Since we accuse the private sector of not building a succession ladder for Omani junior managers to climb to senior ranks, we must ask questions about the ambitions that young nationals working in corporate offices nurture.
Many Omanis complain that expatriates in senior management positions block their chances of a smooth transition to the top. However, they need to look deep within and ask themselves whether they are hungry enough to occupy the important positions.
A promotion is not their birthright or an obligation. They need to earn the right to be considered for the top offices. The private sector does not work the way civil service does. In government ministries, years of experience and perhaps an obsolete degree would earn you the position of a director general. There is no global competition in skills or talents in civil jobs.
The private sector attracts and accepts exceptional quality human resources from different countries and has now become very competitive. The message is clear. Omanis who want to be considered for the position of a CEO need more than experience and good qualifications.
The main mandate of the private sector is not to put up a banner to say 'Our CEO is an Omani' and neither would such a proclamation earn a company the right to win contracts.
It is unfortunate that few Omanis have international experience to compete with their expatriate counterparts but they can compensate by improving their professional attitude. They need to work on their professional ethics.
Omanis who fail to break the senior level barrier blame expatriate company chiefs for not creating enough jobs for nationals. They forget that middle rank managers are the catalysts for job creation and their drive and good decisions lead to business expansion that would generate employment.
According to a study in Singapore, the success of any company relies heavily on the competitiveness of its managers at the middle level. In that tiny Asian state, middle managers put in more hours in the office than anyone. They are the engines that keep the wheels of their companies rolling forward. In Oman, our middle-level managers spend most of their time trying to wrangle opportunities they don't get instead of working extra time for business creativity that will win them recognition for the top job.
They say an expatriate would resist any attempt for a smooth transition to take over his job. Of course, he would, and you cannot blame him for that. A man who has spent 20 years sweating for over 12 hours a day in his office would not simply relinquish his position to an Omani who thinks his nationality is enough to earn him the right to takeover. That expatriate would receive the backup of the boardroom, too.
At the end of the year, whether it is right or wrong, profitability of the company plays a major rule on who gets the CEO's position. That is the difference between the public and the private sector. In the government, the Ministry of Finance bails out bad performance from state funds because profitability is not an issue. The private companies need good performance to stay in the green. Nobody would bail them out and this is the reason why performance, not nationality, is the driving factor. Singapore, which has almost the same national to expatriate ratio as Oman, has learned that Singaporeans who work closely with expatriates climb up the ladder of authority more rapidly than those who do not.
Singapore also finds it easy to nationalise jobs in the lower rungs of the employment ladder but face difficulties at the top, like we do here in Oman. The government would provide all the incentives but would not force any company to offload its top talent to hurt their performance.
It is up to Omanis and how badly they want the top jobs. They must work their way up and most importantly, learn from expatriates and not ridicule them. The attitude that "it's my country and I should get priority" is not good enough and it would not take them anywhere. Omanis must have a burning ambition. For that matter, ambition is not the only thing, they need to burn but the midnight oil as well.
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