More job perks, new hiring strategies: How UAE companies attract, retain Emirati talent to meet targets

The deadline to achieve semi-annual Emiratisation targets was extended from June 30 to July 7


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Thu 6 Jul 2023, 3:36 PM

Last updated: Tue 11 Jul 2023, 10:26 AM

Private sector companies are stepping up efforts to meet Emiratisation targets — increasingly working with recruitment agencies and the Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council (Nafis). Some are also offering perks and incentives to attract and retain UAE nationals in their workforce.

Over the next five years, the UAE Government has set a target of integrating 75,000 Emiratis in the private sector — an increase of two per cent per annum for skilled jobs in private-sector establishments with more than 50 employees, and an overall rate of increase of 10 per cent by 2026.

Recently, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (Mohre) increased the targets to three per cent by July 1 and four per cent by the end of 2023.

The deadline for the semi-annual targets, however, was extended from June 30 to July 7 due to the Eid Al Adha holidays.

To support the initiative, the government has introduced several programmes and initiatives, including modernising education infrastructure, quotas to incentivise private-sector employment of home-grown talent, rewards and penalty mechanisms, scholarship programmes, and establishing in-country value programmes, to name a few.

The Nafis programme was introduced in 2021 to raise the competitiveness of Emiratis and provide them with job opportunities in the private sector.

“Firms have announced a variety of programmes to increase Emiratisation. For example, companies from various sectors have announced strategic agreements with the Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council to create thousands of jobs for nationals in the private sector over the coming years,” said Khaled bin Braik, Emiratisation Programme Leader – PwC Middle East.

“Improving the attractiveness of the private sector is a must to improve the retention rate of Emirati employees. Large private sector firms are achieving this through training and professional development programmes,” added Braik.

While efforts to attract Emiratis into private enterprises are proving increasingly effective, the expert pointed out that perceived longer-term prospects and the overall working experience are not matching up to these employees’ expectations.

“Unless companies do more to boost national talent retention through targeted investment, there is a risk that recruitment programmes will fail to deliver sustained economic development for the UAE or tangible long-term business benefits. Employers will also be vulnerable to government penalties for the underrepresentation of Emiratis in the workforce,” he added.

Libbie Burtinshaw, head of operations, PRO Partner Group, said companies take the initiative to engage with Nafis or similar recruitment agencies for sourcing the appropriate candidates for the roles required.

“Both graduates and experienced employees are viable options when hiring for Emiratisation. Companies should consider which candidate would best suit the role that they are looking to fill with their new hire and should not necessarily limit their considerations based on these categories,” added Burtinshaw.

Corporates hiring nationals

PwC Academy said it has to date trained over 6,000 Emiratis through programmes targeted at upskilling the national workforce.

Leading retailer Carrefour has onboarded almost 1,000 Emiratis since 2021 and aims to recruit 2,500 by 2026.

In addition, the retail has joined hands with Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM) Academy to facilitate a training programme to upskill over 400 nationals working in the company for leadership roles.


“This partnership with ADGM Academy is the latest step in our ambitious Emiratisation strategy as we continue to actively contribute to the socio-economic development and prosperity of the UAE,” said Bernardo Perloiro, chief operating officer for GCC at Majid Al Futtaim Retail.

Majid Al Futtaim was recently awarded the Best Large Company in Achieving Emiratisation Targets and Best Emirati Talent in the Private Sector at the first annual Nafis Awards.

Dr Thumbay Moideen, founder president of Thumbay Group, said they have made remarkable progress in bringing young national talent on board.

“In healthcare, we have witnessed the rise of talented Emirati doctors and administrators, contributing to the advancement of our overall healthcare delivery. Similarly, in medical education too, we have nurtured a generation of Emirati trainers and administrators who shape the minds of our youth. By achieving and surpassing these targets, we pave the way for even greater achievements, creating a future where Emiritisation is a catalyst for excellence and opportunity,” said Dr Moideen.


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