The Middle East’s vast employment landscape has shifted dramatically and frequently in recent years. Expectations, perceptions, and objectives have radically changed for job seekers and recruiters, turning the traditional approach to hiring talent on its head. This ripple effect was triggered by the evolution of employees’ priorities.
Analysis of a survey that we conducted last year, provides insight into what makes UAE employees happy at work. A total of 502 male and female respondents (175 nationals and 327 expatriates) aged 21-45 – with full-time jobs and living in the UAE – participated. The central finding is that, today, most employees in the UAE view their job as more than just a means of making a living. It also shows that nationals and expatriates have starkly different ‘critical must-haves’ at work.
For UAE nationals, the most important single element is job security, followed by employer reputation, company values, financial stability, and relationships with colleagues. UAE expats’ happiness depends mostly on the level of appreciation they receive for their work. Then comes work/life balance, relationships with colleagues/superiors, and leadership responsibilities.
Employee value proposition
The study’s biggest takeaway? Today, a blend of factors must combine for HR professionals in the UAE to attract and retain talent. That perfect mix boils down to answering two questions that lurk in workers’ minds: "Why should I join the company?" and "why should I stay and give the best of myself?"
At BCG, we believe that, to address these, employers must create a powerful employee value proposition (EVP) based around four ‘contracts’ covering: capital, pride, employability, and wellbeing, and develop a strong proposition across all four dimensions.
Note that each of the five companies that led LinkedIn’s 2015 ranking of the Top 20 In Demand Employers in the MENA Region – Emaar, Shell, Emirates Airline, Procter & Gamble and Etisalat – have a solid EVP that ticks those boxes.
The four contracts of EVP
What do these ‘contracts’ entail?
The ‘capital contract'. Traditionally, the focus of the employer proposition revolves around financial offerings: an attractive, fixed salary, incentives, bonuses and other benefits.
The ‘pride contract’ hinges on company strengths and reputation, including the financial stability, values, size, workforce, business or product portfolio, industry leadership, the senior leadership reputation, meritocracy and profile. By conveying these clearly to candidates, employers can start building ‘employee pride’.
Procter & Gamble, for example, makes purpose values principles central to its worforce development. Our survey outcomes reflect that, in the eyes of UAE workers in their 40s, employee pride counts. While work environment fades in importance, people’s appreciation for job security, and their employer’s reputation, become basic needs. This also rings true for UAE nationals aged 21-30; job security, employer reputation and company values top their list of desired workplace attributes.
The ‘employability contract’ refers to job content, and development or learning prospects. It encompasses personal growth goals and challenges, the job’s impact on the individual, and potential global opportunities. Emirates is an example of an employer with a strong EVP in the employability area. The airline offers high-calibre training programmes, accessible to all.
These courses may be classroom-based, on-the-job, online, practical assessment, simulation, project-based or a combination. A network of Learning Resource Centres (LRC) exists in various Emirates Group buildings in Dubai, providing an environment for self or group-based studies away from the workplace.
‘My Learning Zone’, Emirates Group’s learning portal, provides a one-stop location for accessing training and development information.
The ‘wellbeing contract’ sheds light on intrinsic rewards related to the work environment and relationships: an employee’s appreciation for their work, relationships with colleagues and superiors, work/life balance, job security, and work locations.
Shell has a strong EVP in this area, with diversity programmes targeting women and minorities, plus a focus on increasing employee engagement.
Tools to attract talent
These four ‘contracts’, which, together, form a complete EVP, comprise the tools to attract talent. They also gain employers a financial advantage. BCG findings, based on a study by the Corporate Leadership Council entitled Attracting and Retaining Critical Talent Segments: Building a Competitive Employment Value Proposition, shows that candidates who switch to an employer with an attractive EVP settle for a salary increase that is 50% lower than candidates switching to an employer with an unattractive EVP.
For a company to transition effectively from an undefined EVP to a clear and differentiated offering, a series of steps must be followed. In this, an organisation’s success is rooted in its ability to communicate its existing offering – via words and actions – and grow into its new proposition.
Transactional recruiting strategy
Typically, in the UAE, employers without a defined EVP implement a ‘transactional’ recruiting strategy, attempting to lure recruits with the promise of higher salaries and related benefits. What they lack is consistent messaging, an energising vision, and a well-defined position.
Addressing this gap requires asserting your organisation’s leadership position. Employers should not be ‘shy’ about highlighting their array of accomplishments. Instead of stressing compensation elements, emphasise your commitment to candidates’ long-term development and communicate to individuals that they can achieve greatness within a team-orientated culture and gain a sense of belonging.
Today, recruiting isn’t simply a numbers game. Hiring managers are tasked with persuading workers that they want to embody the company’s core values (because these values strongly resonate with their own) and ‘walking the talk’ when it comes to highlighting the organisation’s business ethos and practices.
The ‘how’ of accomplishing this seemingly difficult feat? A strong EVP.