Survey reveals key challenges facing recruitment in UAE hospitality sector

by Dina Maaty | Published 6 months ago

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New independent research involving more than 3,000 hospitality professionals has revealed key themes and challenges facing the UAE recruitment industry.

Conducted by – a leading online hospitality recruitment portal under StepStone portfolio – the research involved 58 percent of respondents from the Middle East region.

Launched at exclusive Employer Insight events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the results of CatererGlobal’s hospitality employment survey explored UAE-based jobseeker trends.

In addition to the quantitative data, CatererGlobal also counselled a sample of 65 of the region’s leading HR leaders on the pressures they face in attracting and retaining great talent: the combination of the insights allowing for CatererGlobal to offer advice on how best businesses can future proof themselves to address these challenges.

For job seekers considering a new role, the results found the most important motivator to be ‘career progression and improvement’ (52 percent), followed by ‘work-life balance’ (12 percent). When it came to salary, just 7.5 percent chose this as the most important motivating factor, the same percentage as those opting for ‘training and development.’ 

The topic of salary was explored by the representative sample of regional employers, too, with 30 percent of recruiters believing it to be the single most important factor, highlighting a disconnect in the importance placed on salary by either parties.

The report also indicated a mobile workforce, with 95 percent indicating that they are happy to move countries for their job. Encouragingly, however, over half the respondents pinpoint the UAE as their preferred location to work in (51 percent).

“As a company, looks to develop tools to assist recruiters in what has become a more complex and difficult job. By commissioning such research, we’re able to continue to serve our recruiters by addressing the current trends and challenges faced,” says Jeremy Vercoe, global sales manager,

“These figures clearly back the assertion that hospitality professionals are career-minded individuals – and that we’re operating in a candidate-led market. Strikingly, work-life balance is ranked as the second most important factor for job seekers – before salary and job training and development,” he adds.

“Other benefits such as pension, holiday and bonuses mattered even less. The takeaway for the employer here is clear: ensure you reflect these points in your job advertising and at interview stage. There is little value in highlighting days holiday per year when what the candidate is interested in is flexible working, for example.”

The Insight Events saw CatererGlobal highlight ‘flexible working’ as an action that can help future proof organisations.

“Consultation with our clients and other recruitment experts in the region over the past twelve months point to actions being taken to address staff retention,” Vercoe continued, “while an increase in training and development and improved on-boarding programmes have reportedly been introduced, we’d advise recruiters to consider candidates’ desire for work-life balance and how operators in the Middle East can accommodate and integrate flexible working into organisations, given the employment laws they work within. This opportunity could provide a solution on many fronts – not least candidates and owners looking to control payroll.”

Providing further statistics to demonstrate the candidate-led market in the UAE, the survey reflected an experienced group of hospitality professionals – with over 50 percent having more than five years’ experience. That said, nearly half (44 percent), have been with their current employer for less than two years.

“Clearly, with the opportunities available to candidates in the UAE, and beyond, on the increase and with a job seeker’s over-riding ambition for career progression, this is placing significant pressure on operators to retain great people. In a similar study we conducted 10 years ago which we presented at ATM 2009, 31 percent of employees had been with their employer for five years or more. In 2019, this number has dropped by nearly half, to just 16 percent.” is part of StepStone’s hospitality talent portfolio, allowing employers to access candidates in its vast global talent pool of hospitality professionals when they need it. The sites together offer over 4 million hospitality CVs, delivering over 3 million unique visitors and 8 million listing views every month.

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