What challenges are employees facing in the Middle East?

Written by
Changeboard Team

19 Aug 2013

19 Aug 2013 • by Changeboard Team

Employment market difficulties

The employment market in the Middle East is in a state of transition. The 2030 initiatives, for instance, will see a restructure of industry dominance to move the region away from its dependence on oil. The result of this innovative drive will be an increase in demand for local skills to fill professional and managerial roles. However, for an area that has traditionally relied heavily on expat support, these changes will result in a new range of challenges when it comes to attracting key talent. So what does an HR professional focusing on this area need to know in order to get the best out of this workforce? 

To truly understand the extent of the current employment market situation in the Middle East, we recently carried out a survey of 1,019 professionals currently working in the area. The results revealed a number of clear trends in the barriers facing employees, with career progression found to be a recurring issue. Respondents revealed that their prospects within their current organisation were limited, which has in turn led to concerns around job security. With confidence low and growth opportunities limited, HR professionals will understandably struggle to retain leading talent and subsequently build a strong, cohesive workforce.

Wellbeing at work & regional restraints

Staff in the region are currently under increasing pressure to deliver more for less as organisations strive to be productive in challenging times. While this challenge is reflected across the globe it still remains to be said that this must be addressed. If employees are feeling stressed and undervalued, not only will this affect their health and wellbeing, but businesses could find themselves losing their best talent to competitors as well. 

The results also suggested that cultural differences across countries in the area also present a barrier to developing workforces. The Middle East is a vast area that consists of various cultures and economies that have been grouped together – the simple fact that the participants in the survey were from multiple locations including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Oman, and Kuwait indicates the scale of this region. With roles requiring movement across multiple locations, dealing with regional differences can be a challenge. Cultural variations can be difficult to juggle, particularly among stakeholders and clients in the region, and a lack of understanding was found to be a real problem. HR teams must be prepared to not only manage cultural differences in roles across the region, but also equip staff with the skills to manage this as well.

Ageism in recruitment

It also seems that, as can be the case across the globe, there’s a degree of unspoken ageism in recruitment processes. This was reflected in the age range of our participants with the majority (52%) between 26-35 years, and only 13% over 46. For HR professionals looking to build teams in the area it’s vital that this unconscious bias is addressed. In order to bring in fresh ideas and avoid ‘group think’, there needs to be diversity, and age is an important factor in this. Often older professionals may have just the right experience needed for a role, so you could be missing out on talent if they’re overlooked. 

Key talent challenges

Despite the fact that Middle East economies are doing well compared to parts of Europe like Spain, Greece and Italy, it’s clear that organisations still face key talent challenges. But in order to attract and retain the best possible talent, it’s important that HR professionals are aware of and can deal with such issues.