Search for executive talent intensifies in GCC countries

Major international events intensified the search for top executive talent in the Middle East

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Major international events are intensifying the search for top executive talent in the Middle East in general and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in particular, according to experts speaking at London Business School’s Executive Search Networking Event in Dubai.

Events such as Dubai Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar will see employers in the region demanding particular skill sets and adding more criteria to candidate profiles, experts said.

“The Dubai Expo will see a significant influx of people into the United Arab Emirates’ talent pool as job creation escalates at all levels from the ‘vital many’ to senior executives,” said Jonathan Holmes, Managing Director Middle East at Korn Ferry International. “Corporate entities will be looking to identify and recruit best-in-class talent from all corners of the world and will not compromise on quality.”

Niche skill-sets and particular areas of expertise will shape the demand for a particular cadre of executive talent, with candidates who have substantial regional experience topping employers’ wish lists. Experts predict that changes in the supply and demand for talent will become especially profound in the five years before 2020.

“There will certainly be a keen interest in professionals who bring high levels of functional expertise in areas currently absent from the region, combined with individuals with highly honed soft skill, such as cultural awareness,” Holmes added.

Dubai’s Vision 2021 initiatives such as the emirate’s proposed position as an Islamic Finance hub will also spur changes in the region’s demand for talent at senior executive level. With the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia leading initiatives for women, particularly nationals, also represent an exciting area of change, according to the Executive Search experts.

“Despite the high percentage of women graduates in the GCC, the percentage of women in the workforce is significantly lower,’’ said Muna Awwadova, Partner at CTPartners, who was also on the School’s panel.

“There is a lot of encouragement and empowerment for women related to an evolution of the cultural customs in the GCC. More time is needed, however, for the growth and development of women to move into more senior roles as government-led initiatives start to take effect,” she said.

Also speaking at the event was Suellen Tomlinson, Head of Government, Education & Life Sciences at Odgers Berndtson, who added: “Interestingly, our firm saw a higher percentage of women offered roles than men in the government and education sectors across the region in the past 12 months. – SG

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on July 1, 2014

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