Opinion: How can Gulf businesses stop losing their best staff?

Author: Elie Georgiou-Boutaris | Date: 04 Oct 2015

Money is not the most important factor any more, says Elie Georgiou-Boutaris of Towers Watson Middle East

Elie BotarisThe UAE job market attracts expats from all over the world, promising tax-free, high income salaries and additional benefits and perks. With employment opportunities seemingly endless and a constantly growing pool of talented employees, it is no wonder that organisations here are facing greater challenges than in the rest of the world in attracting and retaining critical skill and high-potential employees. Around 70 per cent of employers report such difficulties, according to our research, 75and three quarters say hiring activity has increased over the last year (versus 48 per cent globally). It is more crucial than ever for employers to keep their employees engaged and loyal.
Companies need to keep in mind that salary is not the most important attraction driver for employees. More and more employees are looking for the right combination between the employment deal and what the company itself has to offer in terms of opportunities for advancement and development. According to the Towers Watson study, UAE employees look at the following top drivers in order of importance for a sustainable engagement within their company: image, communication, supervisor, goals and objectives, and leadership. But what does that mean in practice?
1. Image is the most important driver in the UAE, with employees looking to work for organisations that are highly regarded by the general public and that conduct their business with honesty and integrity.
2. Communication is also important, as it helps employees understand the business and provides clear information on how well the organisation is performing against its business goals, with 73 per cent of the employees surveyed saying they have a good understanding of their organisation's business goals. In this respect, employers need to be transparent and honest when communicating the employee value proposition or employment deal to current and prospect employees.
3. The relationship and attitude of the employee’s supervisor is also a key factor, as employees can look up to their superiors when they treat them with respect, encourage new ideas and ways of doing things, and provide them with career advancement opportunities, as well as maintaining integrity by walking the talk and having effective career development conversations.
4. Another top driver for sustainable engagement is the goals and objectives of the company, which employees need to thoroughly understand, as well as how their job contributes to the organisation achieving them. This will give meaning and importance to the employees and will provide them with a clear line of sight.
5. Finally, leadership – although not as important in the UAE as it is globally – is essential for employees, since working with leaders that are effective at growing the business and that show a sincere interest in employees’ wellbeing and advancement will motivate them. Leaders have to behave consistently according to the organisation’s core values and show trust and confidence in the job being done.
It is very important for companies that want to retain high-performing employees to reward them for their performance in order not to lose them to competitors. With critically-skilled employees difficult to find in the region, a clear and performance-based reward scheme can help them to commit to one organisation for the long run. Employees inevitably will compare their pay packages to those of colleagues and other companies. To effectively retain their top talents, organisations need to ensure packages are equitable and stay in line with the market – and most importantly, need to communicate them clearly and openly to ensure employees fully understand what they are getting in return to their performance and contribution to the organisation.
Elie Georgiou-Boutaris is senior HR consultant and practice leader at Towers Watson Middle East