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Three Things To Remember When Managing Your Employees As A SME Owner In The UAE Here are the top three things I wish someone had told me about managing my employees as a SME owner in the UAE.

By Tarig El-Sheikh

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Having started a couple of companies over the last few years –some of which failed spectacularly, one "making it," and another yet to be determined- it's safe to sat that I've learnt (and continue to learn) quite a lot in my time as an entrepreneur. I find that the lessons learnt along the way have been invaluable from one venture to the next, but one lesson in particular has been instrumental in the success of each venture- and that is effectively managing your most important company asset: your human capital.

No doubt, SMEs and startups can rarely compete with established corporations when it comes to offering the best remuneration package and benefits. Any startup entrepreneur or SME owner will highlight the challenges of retaining and acquiring new talent as being a major obstacle. After experiencing this first-hand, I decided to put pen to paper and create a software solution called Beneple, which helps reduce the friction and alleviates all human resources frustrations with a click of a button. Beneple (a blend of the words benefits and people) is a free, online one-stop-shop human resources platform tailored to the needs of SMEs in Middle Eastern market, and we recently completed a merger of Beneple with Finsbury Associates, a Dubai-based financial services company.

Given my experience building Beneple, and given all of the lessons I've learnt developing one venture after another, I'd like to share some of the key points about managing human capital with my peers in the entrepreneurial ecosystem- here are the top three things I wish someone had told me about managing my employees as a SME owner in the UAE:

1. Implement an efficient recruitment process

When it comes to hiring employees for a small business, mistakes are too common. Poor job descriptions, fast-tracked hiring processes and not having a structured onboarding process: all of these are detrimental to the business. The solution is quite simple: give the process time. Create a consistent interview process, and be accurate in job descriptions. It's not all about just being a fit for the organization culture, or simply meeting all of the job skill requirements, it's more of a combination of both aspects. SMEs in particular need to spend sufficient time with regards to the onboarding process, so as to ensure that the process is done in a cost-effective and productive manner. The HR department needs to focus on a proactive, long-term talent acquisition, rather then speeding up the hiring process and filling up their days with a never-ending abyss of administrative duties.

2. Employee training is vital to your long-term organizational success

It's a simple but tried and tested philosophy: investing in your employees means investing in your business. We see it time and again- HR managers are bombarded with paperwork, leaving no time for a successful onboarding process or the implementation of a development program. SMEs need to ensure that new hires are provided with the right tools and current employees need to grow. This needs to be a core focus of the human resource strategy.

3. Keep abreast of legislative changes

Like every other country, the UAE has labor legislations that govern organizations working here. These include basic HR functions like updating employee contracts if there is a change to the law, providing the employee with a contract in a language they understand, etc.- these are all challenges that HR departments, business owners and office managers in the UAE face on a daily basis. Being a business owner myself, I know the importance of being compliant and informed at all stages of the HR process.

2016 saw the UAE enforcing three new labor decrees. To explain the rationale behind the decrees, it must be remembered here that any individual who enters the UAE for employment needs a job to stay in the country. The new rules make it clear that the individual also has the legal right to look for alternative employment, should he or she wish to. Another labor legislation implemented last year was with regard to the mandatory health insurance that companies have to provide for their employees. One of Beneple's core value-adds is a technology that allows companies to access and seamlessly manage health insurance schema for their employees, thereby saving their clients' time and money.

The current insurance premium market in the UAE is estimated at US$2.7 billion, and with the Dubai Health Insurance Law currently being rolled out, the health insurance sector is expected to grow even further. Many SMEs are not fully prepared to implement new health insurance mandates from the UAE government affecting the private sector. Moreover, with average health insurance premiums in the UAE increasing by approximately 12% last year (and arguably, it's been painted as the second largest cost after payroll costs), most employers in the UAE face skyrocketing health insurance costs that are soon to be mandatory for their workforce.

It's instrumental for the HR departments to ensure they stay ahead of any changes, and most of all, ensure that they remain compliant with the laws of the country. In the UAE in particular, being compliant is the difference between having a fully operational business, and having your company doors being forced shut, or meeting hefty fines due to not meeting a specific labor requirement.

My experience has made me understand that HR is mandatory for any business- no matter how small or large. It was a simple learning experience that HR is not just yet another administration process, but instead, it needs to be seen as a strategic tool for your organization, in the larger scale of things.
Tarig El-Sheikh

Co-founder, Beneple

Tarig El-Sheikh is an experienced entrepreneur and finance professional with a 15-year track record across emerging markets in building global businesses, technology startups and finance. Tarig is the co-founder of Beneple (formerly known as Aythan DMCC), an HR and health management platform that was successfully acquired in August 2015 after only eight months of operations. Before that, he co-founded a global e-commerce custom menswear company, Knot Standard, specializing in online and retail sales of custom clothing using proprietary online measurement technology. Tarig also founded the MENA based advisory group, Istashir in 2011 (exited March 2013), serving as an advisor to numerous leading MENA private equity firms and family offices. He sits on the boards of various companies that he has helped successfully launch.

Tarig’s on-the-ground and direct experience in developing business plans, budget, sales and marketing, corporate development strategy, managing corporate & board responsibilities, has successfully lead to numerous million dollar growth capital funding rounds from prominent investors such as Fadi Ghandour (founder of Aramex) and Arif Naqvi (founded Abraaj Capital). He holds MBioch in Molecular Biochemistry from Oxford University, and also graduated top of his class with a Distinction MSc in Finance from the prestigious Cass Business School, London.

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