Top Five HR Trends in the Middle East and how they connect with Global Trends

Published: 28th March 2017

Biz Group is huge fan of Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, started by Josh Bersin in its fifth year.   The 2017 report title “Rewriting the rules for the digital age” sets the scene for a common trend throughout the document – there are new rules that are hitting businesses and HR fast and you better be prepared.


Pace of Technology

What is consistent through all the trends is the rate of change created by Technology.  It is moving faster than anyone has predicted and rather than enhance business productivity we are just creating bigger and bigger gaps.

HR has a genuine opportunity to close the gap, between what individuals are naturally doing and the systems and process that they can introduce to support engagement and productivity.


We encouraged a number of our clients to participate in the survey. Whether it’s through our invitation or an overall increase in awareness, the number of UAE based contributing businesses doubled in 2017.   We still only have a 2% representation of the statistics for the Middle East, but I believe the global trend enables us to see how we can thoroughly prepare in order to get ahead of the trends.


  2017 Global Ranking   2017 Middle East Ranking
1 The Organisation of the Future (88%) 1 Performance Management (85%)
2 Careers and learning (83%) 2 The Organisation of the Future (83%)
3 Talent acquisition (81%) 3 Talent acquisition (82%)
4 Employee experience (79%) 4 Careers and learning (78%)
5 Performance management (78%) 4 Leadership (78%)
5 Leadership (78%) 4 People analytics (78%)
6 Digital HR (73%) 5 Employee experience (77%)
7 People analytics (71%) 6 Digital HR (76%)
8 Diversity and inclusion (68%) 7 Diversity and inclusion (67%)
9 The augmented workforce (63%) 8 The augmented workforce (64%)
10 Robotics, cognitive computing, and Al (40%) 9 Robotics, cognitive computing, and Al (38%)


The top six remain the same, just in a slightly different order. This article focuses on what ME businesses believe is the most important to address.


#1 Performance Management

The regions battle with Performance Management is feedback we regularly hear from our clients.  As the ME market conditions have been tough, companies needed to measure and manage results from employees more scientifically and provide more data to justify large workforces.   However so many companies have had routine appraisal systems that don’t really drive productivity, engagement or performance.  The good news is that rather than find ways to enhance these systems, there is a whole new science, logic and movement with regards to Performance Management.  Middle East businesses would be wise to move quickly to embrace this new way of thinking. Combine it with the right engagement technology and culture to improve accountability and results.  Biz Group has been testing a number of the new theories and we would be delighted to share back the results.


#2 Organisation of the Future

The integration of technology, rather than seeing it as an addition is key.  As organisations become more digital, they need to redesign themselves to move faster, adapt to change quicker and facilitate rapid learning.   Instead of focusing on being more efficient we need to structure our organisations for speed, agility and adaptability.

A top trend carried over from 2016 into the 2017 report is the need to facilitate Agile Teams.  Enabling the use of individuals Native Genius[1] in a more flexible team centric based organization structure.  To make this work we need to ensure we keep work practices and tools simple and create resilience in our teams.    If we are to remove the traditional chains of command, we must also build in accountability.  This links nicely back to getting your Performance Management approach right.  Expectations, KPIs, team goals and metrics need to become more transparent and shared with everyone.  Peer accountability then plays a role in helping drive overall business, team and individual performance.

Successful organisations of the future will survive through an eco-system of teams.  This will enable us to optimise and cultivate talent, support retention and meet the expectations of future customers.


#3 Talent Acquisition

Talent sourcing and recruitment are facing tremendous pressure.  The transparency of our digital world means a company’s employment brand must be both highly visible and highly attractive.  Candidates are often interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them.  Expectations are high and the competition is tough.  Being creative in how you represent your culture, career opportunities and the whole employee experience is critical.

Technology is once again playing an increasing role, with the more innovative solutions focusing on cognitive technologies that will lead to predictive algorithms, automation and the full use of artificial intelligence (AI).  These combined with Social Media platforms could create total transparency about vacancies and the company.    Job postings using videos are gaining positive feedback for getting more applicants, demonstrating the company culture and enhancing the candidate experience.

There are also trends towards removing unconscious selection bias and confirming skills rather than checking credentials.

Sourcing channels are varied, with proof that incumbent employees deliver the highest quality candidates.  At Biz Group we have seen our A Players find other A Players consistently.   Perhaps the most surprising insight was that changing job descriptions to focus on the needs of the candidate will yield three times as many highly rated applicants.    There are clearly a lot of foundations that need to be changed if we want to win the war for talent.


