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Private companies tweak policies to attract Emiratis

Recruiters now have better understanding on what they need to do to increase their Emirati intake

Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News
Students register for the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Smart University at the International Education Show held along with the 19th National Career Exhibition that began at Expo Centre Sharjah
Gulf News

Sharjah: Emirati youth looking for jobs at the 19th National Career Exhibition indicated that though they still nurture a preference for working in the government sector, they could consider the private sector if they are offered better pay and flexible working hours.

On the other hand, recruiters from non-governmental companies are now better at understanding what they can do to attract UAE nationals. For example, a few companies have worked on creating a ‘Emirati working-hours’ policy, reducing working days to five a week, and introducing better pay and development opportunities for Emiratis. But the challenge of retaining Emirati employees still remains, recruiters said.

The annual National Career Exhibition, one of UAE’s largest employment events, a three-day event, was inaugurated on Wednesday by Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, and has attracted more than 70 leading government and private entities seeking to hire Emirati graduates and professionals.

A majority of Emirati jobseekers professed to being drawn by the appeal of shorter working hours, holiday entitlement and guaranteed retirement benefits offered by the public sector. Fahd Al Mail, 26, who has a degree in International Affairs, told Gulf News, “Working with the private sector requires more effort and patience [due to the longer working hours]. If they are ready to offer flexible working hours, by letting us leave when we are done with the work for the day, I think I would consider a job with them.”

Rashid Bu Melha, 23, also a graduate in International Affairs, said, “I do understand the need for having nationals working in the private sector, but we can always get better pay in the public sector. It would be disappointing if I worked in a private company for many years and earned a lower salary than a fresh graduate working in a government job.”

Recruiters at the fair said they are cooperating with the government to achieve Emiratisation, and that progress has been made attracting Emiratis to their companies.

Emma Seymour, HR director at Al Naboodah Construction Group LLC, said at Al Naboodah Enterprises, they have taken steps to increase their Emiratisation intake and are looking to recruit 300 Emiratis by next year.

“We are not finding it hard ... We have developed some of our internal policies. For example, we have a UAE national working hour policy from 8am to 3pm, which is similar to government working hours.”

The challenge, Seymour said, lies not as much in attracting Emirati youth but in keeping them engaged and developing them. The company has identified specific roles to attract nationals with good pay and career development. “If they apply for an entry-level job, the company has to give them career development, opportunity to progress and grow within the organisation. It’s about retaining and developing them.”

Fathila Al Marzouqi, AVP national development, Sharjah Islamic Bank, said they have recently introduced a day off at their bank branches, making it a five-day week to attract more nationals. The current Emiratisation rate is 35 per cent.

“The banking sector provides more benefits than private companies in terms of working hours, which has attracted many Emiratis, but we launched this initiative to further boost the appeal for Emirati nationals.”

At the bank, she said they focus on the calibre, and not the number of Emiratis to hire. They also ensure that beyond recruiting them, preparing a career development plan is also on the cards. Their bank’s current retention rate, she added, is high.

For semi-government companies, like Bee’ah, their Emiratisation rate is high, but they still want to increase their Emirati intake. Their current Emiratisation rate is 40 per cent.

“Semi-government companies face fewer challenges in attracting Emiratis because there is more stability with semi-government companies, similar pensions found in government companies and more flexible work hours,” said Fahd Ali Shehail, Bee’ah chief development officer.

“We also have a good growth plan for our staff,” he said.

Emiratis, he said, are attracted to semi-government companies. “The packages are better as compared to those in the public sector. We are also supported by the government which makes jobseekers feel better.”

Ali Shehail urged Emirati youth to look at the market’s needs and apply for the right job and to also focus on applying for jobs based on their experience and education background.

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