Ehab Hassan - Group Chief Human Resources Officer
Ehab Hassan - Group Chief Human Resources Officer
The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD).

The situation

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) is fast becoming a multinational success story, expanding by 5,000 employees in the last five years alone to a total staff of 8,000 across 15 countries. This arrival of talent en masse from all over the world creates significant challenges for the human resources team. In particular, ensuring that employee engagement is maintained in an evolving workplace and that high performers, individuals showing great potential and those with critical skills are retained. 

At the heart of the talent challenge is a need to offer a robust career management structure and strong development opportunities. Delivering on this goal is crucial in attracting and hanging onto the best people in the market.

NBAD engaged Towers Watson to oversee its transition from an inconsistent array of people-related policies and processes, where there was a common expectation of promotion based on length of service, to a strategic model of merit-driven reward and talent management.


NBAD needs to continue to build a strong correlation between the values of the organisation, its Middle Eastern cultural context and the workforce it requires to meet its strategic objectives. Reaching this point meant investigating what the optimum reward and talent framework and supporting processes would be for the organisation. 

When developing the reward and career framework Towers Watson took a partnership approach with NBAD to understand the heartbeat of the organisation and the implications for this project. The work was not carried out solely through an HR lens, champions across NBAD’s business lines were involved in developing a comprehensive solution that made sense from all aspects. 

This business-led design process took 15 months, which is testament to the level of detail involved in getting the framework - and the systems to manage it - right. 

The design process was followed by an implementation period to complete the change journey and bring staff and managers up to speed with the new technology and processes. Towers Watson proposed a new reward and career framework, replacing legacy processes and systems that existed within NBAD. These changes replaced the grading structure –reducing the number of grades from 16 to 5 simplified career streams – and took a fresh perspective on the way that jobs were organised at the bank.

Critical changes have included the implementation of a development programme specific to UAE nationals and integrating it with professional institutes and local universities. To create the opportunity for mobility and ensure the right talent is placed in these roles, HR took ownership of 250 key positions within the bank’s structure. 

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi Tower
The National Bank of Abu Dhabi Tower
Abu Dhabi, UAE

A sustainable solution 

Technology facilitated this change journey, enabling every step from design to implementation. It formed an integrated part of the process, with tools such as Towers Watson’s Global Grading System and Career Map playing a key role in the development of the solution. Ongoing process management is supported by Towers Watson’s Talent|REWARD technology. 

Towers Watson ensured that diverse users within the bank, whether HR experts or not, were engaged with the introduction of the new technology and were communicated to about its benefits. 

The framework was designed to deal not just with the existing organisational structure and human capital requirements, but those that may emerge in the future. With the data that the technology harnesses, NBAD will be able to better understand the skills required for the roles it creates, as well as analyse the performance of employees against desired competencies.

Reaction to the Towers Watson project has been positive, with a widespread understanding of the importance of career management now evident. Secondary impacts include an increased focus on the importance of change management and communication from the top down and right across the business, as well as renewed engagement with stakeholders and employees around the vital areas of rewards and careers. These disciplines have as a result of the project become integrated within operational decision-making, rather than considered as distinct programmes, to achieve both tangible and measurable positive outcomes.