HR-Transition of Employees in Saudi Arabia

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Executive summary

This research paper is concerned with the exploration of the decisions by the ministry of water and electricity (MoWE) in Saudi Arabia to form a private public partnership (PPP), by wary of creating the national water company (NWC). Consequently, this would in effect see a total of 5,000 employees of the MoWE transferred to NWC. It is this transition process of human resources that is of interest to this research study. This is because of the expected paradigm shift with regard to the role w on change management of the employees concerned. It is therefore the intentions of this research study to determine the leadership’s change management role during the employee transition process, as well as trying to understand the need of managing change through a mix of communication and training for employees being transferred, so as to equip them with the required skills and knowledge to operate effectively in a commercial environment.

A descriptive research approach has been identified for the research study. The study population for this research study shall be on those employees from the ministry of water and electricity (MoWE), who have been seconded to the National Water Company’s (NWC) customer call centres in Riyadh, whose number is 750. A systematic sampling technique will be employed to choose the study’s respondents. A self-administered open ended questionnaire is the data collection tool of choice. Data collection procedure is by way of a personal administration of the study questionnaire. The analysis of data will utilise such statistical tools SPSS (Scientific Package for Social Scientists), and Microsoft Excel (Ms Excel). Finally, the research findings shall be presented in the form of statistical tables.


Background of the study

MoWE (The ministry of water and electricity) in Saudi Arabia is committed to the provision of clean, yet reasonably affordable and portable water to all the residents, while at the same time also enhancing its organisational performance (Pillai, 2007). In addition, MoWE aims at ensuring that all households are connected adequately to sanitation facilities, besides the protections of the environment. In a bid to achieve these objectives, MoWE has implemented an STP (Strategic Transformation Plan), to lead the reforms within the water sector, in addition to defining a common path for privatisation.

Thanks to the implementations of STP, a total of four cities in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah, Riyadh, Khobar, Madinah and Dammam, have already initiated Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects, to enhance the management of waste water and water operations. In addition, a National Water Company (NWC) has also been formed, with the intentions of facilitating the privatisation process, in addition to managing regional operations that are now covered by the PPP contracts (Pillai, 2007).

The NWC has been formed by MoWE and thus far, two cities, Jeddah and Riyadh, have each signed a five-year PPP contract. Presently, assets and manpower transfer underway, from the already existing entity, to the newly formed NWC (Pillai, 2007). NWC is poised to oversee a transfer of 5000 employees to the NWC, from both the Jeddah and Riyadh cities through the application of transfer mechanism, process and criteria that have been designed and approved by the board of directors at the NWC.

Research Problem(s).

In the wake of privatisation of the Saudi Arabia water sector, there is a need to explore the paradigm shift from a public entity to a private one, and the impact of this change on the transition process of the employees from working for a public sector (MoWE), to now a private sector (NWC). It is important therefore to take into account the impact that such a change in terms of management shall have on the communications plans and management techniques of the employees. Such a smooth transition would often call for the implementation of communication strategy and resistant management plan.

The explorations of the right transition mechanism for the employees are vital, on the basis of potential inefficacies that may be anticipated in the new organisations, following a surplus of the manpower. The role that the top management at both the MoWE and NWC plays is also significant when it comes to the issue of supporting and directing the transition process. The mindset of government employees is different from that of employees from the private sector, as regards compensation, working hours, labour law requirements, and civil service laws. This is bound to impact on the transition process of the employees. It is also important to address the criteria applied in employees’ assessment before the transition process, so that the process may be fair, objective and transparent.

Objectives of the Study

This research study shall be concerned with the following objectives:

  1. To determine the leadership’s change management role during the employee transition process?
  2. To determine the type of change management messages to be communicated at each level within the NWC and at certain points during the employee transition process (awareness, understanding and buy-in)?
  3. What are the types of workshops to be held and who is the audience?
  4. 4. To understand the need of managing change through a mix of communication and training for employees being transferred to equip them with the required skills and knowledge to operate effectively in a commercial environment?

Significance of the Study

This research study seeks to highlight the attempts by the MoWE in Saudi Arabia to ensure that it meets the water needs in the kingdom. Further, this is a clear testament to the fact that the public sector is riddled with a lot of inefficiencies, and as recognition of this fact, the MoWE has sought to form the NWC, to enhance service delivery. This is also an opportunity for the private partners to provide obliged and guaranteed outcomes for using the manpower already in existence within the government authority. Further, this study is an indication that through the formation of PPPs, it is quite possible to enhance water demand efficiency, through a better addressing of such management issues like metering, leaking, and customer services.

Definition of Terms

  • PPP: Public private partnership

– A term used in reference to either a private business venture or a government service that is both operated and funded via a partnership between the government, and either one or more than one company from the private sector.

  • NWC: National Water Company

– A creation of the Saudi government through the ministry of water and electricity, in order to enhance flexibility and service delivery in the water sector.

