The case of the Emirates Insurance Association
Purpose – Associations perform an important role in developing a profession, by organizing professionals into a community in which relevant information and knowledge are shared, ideas expanded, contacts with other like-minded professionals made, a code of ethics established and appropriate practices for members identified. For an association to be effective, it has to perform at the highest quality level. However, no studies can be found in the academic literature onhowto create high-performing associations. This paper aims to apply the high-performance organization (HPO) Framework within the Emirates Insurance Association (EIA) to evaluate its current strength and identify possible improvements that need to be implemented for EIA to achieve high performance.
Design/methodology/approach – In this article, the HPO Framework – which has been used and validated in many contexts, including non-profit organizations (NPOs) – is applied within the EIA to evaluate its current strength and, thereby, identify possible improvements that need to be implemented for EIA to achieve high performance.
Findings – The research results showed that the HPO Framework – when adapted to the circumstances of an association – is able to accurately evaluate the situation within that association and yield targeted recommendations to improve its performance.
Originality/value – This research fills a lacuna in the current literature on how to improve the performance of associations; it can, therefore, function as a foundation for further academic research into high performance in associations and possibly other types of NPOs. Moreover, the research results help managers of associations and NPOs in their quest for high performance by offering tangible improvement suggestions.
Keywords Performance, United Arab Emirates, Insurance industry, Professional associations, High-performance organizations
Paper type Research paper
Introduction: Applicability of the HPO framework in non-profit organizations
According to Johnson (2010), innovation emerges from creating environments where people’s ideas can connect, as individuals grow smarter when they are connected. Therefore, organizations should create environments and information networks that allow small ideas to connect and, thereby, be developed into bigger ideas. In support of this view, Lubit (2001) argued that a group-working environment leads to knowledge sharing, which, in turn, leads to new insights and innovations; therefore, teams are more capable than individuals of developing creative solutions to problems. In this respect, Pemberton (1994) observed that no single practitioner can develop and enlarge the status of their chosen profession by acting alone; therefore, professionals should organize themselves into and act as a community to see beyond narrow self-interest. One way to create such a community, in which relevant information and knowledge can be shared, ideas can be expanded upon and contacts with other like-minded professionals made, is the professional association (Fisher, 1997; Gruen et al., 2000; Markova et al., 2013). Professional associations can also channel the use of knowledge for the public good, in addition to establishing a code of ethics and shaping appropriate practices for their members (Bruhn, 2001).
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is becoming a leading international business center in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. The 2015 Ease-of-Doing Business Index ranked the UAE 22nd globally, climbing three places from 2014, and the UAE is recognized as a top-ten improver (Deloitte, 2015). The UAE is offering business-friendly policies and, thus, encouraging global organizations to expand their businesses across the Middle East. Supported by the government – and in collaboration with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and the Dubai World Trade Centre – the Dubai Association Center (DAC) was
established. The DAC supports professional business associations in expanding their activities in the region and helps them to form membership-based communities or establish regional representative offices to support their member organizations in conducting business in the UAE (Dubai Chamber of Commerce, 2015). One of these associations is the Emirates Insurance Association (EIA), established by the UAE Ministry of Economy in 1988, of which all insurance companies operating in the UAE have to be members. The main purpose of the EIA is to streamline knowledge-sharing in an industry that has been growing over the past decade due to population and disposable income rises (Alpen Capital, 2013). However, like many industries in the GCC region, insurance companies must do their utmost to improve their performance as they face increasing penetration – often through acquisitions – of international insurance companies in the market. Simultaneously, regional insurers have been growing in scale and expertise over recent years and have also become fierce competitors. Faced by these developments, the EIA has an important role to perform in supporting its member companies in acquiring knowledge to achieve high performance. To do this effectively, the association itself has to perform at the highest quality level (Barnett, 2013).
Unfortunately, to the knowledge of the authors, no studies can be found in the academic literature on how to create high-performing associations.
Apossible way forward is to apply the high-performance organization (HPO) Framework (de Waal, 2012) – which has been used and validated in many contexts, including the UAE (de Waal et al., 2014; de Waal and Frijns, 2014) and non-profit organizations (NPOs) (de Waal, 2012) – within the EIA to evaluate its current strength and possible improvements needed to achieve high performance. This article describes a research study into the applicability of the HPO Framework for improving the EIA’s performance in a sustainable way. Our research question is as follows:
RQ1. Can the HPO Framework be a suitable tool to evaluate the performance of an association and give recommendations for its improvement that will be accepted by the association?
The research results should fill a lacuna in the current literature on how to improve the performance of associations; they can, therefore, function as a foundation for further academic research into high performance in associations and possibly other types of NPOs.