Human Resources in the Middle East

Shawn Siegel

In this interview, Brad Boyson, Executive Director of SHRM MENA, discusses Oman’s labor strengths and weaknesses, the role of SHRM, and HR standards in the Middle East. Brad Boyson will be speaking at the Oman HR and Nationalisation Congress in February:

Human Resources IQ: Before settling in Dubai, you held HR roles around the globe. Can you discuss some of the regional differences between HR in Oman vs. other MENA countries?

Brad Boyson:The biggest difference in terms of HR is Oman has a higher percentage of nationals working in a wider variety of jobs. In contrast to the other Gulf countries, most GCC nationals are more resistant to engage in certain kinds of work. In my opinion, this is a significant positive difference and strength of Oman relative to other countries in the region.

Human Resources IQ
: What is SHRM’s role in helping promote Oman’s economic growth and helping fulfill its nationalisation goals?

Brad Boyson:SHRM works on a collaborative model globally; we prefer to partner with local entities and associations to leverage the capacities of both. SHRM can play an extremely positive role in helping to promote Oman’s economy and nationalisation goals through the fact that the US has so much experience and history to share, lesson learnt, etc., in affirmative action which is in fact the exact same

public policy as nationalisation programs, only in the case of the Gulf, the affirmative action programs explicitly target citizens.

Human Resources IQ: What do you see as Oman’s biggest challenge in terms of generating and training new business leaders?

Brad Boyson:This is a classic strength - weakness question. We all know that Oman does not have the oil or energy reserves to the same extent as other Gulf countries. This forces Oman to create other areas of expertise and development to diversify the economy. Time will tell, but it may in fact be helpful in creating a more diversified economy by not becoming too reliant on natural resources and requiring more of a focus on human resources, including developing business leaders who are more apt at dealing with economic diversity and globalisation.

Human Resources IQ: Do you think that most companies in the MENA region take HR standards seriously enough?

Brad Boyson:It depends on exactly what you mean by standards. The reality is HR does not yet have a formal set of professional standards, like finance or accounting, but these standards are coming. In more general terms, most organizations in the MENA region have not really required sophisticated, global HR standards, simply because the business models and business cycles profile that of emerging markets. As countries in MENA start to become more developed there should be no mistaking the fact that mature, high-level, global standards in HR are necessary to create and sustain developed market standards of living and opportunity.

Human Resources IQ: After almost 20 years in HR, what continues to excite you about the industry?

Brad Boyson:Three projects SHRM is working on are truly changing the face of HR globally: The first is our 2013 HR competency model called "The Elements of HR Success". Second is our two new professional certifications – the HRBP and HRMP – nation neutral professional HR certification. Third is the ISO HR Standards project, ISO TC 260, which is two years old and will be introducing true global standards in HR. Any one of these projects has the ability to fundamentally change the practice of HR and the fact that all three are currently happening means HR practitioners are living in the most exciting and dynamic time in the history of this type of work – that should excite anyone connected to HR!

Interview conducted by Shawn Siegel

Brad Boyson will present "Understanding the role of HR and how it should fulfill organisational goals and objectives" at the Oman HR and Nationalisation Congress, February 10-11 in Muscat, Oman. For more information or to register, visit or email