Evaluation of Leadership Development Plan of Maersk Oil in Qatar

1.0 Introduction

One of the biggest challenges of the modern business era is the retention of a talented and skilled workforce for business organizations, and the development of future leaders within a company.Business organizations are required to employ a dynamic strategy to respond to the needs and aspirations of their workforce.A smart, well-designed employee development program can benefit a business organization to great extent in this regard and shape the future of the company by individually shaping the leaders of the future.

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Prior research indicates that employee development program is linked to higher levels of performance and output. It can create a reservoir of knowledge that can enable business organizations to do better than their competitors. The most important development aspect of any employee is training them in leadership skills which can benefit the business as a whole. Transformational Leadership is a framework which, according to Barling, Christie and Hoption, promotes the qualities of “idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration” (reference). By displaying motivational qualities and attitudes a leader can improve the efficiency, proficiency and well-being of employees.
The aim of the proposed dissertation would be to investigate employees’ leadership development plan at ‘Maersk Oil’, particularly in reference to transformational leadership training. Maersk Oil has been operating in Qatar since the 1990s as a major oil company. It works on the Al-Shaheen Field which produces significant amount of petroleum. The company’s current production level stands at 300,000 barrels of oil per day. As a result of that, Al-Shaheen Field is predicted to be the biggest contributor to oil production in Qatar, making the company significant for the Oil industry and the overall economy of the country. Maersk Oil is a multinational company which is part of A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, operating in various parts of the world. Like any major multinational firm, Maersk Oil Qatar has a diverse workforce belonging to various nationalities (Maersk Oil, 2012). The diverse workforce present in the organization needs to be managed in an efficient and effective manner.
The dissertation will try to identify the importance of a leadership development plan, investigate the current practices of the company, evaluate its effectiveness, and identify common obstacles for employee’s leadership development plan at the company. The dissertation will also propose some recommendations based on its findings for creating a viable improvement to the leadership development program. The dissertation will be divided into five chapters.
The first chapter will be comprised of the introduction, overview of the research, background, and research objectives. The second chapter will detail the research methodology. The third chapter will present a literature review and theoretical background of the research. Fourth chapter will present the findings and analyze the data. Finally, chapter five will present the results and conclusions of the research.

1.1 Research Objectives

Investigate to what extent does the company care for its employees through its leadership development plan
Identify the significance of employees leadership development plan
Investigate practices of employees leadership development plan
Evaluate the effectiveness of employees leadership development
Identify most common barriers for employees leadership development plan
1.2 Research Questions
What is the employees’ attitude towards the company regarding its transformational leadership development program?
Is transformational leadership more efficient than other forms of leadership?
How does the transformational leadership benefit the objectives and goals of the company?
What is the significance of the transformational leadership development plan for both the company and its employees?
To what extent do the employees consider the development plan at the company efficient?
What are the common barriers associated with the transformational leadership development plan at the company?

1.3 Rationale for the Current Research

Although there is a large array of literature on human resource development, practitioners often come under criticism for doing very little to evaluate the learning and development solutions that have been designed to deliver whereby significant and often scarce resources are allocated blindly in development plans that are considered to be effective (Harisson, 2005). When undergoing financial stress, organizations often downsize human resource development budgets. Human resource development personnel undergo tight scrutiny in justifying their expenditures and are required to prove the effectiveness of their employee development plans. Thus evaluation of employee leadership development plan is a viable solution.
The importance of evaluation in further signified as the learning and development theory and practices in the modern day is undergoing a considerable change in order to keep up with new circumstantial requirements. In fact, one of the major changes occurring nowadays and in the upcoming years is the organizational changes driven by ‘higher integration between coaching, organisational development (OD) and performance management’ (CIPD survey, 2010: pg.6). Similarly Sloman (2007) made several important propositions regarding the ongoing change in the employee development practices and approaches (see appendix 1). The shift in the learning and development approach and employee development practices signifies the importance of evaluating the current practices of an organization to see whether they are abreast with the prevailing best practices.
Additionally, employee development approaches and practices of the oil and gas rich Middle Eastern countries and the Gulf Nations is an under-researched area in HRM literature. Moreover, the available literature regarding employee development practices generalizes the Middle East and the Arab World rather than addressing individual countries or companies (Harry, 2007). The existing gap in the literature pays way for the current proposed study to evaluate the leadership development plan at Maesrk Oil in Qatar.

2.0 Literature Review
2.1 Definition of employee leadership development

Employee development plans have been defined as a set of planned efforts by an organization which facilitates the learning and acquaintance of knowledge, specific skills and behaviors for its employees; all of which are essential for them to be successful in their current jobs (Goldstein, 1993). Dotta (2009) defines it as a “sequence of concurrent activities, initiatives and programs that an organization is involved with to maintain, improve and enhance the skills, capabilities and performance levels of its workforce and other staff members”. Employee development plan encapsulates various individual development plans.

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A leadership development plan goes one step further than this: as well as providing all of the support listed above the employee is also being trained for a management role through the subtle development of the most desirable qualities. According to Department of Defense of USA (2006), an individual employee development plan is “a tailored written plan developed by the supervisor and employee outlining the employee’s developmental objectives and the developmental activity for achieving these objectives. The purpose of an employee development plan is to increase the current proficiency, development, and progression of the employee through a systematic development plan”. The personal progression of an employee can only be realized if they have been instructed in the transformational leadership qualities which will optimize the business as a whole.
Based on aforementioned definitions, several important points can be stated:
Employees’ development plan is aimed at enhancing the capabilities and competencies of an organization’s workforce.
Employees’ development plan is also crucial for the progression of a career path. Through leadership development it is common for organizations to train and develop their employees to occupy critical positions in future.
A transformational leadership development program helps employees to understand the key roles of leadership and develop qualities which will make them an inspirational motivator to their workforce.

2.2 Significance of transformational leadership development

In today’s business environment, which is characterized as multi-faced, highly complex, extremely competitive, and dynamic, organizations are required to be very flexible and adaptable in order to survive and succeed. Employee development, a practice that seeks to assist organizations in meeting their business goals through continuous learning and development (Harisson, 2009) is a critical element for achieving that flexibility and adaptability. So much that often human resource development personnel are qualified as ‘agents of change’ (Harisson, 2009). It is only through continuous, effective learning and development of employees that modern day organizations can acquire the essential competencies to adapt to a new conjuncture. Transformational leadership is significant as it not only benefits the leader in question, but also the morale of the employees. Candidates for the development program will be taught the traditional methods of leadership, such as how to take responsibility and effectively manage a team, while also being taught to be motivational, inspirational and influential among their colleagues (Barling, Christie and Hoption).

2.3 Best Practices in Employee Development Plan

Numerous studies have recommended several successful approaches towards employee development programs. There is a general consensus among researchers regarding the foremost need for an organization to conduct an analysis of its existing needs and requirements (Jacobs and Jones, 1995; Clegg et al, 2005). According to Jacobs, (1995) an employee development can be rendered meaningless if it does not respond to the organizational needs. Existing needs and requirements can be identified through an effective market analysis, analysis of existing and future labor trends. (Clegg et al, 2005). Since every organization needs to secure its’ future in the business industry it stands to reason that leadership is a high priority in the organizations needs, and transformational leadership can arguably give the best opportunity for employees to grow and develop along with the requirements of the company.
Apart from the needs’ assessment, several best practices have been identified by human resource practitioners and researchers. A survey of best practices of 71 companies practicing employee development activities identified three underlying factors important for an effective employee development plan. These are: (1) individual development plans should be developed for key and high potential employees with the ability to become future leaders (2) the individual development plans and practices should be strictly aligned with organizational strategies and goals, with the future of the company in mind and (3) the entire workforce should be facilitated for its progression through the developmental process (Reynolds, 2005).

