Better benefits can give UAE firms an edge in global battle for talent
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Better benefits can give UAE firms an edge in global battle for talent

Better benefits can give UAE firms an edge in global battle for talent

Workplace savings, unemployment insurance, and education allowances are among the top benefits sought by employees

Better benefits can give UAE firms an edge in global battle for talent

As we begin 2023, the themes of transitions and change continue to gain momentum. In fact, more than three-quarters of your colleagues in the UAE could be looking to start afresh in a new workplace this year.

Taken at face value, this figure, revealed in Zurich’s Powering the future of work – 2022 report, can appear surprising and, for HR departments, deeply concerning.

Globally, 2022 was a year of mass lay-offs, especially for the tech industry, as companies such as Twitter, Meta and Amazon laid off thousands of employees, and a total of 150,000 employees were out of jobs, surpassing the Great Recession levels of 2008-2009.

However, the job market in the UAE tells a different tale, supported by strong governance, forward planning, and increased business activity – with the UAE’s GDP growth at 6.5 per cent in 2022 and expected growth above 7 per cent for this year.

The UAE’s strong growth does not mean change is not on the horizon for its labour market. The attitude of UAE-based employees – 76 per cent of whom are looking to change jobs in the next year or have changed jobs in the past year – reflects a global trend of people rethinking their relationship with, and expectations of, the working world.

The UAE today continues to be very much a jobseeker’s market. A shortage of talent, cited by almost half of companies in the UAE, with this problem expected to get worse over the coming years – is being experienced in more knowledge-intensive industries such as technology, where data scientists and IT and data security professionals are in most demand but in low supply.

Sales and marketing professionals are the most in-demand as businesses in the UAE look to ramp up their ambitious and highly competitive growth plans.

Given the high talent shortage and talent mobility in the UAE, our report identified that ‘better salary’ topped the reason for switching jobs (55 per cent), followed by ‘better employee benefits’ (44 per cent) and ‘opportunities for professional growth/development’ (43 per cent).

Workplace savings, unemployment insurance, and education allowances are among the top benefits sought by employees, with their attachment to a role depending on the varying levels of each.

However, a lack of awareness about employee benefits can lead to employees departing – a significant shortcoming on the part of their employer.

Furthermore, there is a significant gap between the perception of upskilling opportunities as provided by employers and employees’ understanding of opportunities available to them. This gap could be due to two factors; employers’ upskilling packages do not adequately address the skills gaps within their organisation, or employees are simply unaware of the opportunities on offer.

Talent is increasingly championing sustainability initiatives and placing value in working for employers that enact policies that align with their social values, with 36 per cent believing their organisation is not contributing enough to reducing the effects of climate change.

As climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies are at the top of the global agenda in addition to the UAE set to host COP28 this year, there will be increasing pressure from the public sector and talent for employers to rethink and align their climate agenda to the global climate zeitgeist in addition to national decarbonisation goals.

Effective communication and engaging benefits packages are beyond critical

From the employer’s perspective, there is plenty of scope to improve offerings to employees, both current and prospective. In a competitive landscape, it is imperative that the total compensation package is clear and available employee benefits are properly explained.

Our survey shows a clear mismatch between an employer’s definition of a benefit and what employees understand as a tangible benefit. This is further compounded by a difference in the value placed on certain benefits by employers versus employees.

Open dialogue and a shared definition of what comprises a benefit is, therefore, a critical component in compiling attractive benefits packages

Employee satisfaction tracking year-to-year helps increase awareness, understanding and overall reactions across the business to better gauge your organisation’s cultural pulse – revealing the ever-transient employer-employee relationship, including how benefits are perceived.

Based on these findings, it is clear that companies seeking to attract and retain the best talent need to build personalised, engaging packages centred on the benefits that people really want.

Employers bear increased responsibility in a highly fertile work environment

Our report identified four critical factors that, if utilised correctly, can define the future of the employer/employee ecosystem: empower, activate, engage, and inform.

To juggle retaining current employees while also attracting new talent, employers must shift priorities, rethink and explore employee benefits, emphasising wellness in critical areas, including financial, digital, personal, and mental.

Strategies to listen, recognise, and reward employees bridge the gap between employers and employees and create an employee experience that is built on transparency and trust in the workplace. Upskilling and education initiatives not only enable the sustainability of the workforce but also ensure that the UAE leaps further forward from importing talent to becoming a talent creator.

The UAE government has recently enacted a broad range of measures to power its journey towards a knowledge-based economy and make the nation more attractive for global talent, recently even introducing an unemployment insurance scheme to provide financial support for workers who have been made unemployed. As a result, the environment is now fertile for employers to capitalise and act in order to make the UAE a net importer of talent and a net exporter of knowledge work.

Employers who can effectively and proactively implement these factors benefit in the long term, gain a sought-after competitive edge, and hold a strong position for future growth.

Sajeev Nair is a senior executive officer at Zurich Workplace Solutions

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