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The race for digital innovation and talent

With respect to the next 12 months, our CEOs are fairly pessimistic on the issue of recruitment. A third of regional CEOs said that they expect headcount to ‘decrease’ in the next 12 months, which is the highest figure globally. This number is likely driven by CEOs cutting back staff in a cost efficiency drive. Corroborating this point, only 76% of Middle East CEOs said that headcount would decrease due to ‘automation’, compared 80% globally.

The future of the workforce looms large on the minds of regional CEOs. 92% of regional CEOs said they needed to strengthen their firm’s soft skills, alongside digital communication skills, compared to 91% globally. 63% of Middle East CEOs said they have a responsibility to ‘retrain employees whose tasks and jobs are automated by technology’, compared to 67% globally.

Thinking about your people strategy for the digital age, how strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

65% of CEOs said managing public-facing social media accounts is a priority, compared to 55% globally

When it comes to hiring digital skills only 62% of CEOs were concerned about ‘availability’, compared to 76% globally. Paradoxically, 51% of regional CEOs said they found it ‘somewhat difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to recruit digital talent. The region’s workforce is young and extremely tech-savvy – perhaps this is why CEOs are not unduly concerned about talent levels in the region – yet when it comes to getting these individuals through the office doors the figures suggest there may still be work to be done.

Despite its keen digital agenda, the region is still steeped in conservative work practices. Just 19% of Middle East CEOs said they were implementing new flexible ways of working, such as remote working, compared to 35% of CEOs globally. Only 2% of regional CEOs are changing employees dress codes, compared to 19% globally.

The region has historically fostered a conservative approach to employment, where the management system is markedly hierarchal and authoritarian. The arrival of international tech firms with local offices, such as the likes of Apple and Google, is driving a slow shift towards more modern and flexible office practices. For example, 42% of regional CEOs said they are ‘modernising the working environment by rolling out digital tools and collaborative environments’, similar to 44% of global CEOs.

Beyond engaging with functional experts, are you doing any of the following activities to develop your personal digital skills?

In a nod to high digital awareness levels across the region, 65% of CEOs said managing public-facing social media accounts is a priority, compared to 55% globally. These figures reflect the region’s high social media and smart phone penetration rates. The Arab Spring of 2011 still looms large as a symbol of the transformative power of social media in the region. Regional brands take social media very seriously because it’s a popular customer touch point.

The region’s bosses also demonstrate a personal affinity for technology. 60% of regional CEOs want to ‘customise the software and IT services they use’, compared to 52% of global CEOs.

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Hani Ashkar

Hani Ashkar

Middle East Senior Partner, PwC Middle East

Stephen Anderson

Stephen Anderson

Clients and Markets Leader, PwC Middle East

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