The Looming Talent Crisis: Research Shows UAE Companies Unprepared for Future of Work

Integrated Talent Management and Skills will Drive the Next Generation Workforce, in Line with UAE Vision 2021

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
UAE employers will need to increase their focus on adopting organizational capability towards fast changing technology landscape to give their workers the right mix of skills in the next three years to enable future growth, according to a study by Oxford Economics and SAP SE released today.

As the UAE builds its knowledge-based economy in line with UAE Vision 2021, training the next-generation workforce becomes increasingly important. 15% of respondents in the UAE said bridging the learning of the capabilities of cloud is needed today, more than double, 39%, see cloud as being necessary in three years’ time, according to the study, part of the global -“Workforce 2020”- report, which surveyed 5,400 executives and employees in 27 countries. However, just 24% of employees in the UAE expect to be proficient in cloud within three years, the report found.

The survey also found strong increases in demand for cloud, analytics, mobile technology, and social media skills, with predicted growth of 88%, 58%, and 28% respectively in the next three years. However, only about 25%-35% of UAE employees expect to be proficient in these areas by 2017. Closing the skills gap must be a priority for employers in the UAE, especially for high-potential tech-savvy Millennials.

“Confluence of cloud, social, mobile and big data are driving new possibilities to respond effectively to rapidly evolving technology landscape and new business scenarios, organization in the UAE must face the challenge of upgrading organizational capabilities and skills to enable future growth,” said Sam Alkharrat, President, SAP MENA. “With the high potential of Millennials there is a tremendous opportunity to foster the next generation of business leaders and accelerate growth.”

Top Workforce Issues Facing UAE Companies

  1. Widening Talent Gap
    Less than half (44%) of employees said their companies provided ample training on needed technology, and less than one-fifth (17%) said they get access to the latest technology available. Encouragingly, employers in the UAE do seem to recognize the importance of career development generally, with 55% of employees saying their company provides the right tools to grow and improve job performance, and 45% saying they are offered training programs to develop new skills.
  2. Education and Training
    If the right skills training can be provided, UAE workers seem willing to benefit. The survey shows a strong emphasis on career development and training in the UAE, with more than half, 55%, of employees citing supplemental training programs as being important in their career. Employees also value education programs, cited by 52%, possibly to safeguard their future: 43% of UAE employees were most concerned about their position changing or becoming obsolete.

    Only 35% of employees in the UAE cited compensation as the most important part of their jobs, compared with 66% of global workers.

  3. Misunderstood Millennials
    The study also found key UAE workplace differences between workers and Millennials, aged 18-35, an age group that was cited by 54% of employers as impacting on workforce strategy. More than one-third of Millennials in the UAE cited work-life balance as important, compared with 14% of workers outside that group.

    While 46% of employers in the UAE think Millennials are frustrated with management, only 2% of that age-group said they were. Likewise, 27% of managers were worried Millennials may quit their jobs because of lack of learning and development, but only 2% said they had thought of this.

    • Although 54% of executives say Millennials entering the workforce is a top trend impacting the workforce strategy, only 28% of executives give special attention to their particular wants and needs– primarily because they don’t know what to make of them. While much has been written about how Millennials are different in use of technology, social networks and attitudes toward work, the “Workforce 2020” study shows that there are differences as well similarities to their non-Millennial coworkers when it comes to workplace priorities:
    • Millennials want to achieve their income goals and want to make a positive difference in the world to a similar extend as their non Millennials.
    • However Millennials prioritize work life balance 36% over 14% of non Millennials as well 64% of Millennials seek stronger collaboration with other areas of the company versus 51% on non-millennial.

  4. Leadership Void
    The survey also revealed that executives and employees agree that leadership is lacking—and companies are not focused enough on developing future leaders:
  • Just 32% of Emirati executives say their company plans for succession and continuity in key roles. 44% percent say that when a senior person leaves, the company tends to fill the role from within the organization.
  • 39% of executives say their plans for growth are being hampered by lack of access to the right leaders.
  • Employees agree with employers when it comes to leadership—34% of employees say leadership at their company is equipped to lead the company to success

“With the UAE’s growing economy, companies must create a culture of leadership development and continuous, employee-driven learning to accelerate innovation and drive high performance” said Nelly Boustany, HR director, SAP MENA. “Technology has been the cornerstone of our talent management strategy, using SAP SucessFactor we have completely transformed the way we attract, onboard, develop, and engage our global work force. Leveraging our own HCM Cloud solution, we have been able to quickly deploy globally scalable integrated talent management processes to drive successful execution of our business strategy. Compensation is no longer a differentiator – the best employers address their organizations needs of future skills, enablement, engagement, and developing a pipeline for future leaders.”

Notes to Editor:
To learn more about the global results of Workforce 2020 and the future of work, follow the #workforce2020 conversation with SAP on Twitter at @sapnews and SuccessFactors at @successfactors, or

About SAP
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Claire McPeak, SAP, +971 4 330 1777,
Steve Baron, Wallis Marketing Consultants, +971 4390 1950,