In sectors such as tech and auditing, talent are being wooed with better salaries and career prospects. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: With UAE employers in the mood to offer bigger and better salaries, individuals have been quick to make the switch, with a new poll finding one in four employees did so in the past year. The same one in four ratio jumped onto new roles with different employers in Saudi Arabia too.

This trend, according to the financial services firm Zurich, is not a one-off. According to the survey, ‘most’ employees expressed a ‘strong intent’ to explore new job opportunities in the next 12-18 months.

In Saudi Arabia, 78 per cent of employees are considering changing jobs, while a similar sentiment shared by 74 per cent of their UAE counterparts. Women and younger employees in the 25-34 age group are ‘proactive in exploring new career opportunities’.

That the younger staffers will take the lead in switching jobs – and even professional roles – was always a given. But across age groups, the trend is visible, according to multiple recruitment consultants. In the UAE, technology, banking and the auditing sectors have been particularly rife with hiring activity, and those in senior management being wooed with lucrative opportunities.

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All about employee benefits

And what should companies be doing to retain talent? Go for updated and expansive employee benefits. Failing that, there will always be the threat of a competing offer being snapped up, with the cost of living being a decisive influence in individuals’ decisions.

So, “Employee benefits have taken centre stage and rapidly evolving, pushing employers to adopt a holistic approach to talent retention,” said Adam Watterson, Senior Executive Officer at Zurich Workplace Solutions.

“One of the trending areas is workplace savings and pensions for expatriates concerned about their retirement planning. End-of-service benefits will play a pivotal role in drawing talent from international markets and fostering financial stability.” - Adam Watterson of Zurich Workplace Solutions Image Credit: Supplied

A complete job scenario shift

What the UAE job market is experiencing is completely different from trends in each of the last 3 years. If the pandemic forced disruptions to workforces across sectors in 2020, then businesses in most categories were frugal on the hiring side in 2021. Then in 2022, hiring picked up strongly, with retail, airlines, hospitality and construction fast-tracking new job creation (or filling positions that had become redundant during Covid times).

Towards the close of 2022, the pace of hiring slowed as worries about the global economy and retrenchments in the US tech sector impacted on sentiments here. All that changed immediately heading earlier this year, and that pace has continued.

Accounting and audit professions too became a hive of hiring action, with tax specialists much in demand after the UAE’s corporate tax announcement.

What about employee perks?

Higher salaries are always the deal maker in convincing an individual to choose a different employer. Equally, ‘flexibility’ within the workplace has emerged as a factor when attracting/retaining talent.

“Other critical factors relate to the importance of having a diverse workforce and addressing pay gaps in the market,” according to Zurich. “With a clear call for action and strategy to retain talent, the UAE government is also contributing with a range of initiatives to solidify its standing as a preferred destination for global talent.

“Some of the notable reforms introduced include an investment-related end-of-service benefit scheme for private sector employees, unemployment insurance, the adoption of a condensed working week and new categories of leaves.”

Benefits matter
Nine out of 10 employees surveyed by Zurich consider employee benefits an extremely important pillar, and often surpassing the importance of salary.

The research, conducted in July and August, polled 2,507 respondents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, of which 1,255 were employers. It sheds light on how central aspects of the work landscape, such as talent shortage, employee benefits and workplace culture, have evolved in the region over the past year.