First Middle East workplace culture consultancy launches in UAE

L to R: Lucy d'Abo, CEO; John Hague, Director of People & Transformation; Camilla d'Abo, non-executive director. (Supplied)
L to R: Lucy d'Abo, CEO; John Hague, Director of People & Transformation; Camilla d'Abo, non-executive director. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 November 2021

First Middle East workplace culture consultancy launches in UAE

L to R: Lucy d'Abo, CEO; John Hague, Director of People & Transformation; Camilla d'Abo, non-executive director. (Supplied)
  • New outlet from Lucy and Camilla d’Abo will help businesses shift from talking about workplace culture to acting on it

DUBAI: Together, the first consultancy of its kind dedicated to workplace culture, has launched in the Middle East, with an office in Dubai, UAE. 

Founded by local entrepreneurs Lucy and Camilla d’Abo, who set up the independent communications agency DABO & CO, which was later acquired by Edelman, the new venture aims to inspire brands to focus on workplace culture, bringing together leaders and employees to achieve an efficient workforce. 

Its services include strategic planning, culture transformation, internal communications, values and behaviors, people development, and managing change for future purposes.

Lucy d’Abo, who has been providing professional consulting services to clients and businesses across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe since 1998, will head the company as CEO.

John Hague, an expert in learning, development, and employee engagement joins as director of people and transformation. Hague brings with him over 15 years of experience across the UAE and Britain, running multi-faceted programs at brands such as The Entertainer, Walmart, Waitrose, and John Lewis Partnership.

The team is supported by non-executive directors Camilla d’Abo, who most recently held the position of managing director for Dubai at APCO Worldwide, and Chris Shaw, who joins after a nine-year tenure at The Entertainer.

The global workplace and its culture have been transformed, with many people working from home during the pandemic. As restrictions started to ease, some organizations encouraged employees to return to the office, while others adopted a hybrid work model. At a time when the future of work remains unpredictable, culture is more important than ever.

A Deloitte survey identified culture as one of six themes that the C-suite needs to give attention to, with 69 percent of leaders saying they believe that company culture will have a critically important impact on their organization’s ability to realize its mission and vision.

Culture is as important to employees as it is to leaders. A study by Workhuman, a software company for employee management and reward systems, found that job seekers stated wanting a better culture among their top five reasons for looking.

Arab News spoke to Lucy d’Abo to glean more on the needs and challenges of the market and how together aims to fill the gaps.

What do you think is the demand for this kind of consultancy in the region?

Based on our experience in this sector, we have seen a significant increase in requests for culture consultancy over the past few years.

In the last 12 months, we have been piloting our concept and consulting with clients that have thousands of global employees to test our theories. The successful feedback and growing number of inquiries have led us to establish a regional dedicated workplace consultancy.

The need is apparent, but currently, there are limited resources dedicated to helping businesses address this in the Middle East. To date, there has been talk about the topic of workplace culture, but little action. Now with the launch of together, there is a consultancy that provides the required services to support businesses shift from talking about workplace culture to acting on it.

As the Middle East continues to thrive and markets like Saudi Arabia and the UAE take pioneering steps forward, we believe there is an opportunity for the region to be a leader in adopting best practices.

What are the challenges you’re expecting?

Although recent studies prove that investing in culture makes business sense, many Middle East organizations are struggling to change their thinking.

Global statistics point to a dramatic shift in the workplace ecosystem: Forbes magazine ranks culture among its top three most important Future of Work 2021 trends. In tandem, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index 2021, over 40 percent of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year.

The question is how can companies in the Middle East drive a successful organization in the new era of work? The key challenges relating to workplace culture facing CEOs and leaders include the following:

Perception: Historically the perception has been that workplace culture is fluffy and soft and does not lead to business results. However, this is no longer the case. Recent statistics from Forbes state that companies with strong cultures saw a four-times increase in revenue growth.

Hybrid working: Companies that did not have a strong culture were unable to maintain a sense of togetherness when COVID-19 forced people apart. This is a critical time for businesses to reconsider their approach and protect themselves for the future.

Investment: One of the biggest challenges has been that traditionally many businesses are hesitant to dedicate investment into workplace culture over the long-term as there has been little focus on measuring results. We advocate measurement and use data to not only evaluate existing culture but also use our global and proprietary tools to drive strategic roadmaps for future Return On Investment.

What impact did the pandemic have on workplace culture with many companies switching to hybrid work-from-home/office models?

Globally, we are witnessing one of the biggest transformations in workplace culture since the industrial revolution. For many, COVID-19 has been a life event that has precipitated self-reflection about job satisfaction.

Widespread self-reflection coupled with an increased ability to work from anywhere has led to the most significant challenge to workplace culture in decades.

