Saudi Arabia needs 250,000 HR professionals to realise its Vision 2030

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 31 Aug 2016

Planned expansion of private sector will lead to shake-up of human capital, with consultancy firm calling for greater professional accreditation of HR

Saudi Arabia needs 250,000 world-class HR professionals to help it realise its extraordinary Vision 2030, according to analysis by Oxford Strategic Consulting.

In a bid to boost its economy and reduce its reliance on oil, the kingdom has resolved to employ 4.1 million Saudi nationals in the private sector by 2030. Currently, there are only 1.6 million working in the private sector.

There are also plans to slash the number of public sector jobs from the current 4.2 million, to 3.4 million. To meet the challenge of facilitating this massive influx into the private sector, and to ensure that employees are placed into suitable roles, HR departments must be well prepared.

Boosting the number and expertise of KSA’s HR professionals could contribute $6.44bn to the country’s economy, say experts at Oxford Strategic Consulting. They recommend that: “HR in Saudi Arabia should be an accredited profession, and anyone working in HR should be accredited by a globally recognised awarding body; there should be a Saudi-specific professional body for HR that is supported by government; and certain aspects of HR practice should be simplified and automated with easy-to-use apps and other technological assistance”.

“HR must be treated as a critical business function and not simply considered an administrative burden,” said Julian Snell, managing consultant at Oxford Strategic Consulting. “Senior private-sector managers and owners also need to be educated as to the benefits of HR so that they are able to lead by example and implement the HR changes that will be needed over the next 15 years and beyond.”

One challenge is for employers to create attractive, rewarding and economically sustainable working environments for Saudis. “Achieving this requires altering perceptions of different careers as well as changing how employers recruit, manage, develop and retain their Saudi staff,” said Scott Druck, CEO of Oxford Strategic Consulting. “Our Saudi Employment Report 2016 found that Saudis considered banking and finance, tourism and hospitality, media, chemical/pharmaceutical and industrial as their top five least-favoured industries – yet these are some of the key growth areas for Saudi Vision 2030.”

HR departments are vital in communicating the benefits of careers in less popular or newer industries, such as tourism or information and communication technology (ICT). “There is no point attracting Saudis only for them to leave the organisation quickly,” said Druck. “Retaining top Saudi talent is a common problem for companies, although maybe a bit less with the recent oil price drop. Nevertheless, Vision 2030 will only accelerate demand for top Saudi talent.”

There will also be a shift from imports to more self-reliance for products and services, and businesses will be encouraged to be less reliant on migrant labour, in favour of developing national human capital. For this to succeed, KSA needs around one million leaders and eight million talented professionals.

“Our research shows that effectiveness in a role can be built very quickly by using advances in technology to minimise the need for ‘learning’ by providing ‘instant access’ to practical support for ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’,” said Professor William Scott-Jackson, chairman of Oxford Strategic Consulting and visiting academic at Oxford University. The need to ‘learn’ loads of ‘knowledge’ is removed and the need to ‘learn’ how to do everything is reduced. Instead, learning can focus on the soft attitudes and interpersonal skills needed for effective performance, while apps and other technologies take care of knowing and doing.”