Hybrid working and WFH were the two great themes of the past 2 years. That’s giving way to ‘The Great Reshuffle’. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: The masks are off and so are most of the Covid-related protocols in the UAE. Which is also being reflected in the expectations of employers on how their staff should be working.

According to a new LinkedIn study on ‘Global Talent Trends’, 76 per cent of UAE business leaders think flexible working is ‘at risk’ as businesses focus their attention on navigating economic uncertainty. Worldwide, 68 per cent of businesses were of this opinion. And 57 per cent of UAE-based companies are holding back on making benefit cuts to maintain productivity levels under the new status quo.

LinkedIn data show remote-based job postings are in decline, and WFH could be at risk as 53 per cent of business owners would prefer teams to work more from the office.

To get a feel of what more of change is afoot in employer-employee understanding, Gulf News sounds out Ali Matar, Head of LinkedIn’s MENA and Venture Markets, on what’s afoot.

Wasn’t it always a near certainty that remote working would not last much post-pandemic?

The way of working may not have sustained in the long term, with the latest LinkedIn data indicating a 60.3 per cent drop in remote job postings in the UAE alone as opposed to the same time period last year - and this reflected globally. However, we do believe the pandemic has irreversibly changed the way employers and employees think about work.

"As a result of the Great Reshuffle, professionals now think not only of how and where they work, but also why they work. This mindset might still adapt to new conditions, but it will chart the way forward in terms of talent shifts and retention." - Ali Matar, Head of LinkedIn’s MENA and Venture Markets Image Credit: Supplied

We’re now emerging from the Great Reshuffle to enter a period of great uncertainty, around global inflation and growth, and the labor market which looks to remain tight for some time. It’s clear that businesses and employees will need time and knowledge to navigate uncertainty and shape the future of work, together. One priority for example will be workforce development and talent retention.

Isn’t it the case that businesses, whether in the US or UAE, are now insisting on near full return for their workforces?

As pandemic rules ease up globally, it is natural for companies to want their employees to come back to the office, to grasp whatever sense of familiarity we can from a pre-pandemic era. We can see that remote work has passed its peak, with remote job postings declining globally since the first-half of 2022. While the share of remote job postings in September 2022 still took up a significant proportion of overall job postings in our key EMEAL markets (on average 7.6 per cent), there was a slight dip of 11.8 per cent compared to August 2022.

However, businesses that choose to pull back on flexible working risk demotivating their workforce, regardless of where they are based in the world. Our research of business leaders across the UAE finds that more than three-quarters of UAE executives vs. two-thirds globally, say flexible working is under threat - along with other important areas of working life such as skills development (93 per cent), employee wellbeing (89 per cent), and flexible work (76 per cent).

While many employers are making changes in the workplace, a lot of them in the UAE are still focusing on employee wellbeing by prioritizing workplace mobility (41 per cent) - as opposed to a global average of 34 per cent - and giving employees flexibility (37 per cent).

UAE business leaders say giving employees opportunities to move into different roles is their number one workforce priority over the next six months. This comes as they also recognize that financial strains due to the increased cost of living (51 per cent) and worries over being laid off (34 per cent) are playing on employees’ minds.

There was so much talk last year about the Great Resignation - has that all but tapered off?

The Great Reshuffle was driven by employees’ demand for more flexible working conditions, which in turn forced employers to adopt more flexible working conditions back in May 2022. Looking at LinkedIn’s data, which surveyed over 500 hiring managers and 1,000 employees in the region between January 21 and 31 of this year, the lack of flexibility was causing 70 per cent of the region’s professionals to consider leaving their jobs.

Employee motivation and morale are essential to get through these tough times and UAE executives are taking measures to adhere to this. While difficult decisions must be made - it’s important to remember that people are a company’s most valuable asset and maintaining employee commitment is vital to getting through this time.

But this uncertainty can also be treated as an opportunity for leaders. Leaders need to take an adaptive leadership approach to unlock this opportunity, create an agile workforce through skills-based hiring, and cultivate skills to keep their workforce engaged and motivated.

Which industries in the UAE/Gulf are seeing the highest numbers of job listings?

As anticipated, technology has become integrated into every aspect of our working lives, as software and IT services ranked amongst the top job listings for LinkedIn members across the MENA region (with a focus on the UAE and Saudi Arabia), closely followed by digital marketing.

We can say with certainty that this trend is not ready to budge just yet as it has become apparent that skills-based hiring is becoming a necessity to find the best candidate/job match.

In terms of actual recruitment, do you see the median age of candidates seeking positions trending lower?

Although it varies by sector, employers seem to be increasingly looking at whether candidates have the right skills. They place less value on work experience and specific diplomas.

The skills set for jobs having changed by around 25 per cent since 2015, this number is expected to double by 2027. It’s irrefutable: a skills-first approach to hiring and developing talent are key ingredients for companies to come out of this period stronger.

By understanding the skills your employees have today, and the skills your company needs in the future, companies can hire or redeploy talent into growth areas. Focusing on skills can also encourage internal mobility and give employees access to new career opportunities.