Here's a new year resolution for business owners: Do more to retain talent. Lots more. 

A staggering 97 per cent of respondents in a recent survey would leave the UAE or change careers completely if new opportunities offer a greater chance to grow, a poll of more than 3,000 individuals across the region has found. And more than 80 per cent said they were willing to change companies if offered new training alone.

According to a recent ‘Career Development in the Middle East and North Africa’ poll conducted by, a regional job site, a lack of career development prospects can radically make or break employee engagement.

Career development is of utmost importance to professionals in the MENA – even if it means rebooting their whole lives or taking their careers in a totally different direction.  In the UAE, 85 per cent of respondents say that career development is “very important”. In parallel, nearly all respondents said they wanted growth: 40 per cent are prepared to move to another country to develop their career while another 57 per cent are willing to change sectors completely.

On the other hand, the results also show that in the eyes of MENA employees, companies’ HR departments are not doing enough to provide them with the career development opportunities – including promotions, adequate appraisal performance systems, role enhancements, mentoring programs and advanced training seminars – that they need to ensure professional growth.

Never had a promotion

All in all, the analysis reveals that these gaps and inefficiencies are the reasons why certain employers are struggling to retain top talent.

The study found that, while a total of 57 per cent of UAE job holders want to attain higher-level positions, over one third (35 per cent) have never had a promotion in their current company. An impressive 65 per cent, however, have. Another major takeaway from the survey is that 33 per cent strongly think that there is equal opportunity for advancement at their company; likewise, 32 per cent strongly claim that job promotions are awarded fairly and without bias.

In addition, 45 per cent of working professionals in the Emirates are satisfied with their current career development; another 50 per cent admit that they are satisfied with the quality of orientation and training that they have received thus far. Also, 64 per cent of those surveyed (in the UAE) believe that their organization boasts the capabilities to cross-train their employees and teach them new skills. Perhaps more noteworthy is that 57 per cent affirm that their organization’s training and development opportunities are explicitly linked to the company’s overall strategic direction.

Interestingly, 35 per cent of UAE respondents state that their company is more attractive than other companies in terms of career development. An overwhelming portion (83 per cent) also say that would leave their company for better training opportunities.

No development plans set

Based on the survey results, although over half (52 per cent) of UAE respondents have not formally set any development plans with their manager, the great majority (95 per cent) would like to have a formal career development plan in place. On a related note, 50 per cent of UAE working professionals are satisfied with their supervisor’s efforts to identify their strengths and weaknesses; 27 per cent, however, are “very dissatisfied”. Similarly, 51 per cent and 50 per cent of employees in the UAE are satisfied with the mentoring that they have received from senior peers and their current performance appraisal process, respectively.

In the UAE, 50 per cent of job holders are satisfied with their professional learning and growth opportunities. Furthermore, nine out of ten respondents are always trying to identify learning opportunities inside and outside of their company, and more than half (69 per cent) of those surveyed in the UAE feel encouraged to take initiative in determining their own career development.

In the MENA, 43 per cent of current employees claim that they are overqualified for their role, while another 55 per cent state that their role is a good match to their abilities. Only 3 per cent believe that they are underqualified for their role. In the UAE, employees have mixed feelings and perspectives when it comes to their responsibilities in proportion to their abilities. A total of 35 per cent of UAE job holders claim that they are overqualified for their role, while another 63 per cent state that their role is a good match to their abilities. Only 2 per cent believe that they are underqualified for their role.

In terms of knowing what their company needs and requires from its employees, 41 per cent of UAE working professionals admit to having a good idea.

“Only about 3 in 10 current employees strongly believe that there is equal opportunity for advancement at the company,” said Elissavet Vraka, YouGov. “Companies in the Middle East can stand to benefit from creating transparent systems where employees feel confident about their career development.”

Data for the Career Development in the Middle East and North Africa poll was collected online in October 2015, with 3,359 respondents covering 13 countries in the MENA region.