Critically analyse the recruitment and selection strategy employed by SERCO DUBAI


Effective talent management involves a strong commitment to design and execute an

integrated, strategic and technology enabled approach to managing human resources. This in line with the increasingly accepted fact talent and not just material resources and processes, is a major source of organisations’ competitive advantage (Davidson, 2004), Recruiting the right people at the right place and the right time require the right strategy, in order to achieve and sustain this advantage. This is because only the right people constitute strategic assets of any organisation. (Hughes and Rug, 2008; Crain, 2009) Attracting and retaining top talent into organisations is increasing becoming a complex undertaking (Hackney and Kleiner, 2004).

Russo et al, 1995 outlines the process involved in implementing a recruitment strategy as the following;

Job Analysis: this they argued is performed the collate all the required information about current job demands and set the standards for selection

Recruitment strategy: the strategy chosen disseminate the required job information among the possible candidates for the job

The selection method: involves the means applied to screen the recruited applicants, knowledge, skills and attitude to assess the degree of fit with the goals of the organisation

Induction: Ensuring that employees are well inducted and informed of the company’s processes ideals, values and strategic goals. It is also required to make sure new recruits are well settled in their job and tasks

However, Selecting the right candidates with the required, leadership skills ,flexibility to adapt to change, to shift attitudes and behaviours as situation demands and to create successful partnerships and work well in teams, is becoming a more daunting process( Davidson,2004). This due to the emerging fact the global labour market is becoming tighter (Taylor, 2010) with respect to required talent. This complexity is increased with the increasing focus on equal opportunities and increasing employment legislation (Taylor, 2010) in addition. There was also the need , consider cultural and sometimes religious differences into recruiting and selecting suitable candidates for employment as is the case of Metro Dubai(Torrington et al, 2008) .

For a high speed tube company like Metro Dubai, key success factors to ensure good customer perception of the quality of service include, Dependability (timeliness), speed(prompt service), flexibility(the ability to adapt to and communicate changing schedules of trains), and good customer service(empathy , assurance, indicating the need for good communication skills from employees. The challenge before Serco, therefore is to recruit select and retain people with the right skills, values and attitudes and nurture them to elicit a long term commitment towards the organisation (Armstrong, 2006)

Serco Ltd chose among many options of recruitment and selection to outsource the process to various recruitment agencies. It also decided to use a sizeable number of peripheral employees; this from the case study was due to the large number of employees required within a short period of time (Hackney and Cleaner, 2004). This report will analyse critically the recruitment and select strategies employed by Serco in its bid to fulfil its Manpower needs effectively .The report will also take into consideration these strategies within the resourcing and talent management elements of HR planning, Recruitment and Selection methods, succession planning, employee flexibility, the global and local employment markets.

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From the case study, it is evident that Serco had a short time horizon, within which to plan for its human resource needs. Research evidence indicates that, it is not too clear how majority of organisations carry out HR planning at all (Taylor, 2008). Research also shows many organisations tend not to give HR planning much focus, or use specific HR planning techniques (Taylor, 2010). HR Planning has also received minimal attention in literature and has become less utilised by firms (Taylor, 2008). In general HR planning is concerned with checking a firms, position relative to labour markets, forecasting the likely scenario in years to come and making adequate plans to address any gaps that may arise between labour supply and demand (Heneman et al, 2000) From the case study, Serco did not consider the need for HR planning in its systems because its HR division was relatively new and was just being assembled. Its Recruitment and selection drive was mostly reactive to the immediate employment needs. It would have cost less (travel, recruitment and selection costs), had there been an effective HR planning system in place in its larger parent body, to forecast , anticipate and plan for future labour requirements (Mak, 1995). With the time, pressures, however, Serco strategy of resorting to complete outsourcing in its non-core operations was rightly in reaction to the sharp expansion in its labour requirements (Atkinson, 1984).

Taylor, 2010 argues that the use of peripheral workers might reduce employee commitment and hence service quality. However, there are arguments that organisations expect and usually receive a higher level of service quality from external providers more than internal HR functions (Braun et al, 2009). The level HR specialisation of service providers may also reduce the learning curve in managing HR Services (Braun et al, 2009).


Recruitment goes beyond just filling vacant job places. It is about pursuing a long term direction in mobilizing a high performance workforce, with the aim of actualising the organisations immediate goals, as well as building capacity for the future (Davidson, 2004).

Serco analysed the local employment market and realised that there was a shortage of the required talent to manage Metro Dubai’s railway services (Taylor, 2010). Serco therefore embarked on a global recruitment drive, using the wide trawl recruitment approach, with the aid of recruitment agencies (Taylor, 2008). This was appropriate compared to the wide net approach as most of the senior positions had already been filled locally and the target was a large number of applicants for the bulk of the workforce. Serco recognised that such recruits required cultural, awareness , good knowledge of English, (the general working language used in Dubai) and the technical and behavioural skills required work for the Metro Dubai Railway services(Brewster, 2008). It therefore targeted these skills in its international advertisements and selection process. Serco also implemented the good practice of involving operational managers in the recruitment process (Larsen and Brewster, 2003). However, the cost implications of this global selection strategy are also obvious, as the cost of recruiting from 22 countries, using specialists (and also travel costs of both consultants and Serco managers, would be quite substantial). The use of the assessment-centre selection technique, a combination of interviews, psychological tests and role-plays moulded into a single evaluation model, also would be expensive(Lin and Kleiner, 2004).In general, Serco’s local labour markets were tight, therefore its recruitment activities, were of great significance, took more time and cost more(Taylor, 2008)

