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New Assessment frontiers in a pioneering region

Change is exciting and moving on to new pastures is often something we find stimulating but at the same time challenging. Having worked as an occupational psychologist in the Middle East for the last four years, I am now extremely fortunate to be opening a new Sova office in Dubai. It is a region which is stimulating and challenging in equal measure: however, there has never been a better time to be do business there. I wanted to share some thoughts on why the Middle East is a great place to do business and why it is so interesting for practising as an assessment specialist.

The Middle East has sometimes been known for being volatile and uncertain and with several countries in the region heavily dependent on revenue from oil and gas exports, the last several years have negatively impacted businesses and the wider economies. However, the economic outlook is positive and there are many reasons to be optimistic, with GDP growth and oil prices having recovered from their previous lows. The ambitious economic development of the Middle East also includes numerous infrastructure and societal developments, which reflect this optimism. Dubai, the jewel in the crown of the United Arab Emirates, represents many facets of a developing, fast moving and forward thinking region – a strategic location geographically acting as a central hub, with most cities in the world easily accessible from the world’s busiest airport; a stable currency pegged to the Dollar; one of the safest cities in the world; world-class infrastructure and innovation; first class leisure and tourism; the presence of multi-national organisations; a burgeoning knowledge economy; the ease of doing business and setting up new entities with 100% foreign ownership; and perhaps most importantly an open and tolerant system of government. With around 85% of the population comprised of expatriates, Dubai is truly multi-cultural and caters for all beliefs, nationalities and cultures – and this is reflected in the way of doing business.

The Middle East offers an exciting and dynamic market within which to do business, here are some of the reasons why:

Diversity of need: The diversity of organisations operating in the region creates challenges. From large multi-nationals to governmental organisations, financial services to leisure, construction and consulting to large oil and gas companies, all with different levels of talent assessment maturity. There is also the plethora of small to medium-sized enterprises and locally owned and backed companies who use assessment to help them select the best talent. If ever there was a need to be agile, personalised and digital, such diversity of need creates it – time and again I’ve seen how one size won’t fit all, and increasingly organisations demand a tailored solution to match their specific needs.

Diversity of talent: Aligned to diversity of need, the actual talent pool in Dubai is wide-ranging and complex. Developing psychometric assessments is a specialised and technical domain, but when you mix in the complexity of multiple nationalities, education and experience, it is imperative that you have customised comparison groups, assessments translated into multiple languages and tests of suitable difficulty to fairly assess multi-national candidates. A one-size-fits-all UK or US comparison group is unlikely to fit the bill, and organisations, particularly in the public sector or those who are running Nationalization hiring initiatives, require assessments with a localised and bespoke normative groups, available in Arabic and a range of other languages.

Clients want more – In many ways, clients in the Middle East expect and demand the best – original blueprints for the Burj Khalifa (tallest tower) and the Palm Jumeriah (largest man-made island) were famously rejected, mainly because they were not ambitious enough to be world-beating.

Notwithstanding the historical reasons for these expectations (perhaps just the fact that the standard of living and quality of life is very high in the region), clients expect the very best solutions, which have to be both aesthetically pleasing as well as scientifically robust and innovative.

Sova design and deliver assessments which are engaging, leading-edge and quick to complete and exceed international standards of reliability and validity. Gone are the days where a lengthy, jargon filled report with indecipherable scales and descriptions is acceptable – our clients demand more.

Speed of delivery – Life in the region is fast-paced. You only need to travel around Dubai to see this in action, from the fast-moving highways, to the non-stop building work and pace of people in businesses, shops and restaurants.

Everyone is there with a purpose, a plan and a finite amount of time – so you must deliver quickly. And this is no different in the world of psychometric assessment. Candidates don’t have time to spend three hours completing multiple, repetitive assessments; and clients naturally expect a fast and personalised solution, customized to their framework. This speed of development is one of the reasons the region is so successful – you have only to look at pictures of Dubai 10 years ago to see this visually.

Visionary thinking – The region is truly forward-thinking and has long recognised the importance of visionary leadership. Leaders are coached in visionary and strategic thinking techniques, equipping them with the foresight to embrace the future and take the necessary action to get them there. Organisations in the region are thriving in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, embedding robotics and artificial intelligence into their business and ways of working. Applying outdated, traditional approaches to identifying and assessing talent is no longer an option. A new more forward-thinking approach is required, which combines scientific expertise and the latest digital technology to deliver fast, effective and personalised solutions.

Leadership Challenges – given the nuances of doing business in the region, created by different cultures, levels of experience and the volatile, complex and uncertain times we live in, this creates a unique challenge for how we assess, select and develop the leaders of the future. The traditional Western theories of leadership and management no longer fit – in a complex region that demands all of the above, it is transformational and agile leadership that determines success. Therefore, psychometric assessment has a new role to play in assessing the new traits and intelligence required to thrive.

Having worked with and trained organisations to use the tools of traditional psychometric test publishers in the region for the last four years, I am optimistic – Sova is perfectly placed to meet the diversity of needs, talent, quality, speed of delivery, complexity and innovation in a region that places such great emphasis on these qualities. Our assessments are faster to complete, yet more precise and valid and available on a single digital platform. So on to pastures new, with more optimism than apprehension.

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