HomeSkill Intelligence Blogs
Strategic Workforce Planning
Strategic Workforce Planning
Kartik Mishra
Written by :
Kartik Mishra
March 20, 2024
16 min read

The Rising Importance of a Skills-First Approach in MEA’s Talent Landscape

Understanding Talent Analytics is vital for your organization's growth. Stay ahead of the curve with iMocha's insights.
Start your free trial

In today's era, where digital transformation and the shift towards more dynamic work environments are prevalent, organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of a skills-first approach in talent management. This paradigm shift from traditional recruitment and workforce development strategies to a focus on skills and capabilities is not just a trend but a strategic necessity for future-proofing businesses, especially in regions undergoing rapid workforce transformation like the Middle East.

On 21st February, iMocha hosted an online webinar titled ‘Demystifying Workforce Transformation in the Middle East with a Skills-First Approach’ aimed at understanding the unique challenges that the MEA region faces in managing talent and how it can not only mitigate them but also empower skill-based talent development and acquisition to prepare future-ready workforces.

Moderated by Steven T. Hunt, Chief Expert, Work & Technology, at SAP Executive Advisory Office, the webinar invited industry-renowned speakers such as Kitty Singh, Global Market Driver on Skills at PwC, Vishwanadh Raju, Head of Talent Acquisition Operations at ANSR, and Sallyann Della Casa, CEO & Chief Identity Hacker at GLEAC to share their thoughts and provide insights from their observations and region-specific expertise.

Here is a snippet of what unfolded during the hour-long discussion.

Skills-First: A Strategic Response to the Evolving Workforce Dynamics in the Middle East

The discussion began as Steve Hunt delved into the talent-related challenges that are prevalent in the Middle Eastern Market and explained how a Skills-First approach towards Talent Acquisition and Talent Management can be a relevant solution to this.

By definition, a skills-first approach prioritizes the identification, development, and mobilization of employees' skills over traditional hiring criteria such as educational qualifications and previous job titles. This strategy is underpinned by the belief that understanding and leveraging the unique skills of the workforce can drive innovation, agility, and competitive advantage.

In a world where technological advancements and market demands evolve at an unprecedented pace, the skills required to stay relevant and competitive are constantly changing. A skills-first approach enables organizations to adapt quickly by aligning talent management strategies with current and future skills needs. This approach not only facilitates strategic workforce planning but also enhances diversity and inclusion by opening opportunities to individuals based on their abilities rather than their backgrounds.

wider trends shaping the future of the labor markets

Steve Hunt highlighted two pivotal shifts in the modern MEA region:

  • The transformation of work through digitalization and technology is reshaping our working lives and demanding new, specialized skills.
  • The demographic changes, particularly in regions like the Middle East, are leading to a shrinking labor force due to aging populations and declining birth rates.

To illustrate the first shift, he used the surge in demand for Generative AI skills as an example, showcasing how swiftly technology can render certain abilities indispensable while sidelining others. Concurrently, he explained how this scenario is amplified by the additional factor of needing a diverse skill set with a diminishing talent pool.

He said, “It's crucial to recognize that our challenge isn't a shortage of people but rather an underutilization of potential talent. We must focus on identifying and nurturing not only those with the necessary skills but also those with the potential to learn and adapt. For this, the implementation of a Skills-First approach and the use of Skills Architecture can prove to be game-changers."

Make intelligent talent decisions with iMocha's talent solutions! Learn how we reduce complexity and ensure efficiency at every stage of your talent lifecycle
Get a Free Trial

Skills Architecture: Bridging the Gap Between Talent Supply and Demand in the Middle East

Skills architecture refers to the framework within an organization that defines and categorizes the skills needed across different roles and levels. It involves mapping out existing skills, identifying gaps, and planning for future skills development. This architecture serves as the foundation for implementing a skills-first strategy, guiding recruitment, learning and development, and career progression.

skills architecture

During the discussion, Vishwanadh Raju shared some very relevant insights on the present-day conditions of MEA’s talent ecosystem and explained the importance of Skills Architecture in resolving the associated bottlenecks.

He said, "In the Middle East, a stark mismatch exists between the available skills and job requirements, exacerbated by high youth unemployment and reliance on foreign labor for skilled positions. To combat this, initiatives focusing on skills development and technology training are being rolled out, aimed at preparing the workforce for future demands. The region is actively acknowledging and tackling these issues, with comprehensive strategies to bridge the skills gap. As we approach a crucial juncture in overcoming these challenges, the implementation of skills frameworks marks a key milestone towards achieving this goal, even as the situation evolves. When you get complete visibility into the skills that your organization possesses and the ones that it will need moving forward, you get to make better talent decisions, while also increasing the ROI from your learning programs."

