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Localisation Has to Start Young

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Localisation Has to Start Young

GCC, Localisation, nationalisation...

Sustainability of talent is at the heart of any business.

When that talent has local roots, the cultural and linguistic advantages are obvious.
Especially in an employment market where 95% of the employees come from abroad – as is the case in the GCC private sector. Public sector roles are simply too attractive for the best local talent. That puts “Localisation” or "Nationalisation" at the top of the priority list for the private sector.

To ensure a sustainable talent landscape, private companies can no longer afford to be over-reliant on foreign expertise. Knowledge transfer from manager to employee lies at the core of the development process, but there are not enough young Emeratis to benefit from the experience of the expat community.

It is true that Director-level employees do move from public to private sectors, but it doesn’t happen anywhere near enough. The long-term goal has to be to tempt more graduates and younger employees to start outside the comfort of a government job.

In their 2016 sustainability report, the Chalhoub Group reported that 4% of their employees are GCC nationals. Alongside many leading GCC companies, they are working hard to push the needle in the other direction. According to their CHRO Wassim Eid: “Localisation is one of our greatest priorities at Chalhoub Group. We are working hard to provide rewarding and long-term career prospects for Gulf Nationals, to help them excel from graduate programmes into senior management positions.”

The local governments have long recognized the benefits of this approach, but in the past private sector companies might not have invested in this young talent as much as they could have done. This then creates a viscious circle and less people want to join them.
There is nothing worse than joining a global firm and doing admin for a couple of years while the foreign bosses carry on with their business around you.

Therefore, as a recruiter who sees a flood of foreign candidates and a trickle of locals, I would like to implore private companies to consider the value that the younger generation of GCC locals can bring to their business. The power of their cultural understanding cannot be underestimated. If you support their development and reward them well, they have less reason to seek a government role. In a cyclical world where foreigners come and go, a core of local talent can support your business in unique ways – long into the future.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, recently conveyed the message at a youth forum in Abu Dhabi: “If you want to participate in shaping the future then you need to stop thinking of a government job. No other country in the region supports youth-led projects like the UAE. It is one of the easiest countries to set up and run a business, so start your own business and corporations.”

Localisation has to remain at the top of the priority list, and while it is not yet reaching a tipping point where there is a genuine choice between which avenue is preferable, maybe some day young GCC nationals will consider that starting their career in the private sector is preferable. Much of what they learn there will be uniquely useful.

As a recruiter, we want our clients to be as successful as possible and we will help them to recruit the best talent, regardless of nationality. However, where positive discrimination is possible, we do our best to help our clients to recruit local. Nationalisation / Localisation is where their future lies.