An opinion: the impact of the global financial crisis on talent management in the Middle East.

This topic absolutely fascinates me. This is my take on it. I first came to the region nine years ago. At that time many talent management "strategies" in the region consisted largely of "well, if someone leaves we'll get another one". Great news of course for those in talent acquisition like myself. If succession planning and career development programmes were in place at all, their focus was at the senior level. Transparency was on a need to know basis which often didn't include the employees concerned! Understandable I guess, though not excusable, given the manic growth and expansion in the region especially pre- global financial crisis (GFC). At that time the challenge to many large firms was just to keep corporate infrastructures, processes and compliance running hard to keep up with the demands of business growth.

The impact of the GFC in the Middle East has resulted in firms placing much more emphasis on good governance and, especially in the case of multi-nationals and a many large private family owned firms, on more in depth business integration with their wider global networks. Firms believe this will lead to being best able to exploit the commercial opportunities here in the region. With Dubai Expo 2020 looming on the horizon, closely followed by 2022 Qatar World Cup and now the announcement of the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 the drive to change and leverage these opportunities has become even more important. Talent will drive this growth and to attract the best, business practices have to modernise.

How has this affected the management of talent (attraction, identification, development, engagement, retention and deployment)? We all know the costs associated with high labour turnover rates including loss of productivity. Since the GFC, in order to attract and retain the best talent, whether that is internal (i.e global mobility) or external, we have seen a much more strategic and planned approach to talent retention, including a more joined up approach to talent management within HR functions.

Consequently, the demand for HR professionals with specific talent management related skillsets particularly in the areas of organisational design & development, performance management and career development has increased substantially in the region. We have also seen the growth of the HR Business Partner role, critical in facilitating the delivery of an effective talent strategy. The recent establishment of the CIPD office in Dubai reinforces the message that firms in the Middle East need to plan their approach to talent more carefully and retain those critical for their success. Firms are also developing organisational cultures which are more focused on performance related to business results, supported with technology, and which encourage and reward career minded individuals who work at their personal development.

I believe that in the longer term the GFC has benefited the region and contributed to its growth (although it didn't seem like this at the time!) and from a talent perspective it made firms here realise the need to work harder at retaining their best talent. So now we can see many firms working hard to modernise their talent management strategies and practices.

Long gone are the days when the approach to talent in the Middle East was "if someone leaves we will just hire another one."