PwC Middle East Chief Human Resources Officer Survey

Strategy, talent and leadership: The way forward in the ‘new normal’

There are a number of factors at play in the Middle East that raise specific challenges for HR, but also make it a stimulating and varied profession within most corporations. Some of these challenges are practical, some cultural, and some economic.

To succeed in the future, innovation and creativity will be more important than ever before.

HR in the Middle East

1. Supporting Strategy

The Middle East faces the same global challenges as every other region: the accelerating pace of technological advances, demographic and social change, shifts in economic power, climate change, and urbanisation. In this fast-moving environment, having the right people is absolutely key to maintaining competitive advantage, and HR has a crucial role to play in making sure the business can find, keep and develop those people. Across the world, HR is moving from an administrative support role to a far more strategic one. Its recruitment, retention and development activities have to be exactly aligned with the overall corporate strategy, to ensure the business has the people it needs, both now and into the future. But is this the case in the Middle East?

Our survey revealed that 77% of respondents said their Board was committed or strongly committed to their HR strategy, but this positive headline figure is belied by the respondents who doubt whether a strategy is aligned to broader corporate objectives. 30% of respondents – in effect – do not believe their HR strategy is aligned with their corporate goals.

2. Nurturing talent

In today’s fast-paced environment, with huge technological change, the growth of big data and social media, and global as well as regional shifts in demographics and economic power, businesses need to constantly innovate and re-create themselves, not just to thrive, but to survive. Skilled and talented people are at the heart of that.

It is no surprise, then, that the availability of key skills is the top issue CEOs are concerned about in PwC’s 2016 Annual Global CEO Survey, with 30% of respondents ‘extremely concerned’ about this issue. Unsurprisingly, this number is even higher in the Middle East, at 42%. Across the world, 75% of CEOs say that a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce should be a priority for business, but only 30% are making changes to the way they ensure their people are adaptable and have the right skills. And although 51% of CEOs are enthusiastically embracing technology as a way to engage more effectively with customers, only 4% are planning to make more use of workforce analytics to help improve employee productivity.

3. Promoting leadership

In PwC’s 2016 Annual Global CEO Survey, respondents were asked about the areas they are focusing on to attract, retain and engage the people they need to remain relevant and competitive. Both Middle Eastern and Global CEOs put the issue of ‘pipeline of leaders for tomorrow’ at 51% and 49% respectively. The second and third priorities for CEOs in the region are effective performance management (49%, versus 38% globally), and workplace culture and behaviour (45%, versus 41%). Turning to the CHRO Survey, 84% of our respondents have a leadership programme in place, involving a range of activities.

CEOs across the world understand that future leaders will need to have different and additional skills from those required today. To operate in a complex and changing world, future CEOs need to be able to manage multiple stakeholders, understand different cultures, and be comfortable with technology and data analytics.

“To succeed in the future, innovation and creativity will be more important than ever before, and companies in the Middle East will need people who can take full advantage of digital technology, and understand the other global trends which are changing the business landscape and creating new risks – and new opportunities. This is why we are seeing a growing demand for ‘hybrid’ workers in the region – those who don’t just understand their own sector, but the complexities of new digital technology as well.”

David Suarez, PwC Middle East People & Organisation Leader

How you can make your HR function effective and aligned

Our work with companies across the region has allowed us to identify five areas where organisations in the Middle East can make their HR functions more strategic, more effective, and more closely aligned with the corporate goals.

Focus on leadership and talent - how to identify them, foster them, and reward them

Demographic change, technological disruption, and the changing working landscape have enormous implications for talent and are constantly altering organisations’ skill requirements. What will be needed in even the near future is almost impossible to predict. This all adds up to a major talent recruitment and management challenge for organisations.

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Make more use of HR analytics at all stages of the HR cycle

From recruitment, to profiling National staff intakes, to developing performance KPIs, to analysing engagement surveys.

Predictive Human Capital data analytics can provide valuable insight while simultaneously taking the guesswork out of decision making. Examples of insights include: predictions on which people will leave or stay; employee preferences for rewards and working styles; ROI on training and what development activities are most impactful; forecasts of future labour costs; the level of engagement for top-performing employees.

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Tailor your HR practices to what your business needs

There is no single solution that will fix every talent or HR challenge. It’s important to focus on what your particular mix of employee needs, bearing in mind your sector and their skills. The structures organisations use to harness talent have become as important as talent itself. Typically, organisations are using a suite of options to maximise their access to increasingly hard to find talent, from ‘gig economy’ workers to full time employees. Getting these structures and relationships right is a complicated issue and one that organisations need to address rapidly.

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Invest in the future

By understanding what it means to be an ‘employer of choice’ for Millennials and ambitious women, and adapting your working culture, working policies, and learning and development programmes to address their needs.

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Create a culture where innovation thrives

This takes courage, and the confidence to break down old-fashioned command and control structures which hamper creative thinking. New incentives, initiatives and work environments should be put in place to foster and reward innovative thinking and the trying of new things without risk of failure. Certain KPIs could even be put in place at a leadership level to drive a culture of innovation.

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Contact us

David Suarez

Partner, People & Organisation Leader, PwC Middle East

Tel: +971 4 304 3981

Randa Bahsoun

Partner, People & Organisation, Middle East , PwC Middle East

Tel: +971 4 304 3487

James Wilson

Director, People and Organisation, Middle East , PwC Middle East

Tel: +971 2 694 6800

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