Despite notable successes, Sheikh Mohammed has urged the UAE to overcome the challenges that persist in its Emiratisation campaign
While the UAE’s Emiratisation efforts have been picking up steam across the private and public sector – and have been widely applauded by businesses – a number of challenges remain in the process, according to experts.
The continued focus of Emiratisation was starkly highlighted last week by the UAE Prime Minister and Vice President and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
In an open letter addressed to his ‘brothers and sisters’ in the country, Sheikh Mohammed acknowledged that the UAE’s Emiratisation drive continues to face difficulties.
“The number of complaints against Emiratisation have increased and we hear it. And the level of satisfaction the people have with dealing with those in charge has decreased, and we have observed it. Providing jobs for Emiratis was and remains a priority,” he wrote.
On one hand, the hiring of UAE nationals has risen over the past few months, with increased demand from both private and public sector organisations, according to a report from global recruitment firm Hays. However, official statistics show that as recently as last year, just 0.5 percent of the private sector workforce was made up of Emiratis, compared to 60 percent of the public sector.
“Public sector organisations remain the most active with regards to the hiring of UAE nationals, in line with their established Emiratisation programmes,” says Chris Greaves, the managing director of Hays Middle East.
“Within the private sector, employers within the banking and energy industries have been busiest for employment of UAE nationals, as well as large MNCs within the FMCG [fast moving consumer goods] sector,” he added. “This is down to mandates introduced in previous months.”
The study indicated that many companies continue to fall short amid stiff competition from competitors for Emirati candidates, particularly when it comes to attraction and retention campaigns, as well as fostering a workplace culture that appeals to them.
“Identifying and attracting top Emirati talent is the main challenge facing employers. While the supply of job seekers is vast, identifying those with the key skills and expertise can be difficult,” Greaves adds. “Competition for this skilled talent is vast...employers must be strategic with regards to how they attract and retain this talent over their competitors.”
When it comes to retaining Emirati talent, the Hays report identified three distinct factors that Emirati candidates tend to look for when considering a new job: learning and development initiatives, corporate culture and employer brand.
“Emirati candidates are very brand conscious, keen to work for employers who have strong brand integrity and reputation in the local market,” says Bridget Connolly, senior business manager – Emiratisation at Hays. “Those organisations with dedicated development programmes, clear strategies and stories of career success for other UAE nationals are typically employers that Emiratis consider most trusted and who are therefore employers of choice.”
In a bid to encourage further Emiratisation, the UAE’s Cabinet has announced the creation of a committee to take forward Sheikh Mohammed’s directives, including his call for Emiratisation efforts to be improved. The committee will submit a 100-day plan to Sheikh Mohammed on improving the performance of government and private institutions, as well as its economic and community performance.
“Our dreams are in the skies, but our feet are on the ground. We are aware of the real challenges facing our key sectors and government to achieve prosperity and dignified lives for our citizens,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “We are monitoring the performance reports of officials, and everyone will be held accountable.”
In the business community, Sheikh Mohammed’s push to boost Emiratisation efforts has been well received.
“Over the years, we have seen the local population contribute immensely across various sectors,” says Jamal Al Jassmi, the general manager of the Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies. “Emiratisation is a joint partnership and we are all responsible to build the Emirati workforce…with [Sheikh Mohammed’s] guidance, we are confident that the nation will witness more and more local talent across sectors.”
Ibrahim Al Jallaf, a corporate development manager at Majid Al Futtaim, says that he believes that Emiratisation is key to the UAE’s development.
“Joining the private sector has ensured that I am on a continuous learning journey and receive the benefit of working with both local and international experts,” he notes. “Going forward, I believe that having strong local talent in both the public and private sector will be key to our nation’s success.”
Hays, for its part, notes that while official pronouncement are useful in helping shining a light on Emiratisation efforts, they are unlikely to have a significant impact without organisations taking concrete action of their own.
“Such statements certainly shine a spotlight on Emiratisation and build awareness from employers of all sectors,” Greaves says. “However, we have seen no direct correlation with the announcements and uptake in hiring of UAE nationals.”