Study: More than 100,000 Qataris needed to fill leadership roles

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Updated at 3pm with remarks from the study’s author.

If Qatar is serious about reducing its dependency on foreign labor, the country is going to have to begin grooming the majority of its local workforce – some 80 percent of it – for leadership positions, a new study has found.

Currently, expats account for 90 percent of Qatar’s working population. They also comprise 98 percent of the private sector, despite nationalization targets that require a fifth of these jobs to be filled by Qataris.

To tackle this imbalance, greater coordination between the private sector, educational institutions and the government is needed, said Oxford Strategic Consulting (OSC), which conducted the “Maximizing Qatari Talent” study.

The full report hasn’t been released yet, but the executive summary (embedded below) urges a number of changes to the approach companies are currently taking to woo Qataris, including:

  • Understanding the motivations of the local workforce. According to the report, “Our research shows that Qataris are highly motivated by factors such as ‘serving the country’ and ‘contributing to society,’ but employers think they are motivated only by money and an easy life!”
  • Revamp recruitment policies. Some 84 percent of employers here post job advertisements online, but only 4 percent of young Qataris said that’s where they search for jobs. Most (80 percent) said they prefer recommendations from personal or professional contacts instead.
  • Work on retention. While companies should not to try to retain “low-value” individuals, the study recommends that firms work to keep individuals “enthused and engaged.” Good leadership is key to keeping employees in this state of mind, the report added.

Is it possible?

Whether an 80 percent leadership target is feasible remains to be seen. In countries with larger local workforces, such as the UK, leaders only account for about 8 percent of the population, the study said.

According to Qatar’s latest Labor Force Sample Survey, taken from the fourth quarter of 2013, there are 1.5 million economically active people in the country. Of that, 10 percent of the workforce – some 181,000 people – were Qatari.

That means 144,800 people would need to be groomed for leadership positions in the coming years. Even with this influx, “there will continue to be a need for a carefully controlled number of senior expatriates,” the report said.

Speaking to Doha News, the study’s lead researcher, Prof. William Scott-Jackson, said a combination of early training, fast track processes and an app that could help leaders deal with sticky situations could make the goal possible. He continued:

“It will be very difficult to get 80% but we can get a large number by starting early and focusing on giving leadership experiences. We calculate that about 70% of leader characteristics can be learned through experience while perhaps 30% are innate…

The app would help you ‘do’ leadership, rather than having to ‘learn’ leadership. For example, (the app would help you with) a difficult-to-hold ‘frank discussion’ with a subordinate… Qatar will still need some expert expat leaders but the above could create a very large percentage.”

The executive summary made no mention of whether companies should put a special emphasis on recruiting Qatari women, who are graduating with college degrees at a faster clip than their male counterparts.

However, Scott-Jackson said the report advises employers to gain a competition advantage of introducing working conditions conducive to Qatari women:

“Flexible working, childcare, dignified and appropriate conditions and how about a female only call centre based in say Al Salwa – there would be plenty of applicants! Qatari women are still an untapped resource and a smart employer would get to them fast. Once again though, we need to really understand their motivations, aspirations and needs – most of which will be easy to meet!”

So far, local women account for 2 percent of the workforce, but Qatar has been working to increase that number.

Here’s the full executive summary:

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