The future of work in the clean energy sector: An interview with Nabil Almessabi, CHRO at TAQA
Human Resources Officers

The future of work in the clean energy sector: An interview with Nabil Almessabi, CHRO at TAQA

Nabil Almessabi, the CHRO of clean energy company TAQA, discusses how the disruption in the energy sector will impact future of talent attraction, retention, and development.
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In this next episode of The Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast, Heidrick & Struggles’ Shaloo Kulkarni speaks to Nabil Almessabi, the CHRO at TAQA, a high-growth, international clean energy publicly listed company headquartered in Abu Dhabi. Nabil shares his thoughts on the disruption in the energy sector and what he believes are the most important trends to watch out for in terms of the future of work and the skills and capabilities needed, including how he is approaching the changing needs of the workforce. He also discusses the differences he sees between the Middle East and other regions regarding the future workforce, and highlighting how TAQA is working to attract, develop, and retain future-ready leaders. 

Below is a full transcript of the episode, which has been edited for clarity. 

Welcome to The Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. Heidrick is the premier global provider of senior-level executive search and leadership consulting services. Diversity and inclusion, leading through tumultuous times, and building thriving teams and organizations are among the core issues we talk with leaders about every day, including in our podcasts. Thank you for joining the conversation. 

Shaloo Kulkarni: Hi, I'm Shaloo Kulkarni, partner at Heidrick & Struggles and a member of the Global HR Officers Practice. In today's podcast, I have the pleasure of talking to Nabil Almessabi, CHRO at TAQA, a high-growth, international clean energy publicly listed company headquartered in Abu Dhabi. Nabil is a senior HR executive with deep credentials in the UAE region. An engineer by training with a strong business and operations background, Nabil transitioned to HR a few years ago and leads TAQA's group HR function. His portfolio also extends to other corporate functions as well as key transformation programs. Nabil, welcome and thank you for being with us here today. 

Nabil Almessabi: Thank you Shaloo and I'm very happy to be here.

Shaloo Kulkarni: In the energy sector there's a lot of disruption happening right now. What, in your view, are the most important trends to watch out for in terms of the future of work and the skills and capabilities needed?

Nabil Almessabi: In our industry, we are witnessing a major change in the power and utilities, or power and water sector, and the broader energy industry. That change is mainly due to the growing demand and expansion of renewables into our generation fleet and through energy companies around the world meeting sustainability targets and ambitions, partly led by governments, but also the positive impact such investments make on organizations due to invest-ability, cost of capital and investor interest.

There is a strong drive by companies and we are not any different from any other energy company that is subject to the same change in developing the right capabilities that would address the introduction of renewables and also the understanding and the skill set required to introduce more efficient technologies to our operations, including machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics, adjusting to the new demands of new industries that have emerged, such as the electric vehicle industry, which is booming. This doesn't only require new skill sets, but it requires new capabilities, new systems, and policies to be developed. Whether we develop them in-house, which is always a preferred route, but also that brings the challenge of time to develop the right skill sets internally. 

We have a balanced combination of addressing those challenges through developing capabilities internally and acquiring technical expertise through employment and other contractual agreements externally to address time and longevity challenges.

Shaloo Kulkarni: And in that context, how are you approaching the changing needs of the workforce? We hear a lot of dialogue around Gen Z, millennials, remote working, intergenerational workforce dynamics. How are you and TAQA approaching that?

Nabil Almessabi: Very simply, we do not consider these challenges as new needs for the business. We just think that they have just come to the forefront of discussions and become hot topics in recent years.

For example, remote working became an extreme topic of discussion due to the pandemic because it was a measure for an extreme situation and made it a new requirement and a demand by the new workforce. But it's always existed in the areas of consulting and legal. For example, the gig economy was very prevalent in the creative industry and there was always a new generation of workforce coming in. We're just dealing with new generations. And in the context of our business, of course, we always need to address those changes in a way that adds benefit and adds value to our business, which in turn adds value to our shareholders and customers.

