Companies Need To Try Harder (And Be Smarter) When Tackling Talent Retention How we attract top talent into the region in itself is not enough- retention is key if we are to develop a sustainable economy over the many years to come.

By Rahul Dhadphale

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The GCC states are experiencing phenomenal economic growth. The UAE led by Expo 2020 and the rapidly growing economy of Qatar in the run up to 2022 present new challenges for employers in the region when it comes to talent. Whilst some 277,000 jobs are expected to be created in the run up to Dubai's Expo alone, employers must ask where will the talent come from? High quality talent is always at a premium and with the demands for large numbers of employees starting to soar, this premium is likely to increase, especially given the close proximity of the two nations. As demand for experienced talent increases, could we be on the verge of a regional talent war?

Attracting people to work in the Gulf is not in itself a huge issue given tax-free salaries (and added benefits), but keeping them for sustained periods is where the real challenge sits. How do we retain high quality talent in the region? Until now, most organizations have used salaries as their main weapon; however as the prospect of a talent war brews in the GCC, businesses must also explore other options to retain human capital. Organizations who want to attract talent need to be looking creatively at where to find the right people with the greatest potential and then offer them attractive packages that include development opportunities amongst others. Human resource professionals must therefore think more strategically about talent retention, assuming we are employing good quality talent.

Meaningful Onboarding One aspect many companies are trying to adopt is that of meaningful on-boarding. This is not just the typical boot-camp approach, but one where the new employee has a complete understanding of the role on offer, expectations managed, and a thorough understanding of the leadership's commitment to the organizational development. Employees must have a better understanding of how their career can and will grow and be managed. This should be made explicit to all potential employees so everyone is clear about what success can and will look like for them.

Succession Planning HR managers must work actively on succession planning, not just around the milestone dates of 2020 and 2022, but way beyond that. Succession planning will support business and economic sustainability for years to come if they are truly committed to operating here. Organizations must plan forward and then "develop' their talent to meet the expected demand. It would be unfair to the employee to be promoted beyond their current capability and experience without giving them the relevant tools.

Image credit: Shutterstock.

Purposeful And Challenging Job Roles Often organizations can be short-term in their hiring demands or have a "tick-box' approach to hiring. Thinking more critically about ensuring the roles and jobs on offer are purposeful and challenging can pay dividends. One implication of this is to revisit job descriptions and role definitions already existing. Many recent studies have shown that the younger talent are, the less inclined they are to be loyal. They are seeking fulfilment in the jobs they do and the value they create. Given this, we must give potential employees a role that has "meaning and purpose'- this in itself will not stop attrition but at least serve to mitigate against it.

Leadership Development Leadership development is the current trend in the Gulf among many companies. This is only truly effective if the company's leadership can demonstrably show what "good' leadership looks like. Far too many companies are reluctant to make the necessary investment of time and money to make leadership development truly effective and meaningful for employees, for fear of them leaving. But the contrary is worse- that is, we do not develop this talent pool and they stay! Each GCC nation's vision clearly has human development as a key pillar, something that is sometimes not as effectively implemented as it could be. Many business and community leaders will agree that leadership development and its associated skills are critical in markets and environments that are changing as dramatically as they are here in the Gulf.

Innovation, Creativity And Entrepreneurship Linked very much to leadership are innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. This implies creating a learning culture beyond compliance of processes. These concepts are widely talked about but few institutions outside the usual suspects of Apple and Google live and breathe this, which is why they seem to be able to attract and retain top talent. Intelligent young talent are seeking organizations where these concepts are not just talked about, but truly applied regardless of industry or sector. If we remain tactical in our approach, for example raising salaries alone, we will hit a threshold that is not sustainable– and talent retention becomes transactional. This therefore is an excellent opportunity for us to stop and think strategically about talent and then implement properly the appropriate tactics.

Organizations in the region have a responsibility to making sure they are creating an environment where talent flourishes. Whether there is a war on talent or not in the region, the challenge with retaining it is here. The market demands are huge and employee expectations are high, and talent is still in relative short supply. How we attract top talent into the region in itself is not enough- retention is key if we are to develop a sustainable economy over the many years to come.
Rahul Dhadphale

Regional Director for Executive Education for London Business School in the Middle East

Rahul Dhadphale, in his capacity as Regional Director for Executive Education for London Business School (LBS) based in Dubai, has complete responsibility for client relationship and business development regionally for Executive Education. In the Gulf, Dhadphale has managed and continues to manage relationships with some of the most prestigious locally based institutions including governmental, financial services and oil and gas sectors. Prior to LBS he worked a Senior Consultant with StratX, an international boutique consulting firm based in Paris (chaired by Jean-Claude Larréché the Alfred H. Heineken Chaired Professor of Marketing at INSEAD). Awarded his MBA from Bradford Management Centre, Dhadphale specialized in International Business Strategy. In addition, he is an alumni of the London Business School (ADP80) and has successfully participated in and completed a number of specialist training programs.

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