Some construction consultancy firms have introduced twice-yearly salary increases for their staff in an attempt to retain them against rising inflation and poaching from clients.
The UK's EC Harris is implementing performance-related increases, with some salaries rising alongside inflation rates of 10-15%.
According to Simon Light, a director at the firm, the company is struggling to attract skilled staff, particularly with clients rather than competitors offering bigger salaries, guaranteed bonuses and other incentives.
"We are giving pay rises twice a year," he said. "We provide salaries that are performance-tested - making sure they get paid a fair remuneration package. We're also finding it very difficult to attract families to the UAE, particularly for work in Abu Dhabi. Some people are commuting from Dubai, but this is not ideal.
Consultancy firms are also looking to double their workforce over the next five years in order to fill skills gaps. EC Harris plans to boost its staff to 900 by 2009, while US-based Parsons Brinckerhoff plans a 100% increase within three years.
According to Ian Tarry, regional director, Mace, while the company only gives salary reviews once a year, it is revamping other incentives such as housing allowances and training programmes.
"We've seriously had to revamp our housing allowances. And we're investing heavily in training. We're trying to demonstrate that there's a career path with the company and a reason for being at Mace, as opposed to giving more money to people - sometimes money's not always the answer.
As with EC Harris, Mace's main threat when it comes to staff poaching comes from its clients, with some offering salaries one-and-a-half times more than the rate paid by a consultancy.
But Tarry added that out of the number of staff who had left to go and work for a client, Mace was witnessing a high rate of people returning to the company.
"Clients are paying salaries that are effectively the equivalent of our charge-out rates," he said.
"People are also offered bigger job titles and bigger positions to fill, whereas we wouldn't put them in such a position if they're not ready to take it on.
"So we've experienced that people are suffering in these kind of roles with clients, and we're now getting migration back to Mace.
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