SumTotal Blog

Winning the War for Talent in the Middle East

The war for talent is a challenge faced on both global and domestic levels. Whilst there are similarities on a global level (i.e. the disparity between the availability of talent and required skills) each geographic region or even country has to deal with additional issues, which can include differences in demographics, diversity, nationalisation, education, engagement and economic outlook.

The Middle East is a prime example of how the war for talent is different at a geographical level. According to the PwC 2014 Global CEO survey1, 72% of Middle East CEOs are focusing on creating a skilled workforce over the next 3 years. This is one of the highest percentages across the globe. However 70% of CEOs in the area have identified availability of key skills as a potential business threat to their organisation1.  At the same time, the youth unemployment rate in the Middle East is the highest in the world2. In fact, one in four Arab youth are unemployed with a median age of 241!Bright Colors - Business People

Organisations in the region must work towards meeting Nationalisation targets for the private sector. Within the 6 member countries of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) about 13 million foreigners make up about 70% of the workforce.

The age of the local workforce, the nationalisation targets and the globalisation of labour offer an interesting battle field in the war for Talent. To create a skilled workforce organisations need to get better at building and engaging their talent to ensure a consistent and capable pipeline of ready people to develop tomorrow’s workforce.

Here are 5 steps to developing top talent:

  1. Understand your organisation’s talent profile. Understanding your talent’s profile goes beyond capturing information in the talent acquisition process. Almost every organisation has a wealth of talent information hidden across multiple HR systems.  It’s important to get a comprehensive view of your people, from internal and external data sources, including social networking sites like LinkedIn.  
  2. Recognise your true talent needs.  Yesterday’s talent needs are not tomorrow’s talent needs. The talent profile needs to evolve continuously to take into account nationalisation, diversification, globalisation of various sectors, as well as the current and future business needs. In the complex labour market in the Middle East you may also need to recognise that there are desirable and realistic talent needs.
  3. Perform regular gap analyses. To develop tomorrow’s workforce and win the local war for talent you will need to regularly identify key competencies required for outstanding performance and success in each area, so you can create a list of learning activities that can help to develop each competency. Regularly examining the gaps between existing talent and true talent needs allows organisations to be agile in reacting to business, economic or regulatory conditions, resulting in increased engagement, internal succession and productivity.
  4. Integrate talent and learning to drive engagement. Organisations in the Middle East have a very diverse workforce and individuals are different, even if they work in the same organisation at the same job. But most organisations’ training and development programmes, when they exist at all, are still one-size-fits-all and are often detached from the talent management process. By putting learning at the core of talent management programmes, employees are provided with learning opportunities which will enable them to close skills gaps. Delivering training to the workforce, when and where they need it will ultimately help to drive employee engagement, enhance compliance, increase retention and improve productivity.
  5. Reward leaders who drive internal talent mobility
    In the Middle East personal networks are extremely important and this can influence employment or advantage in the workplace, which can undermine the whole talent management strategy. Most managers are rewarded on what their organisations accomplish, but to drive internal talent mobility they should be recognised for enabling their people to find new jobs in new departments to ensure that the best talent is always in the most important role.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below! And, if you’re looking to learn more about how to win the war for talent in the Middle East read – Developing Tomorrow’s Workforce: Winning the War for Talent in the Middle East.


1 PwC Middle East CEO Survey 2014: Fit for the Future
2 Arab Thought Foundation: Enabling Job Creation In the Arab World
3 YalesGlobal Online: An Empowered Middle East – Part 1 (10 January 2008)


Leave a reply: