The Future of Work in Saudi Arabia: A Guide to Attracting and Retaining Top Saudi Talent

4 Apr 2023

A key initiative of the 2030 Vision of Saudi Arabia, the Saudization program aims to reduce the country’s reliance on oil revenue by developing a diversified economy and empowering its citizens through job creation and skill development. This initiative is not only about creating jobs but also about developing a skilled workforce that can contribute to the growth and development of the country.

The Saudization program has opened up opportunities for Saudi citizens in various fields, including engineering, software development, healthcare, hospitality, and many others. By doing so, the government hopes to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that will enable the country to compete on a global scale.

The Saudization initiative has been a cause of concern for some expats working in the country. However, it is important to note that Saudization is not all bad news for expats in Saudi Arabia. The program has created a more competitive job market, which has resulted in companies offering better salaries and benefits to attract skilled expats. it is crucial to recognise that the program is aimed at achieving a sustainable balance in the workforce, which ultimately benefits both nationals and expats. The growth of the country depends on this harmonious blend of local and international talent, working together to drive innovation and development. As companies vie for the most qualified professionals, they are now more inclined to invest in comprehensive training programs and career development opportunities for their employees, further enhancing the professional landscape in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the government has implemented measures to support expats, such as improving the ease of obtaining visas and streamlining the process of setting up businesses. Additionally, expats who have been in the country for a long time and have built strong relationships with their employers and communities are likely to continue to be valued members of society. Ultimately, while Saudization may present challenges, it also presents opportunities for both Saudi citizens and expats to work together towards a more prosperous future.

Saudization in the tech industry

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been making substantial investments in its digital infrastructure, which has created an abundance of opportunities for tech professionals. According to a report by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the tech sector is expected to create more than 20,000 jobs for Saudis by 2030. Some of the top tech jobs in demand in Saudi Arabia include software engineers, data scientists, cybersecurity experts, and artificial intelligence specialists. Companies such as Saudi Aramco, STC, SABIC and NEOM are leading the charge in attracting top tech talent to the region. Additionally, the government has launched several initiatives to support the development of the tech sector and to provide training programs to help Saudi nationals acquire the necessary skills to succeed in these in-demand jobs. As Saudization continues to gain momentum, the tech industry in Saudi Arabia is poised for significant growth and offers a promising career path for those looking to enter this field.

Saudization in the life sciences sector

Since then, Saudi Arabia has been successfully driving Saudization in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Locals have been given a preference for roles like medical representatives in order to fulfil this goal. The pool of talent has increased since the beginning of the pandemic, but companies have to think outside the box when recruiting. In Saudi Arabia, people are moving from pharma to medical devices or from healthcare to pharma, and vice-versa. Adaptability and flexibility are critical in markets now, especially for soft skills.

The appointment of a female CEO or medical director in Eli Lilly Pharma company in Riyadh is a significant milestone for Saudi Arabia’s business community. The new CEO is a Saudi national who has no experience in the pharmaceutical industry, but she has proven herself to be an effective leader in her position.

The challenges of Saudization

Hiring managers in Saudi Arabia face several challenges when it comes to Saudization. While there are jobs in Saudi Arabia, many Saudis are accustomed to government-provided jobs with about 66% of Saudis working in the government. One of the biggest challenges is the competition between the private sector and the government to hire nationals. The private sector, which is growing exponentially, has to compete with other companies and the government to attract qualified Saudi workers. This competition often leads to increased salaries and benefits driving up business costs and reducing competitiveness.

Due to the sheer growth of the market and diversification in employment opportunities, there is a lack of qualified candidates. Subsequently, some employers have found that they must train their employees instead of just hiring someone who already has experience in their field. This can be costly and time-consuming for the company, especially if they have multiple positions that need to be filled quickly.

The resource pool is not just about hiring and training but also about attracting and retaining the right talent.

Attracting and retaining talent is a key factor in any business and the success of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative. It’s also an important part of Saudization, which aims to increase the number of Saudi nationals working for companies in the country.

To achieve sustainable results, Saudi Arabia will need to address the potential gap in human capital capabilities. This can be achieved by attracting and retaining top talent and effectively developing and upskilling the local labour force.

How to attract talent in Saudi Arabia

Most of the experienced and qualified Saudi Nationals are not actively looking for jobs. You will need to conduct a headhunting search when recruiting for senior-level and C Suite candidates.

Good candidates often refer good candidates. You can ask your Saudi National network for advice on whom you should be connecting with or ask them who they think would be a good fit for your vacancy.

