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Will you gain from UAE's war for talent this year?

It's a good idea to have a lump sum in the account that will be enough to help you sail through at least a few months. [Image via Shutterstock]

By Shuchita Kapur

Everybody’s heard the complaints from employers that it’s getting difficult to find candidates as the economy grows and more roles need to be filled in the various sectors in the country.

With the Expo 2020 only five years away, companies are looking to add to their headcount to keep pace with their growing business.

According to Sabine Vinck, Associate Dean, Executive Education, London Business School, GCC companies (including those in the UAE) have to prepare themselves from any kind of talent crunch that can adversely impact their operations.

“With economic recovery in the West, many expatriates are staying at or returning, home. As hiring returns to pre-recession levels in the Gulf, regional companies are experiencing a widening talent crunch,” she says.

Experts say employers will have to devise ways to not just attract talent, but also to retain it. Prakash Menon, Executive Director of Thought Leaders Middle East foresees “a fierce war for talent among business groups and companies to retain not only their best employees but also recruit the leading achievers from among the competition’s ranks.”

But, what does this mean for the average employee in the country? Pay hikes and hefty bonuses?

The basics of demand and supply would then mean that employees in the UAE and the GCC at large would see bigger paycheques coming home but that isn’t happening – yet.

On the contrary, according to human resources consultancy Aon Hewitt, salaries across the UAE are predicted to rise less than 5 per cent in 2015, down compared to the forecast for 2014.

Remuneration levels in the UAE were forecast to rise by 5.1 in 2014 although the actual level of increase fell short as salaries rose by just 4.6 per cent.

Despite rising demand and shortage of talent reported in most sectors of the country’s economy, employers are neither giving any substantial pay hikes to existing employees to retain them nor are they offering bigger amounts to entice new candidates.

According to the 2015 salary guide by recruitment firm, Robert Half, the UAE employment market continues to thrive and demand for specialist occupations far outweighs supply, resulting in talent shortages across the region but pay hikes have been only customary.

“Many people have stuck around for a few years now but at the same time many are leaving for better prospects. I believe there are many candidates who are willing to accept offers at a lower salary so companies are not inclined to retain the ones asking for bigger hikes,” said a product manager of a local bank on the condition of anonymity, saying most employees just received a very nominal hike in 2014.

However, as the London Business School expert says, “employers need to create a long-term culture, focusing on professionals looking to establish their careers here rather than expatriates who stop by in the Gulf to avail themselves of tax benefits,” which includes “appropriate compensation but also career advancement, professional development opportunities and a chance to be part of a rewarding journey or experience. Firms will retain talent most effectively by taking a holistic approach to talent management which addresses all these factors.”