Public Sector Should Look Inward For External Success

Amin Al Zarouni

Those of us in the public sector need little introduction to the role that citizen-facing strategies play in the delivery of success. But for far too long we may have overlooked similar inward-looking initiatives that drive a performance culture right into the heart of our organization: the workforce. In my opinion, it’s time for human resources to redefine itself for a more strategic role, driven by tactics rather than technics.

Think about it with a critical eye. More often than not, public sector organizations find that a significant percentage of their HR functions manage people based on pure administrative procedures, time management and paper-based assessments, leaving little room for taking care of the future career needs of employees and building a path for them to progress as successors to critical positions.

Which leads to my follow-on question: How effectively have we actually linked our people management to corporate success?

The fourth pillar

I’d like to think of success as a four-legged stool, of which strategic HR is a critical pillar. Under-investment in internal understanding of the people you employ can throw even the best external success strategies off balance. The proposition is simple: If we can drive a performance-driven culture inward to enable, improve, and motivate our employees, they can in turn deliver productivity that contributes directly to external growth and revenue generation.

A quick comparison with the private sector will demonstrate how it has been leading strategic HR development. Pushed by the need to remain competitive, the sector has successfully been able to link employee productivity to measurable corporate goals. There is no reason why government departments, driven by a service culture, cannot follow suit, despite the challenges.

How about some self-criticism?

Managing transformation in the public sector is tough, to say the least, because of cultural inertia and competency gaps. For one, this sector has remained most reluctant to change simply due to lack of competitive pressures. Second is the fact that often new hires and employees are not well matched to their roles based on individual competencies and skills.

In effect, this situation has left us with a classic mismatch between how we look at external success and the way we contribute to it internally. And we all know how the story goes: When the right talent does not get its due, we set ourselves up to lose them. And the only way to overcome this situation is to mandate cultural change right from the inner workings of the organization and move towards holistic talent management.

Manage talent, not people

Talent management is a strategy that needs to be applied to an entire people chain, right down to the processes itself. We need to think of people as assets and of their skills as valuable information pools and extract the benefits by linking them to corporate goals. We also need to break down older hierarchical models of employment to offer clear, documented paths for personal and professional improvement.

Plan the journey, not just the destination

Any organizational journey falls short of its potential if we don’t communicate what we expect to achieve. My thoughts on performance and talent management  tell only half the story without spelling out the benefits. Let’s look at five top benefits customers can expect to see from their investments in strategic HR:

  • Talent management offers diverse paths for improvement and value creation: This model scales to encompass more than managerial positions. The reality is that when you manage talent, it naturally paves the way to integrate diverse roles, skills, and people, and gives employees the opportunity to scale across career paths, roles, and levels.
  • Teaches you more about your own people: You can understand what motivates your employees and find ways to help them achieve growth. As a result, organizations gain increased productivity.
  • It’s all about visibility: Increased process automation and digitization of personnel information offers greater visibility. Gaps can be assessed and people can be groomed to bridge the skills gaps.
  • Builds succession planning and retention strategies: When the right talents are identified and developed, organizations lower attrition levels and enjoy a highly motivated workforce.
  • Creation of data pools for intelligent hiring: Untapped repositories of job seeker databases can be digitized and categorized into data pools. This intelligence can be integrated for advanced talent hiring.

Talent management is also a reality check for the industry as we start to start to see the influx of Generation Y  into the workforce. Millennials are bringing with them unprecedented hyper-connected lifestyles and technology usage. It’s only fair, then, that they expect the companies they work for to be capable of managing them in ways that cater to their interests and skills and that help them grow, don’t you agree?

We will discuss more on how talent and mobility will be the driving force of Generation Y in my next blog. Watch this space!

Want more management best practices? See Management 101: Measuring Achievements Vs. Activities.


Amin Al Zarouni

About Amin Al Zarouni

Amin Al Zarouni is the Chief Business Development Officer of SAP UAE, aiming to expand SAP’s support in driving digital transformation in the UAE’s public sector, especially in key verticals such as national security and defense, healthcare, and education. In particular, Amin aims to align SAP’s strategy in the UAE with national initiatives such as UAE Vision 2021, Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, Dubai Plan 2021 and Dubai Smart City, and World Expo 2020 in Dubai. Amin brings extensive experience in business information technology, previously working at Bee’ah, Sharjah’s leading environmental management company, where he held the position of Chief Information Officer for more than three years. During his tenure at Bee’ah, the organization implemented a variety of SAP solutions in support of enhancing Sharjah’s environmental sustainability. As a result, Bee’ah won Gold in the SAP Quality Awards under the Business Transformation Category, and received the Etisalat Intelligent Fleet Management award for the largest number of connected vehicles. Prior to his time at Bee’ah, Amin held the position of IT Manager with Sharjah Media Corporation, and served as Business Intelligence Team Lead with Dubai Aluminum (DUBAL). During his entire career, Amin has been named a Top 100 CIO in 2015, a Top 50 CIO in 2013, and graduated with distinction from the Sharjah Leadership Program. Amin holds a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management from the University of Wollongong in Dubai, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering from the American University of Sharjah.