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2021 and beyond. Learning, coaching and culture focus in the Middle East.

by Ahmad Alafaliq

Lets begin with the obvious trends, because of coronavirus and lockdowns, many predicted that most organizations will move towards online training interventions over face-to-face.

This prediction did not play out in the middle east as much as expected. Some clients shifted some of their learning and development initiatives to online but the far majority still prefer face to face.

The reason for this is that most companies consider training and development as a reward for their staff, who do not count learning online as 'luxurious enough' or 'real' training.  So many HR departments chose to wait until the pandemic eases out to go back to their usual practice. By that they can keep their employees happy and make them feel appreciated.

The opposite impact happened with executive coaching.  For many years, coaches tried to convince their clients to have virtual coaching sessions and that was resisted. 

With most meetings being done virtually, coaching has crossed the chasm and now it has become the norm in the middle east to do coaching  calls online.

This means clients in the middle east will have a wider variety  of coaches to select from that are not confined to physical space.  

With regards to corporate culture, the pandemic has created a huge focus and awareness on the importance of culture which was not mainstreamed strongly in the middle east before. For the last 20 years, companies in the middle east competed in creating attractive work environments by focusing on the physical aspects like creating game rooms, or printing the values on the walls. 

During the pandemic, with employees working from home, there has been a shift on the psychological aspects of corporate  culture such as psychological safety, and having common purpose. 

So, there is a need emerging and expanding into 2021-2025 for companies to look into how to create unique culture especially in an age where remote work is starting to be more accepted. This need is further accentuated in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries with the enormous number of new organizations and projects being established with huge budgets and mandates, who are all attracting talent from the same pool. The talents are looking beyond the financial rewards. They are looking into corporate culture as a major factor in the decision making process. Corporate culture is recognized now as a major factor that should support organizations strategy and future development.

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