The best organisations in the Middle East are able to deliver extraordinary employee experience across the full talent lifecycle, according to Aon Hewitt’s latest survey.

“The main takeaway from the study is that there’s definitely an appetite and commitment from the best employers [to craft] the employee experience,” said Khalid Youssef, senior consultant, Middle East and Africa, talent, rewards and performance at Aon Hewitt. And as he spoke at the Aon Best Employers Middle East 2017 – Awards & Learning Conference this month, he was joined by award-winning organisations sharing their own stories.

Aroop Misra, director, total rewards and organisational development at Jumeirah Group – one of this year’s Best Middle East Employers awardees – said connectedness was key to building a total employee value proposition. “Looking after employees and making sure they develop is a very heartfelt process; it’s not mechanical,” he added.

While many regional organisations may be content with conducting yearly or bi-annual employee surveys, Youssef said the best employers are “pushing the envelope” through a strategy of continuous listening and capturing of feedback. By implementing such an approach, organisations can take the necessary action to plug any gaps in employee engagement.

Even during times of economic volatility, when HR budgets come under pressure, the best organisations to work for remain talent-focused. According to the Aon Hewitt study, people are critical to the value that organisations generate. Among S&P 500 companies, for example, around 84 per cent of market value is in the form of intangible assets, which may be created by people or be people themselves.

“This is not exclusive to the Middle East – it’s a global point of view,” Youssef said. “However, we’re seeing the best employers and proactive organisations realise the biggest opportunity for growing their companies and increasing their revenue lies within their people,” he said. “Reducing costs by trimming HR budgets is not the direction that great employers are taking. In fact, they’re doing the complete opposite.”

Asked what other companies can learn from the region’s best employers in addressing major HR issues, Youssef made two significant points.

“Having a very strong employer brand and a clear differentiating culture not only helps in attracting high-quality talent, but also allows companies to keep those employees within the organisation. Our best employers make sure they are hammering that culture throughout an employee's lifecycle.”

He added that nationalisation was high on the agenda of the best employers. “In the UAE, for example, previously the nationalisation scheme has been driven mostly by large companies, such as Emirates, Etihad and Dubai Holding. But now it is becoming more prevalent across all the private sector,” he said.

But more needs to be done to increase the number of nationals in the private sector. The Aon Hewitt study underscores that in the UAE, only 19,874 of almost 4 million employees in the private sector are Emiratis. However, the nationalisation drive is expected to gather pace in the coming years, especially following the UAE government’s plan to increase emiratisation in the private sector tenfold by 2021.

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