HR heats up in the Middle East

Written by
Changeboard Team

01 Jun 2012

01 Jun 2012 • by Changeboard Team

HR specialists in demand

As we prepare for temperatures to soar, we’re also in the midst of a hot HR job market. The good news is that job numbers are still rising in the MENA region but, as always, there’s a catch!

We’re experiencing high demand for specialist HR professionals rather than pure generalists, and this is becoming increasingly frustrating for many good candidates currently active in the market.

Shift in focus

For commercial reasons, companies in the region previously always looked to get as much as they could for their money in terms of HR knowledge. Being a generalist in the true terms of the word, therefore, meant you could drive various HR initiatives including recruitment, learning and compensation while managing stakeholder relationships, payroll and advising on employee relations.

Today, however, we’re seeing a definite shift in mentality where companies are looking for a specialist set of skills built up over a longer period of time. The market is therefore particularly hot for senior L&D and compensation and reward professionals and career recruiters.

HR functions becoming more sophisticated

Where does this leave generalist HR professionals? My feeling is that junior candidates can rest easy as they’re still at a stage where they have transferrable skills. A good HR administrator or officer can always move to an L&D or talent officer role and should be open to widening their HR knowledge.

At the mid and senior levels, it’s more difficult and candidates need to be patient while the Centres of Excellence are set up. If you’re a generalist with a real background in one of the specialist areas, you should make this clear on your CV. Don’t be scared to take a step back if the opportunity is challenging enough.

This shift in demand is happening in every country including the UAE, Qatar, KSA and Kuwait and it’s a sign that HR functions are becoming more sophisticated in the region.

Globalisation paving the way for opportunities

Senior roles are expanding, with a number of companies increasing the client groups managed out of Middle East to include India, Pakistan and Africa (and not just North Africa).

Global restructuring is popular with many of our multinational clients with the common EMEA structure being split into Europe and the MEA, with options to include more Asian countries in the latter. This can only signal more exciting opportunities in the region for HR directors and people looking to sit as part of a global HR function.

'Up and coming' Qatar

There’s a vast number of job openings in Qatar including HR, learning, recruitment and compensation and benefits roles in all sectors.

Many HR professionals are disappointed that they missed the boom period of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, when remuneration was high and choice was great. There’s a genuine opportunity to experience this in Qatar. Relocate there, and you can watch Doha grow in terms of office towers, apartments, schools, infrastructure and population.

Remember that Qatar is very proud of its traditions and customs and these need to be respected. Qatarisation targets are understandably strict and expatriate opportunities, especially for females, are more difficult to land at a senior level. Like KSA, most multinationals will be operating as part of a joint venture and the restrictions on employment visas, NOCs and exit stamps are stricter than in UAE. If you’re aware of the limitations, however, Qatar can really offer exciting times similar to those in Dubai in the last decade.