#4 Careers & Learning : Leadership : People Analytics

In true ME fashion – we have 3 priorities coming in joint fourth place.   I’ve chosen to tackle them as sub points, as they all have a role to play in how we manage the new rules of HR.

Careers & Learning

As this is at the heart of Biz Group’s service, we were thrilled to see it elevated to #2 in the Global Trends report.  The scary news was that the concept of careers has been shaken to its core and learning is becoming real time, all the time.   These changes mean L&D departments need to overhaul their career models and accelerate L&D infrastructure into the digital age.

The constant need for learning, just to stay relevant was highlighted in a quote – “Software engineers must now redevelop skills every 12-18 months.  Professionals in marketing, sales, manufacturing, law, accounting and finance report similar demands”.   It’s no longer about ‘What you Know’ but ‘How quickly you can learn’.

In 2014 we acknowledged these changes (by reading reports like this one and attending global conferences) and embraced tools that would help Biz Group’s solutions stay relevant.  We were excited to read that new employee learning systems were referenced[2] in the report and for that some of our early adoption clients are now ahead of the trends curve.

If L&D teams are to embrace the combination of technology, millennial expectations, customer expectations and the need to retain talent, they have to make some radical changes to their approach and how they support the business needs.



Despite organisations investing in leadership development, most organisations have not moved rapidly enough to develop digital leaders, promote young leaders and build new leadership models.  Leadership today is less about the art of it and more about their ability to manage challenges.  The leader is no longer the hero. A leader needs to know how to lead teams, keep people connected and engaged and drive a culture of innovation, learning and continuous improvement.  The team they lead won’t all be direct employees, but contingent workers, contractors and crowd talent.

The ability to take risks, fail and learn in rapid cycle’s would suggest a change in the authority that is given to teams. Leaders also need to build their capability to be digital leaders.  This was a term I hadn’t heard before – it means as leaders, we need to shift from the outdated thinking of “doing” digital things as opposed to “becoming” digital.


People Analytics

This links into many of the other trends.  We can’t manage what we can’t measure.  Predictive analytics tools from many HR technology vendors are making it possible to analyze data regarding recruitment, performance, employee mobility and many other factors.

Stakeholders at the board level are starting to ask for more data to support business decision making.  The larger the organisation the more critical this need is and in some instances this can make it harder to obtain the level of integrated data needed.

I valued the recommended starting point of investing in senior people involved in analytics.  Then giving them the appropriate resources and time to figure out the right way to garner the people metrics you will need to support all the other trends.


#5 Employee Experience

Like businesses are moving away from Customer Service & delivery to the whole Customer Experience, HR needs to do the same for the Employee Experience.  Focusing on engagement and culture although huge tasks, have now become too narrow.  Companies need comprehensive models that interconnect all the elements of the employee experience, in a clear and transparent way with shared metrics.

Previous trends have talked about changing the organisational structure into networked teams and therefore the employee experience also needs to support multiple roles, changing accountability, reporting to multiple managers.  Doing all of this whilst increasing productivity is not keeping pace with business needs.

Systems need to embrace opportunities for employees to give ongoing feedback, rather than an annual survey.  Apps are emerging to support collaboration (we use Trello at Biz Group) and the great news is 77% of the survey respondents believe email is no longer an effective communication tool.

The Employee Experience is central to the 2017 report, effectively being the glue that pulls everything else together.  It goes beyond what you do at work, to include wellness and wellbeing, which has long been a focus for HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and needs to be on the agenda of every UAE organisation.

We’ve developed a model at Biz Group that scopes out what it takes to be a Happy and Engaging Place to work, and we’ve been trailing many of the elements in our Dubai offices.  It’s only the start of a journey to changing the way people think and work every day – so they come to work happy and go home happy.  But it’s good to know we are on the right track.



This is my interpretation of the report and trends. There is so much more if you take the time (probably only 3 hours) to work through the report and map out the actions you need for your business.


Author – Hazel Jackson, CEO Biz Group

[1] Mulitpliers by Liz Wiseman, suggests we label employees Native Genius.  You discover what people do easily and freely and it to work at the highest contribution in the organization.

[2] Page 31 – New Tools are learning behind traditional LMS.  Biz Group represents Axonify – an employee learning system.

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