Career advancement: The Main Attraction in the Middle East

Employers and employees see Career Advancement Opportunities among the top Attraction and Retention Drivers, according to Towers Watson study

Career advancement opportunities rank as the top reason why employees join or leave organisations, according to new research from Towers Watson, a leading global professional services company. The 2014 Talent Management and Rewards and Global Workforce Studies have shown that companies continue to face challenges attracting and retaining talent, with 60% of employers experiencing difficulties with retaining highly qualified people. In the Middle East, 75% of employers indicate that hiring activity has increased compared to last year, while at the same time, 69% of employers are facing problems hiring critical talent.

Elie Georgiou-Botaris, Middle East Practice Leader, Talent Management & Organisational Alignment said “A crucial component of attracting and retaining the most talented staff is for employers to be actively supporting employees in achieving their objectives and rising to new heights in their career. Without this, ambitious individuals can become disengaged and start looking around for a new role even when other aspects of the job – such as pay, benefits and company culture – are acceptable. Strong employee engagement equals high productivity, so career development discussions are time well-invested and actually drive company performance.”

The 2014 Towers Watson Global Workforce Study shows that UAE employers risk losing their best employees to competitors by failing to provide adequate growth opportunities. With career advancement opportunities being the top attraction driver on the UAE labour market, individuals name the chance to advance as the top consideration when choosing to join a new organisation, but also the second biggest reason to leave a job. 41% of employees say that in order for them to advance their careers, they must join another firm, while 40% of employees identified as high potentials would leave their employers in order to advance their career. This indicates a significant gap between pre-employment expectations and the actual work experience for many people.

Similarly, recruiters’ promises that prospective employees will learn new skills often do not materialise, according to the research, with only 14% of the Middle Eastern employees agreeing that managers are effective at providing career management support. More than one quarter of the respondents think that the current effectiveness rate of communicating rewards to their employees is weak and that there is significant room for improvement, while only 8% agree that the rate of effectiveness is very strong. Although only 30% of employers in the Middle East say turnover is increasing, retention risk is high as indicated by the high levels of employees who intend to leave their organisation over the next two years – 43% in the Middle East versus 26% globally.

However, on a positive note, 51% of the respondents in the Middle East agreed on the fact that career advancement opportunities have improved over the past 12 months, which highlights a positive trend emerging in the Middle East compared to last year.

Elie Georgiou-Botaris added: “Our research indicates that the perceived lack of career advancement opportunities could relate to poor internal communication about career-management programmes. If any communication is done, it normally focuses on the processes and not the motivational and emotional content of why and how an employee can connect with an organisation. Career management is one of the golden opportunities to strengthen an employee’s long-term commitment to a company”.

“Understanding the key Attraction and Retention Drivers is crucial for employers when deciding which aspects to focus on in the current labor market, in order to attract and retain key talent. Furthermore, employers must strengthen their career management and development processes and focus specifically on creating career advancement opportunities for their critical employee segments. Employers must focus their current and future talent programs and align them to the key drivers of Attraction, Retention and Sustainable Engagement,” added Elie Georgiou-Botaris.

While most companies globally agree that joint ownership of career development between the manager and employee is best towards achieving career advancement, the traditional view of the manager in charge of the employees’ careers is more common in the Middle East than in the rest of the world. Only one third of employees in the study say that their managers help them with career planning and development and clearly explain to them how they can advance their careers.

About the Surveys

The 2014 Global Talent Management & Rewards Survey and Global Workforce Study provide an in-depth look at the practices and concerns of organizations around the globe. It captures the perspective of over 1,600 organizations on attraction, retention and engagement issues that are essential to the development of an effective employment deal and total rewards strategy.

The 2014 Global Talent Management & Rewards Survey was conducted between April – June 2014, with 1,637 participants globally, including 30+ Middle East organizations.

The Global Workforce Study was conducted between April – May 2014 and includes responses from 32,000 full-time workers, out of which 1,008 were Middle East respondents. The participants represent a wide range of industries.

About Towers Watson

Towers Watson is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. The company offers consulting, technology and solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Towers Watson has more than 14,000 associates around the world.

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