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22 June 2024

Dubai well-placed to lure talent

Panos Manolopoulos Regional Vice-President-Emea, Stanton Chase International. (SUPPLIED)

By Shuchita Kapur

Despite a number of lay-offs witnessed in Dubai last year, the emirate is well-placed to attract talent in the future. "The region [and Dubai in particular] will continue to seek senior and competent human talent," says Panos Manolopoulos, Regional Vice-President for Europe, Middle East and Africa (Emea) for Stanton Chase International. However, the demand and selection of candidates will be different from what we have seen previously. "There is an obvious turn from quantity towards quality," says Manolopoulos. Likewise, candidates will also be more selective of the company they are choosing.

What has been the impact on human talent in the 'after-recession' period? How is the Middle East positioned, compared to other regions of the world?

The period after any type of deep crisis is always a period of re-definition, re-structuring and re-evaluation. There is a lot that has been written regarding human talent during 2009, unfortunately mostly from a cost point of view and less regarding its real value as per current circumstances. Now that businesses seem to be turning to a normal mode, they are much more open to discussions on leadership assessments and re-evaluation of their talent, based on the new reality. This is true worldwide, each region examining the same topic based on different variables and challenges. For instance, North America realises now that a lot of good human talent has been (and keeps on being) exported, while the existing senior talent may be too much focused on old 'best practices' that probably are not 'best' any more. Europe is also a traditional market, and mostly relies on regions such as the Balkans, South East Europe, Russia, Turkey and ex-USSR republics for development.

Transfer of human talent from the developed to developing regions is still a challenge, while the instability of the previous year makes it even harder. Asia-Pacific, on the other hand, is a sleeping giant, with economies still in the process of developing adequate pools of human talent as well as supporting infrastructure and consistency, to allow them to move on. The Middle East relies heavily on imported human talent. Regardless of lay-offs taking place last year, especially in Dubai, the region will continue to seek senior and competent human talent – though at different terms – and, based on the region's overall development, it will also continue to attract this talent – again though at different terms. There is an obvious turn from quantity towards quality.

How have companies and candidates changed in their demands and perception of each other?

After the turbulence, it is only normal that both candidates and companies are not keen on making hasty decisions. On the contrary, each side will evaluate the other side thoroughly to ensure that the needed quality is guaranteed. For example, regarding the candidates, obviously the companies will examine much more closely their adaptability, flexibility, the broadness of their scope of understanding international business, inter-cultural awareness, creativity and focus on combining business development with tight control of operations. Regarding the companies, the candidates will explore their retention rates and policies, human talent values and strategies, reaction to the crisis, reliability and the confidence they provide to their employees.

What is the profile of the senior executive? Has it changed? What is the status in Middle East?

The profile of senior human talent has inevitably changed. Although it is a bit too soon to define this new profile, as we are still in the transition period, there are some trends that prevail. Internationalism and multiculturalism are two points that are given much more emphasis than before. Different economies are inter-connected, and senior human talent is showing an unprecedented mobility to all the parts of the world (in bigger or smaller waves).

Emotional intelligence is another point examined by companies. Emotional flexibility, endurance and adaptability, along with self-awareness, integrity, motivation and commitment are needed during this evolution stage, in order for a person and, consequently, a company to make a difference.

Additionally, there has been a shift from a specialised view to a more generalist approach, allowing senior executives to move not only across companies and countries, but also across sectors. Finally, senior executives focus once again on operations, realising their importance in the success of the company, shifting a bit their focus from business development, where they have been relying almost exclusively in the past years.

What are the challenges the region is facing?

The UAE has undisputable potential for future growth, being supported by a strong vision and a will to turn into a non-oil dependent economy. In the past, there has been an unprecedented growth, a development that has surprised the world and often caused 'jealousy'. Of course, just like in any developing economy, there are still challenges to be faced. Emphasis on further integration of its expatriates along with deeper involvement of nationals through even stronger emiratisation process will immediately make a difference. Due to its size and its geographic proximity with the East, the UAE is facing more challenges towards this target, as a balance has to be kept and a strategic immigration policy to be implemented. This will not diminish the identity of the nation, but will enable it to take equal advantage of knowledge from all parts of the world. Reinforcement of the banking system, further decrease of bureaucratic procedures, enhancement of incentives for foreign direct investments, more development in the infrastructure and in the judicial system are some additional challenges to be tackled to improve the positioning of the country.

The expected trade, fiscal and monetary union will also give a boost to regional economies. I consider the timing as a golden opportunity. Now that all markets are slowing down and are restructuring, the UAE has a unique advantage to benefit from its past experience, the know-how that is available in the market and 'the redistribution of the cards' in the international arena, to gain a stronger and even more dynamic position.

PROFILE: Panos Manolopoulos Regional Vice-President-Emea, Stanton Chase International

Manolopoulos is also the Managing Partner of Stanton Chase the UAE. Before being elected as Vice-President for Emea, he was the global practice leader in consumer products and services practice group with responsibility over 65 offices in 45 countries and about 25 per cent of the global revenue of the firm. Prior to this, he served as chief administrator of the University of Wales Swansea and managing director of IKRP Rokas and Partners.


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