining dual HR policies becomes increasingly challenging as state owned companies move towards more goal- and result oriented ways of working which trigger shifts in working styles from vertical and autocratic towards open and collaborative ways.

It implies that staff works more in matrix models and team settings and it needs no deep study to understand that a team, responsible for results, will have serious difficulties to reach goals if their individual members are evaluated and rewarded (or punished) with different policies. It will even be challenging to build a team.

The oil & gas industry is moving towards the development and usage of Intelligent Oil Fields which are designed and deployed to optimize production, recovery and security while reducing costs through new technologies and improved collaborative ways of working.

As a company you will want to build high performance teams around newly defined workflows and work with them on your CWE and RTOCs dashboard definition and designs for best real time data analysis to make it all happen. But when you do your stakeholder interviews and -analysis you will find the above described situation were some team members show unproductive habits and take undesired liberties that do not fit in real time goal oriented and collaborative ways of working, as were others are showing avoiding and hiding behaviors as they are not motivated or even afraid of consequences if they engage as existing culture is one of control and command.

So how to move forward then? There is no simple answer to this question. You can’t oblige people to team up and bring results if they do not feel and see themselves as equal team members who will jointly share all suffering and glory. You can put them together in a room and tell them they have to, but that will only make them dive away deeper and definitely not bring you the results you are aiming for. So that can’t be the way. Changing a policy that has grown over decades and which benefits are felt by nationals as untouchable rights is at least on short term a difficult road.

It’s clear that these companies in future will work towards more integrated KPI- and productivity and effectiveness oriented policies *) but that’s a step-by-step approach that will not help us today.

I would recommend an intermediate solution – but invite you to come up with others – which is building KPI’s and a generous rewards system for IOF related operations, maintenance and workflow teams only, which would simply be built on top of existing policies and only reward joint team efforts against previously defined joint KPI’s. This will leave intact the “as is” situation and avoid difficult discussions while creating some good room for real teamwork. It will still need serious change management efforts to overcome undesired unproductive behaviors *) and reduce fear levels, but it’s a fair price to pay to create a real basis for engagement and positive motivation and gives a clear message that IOF is the way forward, while giving upper management time to address in more structural ways companywide changes.

Journal of Business Ethics, 2010, 91 (1): 35-49.
American University of Beirut
American University of Beirut
(4) Extra encouragement, training in decision making, and access to modern managerial tools might all be required to get a level of performance that is acceptable. Companies should invest in training especially in areas relating to team work and group dynamics. People may not be team players to begin with but we can give them enough instruction to make sure they are so. There is one more place where workers learn and that is on the job. The workplace can become an arena where workers learn to work with others in teams that share information both internally and with other teams. Vertical collaboration can improve as management limits the number of layers in the hierarchy and encourages information exchange between those that remain. The gathering and exchange of information within the organization has become an absolute must for managers trying to guide their organizations through a global economy with a high rate of technological change.