Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Rewarding employees with cash or equity can improve Middle East business performance

Employers can align with long-term government strategies by setting their own extended incentive plans

There is an opportunity 'to optimise the performance of key people by implementing long-term reward and incentive arrangements', Deloitte said. Getty Images
There is an opportunity 'to optimise the performance of key people by implementing long-term reward and incentive arrangements', Deloitte said. Getty Images

Long-term employer incentive arrangements that complement government initiatives such as the UAE’s 10-year visa scheme can help Middle East businesses to grow by attracting and retaining talent, a new study from global consultancy Deloitte has found.

According to the company’s Global Employer Services whitepaper, businesses in the region must “think long term” to align with policies such as the UAE’s new immigration regime and Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 by considering how to incentivise and reward key employees.

“These new immigration policies, for example the potential for individuals to obtain 10-year visas in the UAE, aim to attract and retain key talent in the region,” said Alex Law, tax partner at Deloitte Middle East. “There is therefore an opportunity for businesses in the Middle East to implement well-thought out, long-term reward strategies that are in line with organisational objectives and global best practices.”

While Saudi Arabia unveiled its Vision 2030 plan in 2016 to help its economy mitigate against lower revenues, the UAE has rolled out a number of measures to strengthen its economy over the past 12 months.

Last year, Abu Dhabi’s government announced a Dh50 billion economic stimulus - known as Ghadan 21 - and the country has implemented reforms to encourage the creation of new businesses such as offering long-term visas to people with important skills such as doctors, engineers, investors and entrepreneurs.

Businesses should use this opportunity “to optimise the performance of key people by implementing long-term reward and incentive arrangements”, Deloitte said. A good incentive package will not only attract talent but also motivate employees to lead their organisations towards better outcomes.

The more common reward mechanisms, said Deloitte, include cash-based options where employees receive a future payment if they satisfy certain objectives. While some companies reward staff with an annual cash bonus, others choose to delay payment over a set time period such as three to five years.

“These types of arrangements are simple to set up and straightforward to administer. They tend to be preferred by unlisted or family-owned business as there is no dilution of the interests of the existing shareholders,” said Deloitte.

Another option is performance shares, where equity is handed out on a set vesting date if performance targets are met within a certain timeframe. Alternatively, companies can choose leveraged equity mechanisms, where participants acquire a combination of equity and/or debt interests. This usually applies to the investment fund space but can also be used by start-ups.

Deloitte urged businesses looking to create long-term incentive plans to consider how the schemes are designed as well as any international tax implications, particularly for mobile employees, and how rewards are communicated to staff and accounted for.

“Ultimately, it is the people within an organisation that provide the inspiration, agility and drive that enables the organisation to succeed,” said Ali Virani, reward subject matter expert at Deloitte Middle East. "Employers, especially in the region, need to define appropriate reward and incentive strategies to attract, retain and motivate the right people which can in turn significantly contribute to the long term performance of an organisation.”

Updated: July 30, 2019 06:22 PM

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