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12 UAE Workforce Trends to Watch in 2023

​COVID-19 has had a long-term impact on the future of work, and its effects are only expected to intensify as we enter the third year since the virus's discovery. Organizations in the UAE are confronted with significant obstacles, such as a tight labour market, a shrinking workforce, and mounting cost pressures. The 12 trends listed below will impact the workplace as companies develop their strategic workforce and talent goals.

1. Support your Managers

Leaders already have enough on their plates when it comes to managing their workforce. While simultaneously feeling the commercial pressures of budgets, negotiations, strategy, and more, they must serve as role models for a culture that values and promotes open lines of communication, employee health, safety, and participation in an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. This is a difficult task, and now more than ever, support and investment in management are essential. Leadership is a learned skill; the more developed the leader, the better they will be. Not only can investing in programs like upskilling and reskilling assist their leaders, but it can also help businesses enhance their workforce.

2. Potential Rather Than Credential

Organizations must become more comfortable evaluating candidates based on their ability to perform in the role rather than their credentials and prior experience. Businesses should begin long-term planning based not on positions, but on the skills essential to achieve their hiring objectives. Employers can reap the benefits of a larger talent pool, faster hiring times, and more intellectual diversity by utilizing a more skills-based hiring strategy. The time has come to re-evaluate long-held beliefs about what it takes to succeed in business.

3. Soft Skills Are the New Hard Skills

The current job market makes hiring challenging, and many organizations face even more significant difficulties due to critical skill gaps. Investing in people's abilities is more crucial than ever in a world where digitization will only accelerate. Due to the constantly changing nature of the job market, it has been determined that, while technical expertise remains highly valued, employers are increasingly interested in candidates with strong interpersonal and communication skills. While these soft skills have consistently been recognized as essential by businesses and HR, their importance has drastically increased due to the advancement of AI and technology in the workforce. As a result, soft skills have emerged as new hard skills. Companies value interpersonal skills and relationships – something that cannot be automated. In 2023, forward-thinking businesses should expand and enhance their upskilling initiatives in response to these shortages.

4. Upskill and Develop

To keep up with the ever-accelerating speed of technological and economic development, today's average worker may need to routinely reskill, upskill, or even change jobs to maintain their career prospects. Employers who want to stay competitive in the market and boost the efficiency of their current workforce can do so by providing opportunities for job seekers and employees to improve or acquire new skills. One of the most effective ways to retain employees is to show them that the company cares about their professional development. Short courses and certificates are becoming increasingly popular as a means of alternative credentialing, and organizations are increasing their spending on internal upskilling initiatives.

5. Hybrid Work Environments

Workplace flexibility has never been more prized than it is now. Work-life balance was enhanced due to the flexibility of remote work, which reduced employees' travel time and allowed them to change their work hours to non-standard times. The tides are changing as younger jobseekers enter the UAE workforce. Salary is no longer the sole motivation; with a greater emphasis on mental health, workers choose jobs that provide an equal work/life balance over a paycheck. Employees enjoy freedom and independence while allowing teams in-person Facetime and collaboration in the office. This has been shown to increase productivity and fosters a positive company culture.

6. Refocused Attention on Mental Health

The current economic climate severely tests people's mental health, which has given rise to new concerns and stresses. For employees' mental health and productivity at work, there is an expectation for employers to identify and help to remove any obstacles they may encounter. Hybrid work models, wellness benefits, and access to psychological services are just some of how businesses may support their employees' mental health and, in turn, boost productivity and employee retention.

7. Employee Empowerment

People are increasingly willing to make radical changes in their professional lives. Employees and job seekers, especially in the wake of the pandemic, have been vocal about the need for a more equitable balance between work and personal life. The proof is seen in the growing popularity of the four-day workweek among UAE companies and the shift to the global workweek from Sunday to Thursday to Monday to Friday. Companies are becoming more accommodating to their employees' needs by providing them with not only adequate mental health care but also extended paid sick leave, financial assistance with bills and other expenses, and other benefits.

8. Quiet Quitting

The practice of "quiet quitting" has recently emerged as a phenomenon. One component of this new tendency is the significant focus on setting boundaries in the workplace by ditching the 24/7 work ethic for more balance in their personal lives. A recent report by Bayzat reveals that 56% of UAE-based employees expect to change jobs within the next 12 months1. To manage this shift, innovative retention methods are needed if businesses are to keep their talented employees. To manage budgets, improve efficiency, and maintain a high standard of quality in their operations, more and more companies are also turning to outsourcing agencies.

9. Initiatives by the UAE Government to Encourage New Business

More and more people are seeing the advantages of conducting business outside the UAE. As part of the new visa legislation, the government introduced the Golden Visa, the Green Visa for five years, the Freelancer Visa, and the Remote Worker Residency Permit for one year. This has helped the country recruit more skilled labour from across the globe, improving economic prospects. There is little doubt that this has increased the number of startups, established businesses, and independent workers in the area.

10. Benefits and Pay Transparency

As the competition for talent in the workplace continues, more and more companies will try to entice and keep the best employees by offering competitive compensation and perks. Salary transparency measures could help end the pay discrimination that has hampered the labour market for too long. The quality of applications submitted to an organization can only benefit from wage transparency initiatives. The finest candidates for a job will naturally self-sort into those positions where their skills and experience are highly valued and will be compensated fairly for their efforts.

11. ESG Reporting and Renewed Focus on Sustainability

This year, sustainability has been prioritized by more businesses in the UAE than ever before. Transparency in ESG (environmental, social, and governance) performance will become the norm as the younger workforce strives for change. Business owners have emphasized the importance of sustainability due to new regulations. Organizations have now begun to focus on talent recruitment and retention, diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) for new and existing employees, the development of next-generation talent, and pay equity. Increased consumer and shareholder demand drives a significant shift toward green business practices. The specifics of how organizations approach environmental, and sustainability issues vary greatly depending on the industry, company size, and location. Employers and industry leaders in the UAE have made pledges to cut down on their carbon footprints and create more sustainable work models and frameworks in response to the growing number of job seekers considering this in their decision-making process.

12. Strategic Transformation

It's no secret that the UAE is starving for tech experts. For businesses to survive the intense competition in today's market, they must undergo fundamental transformations, which may include an adjustment of their operations, products, and services. Strategic digital transformation initiatives to rethink and reorganize business operations are ramping up as we enter 2023. The increased requirement for strategic thinking in data analytics, sustainability, marketing, and leadership drives the shift toward increased automation and the incorporation of new technology.

Understanding these future trends is crucial because it allows companies, managers, and workers to prepare for the changes that will inevitably occur.