UAE’s restless talent seeking packages that go beyond salary as majority look to change jobs, Zurich survey finds

The talent landscape in the United Arab Emirates is increasingly competitive, resulting in employers needing to do more to attract and retain skilled workers, according to Zurich’s survey Powering the future of work; attracting and retaining talent in a competitive global landscape, launched today.

With the aim of establishing what the future of work will look like in the UAE, Zurich International Life in the Middle East (Zurich) commissioned the survey by market research agency YouGov targeted at employers and employees to uncover the state of talent, employee benefits and the extent to which companies are demonstrating social leadership.

The survey reveals that employees are demanding benefits that go beyond remuneration and reveals that more than three-quarters of employees in the UAE (76%) have changed jobs in the past year or are considering doing so in the next 12 months, with those aged between 25-34 most likely to switch organizations. The main drivers for changing organizations include seeking a better salary package (55%), better employee benefits (44%) and professional development and skills growth (43%).

With 52% of employers reporting that they believe they are facing a talent shortage – with sales and marketing, and data science facing the biggest shortfall – the findings show that employers must readdress their benefits to give talent what they want.

Moreover, an overwhelming majority of employees (89%) say they would switch jobs for the same pay if better benefits were on offer. The report demonstrates that workplace savings, unemployment insurance and education allowances are among the employee benefits most highly valued by employees.

The survey revealed that employers are keen to provide additional benefits, with 86% saying they would offer additional benefits if they were readily available at a competitive price. Asked what was holding them back from upgrading employee packages, cost and the extra workload in administering new benefits were the biggest factors, both cited by 34% of respondents.

Looking at the importance of workforce sustainability in attracting the talent of tomorrow, half of employees said that upskilling is critical, alongside recognizing and rewarding achievement and listening to employees. Yet, while most companies believe they offer ample upskilling opportunities (82%), a third of employees say professional development is lacking in their workplace (36%) – with more than half (53%) citing unhappiness with growth opportunities as a reason to change jobs, just behind dissatisfaction with salary (55%). Employees also see a need for organizations to demonstrate social leadership. For example, 36% of employees surveyed said that that they believed their organization was not doing enough to address climate change. Socially responsible initiatives supported by employees include waste reduction programs and flexible working.

Commenting on the findings, Sajeev Nair, Senior Executive Officer at Zurich Workplace Solutions, said: “The government of the UAE has in recent years enacted a broad range of measures to make the nation more attractive for global talent as it seeks to enhance its diversification towards a knowledge-based economy. The environment is now fertile for employers to capitalize and act in order to make the UAE a net importer of talent and net exporter of knowledge work.”

He added: “As companies seek to attract and, importantly, retain talent in the UAE, they must accept that this is a mature job market where talent holds many of the cards. Providing better benefits is a clear-cut way for companies to position themselves as employers of choice; yet our survey reveals that there is a mismatch in an employer’s definition of a benefit and what employees understand to be a tangible benefit.

“Companies need to build personalised, engaging packages centred on the benefits that talent really wants, and they need to communicate these benefits better, both to potential recruits and existing employees who may not be getting the full picture of what the employer offers. With the UAE committed to being one of the world’s great knowledge economies, the time to address future skills needs and attract top global talent is now.”

The survey was conducted in the UAE by YouGov, with fieldwork taking place between September 29 and October 5, 2022. The survey results are based on a sample size of 2,021 respondents, of which 1,006 are employers and 1,015 are employees. The equal weighting of the employer-employee response reflects a balanced contribution and supports the accuracy of the data.

The whitepaper detailing the survey findings can be accessed here: