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Tommy Weir: Education Is The Need Of The Hour

Tommy Weir: Education Is The Need Of The Hour

Every employer has the responsibility to educate their workforce, writes the author of ’10 Tips For Leadership In The Middle East’.


Serve a cup of coffee, well actually cups, and get a free education. That is a pretty good deal and it definitely magnifies the potential benefits of Tip #10 from 10 tips for Leading in the Middle East – Have a Cup of Coffee. Every employee should have the added benefit of growing through his or her job.

If you are one of the over 135,000 Starbucks employees serving cups of coffee, it has real benefits for you. You are eligible to get a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online programme. And there is no requirement that any employee who graduates through this programme stay on at Starbucks.

The CEO of Starbucks said, “This is about the future of our company doing what’s right for our people and also, sending a message to the country that we can’t build a great company and a great enduring country if we’re constantly leaving people behind.”

Reading these words, reminded me of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s inaugural speech when he became UAE Prime Minister in April 2006, saying, “Providing our people with a higher standard of living has always been the
goal of the country’s leadership.”

This is anchored in the UAE’s belief that the best investment of wealth is in creating cultured and educated citizens and the need to be swift making progress in education faster than development in any other field.

He continued, “We were – and remain – in need of skilled knowledge workers. But we’re still importing most of them. The long-term sustainability of these industries requires us to produce our own educated workforce that they can take jobs as they open up.”

While he was speaking of the UAE’s comprehensive workforce from a national perspective, the point he made applies specifically to any given company’s workforce. Does your company’s education (training) system produce candidates for internal promotion?

Education is not merely a governmental act; nor is the only approach through formal degree programmes. Every corporate leader has a responsibility to educate, to grow their workforce to become the best they can possibly become. Like Howard Schultz did at Starbucks, you need to invest in your people’s future. Maybe not through a formal degree programme, but every employee should be better as a result of working for you.

I would like to see companies adopt a managerial metric measuring employee promotions. Leaders should be recognised and rewarded for developing employees who are internally promoted, even into other departments. Helping others succeed is the true mark of leadership.

As Sheikh Mohammed confronted the public about success in implementing a vision of educating the public, business leaders deserve to be probed to act on developing their workforce. It is easy to identify the problems and debate solutions, but business leaders must take action pushing through the obstacles to develop every employee to perform the best they can.

When this topic comes up, the excuses quickly surface: We don’t have the budget or the time to develop our team. “If we did, we would,” is the outcry from too many managers. But we know that is just an excuse. The easiest way to justify negligence is by pointing at budget constraints.

The other excuse is to blame other companies and their willingness to pay a little more and to steal freshly trained employees away. Starbucks has something to say on this point. In an interview with The New York Times, Schultz (CEO) said that while he knows the programme could prompt employees to get degrees to leave Starbucks for better- paying jobs, the experience “would be accredited to our brand, our reputation and our business…I believe it will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people.”

“Our responsibility as a company is to recognise that if we could provide a free college education to our employees,” he says. “It would help our company and it would help them professionally and personally.”

The worst disease in this world is the unbreakable partnership between ignorance and poverty. In a company it is societally criminal to fail to invest in people – it limits your company’s future.

Dubai’s goal is to become one of the world’s knowledge capitals, to become a world-class global education city as well as a global financial city. This means companies should become a global reference point of employee growth.


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