On 9 February 2023, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive for the CIPD, hosted ten senior HR and business leaders from diverse industries, including FMCG, Luxury, Hospitality, Aviation, and NGOs. The session aimed to gather insights and understand the critical priorities for the HR community, including challenges and trends shaping the future of work in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. 

Some of the key trends discussed included:

Upskilling has become necessary to thrive in the people management function: Senior leaders acknowledged that upskilling in a particular people management function was necessary, especially for junior and mid-level professionals to thrive in their careers. The days of the traditional HR function where you could wear several hats are long gone. People professionals need to pick a niche; it could be employee engagement and reward or recruitment and talent acquisition and upskilling in the said area. They also noted that many organisations in the region are investing heavily in their talent through learning and development. 

Job hopping and how to retain talent: Another common trend in the region is attracting and retaining talent. Professionals tend to job-hop after working for an organisation for 18 – 24 months of working for an organisation. The challenge was how organisations could invest in their people without fearing them leaving. Creating an inclusive culture, learning, development, and growth opportunities for people across their organisation could encourage them to stay.

Organisational cultures and managerial styles: Leaders highlighted that the new generation of professionals (Gen Z) are more confident and vocal in what they want from organisations; they want to be listened to and supported, and transparency and good management are top of their list when job hunting. They identified this as an opportunity for senior leaders to impact the younger generation and change the region’s HR community’s perception.   

Technology: Advances in digital tools continue to push flexible working, and local organisations are embracing the trend of flexible working. Using data in HR analytics enabled managers to improve operations, make better hiring decisions and improve the retention of employees. Many regional organisations are hiring/upskilling their data-savvy professionals to support analytics. Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the UAE were top of the list of countries with a strong push for technological advancement in the profession.   

A key suggestion from the business leaders was to hold more round tables where senior leaders could share the best practices and challenges faced in their respective organisations. Participants agreed on the importance of feeding back to the CIPD on industry happenings and trends across the region to inform and influence research and activities and keep the wider HR community engaged. Stuart Dunlop, Regional Director for the CIPD in MENA, committed to setting up an advisory committee of senior leaders to support the CIPD’s agenda in the region. 

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