x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Firms compete in talent search

A new survey finds 76 per cent of recruiters in the GCC expect hiring to pick up later this year, though many warn they are running into a major "talent crunch."

More than three-quarters of recruiters in the Gulf anticipate hiring new employees this year, but they warn of a "talent crunch" that is making it hard to fill positions, a new survey has found.

A full 76 per cent of recruiters surveyed in the GCC region expect to hire new employees in the second half of the year, up from 50 per cent during the same period last year.

Fewer hirers also expect there to be layoffs. Just 7 per cent thought their companies might let employees go in the second half of the year, which is down from 17 per cent a year ago, according to Naukrigulf.com, which conducted the biannual survey.

"Many companies have a set recruitment budget that they have to use by the year-end, so they start recruiting heavily in the fourth quarter," says Noora Nemer, the general manager of Horizon International Management, a recruitment firm based in Dubai.

Sectors such as healthcare, education and retail are among the strongest that need new employees, while commercial construction has "yet to bounce back", says Tarun Aggarwal, the business head of Naukrigulf.com.

But the survey was conducted just before the recent market volatility, which has caused many experts to warn that a second global economic downturn may be near.

"If we do see any more significant shocks, you might see a tumbling oil price, which will affect the job market [here] significantly," says Toby Simpson, the managing director of Gulf Recruitment Group in Dubai.

The fallout of the Arab Spring have already made it harder for recruiters to hire employees, particularly those from countries that saw major unrest in recent times such as Egypt, Tunisia and Syria.

"Definitely the security checks are more intense among Arab nationalities, with issues faced on visa delays or rejections," says Dr Olga Kampaxi, the area director of human resources for the UAE at Rotana. "Obviously, for us, it poses a constraint because we're in an Arab country."

Rotana operates 28 hotels in the UAE and more than 40 hotels in the Middle East and Africa region. But the company expects to hire many new employees over the next 18 months as more than 30 additional hotels are expected to come online in the region.

Dr Kampaxi says "security is very, very important, but at the same time, you'd like to have Arabs in the hotel to serve the guests because we have GCC customers. If we cannot increase the number of Arabs it does not help us with our guest demographics."

Rotana is hardly alone when it comes to facing the challenges of hiring employees from the Middle East and Africa region. More than half - 55 per cent - of recruiters surveyed by Naukrigulf.com warn that they face a "talent crunch" while hiring Arabs, including Nationals.

In the Emirates, employers have been ratcheting up efforts this summer to recruit and hold on to Nationals. This month, Emaar Hospitality Group organised a series of seminars for Emiratis who work across different areas of the company and wanted to discuss methods for achieving their professional goals, as part of its strategy to nurture local talent.

Al-Futtaim Group announced a new graduate management development programme last month that will accelerate high-achieving Emirati graduates into senior management positions. And the telecommunications company du expanded an internship programme this summer to include both college and high school graduates in training schemes.

"Companies are still gearing up to figuring out how to hire talents and skill-build them," says Mr Aggarwal. "It's still a work in progress. It will take some time to fully become efficient."