The Cross-Sector Migration Of Digital And Technology Talent In The MENA Region

Organizations across a range of industrial and service-based industries in the Middle East are investing heavily in top tech talent, and here is why.

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By Ian Pollington

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* This article has been co-written with Matt Jones, Managing Consultant - Digital, Michael Page Middle East.

With 2020 well underway, consumer habits in the Middle East are evolving faster than ever before, and the digital demands could never be greater. Consumers expect variety, speed and a seamless, intuitive experience, and it is becoming increasingly challenging for businesses to find and secure the right talent to develop the best solutions.

The challenge that organizations of all sizes are facing is how to define a digital vision that compliments the existing company goals and objectives, and then build a strategy that everyone, from shareholders to end users, can buy into and at times, contribute to.

Executive professionals, who can educate relevant stakeholders and gain buy-in for investment of time and resource in the form of chief digital officers, are one of the fastest growing assignment requests for head-hunters across the Middle East, and so, and rewards for top targets in the space are increasing rapidly– as is the competition for talent.

Much like with the rest of the world, the management of data is a journey that organizations are going through and it is no longer simply about crunching numbers. We have seen the number of roles in data management (business-facing roles), double in 2019 from 2017 in this region, and organizations are forced to look overseas for talent who have demonstrated their ability to engage with the business to build and enforce an effective data governance and quality strategy. Salaries have increased in this space by an average of 20% over the last two years as a direct result of increasing demands, global competition and lack of available talent.

Data science and advanced analytics barely existed in the Middle East five years ago and it is now one of the most sought-after skill sets across almost all industries. Within the region, this is also a profession which sees more cross-industry movement than any other. For example, an analytics director could move from banking to retail and still be sought after by an education provider. Salary increases may not have been as drastic in the last two years as data management, but the skill needs are vast, and the complexity of requirements are increasing.

Related: The Struggle Is Real: The Middle East Has A Skills Gap Crisis

For fast-growing digital businesses, the need to build more effective and scalable strategies related are increasing the complexity of product manager roles. The demand for these roles has increased by around 20% in the last year alone, whilst the salary increases (so far) have been close to a 10% increase on average in that same amount of time, with talent often being available in the local or regional market. Over the next two to four years, it is incredibly likely that the demand for these skills will increase even more rapidly and the reward mechanisms will also evolve rapidly; particularly, if the hiring focus remains on top talent with local market knowledge.

Consumers are expecting an experience of equal or greater quality to what is available in global markets– in terms of their interface and their safety. Organizations in this region have made the most of external, consumable support in developing these interfaces for years. We are now seeing a trend of taking more ownership and control of development, along with the design.

Cyber security recruitment in the Middle East has grown in activity of specialist head-hunters by over 100% in the last five years. It's no longer just the banks who value the importance of having a chief information security officer, a sophisticated SOC operation and other interesting roles within the space. Organizations across a range of industrial and service-based industries plus government institutions are investing heavily in top talent. Whist the increase of roles in the region is growing exponentially, the proximity of highly skilled technical professionals to the Middle East from overseas with lower salary expectations, is helping to steady the increase of investment required by businesses to compete for top talent. Whilst cyber service salaries are increasing across the board, the average rate has only been 5% per year for the last three years.

Related: The How-To: Helping HRs Find The Right Talent In The MENA Region

Ian Pollington

Senior Manager (Technology, Strategy and Digital) at Michael Page Middle East

Ian Pollington is Senior Manager (Technology, Strategy and Digital) at Michael Page Middle East

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