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The changing nature of skills and qualifications

Posted on from City & Guilds Group

In a case study from our exclusive research with City & Guilds Group, Saleh Alharthi, CEO of Aon Hewitt Saudi Arabia discusses how his business is building a pipeline of talent.

Topping the list of skills shortages in KSA is a deficiency in the discipline and attitude of some Saudi nationals, while many feel blue-collar expats often lack technical skills. Qualified HR and financial specialists are rare in Saudi Arabia.

There is a belief that the quality of education providers in the KSA does not match the quality level required by business. Most successful companies accept the need to invest in developing nationals, particularly with Vision 2030. We see businesses using coaching and on-the-job training for technical skills and 360° assessment for soft skills.

Many business leaders believe academic qualifications are better than vocational training. This view is not good for business or the public sector. More needs to be done to improve the perception of vocational training. Standardised global qualifications could be useful in helping this view, but they would need to be integrated by an appropriate governmental body, such as the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

Not enough training is provided to expatriates. Some business owners think they are cutting costs this way, but they are losing out by not developing their entire workforce.

Vision 2030 is a game changer. There will be pressure to prioritise national recruitment, changing the ‘culture’ of Saudi youth and encouraging more women into work. This doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in expat workers. While we expect an increase in the number of nationals in top-level management and niche technological areas, there are certain jobs that are unlikely to be taken by Saudis in the foreseeable future, such as domestic work and field labour.

The foreign investment and number of large projects forecast by Vision 2030 may require recruiting a large number of expatriates. This means there are two opposing forces determining the size of the expatriate workforce. My view is that they will balance out and there will be no major change.

I believe Vision 2030 will standardise work performance, improving our productivity as a nation. I also think we will build our regulations around workers’ rights, improving the employer/employee relationship.

Talent strategies

A dominant talent strategy is the use of technology, from a training perspective, and a need to hire talent with technology knowledge. Remote working is also a new trend.

Talent retention can often be an issue in Saudi Arabia, but I advise an integrated approach. Money is not the only motivator. Nationals tend to care more about training and career-path clarity, while expatriates often focus on financial compensation.

Above all, it’s important to provide a learning environment with clear indicators of performance expectations and growth opportunities – for nationals and expatriates.

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