This global shift, fast-tracked by COVID-19, has put workplace culture at the top of the agenda because of three key factors:

The first is COVID-19. Organizations with strong and effective cultures demonstrated resilience, innovation, and loyalty in the face of adversity, and those without it have floundered and continue to be challenged.

Then there is the global talent war. Global trends are pointing to the phenomenon of the “Great Resignation” (a term referring to the widespread trend of people leaving their jobs during the pandemic). This is putting significant pressure on employers who are now facing productivity and engagement issues.  With the Middle East, and especially Saudi Arabia, wanting to attract the best global talent to live and work in its markets, employees are no longer willing to accept roles that do not adopt future thinking in terms of hybrid working and positive workplace culture.

The final factor is purpose. Following 18 months of reflection and assessing their personal values and alignment with the organization they work in, employees around the world are re-thinking what they want from their work and searching for companies with a strong culture and values that align with their own.

What are the key elements of a healthy workplace culture that any company in any sector should have?

When properly aligned with personal values, drives, and needs, culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared goal and drive an organization’s capacity to deliver. Engaged employees inspire performance and people performance drives business performance.

We believe that workplace culture is a business superpower and with it businesses can enjoy an engaged, effective, and aligned workforce that achieves consistent business success.

A superpower culture is created with the perfect mix of ingredients that include the following:

  • A progressive leadership that is open to change and investing in people 
  • A high-performing team meeting and exceeding goals and delivering outstanding results
  • An aligned and engaged workforce that is living the company’s purpose
  • A clear strategy with articulated values and behaviors,
  • Care for people, integrity, ethics, and cultural sensitivity
  • Clear communication, active listening, and rewarding recognition across all levels 
  • Adopting global strategies, best practices, and principles.

Tell us about the culture at your new venture, together.

Relationships are at the core of together. We see ourselves as a partner and catalyst for change through culture.

We exist for both the progressive leader and the hardworking everyman because we know one doesn’t work without the other. We keep people at the heart of what we do. We inspire transformational change and harness the power of people to put it into practice.

We apply our insights and intuition to support leaders and teams, define and localize their purpose, vision, values, culture, and drive.

We believe that a great culture is possible — if you do it together.


Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Updated 26 November 2021

Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
  • Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, a presenter at privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him
  • In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the violent attack on Afghani journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, who was assaulted in Kabul while on his way home. 

Ahmadi, a presenter at the privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him and attempted to shoot him. 

The men, whose faces were covered by black handkerchiefs, reportedly shouted, “Reporter! Stop,” demanded to see his identification card and asked him where he worked. 

“The Taliban has repeatedly failed to uphold its stated commitment to press freedom, as violent attacks against journalists continue and proper investigations or accountability are nowhere to be found,” said CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, Steven Butler.

“The Taliban should reverse this trend by thoroughly investigating the attack on Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, and holding the perpetrators accountable.”

Ahmadi’s assailants reportedly demanded he unlock his phone and open his WhatsApp and Facebook accounts. When Ahmadi refused, the men beat him with pistols and proceeded to shoot at him when he asked for help. 

The shots missed Ahmadi, but the men continued kicking him while he was on the ground, breaking his jaw. 

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August, the CPJ has voiced concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers. 

In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul, and Taliban members beat and detained Zahidullah Husainkhil.


Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
Updated 26 November 2021

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
  • 88 entries shortlisted in 56 categories for 2021 Middle East Public Relations Association awards

DUBAI: This year’s winners of a prestigious Middle Eastern public relations awards scheme were revealed at a recent presentation ceremony in the UAE.

More than 88 entries were shortlisted across 56 categories in the 2021 edition of the Middle East Public Relations Association awards.

The communications industry has been seriously impacted by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic with many companies and organizations cutting their advertising and marketing budgets.

And the latest MEPRA awards took into account the damage caused to the sector by the global health crisis through categories such as best creative approach and best internal communications response during COVID-19, and best social impact campaign in response to the virus outbreak.

The classes saw gold trophies awarded to APCO Worldwide for its campaign “Adapting UOWD’s Education Model in the Age of the Pandemic,” Mastercard MEA for its “Priceless Together” project, and Action Global Communications for “ADEK Back to School,” respectively.

During the awards ceremony held in Dubai on Wednesday, Red Havas bagged gold for best campaign in the Middle East with Adidas’ “Beyond the Surface,” and Hill+Knowlton Strategies took silver and bronze for its PUBG Mobile “Game on Henedy,” and Facebook Inc. “#MonthofGood” campaigns, respectively.

To mark MEPRA’s 20th anniversary this year, the awards featured a new category of people’s choice for the best Middle East campaign over the last two decades, won by Weber Shandwick MENAT and Environment Agency Abu Dhabi for the “Vote Bu Tinah!” campaign.

Special gongs on the night included the chairman’s lifetime achievement award that went to Jack Pearce of Matrix Public Relations, the small in-house team of the year accolade handed to Mastercard MENA, and the large in-house team of the year prize given to the UAE government’s media office.

