How can the UAE hold on to the best talent in the Middle East?

By Gareth El Mettouri on 18th July 2023

The UAE has long been the golden child of the Middle East when it comes to hiring in the best talent, but in recent years Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been making a play for its crown.

The FIFA World Cup in Qatar at the end of 2022 propelled the country into the public eye. Some of the best talent from around the world migrated to work on one of the world’s biggest sporting fixtures, with businesses poised to make competitive offers to sweep up the cream of the crop when the event was complete.

While success in Qatar was limited and its foothold quickly slipped, Saudi Arabia is attracting some of the most talented candidates in the market. With businesses in a position to offer 25-40% salary increases, the lure is unmistakeable. It means that organisations can bring in ambitious professionals from around the world and draw on the pool of expats already in the Middle East.

So what does this mean for businesses in the UAE? The ‘We the UAE 2031’ vision aims to double the country’s GDP – but to achieve this, businesses need to be able to access the best talent. The Government is playing its role with the introduction of Golden Visas and other initiatives, but there are steps business leaders can take to make their businesses more attractive to new and existing employees.

1. Strengthen your Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

Make sure the salaries, progression opportunities and benefits are competitive and clear to candidates and existing employees who could be tempted to jump ship.

The employment market in the UAE is competitive enough, without businesses in other Middle Eastern countries looking to cream off the top of the talent pool. Falling behind the pack could cost you – and conversely, making sure you offer the very best package will set you apart.

Company culture is also a critical part of your EVP, particularly when you are trying to attract candidates from the US, UK and the rest of Europe. This includes initiatives to build a more inclusive workplace, focusing on work/life balance and ensuring that people are able to enjoy their experience at your organisation.

Once you have a solid proposition in place, it is important to promote it. Candidates research the companies they are applying to, so making sure that what you offer to employees is visible on your website can make all the difference.

2. Offer more support to help with the cost of living

With the cost of living continuing to increase in the UAE, and particularly in Dubai, it is becoming a less appealing place to live. While inflation continues to sit above three per cent, employees are finding it harder to make ends meet, and are having to make cuts to the lifestyles they have become accustomed to.

Companies in Dubai have typically been able to attract candidates based on disposable income and allowances, making it possible to save money whilst still enjoying all the delights that Dubai has to offer. This is now under threat. With the busy recruitment market, it is critical that organisations consider revising salaries, offering additional cost of living bonuses or review living allowances in order to retain and attract the talent they need.

In some cases, this may mean making adjustments elsewhere, or searching for a different type of candidate. For example, many of the businesses we are working with are seeking single expats to reduce the family-associated overheads like childcare, healthcare and schooling.

3. Focus on promoting the Dubai lifestyle to expats

The UAE – and Dubai in particular – has no shortage of ways for candidates to enjoy their private time, whether they are single, coupled-up or moving over with a family. With many candidates now choosing between countries as well as employers, focusing on the positive reasons to move to the UAE could help people to make a decision.

There are so many attractive things about Dubai, from its incredible architecture and year-round sunshine to its rich tapestry of cultures. And don’t forget one of the other most appealing things Dubai has in its repertoire – it’s exclusivity. Dubai offers affordable luxury with retail, fine dining and spas, offering a lifestyle far above and beyond other cities in the region.

There’s something for everyone, and if you can find out a candidate’s interests at interview you can tailor the sell and get them excited about a move to Dubai, and your organisation.

Looking for a new role? Interested in moving to the UAE? Contact us to speak to one of our recruitment experts who will be happy to discuss your next move.

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