3.0 Research Methods and Approach
3.1 Research Philosophy

Identifying a research philosophy is imperative for designing a viable research method as it determines the manner in which information regarding a research problem/question is collected, evaluated and applied. Researcher have identified mainly three research philosophies namely positivist and interpretivist and realist (Galliers, 1991).
A positivist research philosophy perceives reality as a constant phenomenon; something that can be perceived objectively (Levin, 1988). It is a stance of a natural scientist. According to Hirschheim (1985 p.33), “positivism has a long and rich historical tradition. It is so embedded in our society that knowledge claims not grounded in positivist thoughts are simply dismissed as ascientific and therefore invalid”. Interpretivism, on the other hand, seeks to understand reality from a subjective perception in order to make sense of motives, actions and intentions of those that they study. They emphasize the social construct of the reality (Husserl, 1965). Interpretivists contend that reality and its perceptions can be better understood by placing people in their social contexts (Hussey and Hussey, 1997). Realists believe that the existence of reality is independent of human thoughts, emotions and beliefs.
The research philosophy underpinning the proposed research is interpretivism. The research aims to evaluate the employee leadership development plan of Maersk Oil through the perceptions, attitudes and beliefs of its employees, managers, and executives; thus it aims to gain subjective insights for evaluation.

3.2 Research Approach and Strategy

A research approach can be either deductive or inductive. The premise of a deductive approach is to test a hypothesis, explain casual relationships and enable generalization of a theory. On the other hand, inductive approach focuses upon building a theory by understanding a phenomenon seeking an answer for a question. The approach adopted for the proposed research is inductive, as this study will look to identify the weaknesses or strengths or the current employee development plan at Maersk Oil Qatar, and answer several proposed questions pertaining to its evaluation.
The research strategy for this study will be exploratory as it will aim at providing insights and understanding of the nature of the phenomenon under study in new light. Within the exploratory approach, this study will utilize both qualitative and quantitative data. On one hand, statistical analysis will carried out for the survey responses which will be distributed among the employees of a company, whilst interviews will be conducted with some senior officials and employees in order to gain insights regarding the evaluation of the employee development program. It will complement the understanding gained through the data analysis results.

3.3 Data Collection

According to Yin (1994), there are five ways of collecting data; these are “experimental, surveys, archival analysis, history, and case studies”. This research will utilize a survey strategy. According to Kelley et. al, (2003) “the survey strategy refers to the selection of a relatively large sample of people from a pre-determined population, followed by the collection of data from those individuals. The researcher therefore uses information from a sample of individuals to make some inference about the wider population”. For the purpose of evaluating the employee leadership development plan, a questionnaire will be prepared, reviewed, and distributed to a random sample of Maersk Oil Qatar employees and people in leadership roles. Survey strategy will allow the researcher to collect a large amount of data within in short time with minimum costs and efforts (Naresh et.al, 2003). Interviews, the qualitative form of collecting data within survey method will be used concurrently. Semi-structured interviews will be designed and conducted of several senior officials at the company.


CIPD (2010), ‘Annual Survey Report : Learning and Talent Development’, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, {online}

http://www.cipd.co.uk/NR/rdonlyres/BC060DD1-EEA7-4929-9142-1AD7333F95E7/0/5215_Learning_talent_development_survey_report.pdf (cited on 13th September, 2012)
Clegg ,S. et all, 2005: Managing Organizations: An introduction to Theory and Practice. Sage
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Husserl, E. (1965), Phenomenology and the crisis of philosophy, New York: Harper Torchbooks.
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LSA Global (2008) ‘Top 10 training best practices for effective learning and development programs’. {online} http://jobfunctions.bnet.com/abstract.aspx?docid=375846 (cited on 13th September, 2012)
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Naresh,M. et.al.,(2003) Methodological issues in cross-cultural marketing research. International Marketing Review. 13 (5) 7-43
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