In today’s fast-changing and competitive business environment, it is increasing challenging to remain competitive and to attract and retain the best talent.

The most successful companies display the same underlying principles and good practices.

The MEED Awards recognise and celebrate the best companies in the GCC. As part of its exclusive series of reports to marking the launch of the MEED Awards 2019, MEED looks at 10 behaviours of successful companies.

A clear vision from top to bottom

Few people would embark on a journey without knowing where they were going, how they were going to get there, or why they were travelling. When a company sets out its mission statement, it provides a framework to guide and motivate its employees, customers and owners. A common goal also provokes an emotional buy-in for both staff and clients.

A perfect example of how effective this approach can be, is provided by Ecocoast. With its clear aim of “pioneering solutions for sustainable coastal and marine developments”, the UAE-based contractor was the winner of two awards at the MEED Awards 2018. The judges described its mission and vision as “powerful and impactful, not only to the region but the world”.

Invest in staff

Investment in staff training and wellness fosters a happy, motivated workforce, reduces staff turnover and attracts better employees. A company that shows that it cares about the wellbeing and development of its staff, is likely to have a workforce that prepared to go that extra mile to help the company succeed. Staff training enables a company to keep up with latest developments, while investment in the mental and physical employee wellbeing will improve performance and efficiency.

When Siemens set a world record by developing 14.4GW as part of Egypt’s emergency power capacity expansion programme in only 27.5 months, the company not only was able to maintain an excellent health and safety record, but also to train 600 Egyptian engineers to operate and maintain the plants.

Create an environment for success

By focusing on workers’ wellbeing when designing a workspace, a company can increase staff engagement and improve productivity with a more creative and collaborative workforce.

The creation of a successful workspace won Canon Middle East the Daman Health Award and Wellness Award 2018 for workplace. Its new Dubai office was designed with great attention to detail, from layout and technology to lighting and materials. Since moving to its new office the company reports a more positive and productive atmosphere throughout the office.

Keep an open mind to new ideas

A company that fails to keep up with changing technology is likely to find itself at severe disadvantage. The most successful companies invest heavily in research and development, frequently forming collaborations with academia and tech startups. These are not necessarily with an eye to immediate financial gain, but to maintain a stake in the future.

US tech giant Google is a leading exponent of this in the region with its development of AstroLabs, the first tech centre in the region providing facilities for startups to work in a collaborative community. It is not alone. Major companies including Microsoft and Autodesk provide assistance to new businesses and academics, enabling them to stay close to the innovations and close to the talent.

Teamwork and collaboration

A 2017 joint study by the US Institute for Corporate Productivity and Babson College in Massachusetts found that companies that promoted collaborative working were five times as likely to be high performing.

An earlier Stanford study found that even the perception of working collectively on a task can improve performance. The study showed that collaborating participants committed 64 per cent more time to achieving a task, had higher engagement levels, less fatigue and a higher success rate. These improvements continued even after the collaborative activities had ended.

Celebrate achievement

Whether it is a promotion, a pay rise, or a shout out at a team meeting, recognising and rewarding staff for their achievements is extremely valuable. Companies that fail to do so are likely to find themselves facing low levels of motivation and productivity. To enable employees to understand what success looks like, employers should provide a clear framework of performance expectations and regular reviews to enable improvement.

GCC Consultant of the Year at the MEED Awards 2018, UAE-based Black & White Engineering, exemplifies a culture of recognising staff achievement. The MEED Awards judges said: “Fantastic recent growth shows the future is very bright for Black & White, and the fact all employees are rewarded and feel part of the growth story is testament to the culture within the organisation.”

Take calculated risks

All business involves a certain amount of risk. A leap into the unknown however is not recommended. Successful companies plan, calculate and evaluate before they embark on a new venture, balancing innovation with everyday business. Not everyone has the luck of the founder of US courier’s FedEx founder, Fred Smith, who reportedly took $5,000 to Las Vegas to raise enough money to cover the company’s fuel bill. He brought home $27,000 and saved the business.

Learn to fail

It is said that if you are not failing then you are not really trying. Creativity and risk-taking are both key drivers to business success, but with these come inevitable failures. Striving to embrace setbacks and use them as a learning experience, both on an individual level and at corporate level, is vital to a healthy business.

But learning from failure is not as straightforward as it may seem. Without strategies in place to detect and analyse faults accurately, it is easy to resort to a ‘blame culture’ which, as well as stifling creativity, makes it hard to examine the situation properly in order to improve.

Transparency and communication

Transparency and effective communication is essential to developing trust with company employees, clients and partners. Open, honest and consistent communication is especially important with an international workforce.

Indicators of a transparent company include the communication of both bad and good news, inviting comments and suggestions, information being given as soon as it is available to prevent misunderstanding and gossip, and key documents such as financial reports, calendars and even remuneration schemes made available to all staff.

Develop social capital

The importance of reputation is well understood in this region. On a personal level, it is common practice to spend time developing and maintaining social relationships. At a corporate level, it is also important to reach out to the community and to promote good social attitudes and behaviours among employees.

USA’s Pentagon Freight Services’ commitment to giving paid time off to every employee wishing to volunteer promotes social responsibility at a personal level. On a larger scale, Saudi-based Samba Financial Group impressed judges at the MEED Awards 2018 by giving back to communities with its ambitious low-income housing programme.