– A revisit of ‘Dubai We Learn’ Exemplar Benchmarking Projects –
By Professor Dotun Adebanjo and Dr Robin Mann
The great appeal of benchmarking is its ability to enable organisations to identify best practices from other organisations and adopt or adapt those practices to improve performance. The benchmarking process itself can be both demanding and exciting as the benchmarking team seeks to understand their organisation’s performance; identify, shortlist and visit benchmarking partners; determine the most suitable best practices; and work with internal (and sometimes external) stakeholders to implement the best practices.
Although many aspects of the benchmarking process can be underpinned or driven by prescriptive guidelines and also managed along pre-determined timelines, the implementation of best practices is less amenable to prescriptiveness and time limitation. This is principally because the numbers, nature, scope and ease of implementation will vary significantly with the type of project and particulars of the organisation. Indeed, where many best practices are selected for implementation, it may be necessary and beneficial to implement the practices in stages or batches. It is also important to note that the benchmarking process does not end with the identification of best practices or indeed their implementation, it is also necessary to evaluate if the desired outcomes have been achieved and if not, to understand why and refine the practices as necessary.
With this in mind, we returned to a sweltering Dubai in August 2019, 15 months after the completion of the second round of ‘Dubai We Learn’ (DWL) to visit three exemplar ‘7 Stars’ projects. ‘Dubai We Learn’ is an initiative of the Dubai Government Excellence Programme (DGEP) in collaboration with the Centre for Organisational Excellence Research (COER) based at Massey University New Zealand. The second round of ‘Dubai We Learn’ benchmarking projects consisted of 11 projects in different Dubai Government entities and took place between March 2017 and April 2018. Details of the 11 projects and their achievements by April 2018 are available in an e-book (to be published soon). Three of the eleven benchmarking projects were 7 stars for benchmarking proficiency based on the TRADE Benchmarking Methodology that was adopted to drive the DWL projects.
So, 15 months on, how have Dubai Government Human Resources (DGHR), Dubai Health Authority (DHA), and Dubai Police fared with their respective projects.
Case Study No. 1 – Dubai Government Human Resources (DGHR)
The DGHR project was entitled, ‘Launching a Dubai Government HR Think Tank’ The aim of the project was to launch a ‘Dubai Government Human Resources (HR) Think Tank for HR future shaping, research driven decision making and pioneering HR’s role for Dubai Government.’ At the formal close of the benchmarking project in April 2018, the DGHR benchmarking team had identified 87 best practice ideas from several sources including benchmarking visits to 9 organisations and desktop research. Of the 87 best practices, 63 were approved for deployment.
The primary achievement of the DGHR Benchmarking Team by April 2018 was the development and widespread stakeholder agreement of a Blueprint for a Dubai Government HR Think Tank to shape the future of HR within Dubai. The Blueprint consisted of a 73-page document describing in detail the purpose, structure, services and operating model of the Think Tank. The vision of the Think Tank was initially set as “Pioneering HR for the world” with three prime services; research, smart library and consulting services.
Between April 2018 and our visit in August 2019, two projects had been launched by the Think Tank. The first project was a research study on Employee Performance Management Systems. The objective of this study was to understand current EPMS practices, their perception across Dubai Government workforce, challenges in implementation and degree of variation. To enable this study, DGHR collaborated with the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) to conduct a multipronged study encompassing literature review, survey, focused group interviews and CEO interviews. Covering 46 entities across Dubai Government, this robust research considered diverse perspectives of Dubai government workforce including line managers, heads of sections and directors, and top management. Based on their input, a number of common challenges were identified and actionable recommendations were proposed.
The second project was a HR Benchmarking Study. This project was initiated based on the understanding that the HR function is an important partner in implementing the ambitious strategic agenda of Dubai in supporting businesses. This strategic agenda requires HR to be advanced, efficient and progressive. However, most of the HR departments in Dubai’s public sector struggle in defining standards for HR services. This study enabled DGHR to collect data across Dubai (including Dubai Government, semi Government and private entities) and internationally. The study facilitated the identification of superior HR practices and the transfer and sharing of these practices across all participating entities. DGHR intends to repeat this project on regular basis and build on the participation and partnership of both public and private sector entities.
New research for 2020 is being planned with one project on the Work Environment and a second project on Return on Investment (ROI) for HR projects. The primary aim of the ROI project will be to investigate high profile HR projects to understand how much value was invested in the projects and compare this with the tangible value realised at the end of the project.
In its relatively short time in existence, the Think Tank has identified a huge appetite among Dubai Government entities for best practices in HR management. In order to improve dissemination of its research findings, the Think Tank will be launching a HR platform and portal in 2020. The primary purpose of this will be the reporting of HR information and sharing of best practices. In addition, the Think Tank will be publishing a HR Bulletin for sharing through social media. From October 2019, the Bulletin will start to disseminate soundbites on Performance Management and HR in general based on the findings from the two projects.
The experience of undertaking a benchmarking project and the use of a prescriptive approach espoused by the TRADE Methodology has been beneficial as the skills learnt have been very useful in delivering the projects completed so far.
It was evident throughout our meeting with the DGHR team that they continue to be excited and energised about their project and how the Dubai Government HR Think Tank will shape the future of HR within Dubai. From the work conducted so far, there is every reason to think that the Think Tank will succeed in its vision of “Pioneering HR for the world!”
For more information on Dubai We Learn contact:
Dr. Zeyad Mohammad El Kahlout, Senior Quality and Excellence Advisor, Dubai Government Excellence Program (DGEP). Email: Zeyad.ElKahlout@tec.gov.ae
Receive Our Newsletter
Keep informed on best practice research and business improvement events from around
the globe - be the first to read our Best Practice Reports