Counter offers leaving UAE companies struggling to recruit talent

Companies in the UAE are witnessing an increase in counter offers

  • One third of UAE HR leaders have seen an increase in counter offers
  • An increased number of executives anticipate offering a sign on bonus to attract top candidates
  • Nearly three quarters (72%) report that counter offers have a negative impact on trust between the employee and manager

Dubai, 29 April 2015 – UAE companies are finding their best talent is being swept out from under their feet as more employees are receiving multiple counter offers. According to new research1 by specialist recruiter Robert Half, one third (33%) of UAE HR leaders have increased counter offers in a bid to retain their key employees. With acute talent shortages across the region, respondents from Abu Dhabi have seen a higher volume of counter offers than their Dubai counterparts (38% versus 29% respectively), suggesting  that companies are concerned about losing top talent and are increasing employee remuneration in response.

The study, carried out with 75 UAE HR leaders, finds additional insights in employee remuneration. One third (33%) of senior professionals are much more likely to offer a sign-on bonus to attract top candidates than they were previously. This strategy emphasises the struggle companies face to win the war for talent and secure the professionals they need.

HR leaders were asked, “Has the prevalence of counter offers increased, decreased, or stayed the same?”



Increased significantly


Increased somewhat


Stayed the same


Decreased somewhat


Decreased significantly


Net increase


Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director of Robert Half, commented: “With counter offers increasing and a shrinking talent pool in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it is now more important than ever for businesses to act quickly in the hiring process. With the economy on the rise, companies need to be prepared to offer competitive benefits to attract and retain the most skilled professionals.

While it is tempting for job seekers to use counter offers as a negotiating tool, they are not an effective strategy for businesses to retain staff in the long term. When asked how the trust between employee and employer was affected, nearly three quarters (72%) of UAE HR leaders said it has negatively impacted their trust in the employee. In order to retain top talent, companies must ensure they are offering remuneration that is competitive within their industry and profession.”

El Mettouri continues: “To keep their best employees, companies should ensure they are paying their staff a competitive salary, benefits and bonus structure. The best way to do this is to consult industry publications, like the Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide or to speak with a recruitment agency to gain industry insight into candidate expectations. A separate survey found that 40% of candidates have remuneration expectations that are higher than what is currently on offer. Therefore, as more companies are vying for the limited talent on offer, businesses need to enhance their retention strategies or risk losing their best employees.”

Robert Half offers the following advice on counter offers for businesses:

  • Counter offers are not a long term solution – giving an incentive to retain an employee when they have decided to leave is likely to be too late, besides what’s to stop them from looking again?
  • Once you have made a counter offer, it sets a bad precedent within the company. It won’t be long until every staff member tries to explore the job market and use it as a negotiation tool.
  • Be aware that by offering a counter offer to one employee, employees may see it as favouritism to certain individuals. As a result, your team morale and productivity may be negatively impacted.
  • Even if you persuade an employee to stay, will you be able to trust them again? Nearly three quarters (72%) of UAE leaders say no.


[1] The bi-annual study was developed by Robert Half and is conducted by an independent research firm.  The study is based on more than 75 interviews with senior HR executives from companies across the UAE, with the results segmented by size, sector and geographic location. 

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy; a member of the S&P 500 and #1 in our industry on FORTUNE® magazine’s “World's Most Admired Companies” list (2015). Founded in 1948, the company has over 340 offices worldwide, including the UAE, providing recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal, human resources and administration professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and job seeker resources at