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Turnover trend among Saudi staff ‘on the rise’

Up to one-third of working Saudi nationals surveyed recently say they intend to leave their employer within three years, according to a new survey conducted by global HR consulting firm Mercer.
The study of employers and employees across the Kingdom has also surfaced some key disparities between what both rate as important when it comes to attracting and retaining employees.
“The findings are a clear wake-up call for employers of Saudi men and women,” said the head of Mercer’s business in Saudi Arabia, Tom O’Byrne.
“Employers who don’t prepare their workforce, their HR programs and their policies to better reflect and accommodate the Saudi workforce of today and tomorrow, will end up paying a high price.”
Mercer’s team of Saudi consultants helped lead and conduct the ‘What’s Working’ study toward the end of 2013 following signs that turnover among key hires across the Saudi labor market was on the rise.
The findings come from responses from 116 HR managers, business owners and senior executives, along with those from more than 400 Saudi men and women currently employed in Saudi Arabia.
The survey showed a clear gap between worker and employer expectations around compensation, employee development, motivation, and at times, the nature of work itself.
“One in four Saudi men and one in three Saudi women told us they plan to leave their current employer within one-three years; up to 17 percent among younger employees stated they planned to stay less than 12 months,” Mr.O’Byrne said.
“These rates are cause for concern.”
Omar Alsanousi, an associate with Mercer Consulting in Saudi Arabia and one of the leads on the survey project, said HR managers and business leaders in Saudi Arabia continue to woo Saudi nationals into their organizations in response to government directives on Saudization.
“Our study has uncovered that while compensation is key to attracting Saudi nationals into and away from an employer, it is not the only driver to employee motivation and engagement to stay and grow with his or her employer,” Alsanousi said.
An example of this disconnect was on the question of variable pay.
Two thirds (72 percent) of employer respondents ranked short and long-term variable pay as having either a moderate or weak impact as an element of reward. This was in stark contrast to the nine out of ten (90 percent) of Saudi nationals who saw this element of compensation as either important or somewhat important.
Similarly, the Mercer study revealed a divergence of views around other benefits.
Forty-one percent of HR managers rated retirement benefits as having a weak impact in the reward mix, in contrast to employees who ranked the importance of retirement benefits at 78 percent.
Time-off programs were also valued differently, with 70 percent of HR managers saying that such schemes had either a moderate or weak impact, as opposed to the 58 percent of employees who thought they were important elements to consider.
Also, few respondents gave positive views about the dynamism and collegiate environment of their workplaces.
“In every age category bar one, less than five percent stated that their opinions held any weight and were respected in the organizations where they worked,” said O’Byrne.
O’Byrne says enticing and keeping Saudi nationals in the Saudi workforce will continue to be a top priority for the country’s government for the foreseeable future, so these issues need to be addressed.
“We will continue to study this issue as part of our on-going commitment to the Kingdom. Our clients and indeed all employers want to know more about the types of employment value propositions that need to exist between the Saudi employee and their employer,” he said.
“Put simply, one value proposition for one workforce is no longer going to work and employers who ignore the trends will end up paying the price,” he said.

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