The U.A.E. has long relied on a vast and varied blue-collar workforce. Tariq Chauhan, CEO of facilities management company, EFS Facilities Services Group (EFS), is one of many leaders implementing initiatives to empower and reward the workers that make business possible.
Since it was established 50 years ago, the U.A.E. has become a hub for blue-collar workers from around the world. They have helped to build the country from the ground up, and today they continue to provide the labor force, technical skills, and maintenance services that keep the U.A.E. growing and thriving. According to digital learning and smart services platform, Smart Labour, there were 2.2 million blue-collar workers in the U.A.E. in 2018, forming 52% of the workforce.
Some organizations are making efforts to recognise the role that this workforce has played in the growth of the nation. On the first day of its October launch, Expo 2020 Dubai unveiled its “Workers’ Monument,” which paid tribute to the more than 200,000 workers responsible for building the six-month world fair, by carving their names
on a stone structure colonnade found at Jubilee Park.
In September 2021, integrated facilities management company, EFS Facilities Services Group (EFS), was recognized by Expo 2020 Dubai for its corporate policy in driving continual improvement for its workers’ welfare. With a global workforce of 18,000, EFS has been delivering services such as technical operations and maintenance, facilities services, and project management support across the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Turkey since 2009. Thanks to Expo 2020 Dubai and projects in Abu Dhabi, EFS increased its workforce in Dubai to 6,500, up from 4,000 in 2020. As of November 2021, its client contract backlog was valued at $1.3 billion. According to Tariq Chauhan, CEO of EFS, it was awarded more than $156 million in new contracts in the first nine months of 2021.
Since he took helm in 2010, Chauhan has put several initiatives in place to help empower workers. The company claims to spend over $136,000 on prizes, awards, and raffles for its blue-collared staff, who account for two-thirds of the workforce. “In a business like facilities management, where the margins are single digit, to put 2% to 3% of your top line costs into employee benefits and wellbeing is not an easy thing for many companies to follow,” says Chauhan.
“I’m a believer that organizational performance is mostly dependent on employee satisfaction levels,” he adds. “Employee satisfaction in the new evolving workplace requires multiple initiatives. Mental health is critical. Health is critical.”
But employee satisfaction is not just about financial rewards. With a large number of people in the company coming from different countries and backgrounds with low levels of access to education, in November 2021, EFS entered into a partnership with the National Skill Development Corporation in India to help improve technical skills and provide opportunities for secondary level advancement. Candidates will study in training institutes in India before being employed in the U.A.E. Chauhan now says they are looking at expanding the program into Egypt and Jordan.
Other initiatives from EFS include establishing an English language program in 2015 and a financial planning program at the start of 2016. In May 2021, EFS launched micro-learning platform Talim in collaboration with MobieTrain. With this, it was able to deliver training to more people with no additional logistics costs for delivery.
Gambar Sing Gurung, Office Boy at EFS, took part in the company’s financial planning program in November 2019 and reapplied this year. “This program was a huge support for me and helped me build my house in Nepal,” he says. “I was able to start the building of my house only because of the proper financial planning skills I received from the program.” Junita Rai, Housekeeping Team Leader, took part in the English language program in April 2021. “Personally, I feel confident,” she says. “The program has enhanced my communication at work and helped me connect better with my managers, my clients, and my customers. I feel totally connected to the world.”
In February 2021, EFS held a virtual carnival, which was attended by over 4,000 of its workforce, and gave Nsubuga Jeremiah Kato, Assistant Administrator in the Centre of Cleaning Excellence, a Compassionate Initiative Award. The award rewards people who undertake CSR initiatives in the community or in their countries back home. “The campaign changes one’s mindset like it did to me, and many of my friends are participating in the 2022 carnival because of me,” says Kato. “These campaigns seem small, but they have a big impact on the lives of the employees.”
EFS is not the only company in the Middle East to introduce initiatives to protect and help blue-collar employees. In May 2021, Etisalat gifted 15 construction workers $6,800 each to put towards their children’s higher education. And in September 2021, business solutions provider Transguard Group announced that more than 35,000 of its employees had received cross-platform training and upskilling opportunities since it launched its Centre of Excellence in 2017.
While the pandemic temporarily impacted the global economy, for those in the service and labor industries, opportunities remain high. According to Forbes, at least 1,000 companies in the U.A.E. have signed up to job site Skillbee since 2018, which connects skill-verified blue collar workers to employers. In September 2021, Amazon announced the creation of 1,500 direct and indirect jobs in the U.A.E. by expanding its delivery area and storage facilities.
“Ultimately what you can do for these workers in the long run is to give them a future, and current and future opportunities for growth,” says Chauhan. “It’s about changing peoples’ lives. That’s what matters.”
Source: Forbes Middle East