Why UAE firms hiring expats need to be careful

Expatriate workers offer value but a bad hire can have serious consequences



Dubai has never been a particularly hard sell for employers seeking to recruit workers from abroad. The lifestyle and job prospects mean workers have flocked to the emirate in recent years.

The UAE, and Dubai in particular, has proved through its thriving business environment the value of hiring talented individuals from abroad, but with many local organisations moderating their recruitment drive in the midst of an economic downturn, the importance of hiring the right candidate has never been greater.

The hiring of expats can be fraught with risk, with much at stake for both the employer and employee. The employer will be aware of the repercussions of a bad hire, from financial to legal to the reputational implications.

Employees will hold reservations too, including the nature of the role and success of the company, but also of relocating to a new country. For every hiring triumph of expats in the UAE, there will undoubtedly be a horror story or two.

HireRight research shows that nearly two in three job applications in the EMEA region contains errors. Many companies will only realise such issues after the employee is handed a contract and is well into their employment term. By then, it could be too late.

For employers in the UAE, hiring from abroad can be a long and drawn out process and making the final decision can be something of a gamble. If the decision needs to be made quickly, it can put unwanted pressure on the employer and can lead to rash, misguided selections.

So what could be the damage if your organisation is lured into hiring the ‘wrong’ employee?

Firstly, and probably most importantly, the financial implications could be incalculable. You would need to consider the cost of severing the employee’s contract, before hiring and training a new one. This process can be time consuming, and all the while you could be losing money. Further, the financial damage done while he or she is on your books may not even be evident until they are gone.

Also, while it is difficult to gauge the impact on employee morale, research conducted by Harvard Business Review (HBR), referenced by dice.com, indicates that the consequences of a bad hire on team spirit is extensive. According to HBR, as much as 80 per cent of employee turnover results from bad hiring decisions. Many managers even admit it could be the most harmful aspect of a bad hire, as the losses on corporate culture could be irreversible.

The actions of one individual could also have a negative effect on your brand, which again, could inflict damage beyond repair. Adverse press resulting from fraud, harassment or violence towards co-workers, or abuse of company data could lead to potentially ruinous reputational damage.

All these challenges facing firms looking to hire from abroad can, of course, be mediated by simple means; a background screening service. A background check can uncover erroneous information at the first possible stage, and protect employers from making ill-informed decisions.

Historically, the Middle East region has been apprehensive in implementing such policies, for various reasons. This is no longer the case. The financial services industry in the UAE, acting in response to global regulation changes, is beginning to introduce employment screening practices to their hiring process, with great rewards.

In the process, an organisation can look at criminal records, employment verifications, credit records and education, amongst others. For instance, when a financial organisation is hiring, they will put great emphasis on recruiting individuals with responsibility in financial matters. A credit check enables that company to flag up those with records of late payments, defaulted accounts, or even court summons.

When considering employment verifications, it is not uncommon for expat workers to embellish their employment history, whether by using false dates or grading up the job title.

Using a screening service enables employers to deal in facts, as opposed to relying on information provided by references, which are also often false.

Employment verifications will give a definitive guide to where a candidate worked, for how long, and confirm the nature of their role.

With this information in hand, an employer will be able to make the process of hiring from abroad a great deal easier. It is no surprise that the UAE is flourishing in the region with the help of expat workers, yet it only takes one bad hire to ruin the reputation and culture it has built over the years.

James Randall is the sales director at HireRight Middle East