Future talent imperatives

Written by
Changeboard Team

08 Jul 2014

08 Jul 2014 • by Changeboard Team

GCC residents expected to peak

Oil prices remain above $100 per barrel and Qatar and Dubai have won their respective bids to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and Expo 2020. Over the next decade, the number of GCC residents is expected to peak, resulting in the most rapid growth ever recorded in the number of young people as a proportion of a population. It is perfect synchronicity, providing many possibilities for the region’s growing workforce and leaving a lasting legacy for future generations. One of the key factors in determining the success of these opportunities is the diversification of employment, shifting nationals’ reliance away from jobs in the public sector and onto working for private organisations.

The public sector is already saturated as a potential employment destination within the region, while the energy industry is also approaching a watershed. The changes under way in the quality, accessibility and availability of supplies are creating a much more challenging environment. This will impact future
profitability and attractiveness to international technical partners. Middle East companies will need to become independent leaders in managerial and technical capabilities – this will require increased focus on workforce planning, talent management, leadership development and partnerships with government and educational institutions.

Innovative practices to attract nationals

Little of the learning that takes place in the region is giving job seekers the skills they need. If you’re a private sector employer, how will you engage with education suppliers to become more appealing to GCC nationals? How can GCC national job seekers make themselves more attractive as candidates? It’s time for some fresh thinking in HR practice and talent management. A key priority would be to identify innovative practices to attract nationals to the private sector, where the growth in employment opportunities will mostly occur. The public and private sector must form closer partnerships, particularly in enhancing employability within the region’s workforce. Critical elements such as resilience, self-efficacy and optimism are low compared with international benchmarks, according to our research. We will also witness the ongoing contribution of expats – people practice must evolve to be more inclusive and engaging for all talent pools.

Over the next decade and beyond, the GCC will become a laboratory for labour market reform. Highly segmented labour markets – where diversity is not consistently partnered with inclusion – already make the region unique, along with its rapid economic growth. With the pace of change increasing, evidence-based approaches to HR consulting should be tailored to this. For instance, as an HR professional you must be able to understand and respond to the changing talent landscape caused by the introduction of mandatory national service for the local population – as well as the changing role of women in the workplace. The increasing prevalance of Saudi females in the formal labour market is proving to be game-changing, unlocking the country’s largest latent talent pool and disrupting its rigid labour markets.

Shift to the private sector and booming industries

The next decade is essentially about accelerating the shift of GCC national employment into the private sector. The results of our research suggest that younger nationals prefer the more dynamic and international working environments it offers. Average levels of productivity, performance and positivity – all critical for sustained employee engagement – are higher among expats and nationals in the private sector across the GCC, despite average wages and benefits being much lower. We predict the next decade will see a boom in job opportunities within tourism and hospitality (especially MICE), transportation and logistics, real estate and infrastructure, retail, banking and financial services (especially Islamic banking), security and SMEs (particularly in the creative industries). The competition for talent will intensify in these areas, which have so far been unfavoured by GCC nationals. This will lead to a renewed reliance on expats. We expect this trend to shift significantly, with Bahrain, Oman and some regions of Saudi Arabia and the UAE likely to be the most dynamic and Qatar and Kuwait less so. The focus of the region’s economic growth has mostly been on building the physical infrastructure of the future. But human capital infrastructure is arguably more important for long-term development – we need people practices and approaches to talent management that address these aspects. In many ways, we must focus less on building HR initiatives and more on encouraging more resourceful human beings with the confidence to use their own initiative. With a young , growing, ambitious and well educated workforce, all the ingredients are in place.

The question is: Can we get the recipe right?

Idea in brief

Top 10 employee strengths to develop:

  1. Preparedness, self-efficacy and confidence
  2. Accountability and focus on execution
  3. Multi-tasking and dealing with complexity
  4. Resilience and change management
  5. Innovation and creativity
  6. Decision-making and handling ambiguity
  7. Ability to see the ‘big picture’
  8. Sense of conviction and balancing opposing points of view
  9. Learning agility and openness to feedback
  10. Drive, passion and willingness to go the extra mile.

In demand

Top 10 skills in demand in the GCC:

  1. Customer service
  2. Project management planning and execution
  3. Engineering and technical
  4. Architecture, urban planning and infrastruture development
  5. Digital business skills
  6. Digital design skills
  7. Social media & web 2.0
  8. Event management marketing and PR
  9. Public policy and impact analysis
  10. Financial analysis Due diligence and monitoring

David Jones

David Jonesmanaging director, The Talent Enterprise
David is a senior adviser to policy-makers, business leaders and HR professionals on strategic human capital issues and challenges.

Radhika Punshi

Radhika Punshiconsulting director, The Talent Enterprise
Radhika is an organisational psychologist and HR expert focusing on local talent development, nationalisation, gender and youth inclusion.