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Tapping into the GCC national talent pool

Tapping into the GCC national talent pool

Sanjay Modi explains how the private sector can harness national talent and help build a sustainable economy


Attracting and retaining GCC national talent into the private sector is still proving difficult for employers across the Gulf. Although we have witnessed a slight shift in recent years, GCC nationals still prefer pursuing careers in the public sector to those in the private sector.

For GCC nationals, the public sector offers better compensation packages and reduced working hours in addition to a status quo that comes with such positions. Private companies on the other hand are often wary of the high salary expectations of nationals, while misconceptions of the GCC talent pool often mar employment opportunities.

The reality is GCC countries cannot reach their economic potential without the full integration of local talent into the private sector. To overcome this challenge, governments across the region have introduced nationalisation programmes and talent development schemes to attract talent into the private sector, but is this enough?

The benefits of hiring local talent

The GCC has a vast and growing youth population. In fact, the ratio of young people in the GCC is one of the highest globally. Generally, this demographic is more tech-savvy and ambitious than previous generations. They also tend to thrive on innovation and can easily adapt to dynamic market conditions – all key qualities for today’s business environment.

Furthermore, national talent is advancing rapidly as the importance of market skills becomes more evident. Not only are regional governments investing heavily in developing the skills of their nationals, but nationals are also investing in themselves by pursuing high-level degrees and training programmes. This has resulted in a highly capable yet untapped talent pool who have a thorough understanding of the market and culture and are ready to evolve businesses in the private sector to advance their national economies.

Therefore, although GCC employees may come at a higher cost, the motivation to build a sustainable economy is strong within nationals across the region. For businesses, a sustainable economy is better able to navigate global challenges and fosters resilient long-term growth.

What the private sector can offer GCC nationals

Most private companies comprise a diverse workforce with employees from different cultures and academic backgrounds. A heterogeneous workforce, however, is unique to the private sector with a very different picture in the public sector where nationals occupy over 80 per cent of government positions. This in itself can be a motivational factor for GCC nationals as they will have the opportunity to interact with and learn skills from others.

Many private companies across the GCC are also offering clearly defined management programmes exclusively for nationals that aim to help employees gain the necessary skills and experience to reach management positions within the firm. These programmes offer on-ground training and practical experience that can be transferred to future career opportunities.

Further preparing local talent to lead their nations, the private sector can challenge local talent in ways that will push their horizons and offer a platform where creativity can be explored and nurtured. The challenge remains attracting nationals to private sector positions.

How to increase local integration in the private sectors

Employers in the private sector must understand the value of hiring local talent, while nationals must recognise the benefits of joining the private sector.

As mentioned earlier, while there are nationalisation programmes being implemented across the GCC offering various business incentives, in many cases these programmes have become a numbers game. Many private companies are now hiring local talent for the sole purpose of meeting regulatory requirements or reaping the benefits of doing so without actually utilising local talent to their full potential. This approach limits the ability for nationals to contribute to the company and wider economy while creating inefficient expenses for companies.

To maximise the return on investment, we advocate national career development programmes that push national employees to work harder. Such programmes will help to combat misconceptions about the employability of local talent, help build strong foundations for the employees and increase productivity for employers.

On the other side of this challenge, citizens must be encouraged to join the private sector. Educational institutes must first instil the skills to raise confidence in GCC citizens before entering the workforce and build ambitions that can be realised in the private sector. Governments can then push citizens into the private sector by making private sector experience a prerequisite for public sector roles. Citizens will then be driven to experience the private sector first-hand, which will either encourage them to further their career in the private sector or provide them with valuable skills before joining the public sector.

Finally, to build a sustainable and strong economy, private businesses need to offer attractive opportunities to local talent that fulfil personal and professional objectives.

Sanjay Modi is managing director – APAC and Middle East at Monster.com


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