The Work Crowd reveals solutions to business growth amid war on talent

A panel of experts convened by global talent community, The Work Crowd, has revealed how the increasing use of freelancers and advisors is enabling businesses to accelerate their growth in the GCC. Government measures to attract international expertise, coupled with a boom in ‘solopreneurship’ have driven the shift to decentralised workforces, which are critical to plugging specific skill gaps and providing mentorship for local talent, to help overcome barriers to scaling in the region.

Moderated by Nivine Afiouni, Geopolitics, Global Public Affairs & Media Advisor, the conversation drew on insights from international specialists in strategic planning and talent management, including Felice Hurst, GCC advisor to The Work Crowd and MD of Hanson Search MENA; Imad Lahad, MD at APCO Worldwide; Latifah RahmDel, VP of Mawja; and Tom Morf, CEO and Co-Founder of Aramedes Ltd. The panel also discussed the impact of artificial intelligence in the workforce and the future skills needed to harness the technology.

Opening the debate, Nivine highlighted the difficulties that businesses have been facing with finding and retaining talent in recent years, with the panellists sharing their own strategies in overcoming these challenges. Discussing the approach to recruitment and retention in his start-up, Tom spoke about the need for passion and personality, over specific academic and industry experience, and revealed how offering shareholding opportunities can provide an added incentive in a small business environment.   

Reflecting on the issues specific to the GCC, Felice went on to discuss the challenges around time-bound visas and the dynamic nature of business decision-making, which have previously inhibited talent acquisition and retention. Highlighting the opportunities linked to new visa options and the easing of access to global talent, Felice said, “One of the positives that came out of the pandemic is the flexibility of work, enabling businesses to access talent on-demand, rather than having a full workforce. It enables companies to grow fast, and specifically find that dedicated talent that maybe isn’t in the permanent workforce. I think we’re going to see an enormous rise in using global talent to fill specific skills gaps.”

Sharing her own experience of tapping into the freelancer market, Latifa discussed how bringing in external talent helps to build a more coherent team of people, who share a dedication to the project while remaining flexible to manage their own time. Explaining how freelancers represent a better use of resources in her business, Latifa said, “It wouldn’t make sense for me to build a dedicated events arm, I always prefer using the best freelancers. They have a passion for what they do; you give them the brief and they become part of the team.”

Providing insights into talent management within a multi-national company, Imad discussed how APCO operates as a global workforce, where employees are not necessarily tied to their specific office or geography but are available to tap into across different markets. He also revealed how the company retains relationships with APCO alumni who have gone on to develop their expertise in different roles and may be drawn upon to provide expertise in specific subject areas in the future.

The panel went on to discuss the important impact of Government policy in building a vibrant freelance community in the region, including the UAE’s green visa, which allows foreign nationals who are self-employed, skilled workers, entrepreneurs, or investors to live and work in the country. The increasing focus on work-life balance was also cited among the drivers for the growth in freelancing, as workers prioritise their mental and physical wellbeing in light of incidences of employee burnout. Concluding the session, the experts explored the much-debated topic of artificial intelligence and the need to promote its ethical usage and build a talent pool that can learn, unlearn, and relearn such technologies at a fast pace.

The panel discussion was convened as The Work Crowd accelerates its own expansion in the MENA region, including the recent opening of an office in Abu Dhabi. Speaking about the expansion, Founder and CEO of The Work Crowd and Hanson Search, Alice Weightman said, “We are delighted to extend our presence in the MENA region to connect the thriving business ecosystem to some of the world’s best brains. In this booming economy, demand for business critical and new evolving skills is at an all-time high, and that is where The Work Crowd community can help plug the gap. The UAE has established itself as a global pioneer in enabling digital nomads, and freelance working is a fast-growing market across the GCC. The Work Crowd aims to help businesses find the flexible talent they need, while empowering freelancers to upskill and re-skill to meet future industry needs.”

With over 4,500 pre-vetted advisors, freelancers and mentors on its platform, The Work Crowd is helping companies find the right talent across multi-regional markets to support their business growth. The commitment to the GCC reflects a dramatic increase in both supply and demand for dedicated expertise in the region.