United Arab Emirates: A study commissioned by Emirates Global Aluminium, the largest industrial company in the United Arab Emirates outside oil and gas, has shown that employees believe that companies in the UAE are becoming more innovative, but many firms are failing to unlock the innovation potential of the entire workforce.
Some 94 per cent of people working in the UAE believe that the country is more innovative than it was five years ago, and a similar number believe that innovation at companies contributes to national competitiveness.
Nearly 3 in 4 managers and 2 in 3 junior staff describe the companies they work for as innovative. But 60 per cent of managers believe that innovation is a responsibility only of senior executives. Half of junior staff agree.
This is despite around half the UAE workforce, according to the survey, believing that innovation is ‘finding better ways to do anything’, and not just revolutionary inventions.
Abdulla Kalban, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at EGA, said: “Systematically engaging everyone in our workforce in continuous improvement has been a foundation of EGA’s global competitiveness for almost four decades. Without hundreds of thousands of suggestions from our employees, we could not have built EGA into one of the world’s biggest ‘premium aluminium’ producers and a national industrial champion.
“‘UAE Vision 2021’ calls for the creation of a knowledge-based, highly-productive and competitive economy, harnessing the full potential of our National human capital We call on all UAE companies to unlock the innovation potential of all their employees. That way, millions of minds will drive the UAE’s global competitiveness and the creation of a knowledge-based economy.”
Just 10 per cent of managers in the UAE and 18 per cent of junior staff feel that their companies are not interested in innovation. An additional 1 in 5 believe their companies lack resources to innovate.
EGA’s continuous improvement system is based on the belief that the people closest to a work process can identify what improvements are required and devise the best solution.
EGA launched an employee suggestion scheme in 1981.Since 1999, it has generated 240,000 actionable suggestions that have delivered audited savings of over AED 290 million. Savings from these suggestions are shared with the employees who make them.
EGA also recognises the best individual suggestions each month and at an annual company-wide event. The best suggestions are reviewed by a senior judging panel led by EGA’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.
Larger ideas, with the potential to generate bigger improvements, are analysed and implemented by focused teams at EGA under a scheme the company calls Tamayaz. Since October of 2016, over 140 of these projects have already generated savings of AED 4.4 million. Savings from these projects are also shared with the teams that work on them.
EGA has also focused on developing its own technology for over 25 years. The company’s latest home-grown technology is among the most efficient and competitive in the global aluminium industry.
EGA has used its own technology for every smelter expansion since the 1990s, including the construction of Al Taweelah in Abu Dhabi, which was the world’s largest single-site smelter when it was completed.
In 2016, EGA became the first UAE industrial company to license its own large-scale industrial technology internationally.
EGA’s survey was conducted by the global polling company YouGov.