Bridging the Skills Gap: Saudi Companies Need to Prepare For Workforce of the Future

4115Employers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will need to tailor their approach to talent management for catering to the fast-changing technology landscape, according to a new survey by Oxford Economics and SAP.IT spending in the Kingdom is increasing at the fastest rate of any country in the Middle East and Africa, from USD 11.5 billion in 2014 to USD 14.2 billion in 2017, according to the IDC report “Saudi Arabia Vertical Markets 2013-2017 IT Spending Forecast,” as organizations embrace emerging technologies including Big Data and analytics, mobility, cloud and social networks.

As a result, the Kingdom’s employers are rapidly gearing up their staff to meet the demands of the technology-infused future.

In the Kingdom’s results in the global “Workforce 2020” survey, which surveyed 5,400 executives and employees in 27 countries, 60% of respondents in the Kingdom said analytics skills will be needed in three years’ time, while 44% of respondents also saw the need for cloud capabilities as being important in the next three years. Likewise, only 25% of employees said they have access to the latest mobile and social media technologies today.

Access to the latest technologies is likely to increase exponentially over the next three years, keeping in line with the growing IT spend in the Kingdom.

“The emergence of cloud, mobile, big data and social media technologies will have a transformative effect on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Organizations must seize the moment and adapt now to this fast-changing technology landscape so they can leverage the new business opportunities it offers and prepare for future growth,” said Ahmed Al Faifi, managing director, SAP Saudi Arabia. “These new technologies can enable them to create unprecedented ROI – but only if they harness give their employees the right tools to deliver growth.”

Top Workforce Issues Facing Saudi Companies

Training Needs to be Tailored

While more than half, 55%, of executives in the Kingdom said their company widely offers supplemental training progams to develop new skills, only 40% of workers said they were offered the right tools to help them grow and improve job performance. Almost half, 48%, of employees said they do get ample training on workplace technology, with 40% saying their company encourages continuing education and training to further career development.

2. Growing Use of Contingent Labor

Three-quarters of the Kingdom’s companies are increasingly using contingent, intermittent, seasonal, or consultant employees, but only 19% are changing HR policy as a result. Additionally, 17% of the Kingdom’s companies are using quantifiable metrics and benchmarking for workforce development and only 36% of those know how to extract meaningful

insights from that data.

3. Meeting Workforce Needs

Companies in the Kingdom are more aligned with their employees when it comes to benefits and incentives, compared with worldwide respondents, according to the study. Only 36% of employees in the Kingdom cited compensation as the most important part of their jobs, compared with 66% of global workers.

The most important benefits and incentives to the Kingdom’s employees are: bonus and merit-based rewards, 55%; education, 46%; and flexible schedule, 40%. Just over one third, 35%, say they are most concerned about their position changing or becoming obsolete, while 43% say higher compensation would increase loyalty and engagement with their current job.

4. Millennials are Misunderstood

Millennials, employees aged 18-35, are having a major impact on the workplace in the Kingdom, with 55% of executives saying they are impacting on workforce strategy and 34% saying they give particular attention to the wants and needs of that age group.

However, employers seem out of touch with what Millennials actually think. While 53% of executives said people in that age group were frustrated with management quality, just 4% of Millennials said they were. Almost a quarter, 24%, of executives said Millennials may quit their jobs because of lack of learning and development – a concern cited by no Millennials at all in the study.

Workplace priorities for Millennials in the Kingdom are more closely aligned with their counterparts outside their age group than in other parts of the world, with 46% and 45% respectively saying they are more interested in quality of life over career path.

5. The Leadership Void
One area where executives and employees do seem to agree is on leadership – or the lack of it. Only 28% of executives believe that their leaders are prepared to guide a diverse workforce, with just 33% of employees saying that leadership is equipped to drive their organization to success.

Overall, executives are rethinking HR technology, training and compensation strategies, with 35% of executives saying they have made progress in building a workforce that can meet future business goals.

Workforce management is a major issue in the Kingdom: while 72% of executives claim their company has an execution plan for achieving its vision of workforce management, just 22% say their company has a strong vision for the workforce it wants to build in three years.

“To maximize the Kingdom’s ICT opportunity, organizations need to improve their talent management and put the organizational capabilities in place to develop the leaders of the future,” said Nelly Boustany, HR director, SAP MENA. “Organizations that will succeed need the right mix of skills training, enablement, and engagement to develop their workforce. At SAP, we have used SuccessFactors’ HR solutions to transform the way we attract, onboard, develop, and engage our global work force to drive the successful execution of our business strategy.”

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