Family plays a significant role in determining the career choices of Saudi Nationals. Employers that enjoy wide public appeal gain a further advantage by winning the endorsement of candidates’ families. The family’s view is largely determined by the company’s public image, as well as the information received from relatives who work for the company.

Often, Saudis are attracted by the prospect of working in a Saudi-majority workplace. They are open to working with other cultures and nationalities, where they can learn, but it is important for Saudi candidates to feel that their culture and values are respected in the workplace.

Communication is crucial

Be sure to keep your candidates informed of the process and ask them open-ended questions about other opportunities they are considering. Candidates complain that official recruiting processes are inefficient, take too long and are extremely impersonal. They prefer updates to come with a personal phone call rather than email. Therefore a business remaining engaged with a candidate during the onboarding process is far more likely to have them join.

Be flexible in areas where skilled workers are in short supply

When recruiting for certain areas of your business, you should keep an open mind regarding Saudi National candidates, as they are in short supply.

Be flexible when considering applicants with less than the required years of experience, you will find Saudi applicants with the tenacity and potential to grow within your organisation.

Take the time to thoroughly assess your applicant’s profile. Along with traditional interview questions about skills, take the time to get to know your applicant. Ask about family ties and other commitments that may affect the job. Saudi culture values family relationships a great deal; understanding these ties is important in understanding the person you are hiring.

Take the time to explore the applicant’s true intentions and motives for wanting to leave their current role.

Be mindful that a lengthy interview process can cause your applicant to lose interest in the role. If the candidate has time constraints, make sure you ask about them.

Certain aspects of the hiring process in Saudi Arabia differ from region to region, so it is important to understand these differences and take them into consideration when setting up a hiring process for your company.

  • Notice periods can last for up to three months in Saudi Arabia, so it is advisable to be swift and prompt with all recruitment decisions, tasks, and processes.
  • It’s sensible to remain engaged with the candidate between the offer and the start. Candidates are likely being approached by other firms, as well as being counter-offered by their existing employer.
  • The company must consider all possible scenarios related to its taxes and the Nitaqat System in order to accumulate realistic timelines and avoid hurried or wrong decisions at the last minute.

How to retain talent in Saudi Arabia

Apart from traditional methods of retaining talents, such as offering flexible arrangements, a sense of belonging and training opportunities, it’s important to consider how you can make your company a place where people want to stay.

Craft reward system

To retain employees, managers should provide benefits other than compensation, like promotional opportunities, bonuses and incentives, and non-monetary benefits, based on their performance.

If the company wants to retain or keep employees for long periods, it should create a reward system that allows them to attain both their personal objectives and organisational goals.

Give feedback on employee performance on a regular basis

Effective performance appraisal systems provide timely feedback on employees’ performance, which can help employees to know about the importance of their performance and their existence in the organisation. Receiving performance feedback on time also indicates that managers pay attention to the work done by the employees and provide assistance on how they can improve their performance, which in turn helps them engage with their work and stay with the organisation.

Recognition and rewards systems are important for every organisation, but they can make a particularly big impact on your remote team.  In fact, Deloitte found that leadership support and recognition are among the top three most effective nonfinancial factors for retention. In today’s “anywhere workforce,” an employer’s gratitude can help to motivate employees to go the extra mile and explain how their hard work helps the organisation. Some companies set up formal rewards systems to incentivise great ideas and innovation, but you can institute compelling recognition programs even if you have a small team or limited budget.

A comprehensive hiring process is a great way to retain employees. Start by ensuring that you are hiring the right people. It’s best not to subject candidates to a long and drawn-out process as it may send them elsewhere. More so, going through interviewing in a way that helps you best understand the candidate and if they possess the right skills for the role or will be able to develop them on the job.

Goals of Saudization and why they matter

This program is important because it addresses important issues like unemployment, economic growth, and gender equality. By increasing the number of Saudis working in different industries, it can help improve the country’s economy and create new jobs for the people. This will also help them reduce reliance on foreign labour and strengthen Saudi’s economy by providing more opportunities for local companies.

The goals of Saudization are important because they help address some major issues facing the country today. According to the Publication results, the Saudi unemployment rate has decreased to 9.7% in the second quarter of 2022, compared to 10.1% in the first quarter of 2022. Encouraging more young people into the workforce can reduce these numbers, which will have a positive impact on the economy and society at large.

The Saudi Vision 2030 plan will not be realised without the right talent in place, which means companies will need to work with their HR teams and recruiters to find workers that meet their hiring requirements. Saudization is an important component of this process, but it should not be viewed as a silver bullet solution or something that can be implemented overnight.

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