Agency titles were awarded to Gambit Communications for best home-grown operation as well as small agency of the year, with Acorn Strategy being crowned large agency of the year.


New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 November 2021

New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
  • New Zealand PM said tech giants and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online

LONDON: Tech giants like Meta’s Facebook and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019 after a white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch while live-streaming his rampage on Facebook.
This Christchurch Call initiative has been supported by more than 50 countries, international organizations and tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft.
Ardern said on Friday the initiative had been successful in its first aim of establishing a crisis protocol, including a 24/7 network between platforms to quickly remove content, in response to events like those in Christchurch.
“We have had real world stress-testing of those systems and they have worked very effectively,” Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.
“I am confident that we are operating more effectively than we have before,” she added. “The next challenge though, is to go further again.”
Asked what tech companies should be doing, Ardern replied: “much more.”
Ardern said the next step was to focus on prevention, looking at how people are finding or coming across hateful or terror-motivating content online and perhaps becoming radicalized.
“That’s where we are really interested in the ongoing work around algorithms and the role that we can all play to ensure that online platforms don’t become a place of radicalization,” she said.
A Christchurch Call conference earlier this year was attended by the United States and Britain.


MENA Effie Awards announces 2021 winners

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
Updated 25 November 2021

MENA Effie Awards announces 2021 winners

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
  • The 13th edition of the awards program celebrates marketing effectiveness

DUBAI: The MENA Effie Awards, the regional edition of the globally renowned marketing industry honours, announced its 2021 winners at an awards ceremony in Dubai on Nov. 24.

After a brief hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, the awards made a comeback this year, recording a 40 percent increase in entries from 2019.

This year’s grand prix went to FP7 McCann Dubai for the “The Bread Exam” campaign for the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation. The Most Effective Advertising Agency Office of the Year title was awarded to FP7 McCann Dubai, while Omnicom Group’s PHD Dubai was named Most Effective Media Agency Office of the Year.

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards by far across its network of agencies, including McCann Health and Momentum.

“Firstly, it was so good to see the industry come together for the first time since the pandemic started. Secondly, this being the pandemic Effies, every piece of work deserved double the applause as it was made amidst terrific stresses and restrictions,” Tahaab Rais, president of SLC and regional head of strategy and truth central at FP7 McCann MENAT, told Arab News.

He added that the record number of awards at this year’s event, as well as securing Most Effective Advertising Agency and Network of the Year for the 8th consecutive year, is “a testament to how if we, collectively and consistently, outthink, outwork and outcare as brands, agencies, and people, you do end up coming out on top all things being equal.”

Luca Allam, CEO of PHD MENA, said: “Delivering marketing effectiveness for our clients is PHD’s priority. For the last few years, PHD has held a proud track record at the Effies. We are courageous enough to make leaps, we are not afraid to creatively push the boundaries, and this award validates this effort. We are thrilled to be consistently delivering growth for our clients through great and innovative work.”

Other winners on the night included Wunderman Thompson, which bagged 13 awards, TBWA\RAAD shone after picking up 11 trophies, and Havas Middle East and the BBDO network both won five awards each.

The full list of winners can be viewed here.


Tunisia court frees TV host held over comments on president

Tunisia court frees TV host held over comments on president
Updated 25 November 2021

Tunisia court frees TV host held over comments on president

Tunisia court frees TV host held over comments on president
  • Zitouna TV presenter Amer Ayad had been arrested in October along with MP Abdellatif al-Alaoui, who appeared on his show
  • Both criticised the president's Sept. 29 appointment of Najla Bouden as Tunisia's first female prime minister

TUNIS: A Tunisian military court on Thursday ordered the release of a television journalist arrested last month after strongly criticizing President Kais Saied, his lawyer said.
Zitouna TV presenter Amer Ayad had been arrested in October along with MP Abdellatif Al-Alaoui, who appeared on his show.
The pair were held on charges of “plotting against state security,” Ayad’s lawyer Samir Ben Omar said at the time.
In the show, they both criticized the president’s Sept. 29 appointment of Najla Bouden as Tunisia’s first female prime minister.
Ayad was released on parole Thursday, Ben Omar said.
His trial continues, however, and the next hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 20, the lawyer added.
Alaoui, a MP for the Al-Karama party, had been released a few days after his arrest.
Al-Karama is an ally of the Ennahdha movement which had the largest number of seats in the parliament that Saied suspended in July.
On July 25, citing an “imminent threat,” Saied also sacked the government and put himself in charge of the prosecution.
On Sept. 22, he suspended parts of the constitution and installed rule by decree.
Alaoui had branded Saied’s measures a “coup” in the show hosted by Ayad.
Zitouna TV is considered close to Ennahdha and its ally Al-Karama.