The human resources (HR) function is dealing with a variety of questions: How can it prove its relevance and add strategic value? How can HR design an employee experience (EX) that responds to evolving demands? And how can it utilize technology to truly understand the needs and motivations of employees? In order to understand and build the Workforce of the Future we must address the question of how humans and machines can work together to drive business and support a high-performing work culture.



HR’s greatest challenge: shaping the Workforce of the Future


Among HR executives in the UAE, improving EX is currently the top priority. When thinking about the future, however, automation of HR processes jumps to the top of the list. Comparing the function’s current and future priorities, defining and preparing the Workforce of the Future is among the top three. In comparison to global findings, local HR leaders are more inclined to focus on integrating technology and improving EX – a combination which bodes well for the evolution of these organizations.


People standing infront of a screen
Infographic future of hr blue banner

Top L&D initiatives locally:

41 %

of UAE HR leaders are exploring both the implementation of design thinking based development and advanced competency assessment


Top L&D initiatives globally:

42 %

of global HR leaders are increasing focus on enabling learning on the job and 33% on social learning between peers


Shaping the Workforce of the Future is dependent on L&D support to successfully upskill people. Globally, we see organizations enabling employee development with a defined learning-on-the job approach. Locally, however, L&D remains  lightly more formalized and focused on training sessions.


Given the importance of staff composition among local HR executives, results from UAE-based businesses indicate their comfort with addressing changes due to technological disruption.

94 %

of HR executives in the UAE feel that workforce composition is a priority (87% globally)

59 %

of UAE HR executives feel their function is prepared to manage changes in workforce composition (48% globally)

Empowering leadership with an HR lens: shaping the workforce begins with the end-user

Ultimately, members of the C-suite are responsible for preparing the Workforce of the Future. However, more than half of local HR executives believe senior leaders are unaware of the changes required to begin shaping the workforce. As a result, there is a potential disconnect between intention and action. This sentiment is reinforced by the perception that leadership is not involved in L&D initiatives and may not enable an atmosphere which supports innovation in learning.

58 %

of UAE HR (52% globally) executives feel few senior leaders are aware of how the workforce needs to change

41 %

of UAE respondents (58% globally) felt that leadership is engaged in L&D initiatives to upskill employees

9 %

of HR leaders (29% globally) reported that executives are aware of required changes

People discussing charts

Culture and employee experience: cultivating a purpose-led environment


HR is tasked with the EX approach to cultivate the desired organizational culture. Among those surveyed, more than two-thirds of HR executives are in the process of aligning organizational culture with their company’s purpose. Half feel that the HR function is vital to ensuring the “right culture” is established. Accordingly, we see the local HR function increasingly focused on the three key areas to enhance EX highlighted below. While local leaders are focused on experiential spects, global findings rank reward, recognition and benefits as priority.


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We believe that more than technology and infrastructure, it is the culture of the organization that impacts employee experience, which in turn impacts customer experience. At SIB, we ensure that all aspects of our employee culture – from recruiting to engaging, developing and retaining – are firmly based on our corporate values. Cultural fit is paramount.

— Ms. Eman Jassim
Head of HR, Sharjah Islamic Bank

68 %

of UAE respondents are in the process of aligning their organization’s culture to its purpose

50 %

of UAE respondents (66% globally) feel that HR is playing a vital role in establishing the right culture


Challenges of implementing a data-driven approach: cracking the data code through workforce insights


Locally, enhancing analytics capabilities is ranked as the number one priority for investment. If HR functions are able to address the complexities of a data-driven approach, there is potential to generate insights about what will happen, as well as the actions needed to address emerging and predicted business challenges. Despite a clear focus on digital transformation, those within the HR function express concern that predictive analytics are not being actioned due to lack of buy-in and poor data quality.


People attending video conference meeting

Top challenges for data-driven decision making:

1. Insights and predictive analytics are not being actioned

2. Lack of buy-in to take action

3. Poor data quality

4. Difficulty in data integration from multiple sources

68 %

UAE-based HR executives believe their function is most proficient in using data and analytics to identify the impact of labor market trends


What does this mean for an HR leader?

The power of the next-generation HR function is not found in discrete capabilities. It lies in an organization’s ability to integrate new competences, prepare the business from an HR planning lens, and take a employee-centric view. In addition, the function must balance this with  addressing cultural shifts and embracing the growth of a digitally-enabled workforce. UAE-based organizations have identified employee experience as a top strategic initiative. However, it is important for businesses to understand the long-term commitment required to truly bring change to an organization’s culture.

Preparing begins with understanding the impact of disruptive technologies. HR functions are being called upon to take action and address disruption with a people lens. Today, it is necessary to create a multi-year roadmap that integrates service delivery, people capabilities, technology, culture and data in order support the Workforce of the Future.