Ernst & Young: nurturing graduate talent
Nationalisation has been a major element of Ernst & Young’s MENA diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy, and the company has exceeded mandated national targets in Manama, Kuwait, Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Khobar. Zaid H Al-Hadhrami, MENA D&I leader, believes that attracting, developing and retaining national talent should be especially high on the agenda for organisations that are truly committed to sustaining long-term operations in the region.
He says: “Nationals bring unique skills and local perspectives to an organisation. They are highly motivated and have strong relationships and firm ties within their communities. At Ernst & Young, we provide our services to several government entities and local and regional family-owned businesses. The insights, background and perspectives that our local employees bring have proved immensely valuable to our performance and operations.”
The company has introduced a number of programmes relating to developing national talent, including a three-month summer internship programme for national students in their final year of university, which introduces students to working life at EY.
The ‘whole of life relationship’ proposition is a comprehensive plan that begins with attracting national talent at graduate level. Once employed, individuals go through a structured graduate development programme (GDP) designed to provide key skills required for each of the company’s service lines as well as sector competencies. The programme also includes ensuring the graduates select the most appropriate professional qualification for them. Ernst & Young provides financial support and paid study leave days too. And even if employees opt to leave, the company aims to stay connected: “We want every ex-employee to become an ambassador for Ernst & Young or even valued clients,” comments Al-Hadhrami.
As a global organisation, Ernst & Young stresses the importance of truly understanding and embracing local culture. “Our flexible and inclusive corporate culture supports the development and integration of nationals into the workforce, allowing employees to achieve their full potential by meeting their personal and professional goals. To achieve this, we encourage our people to think differently about their working lives, attitudes and actions, especially during busy seasons when flexibility is vital,” he reveals.
For Al-Hadhrami, nationalisation is a strategic opportunity for businesses to help train and develop a young population, many of whom are entering the workforce for the first time. “Organisations can leverage this opportunity by designing and implementing development programmes to enhance the capabilities of young nationals, who will add value to their employer and the wider economy. Additionally, this is an excellent platform for HR professionals to link their nationalisation efforts with the organisation’s business strategy to maximise results.
“Nonetheless, it is recognised that nationalisation has its own set of challenges. We have found that actively participating in a number of regional HR summits – including specific nationalisation summits – can be valuable. Equally, sharing experiences and best practices within the organisation will help save time, effort and resources,” he comments.
Al-Hadhrami believes that attracting and retaining national talent should be a well-planned strategy with the aim of delivering realistic career opportunities to the right candidates, rather than a reaction to government regulations. “We have found that sharing our diversity and flexibility approaches, as well as career opportunities, with students on campus further strengthens our efforts in attracting optimum talent within the region,” he concludes.