I just want to maybe share an example of how we address the diversity and inclusion topic in TAQA. We've identified four streams of talent pools that require more specific attention in terms of capability building and attracting and retaining, and those are the youth. So that addresses part of your question when it comes to the new generation. We have a very active youth council. We have a very dedicated graduate development program that sees professionals from the fresh graduate intake being developed through work readiness training and on the job training. We also have people of determination that are being addressed in a careful development program. We also have women in our workforce. We're very proud to see more and more interest from women in our industry, which is something that's new and refreshing to see. Of course, we've got the localization, or as we call it in the UAE, Emiratization, which goes without saying being a social responsibility, but it's also a very important business continuity measure to have locals involved in the national security of power and water supply to the nation. We are seeing that being developed and evolving very well. 

Shaloo Kulkarni: Certainly I think the brand that TAQA has built in the region reflects some of these initiatives as well. When we talk about the region, the Middle East obviously is going through a massive growth curve right now. What would you say are some of the regional differences that you are seeing in the Middle East versus other regions when you plan for the future workforce?

Nabil Almessabi: We are seeing that the main regional difference of the Middle East, especially the GCC (Gulf Corporation Council), is a very supportive government to help develop these young economies into more developed economies on a global scale. Of course, that comes with also the challenge of having a young workforce with such an economy – a young workforce, both in age and in experience – so there's a lot of focus on capability building across the board.

There's also a growing and evolving academic and professional landscape. We're seeing more and more international organizations coming to this part of the world that bring their expertise to the region, which also helps in making talent available in the Middle East.

In TAQA, we also realized that as a global company operating in the four continents that we operate in and only growing, is demanding of a global workforce as well, both geographically and in experience and expertise. We talked earlier about the challenges of this new skillset that we acquire, a new agile workforce and agile culture, and having a very diverse workforce who is equipped with all the experiences that we acquire across the globe in a multi-discipline area. 

We are happy to see that the Middle East is becoming a very attractive destination for talent from around the world. We're seeing that we're spending less effort in attracting or convincing talent to come to the Middle East. So that's also very promising to see.

Shaloo Kulkarni: You spoke about some of the very interesting initiatives around building the young future workforce. Are there any initiatives that you would like to highlight which TAQA might be pursuing to attract, develop, and retain leaders that you need into the future?

Nabil Almessabi: Developing and attracting leaders is a very important topic. We also consider succession planning as crucial to our business continuity and longevity. Developing people from the entry level, through the ETLAQ program, which is our graduate training program, and through to middle management, future leaders and executive management teams.

We believe that it's very important to develop talent locally and within the business. But we also see that competition is high for talent. The more you develop talent, the more attractive they are to your peers and competitors, so we also have to be competitive in how we retain that talent. In addition to policy matters that attract talent and retain them, we are also keen on continuously evolving our corporate culture to make it a place where people would think twice before leaving and not think twice before joining.

Shaloo Kulkarni: Looking ahead, Nabil, what advice would you give to other CHROs on how to prepare for the future of work based on your experience and your reflections?

Nabil Almessabi: It’s the advice that I keep on repeating if anyone has attended any of the panels that I mentioned before. It may sound like a scratched CD, but I would like to always remind myself on being relevant to the business.

I think CHROs have that as a global challenge, that being relevant to the business—in the eyes of the business—so in the eyes of our executives, colleagues, in the eyes of our shareholders, are we doing what we need to do as HR professionals to add value to the business through shareholder value, customer satisfaction and efficient operations? Or are we only reactively responding to changes of technologies and trying to introduce new methods and disrupting our operating model without drawing that very direct link to the end result which is being relevant to the business.

I think being relevant to the business would always be a challenge that CHROs and HR professionals around the world should always spend time and effort to make it very clear to peers, both internally and externally. The value that HR initiatives and programs and operations bring to the business, that would be my main advice.

Shaloo Kulkarni: Thank you for that, Nabil, and thank you for making the time to speak to us today.

Nabil Almessabi: Always a pleasure, Shaloo, and thank you for having me.

Thanks for listening to The Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. To make sure you don’t miss more future-shaping ideas and conversations, please subscribe to our channel on the podcast app. And if you’re listening via LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube, why not share this with your connections? Until next time. 

About the interviewer

Shaloo Kulkarni ( is a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ London office and a member of Heidrick Consulting.

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