How Skills Architecture Drives Success

As the discussion around the topic elaborated, our panelists highlighted some crucial benefits of Skills Architecture, such as:

  • Strategic Workforce Planning: By clearly understanding the skills available within the organization and those needed for future success, companies can make informed decisions about hiring, training, and redeployment.
  • Increased Agility and Adaptability: Organizations with a clear view of their skills landscape can respond more swiftly to market changes and technological advancements.
  • Enhanced Employee Engagement and Retention: A focus on skills development and career progression based on skills rather than job titles can lead to higher levels of employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Hiring and retaining talent is no easy task. But with the right tool, you can do it too. Try iMocha to hire, engage, manage and retain your talent
Get a Free Trial

Evolving Talent Strategies: Overcoming Challenges in Skills-First Adoption

Challenges and Considerations

challenges & solution to a skills-based approach in EMEA

Adopting a skills-first approach requires overcoming traditional mindsets about talent management and embracing new technologies and methodologies for skills assessment and development. Organizations must navigate the complexities of integrating a skills architecture into their existing HR systems and processes, ensuring buy-in from leadership and employees alike.

Kitty Singh explained these implementation challenges in detail and said, "We're witnessing a diversification in how companies approach learning, with many now prioritizing a learning agenda. Our PwC survey revealed that 35% of employees possess skills acquired outside their current jobs, often from hobbies or personal interests, yet companies often overlook these valuable assets by not integrating them into their learning management systems. There's a growing shift towards valuing micro-credentials over traditional degrees, with certifications that can be completed in as little as a day to several weeks. In the Middle East, there's also a crucial need to focus on the potential of cross-border talent management, leveraging the region's unique position of shared time zones and economic challenges to drive the right talent and investment strategies. This all underscores the importance of a skills agenda that takes into account labor market insights and the balance of skills supply and demand."

Key Steps for Successful Implementation

key takeaways from long discussion

Our panelists then went on to highlight the following steps for the successful implementation of a ‘Skills-First’ approach:

  • Assessment and Mapping: Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the current skills within the organization and map these against future requirements.
  • Technology Integration: Leverage technology platforms and tools for skills assessment, development, and tracking to facilitate a data-driven approach.
  • Cultural Shift: Foster a culture that values continuous learning and development, encouraging employees to acquire and refine skills in line with organizational goals.
  • Continuous Evaluation: Regularly review and update the skills architecture to reflect changes in the business environment and workforce capabilities.

'Skills-First' Companies have achieved 2x higher revenue growth than their peers. Schedule a free trial and experience it yourself!
Get a Free Trial

From Youth to Gen X: Unleashing Potential Through Skills-First Talent Management & Talent Acquisition

Sallyann explained that the Middle East boasts one of the youngest workforces globally, with an average age of 25-26, exemplified by rapidly growing countries like Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. This youthful demographic represents a reservoir of high-potential talent, yet the challenge lies in harnessing their agility to learn and unlearn, which is essential in today’s fast-evolving job market. The region's advantage is its lack of legacy systems, allowing for swift implementation of a skills-first approach. However, there's a critical gap in addressing the employability of the Gen X population, aged 43 to 58, who possess invaluable soft skills but require upskilling in frontier technologies. Bridging this gap and fostering intergenerational communication through a skills-first strategy could unlock unprecedented growth and innovation across the Middle East, paving the way for a culture that thrives on continuous learning and adaptation.

She further mentioned that the transition to a skills-first approach in talent management represents a significant shift in how organizations view and value their workforce. By focusing on skills and capabilities, businesses can unlock the full potential of their employees, fostering a more agile, innovative, and inclusive workforce. As companies in the Middle East and beyond continue to navigate the complexities of the modern work environment, the importance of a skills-first strategy and robust skills architecture will only continue to grow.

Embracing this approach will not merely be an option but a strategic imperative for sustainable success in the evolving global economy.

Want to know more about the importance of a Skills-First Approach in the MEA’s talent landscape? Click below and check out the complete webinar.

Like the post? Share it!
Make prioritising 'Skills' a necessity, not a choice. Stay ahead of the curve and streamline your talent processes with iMocha's Insights.
  • Error message label
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
By clicking on the above button I agree to
iMocha's Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and GDPR commitment.

Table of contents

Text Link

More from iMocha

Internal Mobility
Why hire new candidates, when you can upskill/reskill existing employees for new job roles, teams, or locations within your organization. Read our blogs on Internal Mobility to know more!
Read more
Employee Skill Gap Analysis
Is a 'Skills Gap' impeding your organization's progress? Explore our specialized blogs to discover best practices, current trends, and the latest market insights on proactively addressing and bridging skills gaps.
Read more
Strategic Workforce Planning
Align your talent with your business objective and develop future-ready workforce with our intuitive blogs on Strategic Workforce Planning.
Read more
Embark on your talent journey with us! Subscribe to our blogs now!
By clicking on the button below I agree to
iMocha's Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and GDPR commitment.