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Sun 12 Jan 2020 04:51 PM

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Martine Ferland, CEO, Mercer: Having a new mindset is key to the workforce of the future

The UAE has witnessed extraordinary digital transformation in recent years

Martine Ferland, CEO, Mercer: Having a new mindset is key to the workforce of the future

Martine Ferland is the President and CEO of Mercer

As companies transform their business models to realise the opportunities of the digital revolution, they are challenged with defining their workforce of the future. With an increased focus on technology and automation, there’s the realisation that almost everyone needs to be tech-savvy. Therefore, for forward-looking executives and organisations, planning for a digital workforce needs to be a top priority. By addressing the future skills needed now, leaders can prepare to operate effectively in the business environment of tomorrow. The key to tomorrow’s workforce - which includes functions not yet defined and jobs not yet in existence - is upskilling, reskilling, and flexible approaches to education and training. Successful organizations will leverage new technologies to not only drive business results, but also enable their employees to focus on developing the ‘uniquely human’ value they add to businesses.

Digital transformation across the region

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has witnessed extraordinary digital transformation in recent years, supported by a government that is working to achieve a robust digital infrastructure. As a result, it has been at the forefront of digital transformation in the Middle East and even appointed the world’s first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence (AI). The nation also is a leader in the adoption of other emerging technologies related to the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and more, enabling businesses to go digital and helping them save on cost and time.

Saudi Arabia is equally committed to bringing the most innovative technologies to the Kingdom through its Vision 2030 agenda that will reduce the country’s economic dependence on oil and develop public service sectors. In recognition of the value of attracting global talent to bridge skill gaps, laws have been implemented to improve the quality of life in the Kingdom. For example, the Kingdom implemented instant visas for foreign workers in private sector firms, a process that used to take up to eight months.

The initiative enables firms enrolled in the Kingdom’s flagship nationalisation program to get visas for foreign workers immediately without needing to submit large volumes of documents. Also, Saudi’s mega city, NEOM, is a project representing the next generation city and global center for innovation, technology, trade and creativity in the Kingdom. It is not a place for conventional people or conventional companies, but for those who aim to transform the kingdom into a leading global hub through the introduction of value chains of industry and technology.

The workforce supporting innovative projects like these will need to have the ability to learn, adjust and adapt to new technologies quickly, regardless of their roles today. Innovative technologies that allow companies to engage with talent beyond the immediate organization gives rise to a new trend: the extended talent ecosystem. Rather than managing only the internal workforce, the best companies will establish and manage an extended talent ecosystem, comprising multiple talent pools and spanning multiple generations.

Adapting to a new generation of talent

All relevant talent will soon be tech-savvy, which is why it’s important for employers to demonstrate their attractiveness, not only in how they transform their businesses, but their workforce too.

Employees are no longer satisfied with traditional 9 to 5 working hours, and are moving towards contracted work, also known as a ‘gig’ economy. Growth of this more mobile workforce has risen dramatically in the past decade, and by many accounts, gig workers now represent a third of the global workforce. For many, such work arrangements have its perks. People are able to be their own boss, have flexible schedules, or build a business based on their trade experience. The gig economy will continue to grow in the coming years, posing new challenges for organisations to retain and develop employees while at the same time attracting new talent.

The UAE’s Freelance Permits address this trend by allowing for specialized individuals in the media, technology and education sectors to offer their services on a consultancy basis, even if they have a full-time job. The initiative boosts diverse skills in the local market and further positions the UAE as an innovation and talent hub.

Companies also need to rethink the way they build value propositions for how different types of workers are rewarded and recognized for their achievements. Compensation and standard benefits are no longer enough to attract and retain talent. The region needs more varied employee benefits that address financial, professional and personal needs. In particular, increased financial stability is needed in the GCC, where more than 50 percent of the population are expatriates. Organizations are beginning to see the importance of offering long-term rewards and savings plans to continue attracting this global talent.

To this end, the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) will implement the DEWS (DIFC Employee Workplace Savings) Plan in January 2020 to align the end-of-service benefit arrangement with global retirement savings best practices and offer additional financial security to employees.

For organisations to evolve and stay ahead, it is important to bring out the best in their workforce. To thrive, employees want clear career paths to know where they’re going and supportive leaders to help them get there. Preparing for the workforce of tomorrow requires a mindset that encourages innovation, experimentation, risk-taking and an unrelenting focus on data-driven decision-making.

Martine Ferland is the President and CEO of Mercer

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