In Dubai the annual IMEA meeting (India, Middle East, Africa) of Global ExecuNet – a hkp/// group network designed to share industry-specific compensation and HR insights and trends – took place on December 7, 2023, drawing leaders from various technical manufacturing industries. The discussions delved into a myriad of intriguing topics, with particular emphasis on two pivotal issues: the intensifying war for talent within the region and the mounting pressure to meet escalating demand, particularly from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, fueled by substantial investments from entities like the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

War for Talent and Recruitment Challenges:

In the wake of expansive investments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the region is experiencing a heightened war for talent. This has posed significant challenges for businesses, particularly in technical manufacturing industries. Many companies are grappling with the retention of employees, especially in sectors facing challenging market conditions, such as the chemical industry. Factors like minimal or non-existent bonus payouts and restricted merit budgets compound the difficulty of recruiting and retaining critical talent.

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Disparities in Employee Benefits:

Another noteworthy point of discussion revolved around the disparities in employee benefits. The question of fairness arose concerning employees in similar roles receiving vastly different total rewards. This divergence often stems from the prevalence of allowances in the region. For instance, one employee might have multiple dependents, qualifying for additional allowances like schooling expenses, while another employee in an identical position may not. This disparity could lead to a substantial 30% difference in total rewards, prompting the question of whether it's time to reevaluate and potentially implement flexible benefits.

Rationalizing Benefits and the Call for Flexibility:

The meeting sparked a broader conversation about rationalizing benefits in the region. The divergence in allowances and its impact on total rewards raised concerns about fairness and equality in the workplace. This prompted reflections on the necessity of revisiting benefit structures and contemplating the adoption of flexible benefits to create a more equitable compensation landscape.

Financial Well-being and Pension Planning:

The session also underscored the pressing need to consider employees' financial well-being, especially concerning end-of-service gratuity. Even with recent modifications, it was emphasized that the current form of end-of-service gratuity may not be sufficient to support a pension plan beyond one or two years of sustaining the current standard of living. The importance of educating employees about financial planning and pension considerations emerged as a crucial aspect for companies to address proactively.


The IMEA meeting of Global ExecuNet In Dubai revealed a landscape marked by the intensifying war for talent, challenges in recruitment and retention, and the need for a reevaluation of employee benefits. As businesses navigate these dynamics, the call for greater flexibility, fairness, and proactive financial planning emerges as a key takeaway. The meeting emphasized the significance of anticipating future challenges and strategically addressing them to ensure the sustained success of businesses in the region.

Author Barry Kitz

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