Unleashing great work performance: Is your organisation prepared?

Of the region’s top 20 themes with the highest risk, threequarters of them occur here. However, at a global level, this area accounts for just half of the top 20 highest risk themes.

In this section, we look at five categories relating to performance:

  • Inclusivity
  • Trust and fairness
  • Wellbeing
  • A connected, modern workplace; and
  • Unlocking work performance

of respondents who agreed that using data analytics to de-bias hiring and rewards did not agree their company was taking action on this.

The value of inclusivity

There is a strong global drive towards embracing diversity in the workplace and a growing awareness of how it can boost an organisation’s success. The Middle East has seen a lot of progress in this area, with initiatives to encourage women into the workplace at all levels, through flexible working and more favourable maternity policies. But diversity has to contend with nationalisation initiatives and historic cultural norms, notably in Saudi Arabia. When it comes to inclusivity, intention is not always matched with action.

The second highest overall risk for the region and third globally is for the statement ‘We use data analytics to de-bias hiring and rewards’. Across the region, we see an increasing focus on improving the return on investment from the workforce. Implementing a smarter, more analytic approach to hiring will enhance this return of investment, and remove bias from recruitment.

Trust and fairness in a  transparent world

In common with companies around the world, those in the Middle East are well aware of how the rise of social media has made the world more transparent, and are worried about the potential impact of negative publicity on their reputation. This is reflected across our study, with respondents in the region broadly in line with their global counterparts. Interestingly, there is a difference in responses depending on whether the statement relates to an inward-looking or outward-looking perspective.

For example, regionally, 85% of respondents highlight the importance of the statement ‘We are an organisation that’s trusted by society, our customers and our employees’, and 81% agree they are taking action to achieve this. This comes as no surprise, given the widespread use of social media. In Saudi Arabia, where smartphone and Twitter penetration rates are among the highest in the world, companies are increasingly held to account on social media, and changes to company policies are often communicated by a Tweet. Turning inwards however, regional respondents give less importance to ensuring fairness in remuneration and creating an open and transparent narrative on how they’re preparing for the future of work.

While many organisations are starting to discuss the ‘future of work’, our interviews found few, if any, could actually say what it means or show any real changes (for example to their employee value proposition). This is consistent with the data from the survey, and highlights an area organisations need to look at, especially given the trend for people to want to work for employers whose corporate ambitions and values match their own.

Wellbeing: A key productivity driver

Boosting productivity and diversifying revenue are key challenges in the region, especially in the era of lower oil prices. Organisations have tended to respond to these challenges by increasing individuals’ workloads instead of improving performance. The long standing view has been, especially in the public sector, that jobs are for life and that productivity is less important – a view which has been reinforced by the nationalisation agenda.

Our respondents agree that this is still a central challenge with three of the top four overall risks for the Middle East centred on organisations’ ability to balance employee wellbeing and maintaining productivity.

In line with the global picture, regional respondents placed importance on their workers’ wellbeing and encouraging teamwork, collaboration and innovation. This fits with a global trend of looking beyond rewards, incentives and discipline to boost performance, and towards a more holistic view of how employees excel. But organisations in the Middle East are not going far enough in practice. Firms globally place more importance on unlocking work performance, and rewarding outcomes and value added, instead of hours worked and effort shown. This shows a disconnect between intent and action in the region, and potentially a more traditional view of performance linked to effort rather than productivity. Today’s work needs people who are creative and engaged – not stressed or overworked.

A connected, modern workplace

Tomorrow’s workplaces will bring together physical spaces and virtual working to harness team work and creativity. Our survey respondents and interviewees feel the Middle East is well prepared for this and, as one of our interviewees observed, they recognise the importance of being ‘creative in adopting policies that balance between employee engagement and remote working’. However, in line with the previous trends, the region appears slow to maximise the benefits from any investment in the workplace. Many respondents feel that workplaces do not encourage different working styles Employers are focusing more on the process of ‘getting the job done’ than on creating the right environment to help their employees, our research finds. Firms need to do more work to build trust with employees over remote working. The mentality of clocking in and out is slowly starting to shift, with companies introducing flexible working patterns and locations, but this is less prevalent in the public sector which makes up much of the workforce in the region.

Unlocking work performance

Tomorrow’s employers will need to connect with their workers more personally to unlock productivity and a lasting, mutuallybeneficial relationship. To make this happen, employers will have to make workforce decisions based on data analytics and give employees more autonomy over how they work. It’s troubling for the region that the readiness for this type of working is low in the region, compared to the importance assigned to it.

These are high risk areas at a global as well as regional level although the Middle East is at slightly less risk. However, while comparing favourably to global trends, our interviews suggest that the region can make more progress by formalising and developing talent practices and performance management practices.

of respondents agreed they use insights from big data and advanced analytics in workforce decision-making.


  • As the world becomes more transparent and employers are held to greater levels of accountability by their employees, organisational leaders must role model trustworthy and transparent behaviours. Organisations will need to interrogate, test and validate any digital outputs in order to build trust in robotic capabilities with both internal and external stakeholders.
  • In order to capitalise on and attract ‘digital nomads’ and leverage new ways of working, organisations should give greater consideration to the nature of their work and the locations where work can be completed. In more traditional working environments, organisations can promote workplace inclusivity through initiatives such as: nursing rooms, crèches, child care discounts, bring-yourkids-to-work days and part-time working.
  • Use data analytics to forensically analyse the type of benefits that employees truly value, and restructure your employee value proposition to allow the flexibility to include these.

Contact us

Eyhab Abdeen

Eyhab Abdeen

Partner, Middle East People and Organisation Leader, PwC Middle East

Sally Jeffery

Sally Jeffery

Global Education & Skills Network Leader, PwC Middle East

Tel: +971 (0)56 6820539

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