• Transform magazine
  • October 24, 2019

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Opinion: Employer branding in the gulf region

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With the price of oil rebounding from $50 per barrel in 2016 to $64 per barrel now, and with 70% of the population under 30, young Saudis are still anxious about their future prospects. Considering 70% of working Saudis are employed by the government, the private sector needs development efforts to expand beyond oil to be able to handle the surging numbers of young people seeking employment.

The Saudis are taking some important steps, though. Saudi Vision 2030 aims to remake its economy in order to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism and increasing non-oil industry trade between countries through goods and consumer products. Employer branding must play a critical role in the forthcoming ‘new economy.’

As we all know, employer branding is a global phenomenon and it is starting to take firm hold in the gulf region, where I have been since 2015 – working in employer branding and talent acquisition. The corporate benefits of employer branding for candidate attraction, internal retention and as a pillar in organisational reputation are obvious and Middle Eastern prospective candidates know this also. Hence, a recent survey by Bayt.com reveals that seven out of10 MENA-based respondents said, ‘ease of attracting jobseekers’ is the main benefit of employer branding.

Offering great jobs and enhanced staff benefits are also key pillars of the employer brand; they help to drive organisational performance and employer attractiveness. Global companies are also expanding their offerings to employees and showcasing them to prospective job candidates. At my firm, Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), we offer great jobs and the opportunity to be part of a prestigious, established and fast-growing company which offers various attractive development and career paths opportunities all over the kingdom.

There is also another trend sweeping the GCC. Efforts are being made to shift to a firmer emphasis on total rewards for staff, recruitment giant Aon has said. A GCC allowances and benefits survey, found an increase in the prevalence of benefit offerings for employees. These efforts will no doubt improve organisational efficiency and attractiveness.

Christopher Page, CEO of talent, rewards & performance for Aon Middle East and Africa, says, “The results of this study are particularly interesting, as they demonstrate how organisations are looking at and leveraging allowance and benefits structures to secure and retain the right talent with the right skill sets to help drive their business objectives; this is extremely important for the region, which is focused on promoting and nurturing local talent to support the growth vision of the GCC nations. The study also points at the shifting trends in the allocation of allowances and benefits, which will serve as a referral point for industry best practices.” Arun Taneja, rewards consultant at Aon Middle East & Africa, adds, “The shift from just pay to total rewards is a welcome step by organisations in the region, which also meets the aspirations we are seeing amongst young talent who are seeking challenging yet rewarding career opportunities.”

At my firm, our team members take on challenging, inspiring projects in power and infrastructure while receiving one of the best tailored training and development program in the kingdom. My team and I built our EVP and employer branding programme on SEC’s four critical pillars: ‘great company,’ ‘great leaders,’ ‘great job’ and ‘balanced compensation.’

We also offer outstanding perks and benefits as well, such as balanced compensation (base and bonuses), in comparison to the wider peer group and in line with culture and lifestyle. Attractive benefits include mobility, medical care and employee housing loans and the savings system. We adopted a programme of awarding housing loans to Saudi employees through local banks according to legal regulations. Key points of the housing programme consists of providing an opportunity to own a residential house or building on land owned by the employee, or the financing of a partially built house owned by the employee.

A savings system was created to encourage Saudi employees to continue in service while the company allocates contribution versus the amount shared by the employee per month. The employee gets the company’s contribution upon retirement or the end of the service, according to the period of participation; the employee has the right to determine the amount deducted from his monthly savings on condition it does not to exceed a portion of his basic salary at the time of joining the plan.

Interestingly, from a survey I did with an internal SEC focus group (pulled from recent ‘employees of the month’ winners and ‘employees of the year’ winners) revealed some interesting takeaways, such as: top benefits (medical insurance, paid vacation, and leisure facilities), pride in working for one of the largest companies in the Middle East, and growth opportunities and high levels of training.

Lastly, in support of the 2030 vision, my firm, SEC launched in 2016 a project to draw a comprehensive map of the sites that could produce solar energy in all regions of the kingdom, in order to reduce future dependence on fuel and contribute to the reduction of environmental pollution. This plan coincides with the kingdom's vision of 2030 and the government's efforts to restructure and diversify the national economy, and also coincides with SEC goals to compete internationally.

All of these steps plus a robust employer branding programme coupled with Saudi Vision 2030 will make a tremendous different. And should aid in assisting private Saudi firms meet the future challenges in the war for talent.

Johnny Torrance-Nesbitt is the team leader of talent attraction and recruitment and employer brand leader at the Saudi Electricity Company