Dubai: With employment opportunities still getting scarce these days, it may be easy to think that employees are no longer hopping from one job to another. But despite the job crunch, workers are still quitting in pursuit of the proverbial greener pastures, leaving many organisations scrambling to hire replacements.

In a study among more than 300 senior HR professionals in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, about six in ten (60 per cent) in the UAE cited staff retention and talent management as the most significant areas of focus for the next two years.

Approximately two in ten (21 per cent) acknowledged that retaining employees present the biggest challenge facing their HR departments in the next 12 months alone, while talent management, employee salaries and benefits, and resourcing and recruitment figure in the top five biggest concerns.

The findings, released on Wednesday alongside Hays’ latest market report, the DNA of an HR Leader, highlight the challenges faced by HR professionals in the region, as well as insights into what it takes to succeed at the top of the HR profession.

Employee turnover is a universal problem and is proving costly for companies. The trend is particularly prevalent in the UAE and the rest of the GCC, given the transient nature of the expatriate population that make up a huge portion of the labour force. Employment laws in the host countries are also making it relatively easy for employees to change jobs.

A separate study by Hays showed that nearly six in ten (57 per cent) of working professionals in the region were looking to switch employer at some point this year. This is not good news for companies hoping to establish robust, high-performing teams, according to the recruitment specialist.

“The relatively relaxed entry and employment conditions of the region mean that the labour market has always been transient in nature, with higher attrition levels compared to other geographies, said Chris Greaves, managing director at Hays Gulf region.

We see many expat jobseekers migrating to the region for part of their career, in light of the tax-free salaries and to save money, before moving back to their home countries. In addition to this, local employment laws allow labour to move relatively freely between employers and therefore many individuals will work for more than one organisation during their time in the GCC.”

So, in order to ensure their valuable staff are staying, should employers then lure their staff with better benefits and compensation packages? Experts said that while companies need to sweeten their deal, they also have to keep company expenses in check.

“Employers face a two-fold challenge; not only must they benchmark their offerings above that of the competition, but they must also keep costs to a minimum,” said Greaves.

“Raising pay rates is only a short-term solution to reducing staff turnover and one which is both outdated and unsustainable in today’s market.”

Organisations may do well to implement other strategies, such as providing training and development programmes to their staff.

“In the era that we now operate, the HR department is becoming more and more influential and intrinsic to the success of organisations. Employers must work closely with their HR teams to identify and implement enriching success of organisations,” said Greaves.

“Employers must work closely with their HR teams to identify and implement enriching training and development programmes that will instill a greater sense of loyalty in their employees.”