EGA survey reveals the importance of leadership for UAE organisations looking to increase innovation

  • 74% of UAE workers feel as though they have a personal responsibility to innovate as part of their job
  • 59% of UAE workers said they had an innovative idea in the past year but were unsure of how to submit it or whom to tell

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 leadership teams within the country’s organisations hold the key to unlocking more innovation from their workforce.

The good news for organisations across the UAE is that employees feel as though they have a personal responsibility to support their employers by coming up with innovative new ways of working. Nearly three quarters (74%) agreed that this was something that should simply be expected of them at their places of work.

Key to organisations wishing to unlock innovation is having clear and engaging schemes for gathering ideas from around the business, according to the survey.

Despite employees’ strong commitment to innovation, many reported that they did not feel empowered to innovate. More than half of all respondents (59%) said they had an innovative idea in the past year, but were unsure of how to submit or whom to tell. Additionally, 37% believed senior management would not value one of their ideas even if it was put into practice, and another 40% reported that their organisations do not give them the freedom to suggest new ideas. These findings reveal that many members of staff want to contribute to their companies, but do not feel as though they work in an environment which encourages their participation.

If senior leadership succeeded in creating a more welcoming environment, employees would be motivated to contribute, they said. The vast majority of workers, some 89 per cent, felt they would be more motivated to innovate at work if they knew they would be personally recognised by their CEOs and thanked for their contribution. This is particularly true of the youngest members of the workforce, people between 18-24 years old, who said they would be most motivated (90 per cent) by this gesture.

Abdulla Kalban, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at EGA, said: “We have focused on creating an innovation culture at EGA as we believe it is a foundation upon which any successful organisation is built. Essential to this is having an engaged and enthused workforce. What we have seen in this research is that there is a clear onus on leadership teams to help coax this innovation out of their staff.

“Harnessing the full potential of the human capital available to us, I am calling on all business leaders to challenge themselves to help foster an environment of innovation within their own organisation.”

While financial benefits are seen as being the most effective way of rewarding staff according to 73 per cent of respondents, the same percentage of staff believe those rewards should be shared equally among all employees across the organisation.

That sense of teamwork is also a powerful motivator. Over half of respondents (64%) said they would be more motivated to submit innovative ideas if they knew they would be recognised in front of their peers.

EGA first launched its own employee suggestion scheme in 1981 to help capture creative thinking that could benefit the organisation.

Last year alone some 34,000 ideas were submitted by employees, with 42,000 ideas implemented including ideas from previous years. That means on average, each EGA employee suggested almost eight ideas last year.

Total savings for EGA from improvements suggested by employees was AED36 million. Savings from 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 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 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.