How Saudi Organizations Can Win The Competition For Next-Generation Talent

Saudi Arabia will continue to be a jobseekers' market for many years to come, with the competition for skilled workers across various industries becoming fiercer than ever.

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By Robyn Wright


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As the economy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia grows and diversifies in the wake of Vision 2030, the competition for skilled workers is only likely to increase.

The businesses and government agencies that win the tug-of-war for talent will be those that understand and respond to the changing needs of tomorrow's employees. By contrast, those that cling to traditional employment practices may struggle.

That's why the time to act is now.

Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 is going into overdrive, progressing rapidly from strategy development to widespread implementation.

Between 2016 and 2020, the initiative already saw the creation of 550,000 jobs, with at least two million more expected to be created by 2030. And the nation's commendable measures aimed at developing new talent through education and upskilling programs will eventually close the skills gap. However, in the short- to medium-term, there will likely be additional pressure on businesses to recruit highly skilled workers.

To compete for talent, individual organizations need to become more agile, strategic, and responsive in the Saudi and global employment markets.

Saudi Arabia will continue to be a jobseekers' market for many years to come, with the competition for skilled workers across various industries becoming fiercer than ever. And competing organizations will need to understand that the next generation of employees has a very different set of personal priorities, values, and beliefs than the previous generation.

Kearney recently surveyed almost 1,000 young professionals in Saudi Arabia to better understand their needs and expectations. They all had between zero- and three-years' work experience. Half were female, and half were male. We asked them questions such as "Why are you working?" and "What are you looking for in an employer?"

The results are very revealing. For example, 88% of survey respondents chose a job that they feel proud to tell their friends and family about. Around 83% would consider switching to a different organization if it provided better training opportunities, and 92% would like to embrace new technologies in their future careers.

Related: Saudi Arabia's Wa'ed Ventures Invests In Paris-Based Pasqal And Tokyo-Based Terra Drone As Part Of Its New Global Agenda

It's clear that next-generation talent is not attracted to what traditional organizations have to offer. These professionals value so much more than just getting paid well for hard work. The survey results can guide employers of the future in meeting future workers' expectations for meaning, flexibility, and wellbeing. Indeed, this new generation of talent have new ideas about why and how they want to work, spanning the following six dimensions:

1. Purpose and meaning in work The employer of the future will provide its people with a stronger connection between the business's mission and values, and tangible reasons to take part in company practices

2. A more integrated work-life balance These organizations will seek to offer more balance by scheduling predictability, managing workloads, and providing flexibility, autonomy, and accessibility.

3. Competitive, comprehensive benefits, beyond just salary Fair and transparent monetary compensation and benefits will need to be extended to also include health and well-being initiatives, such as in-office meals, fitness classes, and paid parental bonding leave.

4. Enhanced continuous learning and flexibility in career paths The employer of the future will offer comprehensive development opportunities beyond traditional offerings that include internal talent marketplaces and external talent swaps.

5. A sense of belonging in a positive environment that is open to new ideas Such an employer will promote a healthy workplace culture that embodies psychological safety and belonging, trust in leaders and teammates, and inclusive communities and collaboration.

6. Work that is interesting, engaging, and varied Such opportunities give employees a sense of ownership and empowerment, with state-of-the-art tools and technology.

Those employers that are ready to fully address the expectations of the future workforce, to attract and engage skilled talent, will need to develop a compelling, holistic Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

The employer of the future will also address a seventh, sometimes hidden, expectation of next-generation employees- an environment that encourages diversity, and the fair treatment of workers, irrespective of gender and race.

In essence, the EVP needs to be bold, articulating an employee-centric work model in which optimizing the employee experience is considered one of the highest priorities.

Accommodating the new EVP will require organizations and their human resources (HR) teams to reinvent key employment practices. The HR function, in collaboration with the business, is well placed to drive the adoption of this new approach, and promote an employee-centric revolution. This aligns with the contemporary rethinking of HR as the broader engine of organizational transformation.

While addressing the needs of next-generation employees may, at first glance, appear to be an added burden for organizations, the good news is that a holistic EVP not only supports talent attraction and retention, but may also have a positive impact on business performance. By embracing this approach, organizations can come closer to winning the talent war and so gain a competitive advantage on many fronts.

As our thousand survey participants confirm: employers need to act now and invest. Not in higher salaries, but in their EVP.

Related: Talent Matters: Seven Tips To Build A Strong Virtual Recruitment Strategy

Robyn Wright

Partner, Kearney Middle East

Robyn Wright is a Partner at Kearney Middle East.

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