Understanding the workforce crisis

Understanding the workforce crisis

Since my return to Saudi Arabia three years ago, I have seen an alarming trend in employment here — the high turnover rate in private and semi-private companies. I had not seen this in the US or UK, where I was working before. It set me wondering what the reasons for this could be. 

Digging deeper and asking my departing colleagues why they were leaving their jobs (my line of questioning surprised them), I received the following answers: The unexpected nature of the job, the lack of self-development, the lack of motivation and finally the salary. This raised interesting points, and I think it is worth analyzing the responses to see how we might achieve greater job stability and continuous job progression within companies.

 Let us take the nature of the job as the first point of discussion. In any employment advertisement, there is usually a job description. If the candidate has applied for the job, they should have read the job description and seen that they have what it takes to fulfill the role. You might argue that this is a no-brainer, so why even mention it? 

It may surprise some readers, but I have been approached many times by people who only look at the job title and do not bother to read the job description. The job title is often the hook and nothing else matters to them. This is one side of the story. On the other side, some hiring companies/bosses copy and paste all the needed or not needed skills for a position as if they want a superman/woman to fill this post, without putting much thought into the position. This is not unique to Saudi: I have seen this in other countries too. Jobs are posted quickly by copying and pasting job descriptions from other companies, which completely ignores the differing nature of the companies from which the job description was copied. What do you suggest can be done to tackle this?

The next point is the lack of personal development within a company. This is a very important matter that is very dear to my heart. If you have read any of my previous articles in Arab News you will have noticed that I am a strong advocate of developing yourself throughout your career or life, no matter how old you are. Age is just a number on paper, as I always say. Many companies brag about their learning and development programs, but do they really exist? Often it is written as a company’s policy but not executed in reality. In an age of constant changes and development, can an organization afford to have employees not on the cutting edge? 

I understand that when times are tough organizations must be conservative in their spending, but that should not affect learning and development (L&D). Human capital was so named for a reason. The employees of a company are its capital, and if you do not recognize this then I am sorry to say that your company will soon be overtaken by companies that do value their human capital and invest in it. 

Let us look at the other side of the coin and impose on human capital rules and guidelines as to what training to take that are aligned with their job duties. At the end of the day, the L&D is not the time for a break or holiday. What do you suggest can be done here to ensure career development for our human capital that companies will not be shy (for a lack of a better word) to provide for their employees and keep them happy?

We move on to my favorite part of this discussion where my expertise lies, the topic of motivation. Motivation can be a simple thank you, a gift, or a bonus. Gifts come in different shapes and forms, but public appreciation among colleagues and a pat on the back go a long way. This is a basic human need called recognition! However, bosses should be consistent with all employees and not favor one over the others. I have seen this firsthand, and I can tell you that it can be very destructive if the boss plays favoritism. Employees are smart and understand what is going on. The boss can have multiple reasons for his/her favoritism, for example, a personal friend who was hired based on friendship, not based on qualifications. Whatever the reasons are, employees are smart and can pick up these things. So be fair to all your employees if you are a boss, and do not hire your friends in the workplace. So what do you think about this point, bosses?

Finally, we come to salaries. Why does negotiating a very low salary by HR for a well-qualified candidate seem to them an accomplishment? It is not my intention to attack HR. I am only raising a flag here. In my opinion, HR is banking on the fact that no one will ask about the other employees’ salaries in the company. From my short experience working in the Kingdom, this never works. Please let us not insult the intelligence of our human capital, as people will find out after a couple of months how much each employee makes. Why cannot we be like the UK or US in this regard? 

When you apply for a position you should find in the job post both the job description and the “range” of the expected salary given, so you can judge if you want to apply for the job or not. Of course, the hiring company is always free to give the lowest or highest in the range according to the candidate’s expertise. 

Don’t you think this is the right route to follow to ensure everyone is happy in terms of equality and fairness within a company? It also ensures much-needed transparency and reduces the negotiation effort and time.

I have raised so many questions in my article today for the employees, bosses or companies to reflect on. All the above points depend on many factors and I have only begun to touch the surface. What I want you to take away from reading my article is that we should pay attention to our human capital and tackle these issues now before we really do have a workforce crisis on our hand.


• Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj is a best-selling Saudi author, international public speaker and entrepreneurship mentor.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view