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Trends affecting the Saudi Arabian talent landscape

Posted on from City & Guilds Group

In a case study from our exclusive research with City & Guilds Group into skills development in Saudi Arabia, we spoke to Yaser Al-Saeed, VP and CHRO at Nesma & Partners, about the current talent landscape in the Kingdom.

Nesma & Partners owns a diversified portfolio of interests covering the construction, manufacturing, engineering and finance sectors, among others. We hire some 4,000 recruits each year, with the majority (around 75%), of whom are expatriates. Despite this, we have dedicated nationalisation programmes, including employing and training Saudis through our Nesma Training Center.

As an accredited body, we provide one-year diplomas and specialised technical courses. We also sponsor fast-track employees for higher education and postgraduate programmes, as well as providing on-the-job inductions and development plans for new starters.

While we value the vocational skills our training academy provides to new employees, I believe Saudi Arabia as a whole is yet to give the necessary importance to vocational skills training in workforce development. This is because local outcomes are often weak, with vocational training perceived as an add on, or extra cost, by employers, rather than a necessary part of skills development.

Addressing skills gaps

The main skills gaps we have in our workforce centre around qualification mismatches, with workforce maximisation meaning we sometimes have employees working in areas that do not match their qualifications.

We also see discrepancies between expected and actual job performance. We address these gaps through extra training and by creating a job-grading and salary scale.

There are three trends affecting our talent strategies: first, the competition for talent in the current labour market is very high, so acquiring talent that fits our requirements is difficult. Second, this is exacerbated by economic instability in the region, which means that many organisations are implementing reductions in budgets. Third, compliance with nationalisation rules is a constant challenge, particularly when three-quarters of our employees are foreign workers.


Engaging employees

The main challenge we face in engaging with our workforce is its sheer size. With more than 20,000 employees, spread out across remote areas and building sites, regular and meaningful communication is challenging.

Add in that some of our employees cannot speak English, and we find that communication and engagement is often an issue, particular when it comes to career development. We find that a culture of recognition has been the best way to engage across nationalities, job sectors and wage levels. It allows us to bring the best out of our employees.


Vision 2030 and the future

Vision 2030 will definitely affect how we recruit. I believe it will increase national employment in two key areas: higher-paying roles and roles for women. We may also see a decrease in our reliance on expatriates in these areas and others in the coming years.

I think that our recruitment could be aided by an international skills standard, which could allow us to compare global talent competitively, using a fair scale. I also expect job roles in the region to continue to evolve, with adjustment to working hours to take into consideration remote working and shift patterns.


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