Leaders UAE 2017: How can the Gulf attract and retain top talent?

Rajiv Ravindran Pillai , September 24th, 2017

Contracting and recruitment experts from the UAE discussed the hurdles faced by construction employers in the country, and how these challenges can be mitigated...

The construction industry needs to build a workforce that can support current development  plans and keep up with the demands of the UAE’s evolving labour market amid a period of economic uncertainty.

These were the views of the experts headlining the Construction Week: Leaders in Construction UAE Summit 2017’s panel, titled ‘Recruiting and Retaining Tomorrow’s Top Talent’.  The talk revealed that local construction organisations are working to anticipate future workforce needs so as to avoid gaps, shortages, and recruitment mismatches. 

Sachin Kerur, head of Middle East at Pinsent Masons, moderated the panel, which featured Marcus Taylor, managing partner of Taylor Sterling Associates; Kez Taylor, chief executive officer of ALEC Engineering and Contracting; and Rajesh Kumar Krishna; chairman and chief executive officer of Beaver Gulf Group. 

Responding to Kerur’s query about the ideal candidate, ALEC’s Taylor said: “You have to be committed, hardworking, and a team player. We look for someone that has the grit to actually see things through. If you are smart but haven’t got the grit, then I can’t see you succeeding in construction.”

The ALEC CEO said his company is working towards improving its employees’ work-life balance – especially since construction is “a tough industry”, with professionals finding themselves “continually under pressure”.

This approach would also contribute to employee loyalty, which Taylor Sterling Associates’ Taylor said organisations must “earn” from its workforce.

He added: “We need to identify [the factors] required to retain talents – be it career progression, training, or any similar initiative. It’s not all about money.”

Talent retention should become a key focus for construction leaders as the number of skilled workers in the industry dwindles, Beaver’s Krishna warned: “Construction volumes are growing, but manpower has reduced. In particular, the number of blue-collared workers is reducing.” 

Krishna said that establishing vocational development centres would be one way to mitigate the challenges posed by a dwindling skilled workforce. All experts also agreed that increased workforce diversity efforts – particularly the inclusion of more women in the industry – would benefit the UAE’s construction sector.  

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