By Hanan Nagi
Human resources (HR) is an ever-evolving industry, and its agility allows it to keep up with the rapidly changing world, emerging technologies, and global events. But in the past two years, HR professionals have had to adapt to more unique situations and sudden disruptions due to the pandemic, inflation, and the Ukraine-Russia war.
Remote and hybrid working arrangements have been the focus of nearly every HR-related conversation. Many business leaders sought ways to improve their digital infrastructure and accommodate increasing online assignments and projects. Others had to consider whether they could implement work-from-home measures and onboard new employees virtually.
The Middle East was no exception to these changes.
Opportunities & Challenges
HR specialists and managers had to devise new online work policies, restructure their teams, consider salary budgets, and reinforce employee well-being. Most professionals within this industry have demonstrated resilience and the ability to be innovative in uncertain times.
The region also encountered an increased demand for employment lawyers, hoping to address new hiring laws, visa restrictions, and employee disputes. Nevertheless, online work was still a priority, as that concept was still relatively new to the Middle East.
Months have passed since the most drastic changes wreaked havoc in HR. Still, new trends keep coming, requiring HR professionals to keep an eye on what’s ahead and decide if and how to implement those developments.
Here are some key HR trends we can expect to see in the coming months and beyond.
- Making Employee Well-Being a Priority
Many companies in the Middle East struggled with small talent pools for a long time, much before the pandemic. Still, job seekers have decided to seek better work conditions and more support from their future employers.
Those who want to reach top talents can’t ignore these demands. That’s why employee well-being will be in the spotlight in the coming years, encouraging business leaders to take more vigorous measures to protect their workers’ mental and physical health.
According to the recent Well-being in the Private Sector Report, anxiety and depression are the most significant issues hindering employees’ mental health. Many workers are burnt out and struggling with work-life balance.
That coincides with Microsoft’s Work Trend Index findings, showing that 50 per cent of MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) employees report high-stress levels. These are the issues companies will aim to solve in the months ahead by introducing wellness initiatives and programs.
- Reinforce Business Resilience
Even though Middle East businesses appear more resilient than their global counterparts, there’s still a long way to go. New crises keep coming, forcing company leaders and HR professionals to be constantly alert.
After all, the Middle East takes pride in an increasing number of scale-ups, and it often outperforms many global counterparts in this aspect. Yet despite being a bold move, growing a business is challenging, especially in a decade that has shown to be nothing but turbulent thus far.
Therefore, CEOs and managers will have to pinpoint efficient strategies and initiatives to reinforce the resilience of their companies. On the other hand, HR professionals will have to encourage employees to be more agile and carry out the company’s vision.
They will also have to anticipate hardships and be ready to respond in a timely way. That includes introducing better tech and learning how to maximize its use.
- Focus on Cultivating a Sense of Belonging
Most Middle East companies and organizations highlight their company culture and people-centric initiatives as their most significant accomplishment. But telework and hybrid work have challenged that conviction and made many HR professionals wonder whether they can recreate the same atmosphere in a digital setting.
As a result, many businesses will focus on identifying how to help employees feel a greater sense of purpose. They will also increase their efforts to create meaningful jobs and ensure people find their daily assignments engaging.
- Accelerating HR Automation
According to a June 2022 study by Freshworks, nine in 10 MENA employees find their workplace technology frustrating. Even though the pandemic accelerated digital transformation in this region, those efforts still don’t impact attracting and retaining quality talents.
However, the Freshworks study also found that 56 per cent of workers would stay with their company if it invested in automation. Improved tech infrastructure would also help companies enhance the customer experience, digital security, and remote collaboration.
- Making the Most of AI Analytics
Businesses that aim to increase their resilience and agility need real-time insights and data-driven information to make the best decisions and prepare for the future. According to a recent survey report by Willis Towers Watson, 88 per cent of highly effective organizations use analytics to understand employees’ needs and expectations.
Investing in first-rate analytics will stay among the principal HR trends in the Middle East in 2022 and beyond, as that’s among the best ways to get a complete picture of the workforce and business progress. Thus, AI-powered data enables HR professionals and managers to inspire and lead their teams and promote positive company culture.
- Providing More Flexibility
Remote work is no longer a buzzword. Today, most job seekers expect companies will offer flexible working hours and the opportunity to work from home.
For instance, 20 per cent of job seekers in the Middle East look solely for remote jobs. Hence, employers that aim to stay competitive and reach the best talents must prioritize flexibility and ensure employees have a say in their daily tasks and schedules.
- Investing More in Learning & Development
The Middle East will continue preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and seeking ways to intertwine advanced technology with learning and development (L&D). In the coming months, employees’ professional growth and clearly-mapped career paths will be among the highlights of HR trends.
L&D developers and HR professionals will focus on creating well-rounded upskilling and reskilling programs. As internal mobility is becoming increasingly significant, more employees will get the opportunity to transition into different job roles and tackle more demanding challenges.
- Personalized Perks & Benefits
The Middle East Willis Towers Watson 2019 – 2020 Benefit Trends Survey has shown that most efficient organizations consider improving both broader and core benefits as their top priority. An increasing number of companies will aim to combine their efforts regarding enhancing employee well-being and offering personalized perks and benefits.
As a result, the latter will become more well-rounded, targeting workers’ emotional, financial, and social wellness, inclusion, and diversity. However, companies will focus on making benefits more meaningful rather than appealing to everyone.
The human resources industry in the Middle East is evolving and keeping pace with global trends and transformations. However, this region targets elements that boost employee well-being, automation, resilience, L&D, flexibility, and benefits.
The goal is to provide a higher sense of purpose and create meaningful jobs. Therefore, the HR trends coming in the months ahead will allow companies to be more competitive and efficient and establish more positive workplaces.
Hanan Nagi is the Founder and CEO of HNI, a learning consultancy organization headquartered in Dubai with clients across the Middle East and North Africa, the USA and Europe.