  • MoWE: Ministry of water and electricity.

– These acronyms refer to the water and electricity ministry in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

  • BOT: build-operate-transfer

– A type of financing a project in which the public sector awards a private entity a concession to design, finance, construct, and also operate a given facility that the concession contract has stated.

  • SPSS: Scientific Package for Social Scientists.

– A computer software package that is used to computer statistical data to yield useful research findings.

Limitations of the study

There are a number of constraints that this research study anticipates to be faced with. To start with, the area under study is extensive in nature and therefore, it is anticipated that challenges could be encountered at the point of designing the questionnaire meant for the study participants, to target the specifics of the research. Time is another limiting factor that has been identified. The shortness of time dedicated to this research study means that the research study may not be explored to deeper levels as would have been the case, had more time been granted. Other study limitations include travelling costs, inadequate budgetary allocation, and a small sample size.

Literature Review

Undoubtedly, Saudi Arabia has had to encounter a big challenge in as far as its water sector is concerned (Shandling, 2008). Consequently, the government, through the ministry of water and energy (MoWE), resolved to privatise the water sector, through the formation of a national water company (NWC). This is more of a public private partnership (PPP), in which the new company (NWC) shall assume the role of ensuring that the water sector is enjoys improved efficiency and service delivery. Amongst the several resources that the NWC requires is manpower. In this case, a total of 5,000 former employees of MoWE have already been transferred to NWC. Given the differences in terms of contractual agreements, laws and regulations between the private and the public sectors, it can only be expected that the employment shall be faced with a challenge of having to adapt to the transition.

NWC is mandated with ensuring that it develops and manages not just the PPP, but also all the privatisation aspects (Shandling, 2008). This means that NWC shall also be responsible for the production of underground water, in addition to its subsequent desalination and treatment processes. The initial capital set aside for NWC was pegged at $ 5.9 billion (Shandling, 2008). With operations already underway in the cities of Jeddah and Riyadh, the company hopes to extend its operations in about 15 cities, in the next three years (Shandling, 2008). The privatisation exercise is being implemented specifically in two forms; as PPP (public-private partnership) or BOT (build-operate-transfer) forms of water projects. Should both of these two schemes be pursued in the name of the privatisation process, then it may be expected that these water projects shall attract varying bidders from the private sector. The deputy prime minister in Saudi Arabia has asserted that when successful, this PPP initiative shall enable Saudi Arabia to attain the targets for water services that it has set in a better and timely manner, in the years to come (Pillai, 2007).

In the face of change, there is a need for organizations to embrace strategy devilment techniques that are well-established (Shaw, 2003). Due to the development of the economies, rapid technological advances, coupled with the expectations of both the private and the public sectors, change then becomes a necessity. The transition of the water sector in Saudi Arabia from a public entity to a private one is a necessary form of change, not least because it shall enhance service delivery and efficiency, even as the demand for water as a resource increases.

It is estimated that on an annual basis, water of a capacity of more than 22 billion cubic meter get consumed in Saudi Arabia (Shandling, 2008). Indeed, this is the world’s highest per capita rate of consumption. Furthermore, expectations are that Saudi Arabia stands to face severe shortages of water, in the coming years. In a bid to meet the increase in the country’s demand for water, the government of Saudi Arabia has sought to initiate re-organization measures within the water sector, such as the launching of campaigns for water conservation, as well as encouraging the players within the private sector to take the bold step of both creating and managing desalination and water purification plants (Shandling, 2008).

However, it would be futile to imagine that the workforce that has experienced a transition from the MoWE to the NWC shall not have any difficulties in adjusting to the new change. Shaw (2003) has noted that usually, organizations and by extension, the human resources have a tendency of clinging, to the practices and systems that they are already accustomed to. For this reason, there is a need to develop a strategy that ensures a smooth transition of the workforce. One of the ways through which this can be achieved is by way of identifying the corporate values of the entities involved, in this case, the value attached to the public sector on the one hand, and those that the private sector hold dear, on the other hand.

Research Methodology

A research methodology addresses the actual research activity, ways of proceeding, progress assessment methods, as well as the measures of success. This research study is concerned with the privatizations of the water sector within Saudi Arabia. In this case, the study wishes to explore the role played by change management, as a result of the ensuing paradigm shift of employees moving from the public sector, in this case the ministry of water and electricity (MoWE) to the national water company (NWC).

Research design

According to Creswell (2008), a research design is a framework for collecting and utilizing sets of data that aims to produce logical and appropriate findings with great accuracy, and that aims to adequately and reasonably rest a research hypothesis. Hoger (2008) views a research design as the glue that is necessary in order to ensure that a research project stays together. This is because the structure of a research borrows heavily from its design, in effect illustrating the manner in which the various main sections of a research projects (for example, the research instruments, samples, and assignment methods) are able to functions in unison, for proposes of addressing those issues that are central to the research (Laurel, 2003).

