I’ve always been an advocate for Emiratisation as an important social and economic tool to develop national talent, increase productivity, and lay the foundation for a deep knowledge based economy. Well at least when it’s done right. The usual narrative around the topic of Emiratisation is somewhere around how Emiratis have increasingly more access to jobs coming online, and the government sector being the employer of choice.

Now Nationals by default are always at an advantage with Emiratisation. It’s like being in a constant sellers market, the sellers being UAE Nationals willing and able to provide their employment services to companies with the best offers, with government entities and private organizations being the buyers always in need of more.

However I’ve often wondered if there are Nationals out there who suffer because of Emiratisation, or at least from the ideologies and impressions that Emiratisation policies create amongst the current workforce.

Usually the first to suffer are Emiratis who fall prey to “false advertising” by human resource departments. A company trying to meet Emiratisation targets will sell you everything, a rigorous training program, meaningful work, and a bright and prosperous future, basically your dreams on a plate.

Then once you sign the dotted line, join the organization, and give them the headcount they need, the human resource professional’s job is pretty much done there. You join the organization on day one and realize there isn’t much for you to do, the trend continues for about a few more weeks, or months, of reading manuals and power point decks until you are given some work that is pretty much meant to keep you “busy” rather than make you feel productive and engaged.

After a while you start to realize that you were promised a Mercedes, and instead got a Corolla (no offense to Toyota, I think it’s a great car). You either make one of two decisions, if you still have the energy you move on to better opportunities, or if the role has put out the fire inside to bring your passion to life you just accept the job as what work is really like and stick with it.

The only advice I can give young nationals is to really understand the job you’re about to accept, meet the team, to try and meet someone who has worked there and left, it gives you a good understanding of what’s in store for you and your future.

Furthermore whatever you are promised with regards to your future and development try and make sure it’s in writing, and has the buy in from a senior member of the team you are going to be working with rather than just HR department.

A second issue with Emiratisation is that it currently creates more jobs for Nationals, rather than creating Nationals for jobs. What happens is that companies set up in the UAE, bring their money making divisions such as sales and business development, but leave behind their talent management and training programs that have created human pipelines of excellence within their organizations.

Companies that have to hire Emiratis know that they simply have a quota to meet, and can cover that through administration or public relations positions. This is where Emiratis lose out the most with world-class companies continuing to set up in the UAE, but we as Emiratis missing out on all the tools and policies that made them world class in the first place.

I personally believe that the quota system imposes a policy on companies that is too easy to work around. Why not innovate and test Emiratisation policies that are more focused on development, productivity and output? If the UAE is going to transform from it’s hydrocarbon based economy to an economy based on knowledge and innovation then we should demand that transfer of knowledge from some of the leading companies in the world when they build bases in our country.

A final point I want to touch on is more around the impressions that Emiratisation has created amongst our workforce. Traditionally Emiratisation has created this ever-lasting impression that Emiratis have a sense of entitlement and are in constant search of titles or salaries beyond their capabilities. This has resulted in groups of super talented and driven Emiratis that are constantly having to fight a stereotype that doesn’t really exist anymore.

An Emirati walking into a meeting or interview with traditional clothes, regardless of their credentials, is painted by a false ideology of what they represent and what they’re looking for in a job, money and power. However in today’s UAE talented Emiratis are more focused on work that brings meaning to their lives, and positive impact to the lives of others.

Now I’m not here to preach that Emiratis are the best employees to ever walk the planet, nor am I saying that there aren’t Emiratis out there who take advantage of the system. What I’m trying to say is like every society around the world there there are growing pockets of special talent trying to make a difference, and they should be recognized as such.

In the face of current challenges with UAE’s youth unemployment, and increasing high school drop out rates, Emiratisation is not going anywhere anytime soon, and I’m happy about that. However like everything in the world the UAE’s National employment initiative needs to innovate to keep up with a local and global economy that’s changing every day. Policies should be more in line with development rather than simple employment, especially as Emiratis start to shift from wanting jobs that provide income to careers that provide meaning to their lives and impact to their country.