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Talent Acquisition & Retention in the Middle East

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The latest Tower Watson 2014 Talent Management and Rewards study (TMR) indicates that 70% of organisations in the Middle East have difficulties in attracting and retaining skill and high potential employees. With 75% of employers in the region increasing hiring activity over the last year, talent has never been more critical.

Addressing labour market inefficiencies, developing national talent and competing for global one are the basis for unleashing the region’s true potential and support its national economies. The 2015 MENA Talent Competitiveness Index highlights six key areas for action on this front, with ‘promoting openness and mobility to enable talent growth by looking more broadly at what attracts people to stay in or move to a particular country’ being one of them.

Indisputably, education and vocational training need to be on top of the agenda to cater to the region’s needs. Middle East is investing heavily into industrial bases, transport, tourism, manufacturing, logistics, finance and Information and Communications Technology to drive job creation and skilled workforce is essential; the forecast for projects planned and underway in the GCC in 2015 is US$172 billion, the highest on record to date [1].

Creating ‘new cities’ such as King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia, Basra New City in Iraq and Lusail City in Qatar brings further sustainable economic and social value to the area, and furthermore, attracts foreign talent. According to the 2014 European Occupier Survey EMEA by global real estate advisor, CBRE, 30% of the corporates surveyed identified the Middle East as a potential destination for expansion in the next two years, a rise from 24 per cent in 2012. Such global interconnectedness encourages collaboration, bringing new skills to the region, allowing for knowledge sharing and best practice approach. 

In the UAE, which ranked as number one economy in the Middle East in attracting and retaining talent [2], international corporates are currently forecasting a headcount growth of between 5 – 20 percent per annum over the next 3 – 5 years. To accommodate the increase, they are in need of facilities that would meet immediate as well as future demands of their businesses. Two of the drivers that influence their decisions on real estate are Choice of Building and Use of Spaces [3], highlighting the role that workspace plays in the wider business strategy, guiding talent attraction and retention, as well as company’s reputation. It also marks the change of attitude towards office design, which is now seen as part of a workplace programme adding value and creating quality environment rather than a cost-saving measure [4]. 

With the explosive growth in emerging markets creating a significant shift in mobility patterns [5], globally the way people work is changing, which is reflected in their attitude towards their workplace. Work has become a consumer experience, where employees are looking for a collaborative space, with exciting and rewarding projects to work on. As cited in the CBRE’s FAST FORWARD 2030 The Future of Work and the Workplace, “successful providers will work with tenants to unlock ‘win win’ solutions that reduce occupier costs, increase flexibility, and simultaneously provide enhanced levels of community, amenity and user wellbeing.”

Office design has an undeniable impact on the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants. While rental costs make up just 9% of total operation cost, staff costs make up around 90% [6].  This means that small improvements in employee wellbeing and productivity can have big financial implications for businesses. Indoor air quality, daylighting and lighting, noise, interior layout, plants, look and feel, as well as location and access to amenities all play an important part in creating a workspace that is conducive to productivity and provides a quality, high performance indoor environment.

There needs to be a wide variety of quiet retreat as well as collaborative settings, with the employees having flexibility to choose space that is best suited at that particular moment, and allowing for privacy when needed. This consideration is closely linked to acoustics, especially in open plan offices, where the occupant’s emotions and cognition are affected and productivity can be degraded by up to two thirds when knowledge tasks are performed when other people’s conversations are clearly audible [7].

These are only few of the requirements dictated by the existing workforce and the way they work. Designers nowadays have to cater for the so-called iGen – the upcoming generation of true digital natives whose flexible work styles, attitudes, and world views are significantly different to those of their parents [8].

Property developers and clients who share the vision of buildings as meaningful places, enhancing employee experience in the process, will help to drive competitive advantage of such workplaces. In the race for talent, the workplace is a key component of the employment package organizations can offer. By creating spaces that can adapt to fit the occupant, rather than other way round, and addressing the needs of individuals, organisations are able to share their core values, expressed through their culture and brand. 



[1] Deloitte GCC Powers of Construction 2015
[2] INSEAD The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2014 Growing talent for today and tomorrow
[3] JLL MENA Occupier Sentiment Series
[4] CBRE European Occupier Survey 2014 EMEA Research
[5] PwC Talent Mobility 2020 and beyond
[6] World Green Building Council Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices
[7] Sound Business, Julian Treasure, The Sound Agency

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