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Though the time horizon was short, Serco expended time and cost in using assessment centres for recruiting most of its core employees instead of the traditional interview method. Barclay, 1999, highlighted the effectiveness assessment centres over behavioural, interviews in where the interviewer actually observes the applicants behaviour, rather than the applicant describing the behaviour. It is argued, however that due to cost and time implications for assement centres, most recruiters still favour the behavioural interview approach (Mak, 1995; Barclay 1999). The behavioural interviews utilise, situational and behaviour-based questions (Wood and Payne, 1998), focusing on the person rather than the job (Barclay, 1999). Both the assessment centre method and behavioural interviews increase the predictive validity of the interview process better than the traditional interview, where recruiters may depend heavily on a set of questions they prepared for the position and are more likely to be swayed by the interviewee’s presentation skills (Barclay, 1999).

Serco’s recruitment process was therefore best practice, as it sought to source high potential employees and not just to fill in its vacant positions. This, in the long term will ensure good employee performance. It will save Serco from having to release some of its workforce due to non-performance.

Also, cultural differences the regulatory environment may limit the application of some of these recruitment and selection practices (Tanova, 2003). For instance, Serco abided by its contract with the Dubai Road and Transport Authority to reserve 30% of its management and supervisory positions for UAE citizens. This is in line with the workforce localization policy of most emerging gulf economies like the UAE. However, Selection in Gulf countries like the UAE may be largely influenced by social connections (Ali and Al-Kazemi, 2006; Moideenkutty et al, 2010). Serco however, was rightly adaptive to the Socio-cultural and regulatory setting which it operated. However, this negates the principle of equal opportunities, which is practiced and backed by legislation in other regions such Western Europe. (Russo et al, 1995,).


One of the main difficulties organisations face is not just recruiting the best people but also the challenges in retaining employees (Gbrevebie, 2010). The challenge of recruiting good employees, mostly results from the inability to retain their predecessors who have voluntarily resigned (Gberevbie, 2010).

From, the case study and through the comments by the employees, Serco made a clear attempt to differentiate itself from other employers in the Dubai Area in its employee retention strategy Having gone through an expensive recruitment and selection, process, a subsequent high turnover of employees could be costly (Budhwar et al,2008). Benchmarking the working conditions of competitors for labour in Dubai (Taylor, 2007), Serco made a concerted effort to provide better working conditions, like excellent housing facilities to its migrant workers. There was a clear perception from the employees of better conditions than their contemporaries in other organisations, and from the employees comments, there, was no sign of an intention to search for alternative employment. Taylor, 2010, cited employee induction practices as one good method of controlling turnover. Proper induction of employees gives them an early sense of belonging and a feeling of being valued. (Armstrong, 2006). Serco two-day induction and integration training programme was a step towards gaining the trust of the new employees.

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In addition, further enhance the cultural integration of its new employees, Serco, therefore undertook extensive training for its new recruits to integrate into the Dubai culture. This is also a good employee retention strategy, managing the diversity of its workforce to avoid the pressures of cultural isolation due to lack of cultural awareness (Ryan et al, 2010, Groschl, 2010)

Effective employee engagement is also a key determinant of retention (Armstrong, 2006)

Hughes and Rug, 2008, reviewed the results of 12 research studies which highlighted amongst top drivers of engagement as perceived by employees, the following:

Trust and integrity- the extent to which employees perceive that management cares about them, listens and reacts to their opinions

The nature of the job-the extent to which they are given autonomy in there jobs and allowed to participate in decisions.

Career growth and opportunities- How employees perceive the career growth opportunities available for them and the existence of well defined career path (Succession planning)

Training and Development: How the management makes an effort to develop the skills of the employees

From the employee comments in the case study, the employees are clearly happy about the above points, with the very good accommodation provided, initial intensive induction and training provided for the employees. A former train attendant was promoted to Station, Master, and was subsequent considered for a higher and more challenging role in the future. From his comments, these succession plans had been duly communicated to him by Serco’s management. A notable source of job dissatisfaction and turnover in organisations is the lack of a well organised and communicated succession plans for employees. Uneasiness about their future may lead them to continuously look out for alternative employment.


In summary from the case study Serco’s management exhibited best practice in its recruitment selection and retention activities especially from the employee’s point of view. They also tried to adapt to by the cultural and regulatory, system in the local employment. Market. Serco’s strategy demonstrates a long term perspective in managing its talent and retaining its workforce. This can be adapted to other sectors, in particular the retail and fast food Sectors, which rely so much on numerical flexibility, without much concern for the long-term development of its workforce(, Twinane,2006, Taylor, 2010). However, Serco needs to put an HR planning mechanism in place to anticipate further spikes or contractions in the labour market in order to plan effectively and avoid the high cost of sudden massive recruitment.

Also, these best practices come at a high cost. Smaller firms with tighter budgets may not be buoyant enough to follow all of Serco’s talent management practices (Tanova, 2003). However, some best practices like effective planning and communication of career paths (succession planning) can be emulated (Russo et al, 1995).

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