This research study hopes to apply a descriptive research approach, with a view to accurately describing the different variable that are being explored, in addition to aiding in the assessment of the level to which these variables could bear a correlation (Zikmund, 2003). Creswell (2008) has noted that an exploratory research is best suited at a time when the researcher is exploring insights into the broad nature of research problems, as well as the most appropriate variables which require to be evaluated. In this case, this study wishes to assess the manner in which change management impacts on employees transition. Consequently, both dependent as well as independent variable shall be at play.

The independent variable to consider includes the nationality of the respondents, their gender, and level of education, religion, and marital status, among others. On the other hand ,the dependent variable to consider include the job family, position of the employees within the organisation, grade and level within the organisation, as well as past performance appraisals.

Study population

The study population for this research study shall be on those employees from the ministry of water and electricity (MoWE), who have been seconded to the National Water Company’s (NWC) customer call centers in Riyadh. This calls center houses a total of 750 employees.

Sampling procedure

According to Creswell (2008), sampling is one element of the statistical practice that concern itself with the selection of unique observations that are anticipated to surrender some knowledge about a population in question, specifically for the purposes of forming some statistical inference. Before primary research is conducted, a researcher must be clear about the category of respondents it wants to interview. In most instances, it is virtually impossible for a researcher to interview the whole population to get their views and opinions about a research question as this would be unfeasible and costly. In this respect, a representative sample of the population identified shall be chosen, for purposes of participating in the actual research study.

Having already established that the sample size for the population under study is 750 employees, this research study deems it appropriate to employ a systematic sampling technique, to facilitate the data collection exercise. This sampling ensures that each individual in the population has an equal and known possibility of been selected to participate in the research (Creswell 2008).

However, any researcher using systematic random sampling must first ensure that chosen sampling interval in a population does not conceal any pattern as this would threaten the randomness of a sample. In this case, every 10th employees that has been seconded to the NWC at Riyadh call centre shall be chosen. This will be facilitated by the use of the employees’ database at the company, and the systematic sampling shall be based on the alphabetic order of the employees’ surnames.


Creswell (2008) opines that the best method of ensuring that the research measurements errors are minimised is through the measure “use a good [research] instrument” (p. 394). Consequently, this research study wishes to utilise an open-ended questionnaire that will be administered to the respondents, as the instrument for data collection. By using open-ended questions, the study participants shall be in a position to freely express their views with minimal limitations, as Cohen and colleagues (2002) have noted.

Further, Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2002) have asserted that “closed and open ended questions can catch the authenticity, richness, depth of response, honesty and candour which is […] the hallmarks of quantitative data”. (p. 255). It is therefore anticipated that the sue of open-ended questions is the best approach to explore the views and opinions of the respondents to the study about how their transition from the public sector to the private sector may impact on them. Furthermore, this will also help shed light on exploring the role played by change management, in such a transition of manpower.

Data collection procedures

The procedure for data collection shall involve a personal administering of the study questionnaire to the respondents. Creswell (2008) has noted that one benefit of personal administration of a questionnaire is that respondents are best suited to comprehend the concepts and questions contained therein. Further, Personal administration accords the study respondents a chance to make clarifications from the researcher. Besides, personal administration enables the attainment of longer, detailed as well as complicated interviews (Laurel, 2003) and consequently, it gives more insight to the research study in hand.

Data analysis

Creswell (2008), talks of data analysis as a technique of gathering, transforming, and modelling data with the purpose of suggesting conclusions, highlighting useful information, and supporting decision making. There are various approaches that facets that are used to analyses statistical data and these shall vary from one discipline to the other. For example, the analysis of data in the business domain may be quite different from that in the social sciences. Once the collected data has been cleaned and edited, analysis shall be done using a number of statistical packages such as SPSS (Scientific Package for Social Scientists), and Microsoft Excel (Ms Excel). This is with a view to generating research findings for the study, which will in turn be presented in the form of tables, and pie charts.


  1. Cohen, J.P., Manion, C.W., & Morrison, P.M. (2002). Handbook of Qualitative Research. London: International Educational and professional Publisher.
  2. Creswell, J.W. (2008). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research. (3rded). New Jersey: Prentice hall.
  3. Höger, H. (2008). Design Research: Strategy Setting to Face the Future. Milan, I: Abitare Segesta.
  4. Laurel, B. (2003). Design Research: Methods and Perspective. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press.
  5. Pillai, P. K. (2007). MOWE Launches a Bold Program of Water Sector Development and Privatization.
  6. Shandling, K. (2008). Expanding water privatization initiatives in Saudi Arabia. MaximsNews Networkю
  7. Shaw, B.A. (2003). Business environment: Strategic capability. Oxford University Press
  8. Zikmund, W. G. (2003). Business research methods. (7. Ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage learning

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