How to en­tice right

Mid­dle Eastern firms can lure the best and bright­est, if only they im­ple­ment the right strate­gies

Executive Magazine - - Last Word -

One of the great­est chal­lenges fac­ing the Mid­dle East is also one of the most un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated: how to at­tract and re­tain hu­man cap­i­tal. This is a real im­ped­i­ment to the strate­gic plans of some Mid­dle East coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly those in the GCC. They are mak­ing the tran­si­tion away from re­source based economies to knowl­edge based in­dus­tries, and those in­dus­tries rely mainly on hu­man cap­i­tal.

Prom­i­nent among those in­dus­tries are pre­mium pro­fes­sional ser­vices firms. Th­ese firms, in­clud­ing our own, can make a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion in repa­tri­at­ing hu­man cap­i­tal. Their strong val­ues, global con­nec­tions and clear op­por­tu­ni­ties draw highly skilled and well ed­u­cated em­i­grants back to the re­gion — of­ten to stay.

We do not un­der­es­ti­mate the fac­tors that make it chal­leng­ing to repa­tri­ate the re­gion’s hu­man cap­i­tal. The most ob­vi­ous is the le­git­i­mate con­cern about po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity. An­other dis­cour­ag­ing fac­tor is the in­com­plete na­ture of the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment. Con­cerns about the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion, health­care and other fam­ily-re­lated mat­ters do not help. De­spite th­ese short­com­ings, tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als still con­sider mov­ing to the re­gion — on con­di­tion that they can op­er­ate in pro­fes­sional firms that pro­vide them with an at­trac­tive value propo­si­tion.

Pre­mium pro­fes­sional ser­vices firms, such as man­age­ment con­sul­tan­cies, have been widely rec­og­nized as pro­vid­ing an at­trac­tive con­text to en­cour­age peo­ple to re­turn. This is not limited to ‘above the mar­ket’ fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion. Other im­por­tant el­e­ments in­clude a clear mer­i­toc­racy based ca­reer path, an ex­po­sure to solv­ing strate­gic prob­lems for clients, a cul­ture that en­cour­ages en­trepreneur­ship, the op­por­tu­nity for con­tin­u­ous learn­ing and devel­op­ment, the abil­ity to re­ceive close men­tor­ing and strong brand recog­ni­tion. Fi­nally, by par­tic­i­pat­ing in a pro­fes­sional ser­vices firm, ded­i­cated and tal­ented peo­ple can real­is­ti­cally see them­selves mak­ing a much needed con­tri­bu­tion to the re­gion’s econ­omy.

All th­ese el­e­ments are a per­ma­nent part of the value propo­si­tion of th­ese firms. The lead­ers of th­ese com­pa­nies know that high end pro­fes­sional ser­vices de­pend upon deep and con­stantly re­freshed ex­per­tise. Con­sult­ing pro­fes­sion­als build long term, pro­duc­tive re­la­tion­ships with busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives. They think in­no­va­tively about their clients’ most com­plex chal­lenges. They must keep ac­quir­ing knowl­edge, sharp­en­ing their skills and shar­ing ex­per­tise with their col­leagues.

We have found that job can­di­dates place sub­stan­tial weight on whether a po­ten­tial em­ployer’s ex­pressed val­ues fit with their own per­sonal val­ues. The ques­tions they con­sis­tently ask are: Does the com­pany en­cour­age a ‘get up and go’ spirit? Will it lis­ten to, and sup­port, in­di­vid­u­als’ long term growth? Are se­nior lead­ers com­mit­ted to hav­ing top level staff coach their ju­niors and does the firm en­cour­age ap­pren­tice­ship? Are clients and their in­for­ma­tion treated with care and re­spect?

The con­nec­tion to the client, the lifeblood of the busi­ness, de­pends upon trust. Or­ga­ni­za­tions, whether pri­vate en­ter­prises or gov­ern­ments, are shar­ing their most sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion with ex­ter­nal ad­vi­sors and ser­vice providers. The phrase ‘trusted ad­vi­sor’ is not a slo­gan. It ex­presses what ev­ery client de­mands and ev­ery con­sul­tant must be if they want to have a sus­tain­able ad­vi­sory busi­ness. Clients want to know that they are deal­ing with peo­ple who do more than com­ply with eth­i­cal stan­dards. They want ad­vi­sors who in­cor­po­rate ethics into how they op­er­ate. Strat­egy& in­te­grates two sets of eth­i­cal codes into its work, those of the firm and those of the PwC net­work of which we are a mem­ber. Other firms may also use more than one eth­i­cal code.

This com­mit­ment to a clear set of cor­po­rate val­ues is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant be­cause tal­ented staff are so mo­bile and, in our re­gion, in short sup­ply. More busi­ness peo­ple need to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of at­tract­ing tal­ent; do­ing so suc­cess­fully is crit­i­cal to ev­ery com­pany that hopes to thrive in the Mid­dle East in the fu­ture.

JOE SADDI is a se­nior part­ner and the chair of the Mid­dle East busi­ness, GE­ORGE SAR­RAF is a part­ner and JAMES THOMAS is a prin­ci­pal with Strat­egy&

(for­merly Booz & Com­pany).

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