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Our CEO, Alice Weightman’s Key Takeaways from the PRCA MENA Event 2023 in Riyadh.

I was invited by the PRCA MENA to attend their first conference and awards in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and present an award for the best Digital professional of the Year 2023.

The overwhelming feeling I got from the day was a real entrepreneurial spirit, a drive for transformation, and a thirst for education and upskilling, coupled with a welcoming and friendly environment – excited about the future of Saudi Arabia. As a talent advisor, I was intrigued by the dominance of talent – hiring, retention, employee branding and AI on the impact of leadership, in the debates throughout the day.

My key takeaways:

1. Talent Management:

Finding and retaining talent poses a significant challenge in Saudi Arabia, as all businesses are required to employ a minimum of 35-40% of Saudi nationals, which has created a demand for skilled local talent that exceeds supply, resulting in retention issues. Industry leaders emphasised this talent shortage as CEO’s foremost concern, with some looking at solutions of cultivating junior-level local talent addressing this challenge. However, agencies encounter difficulties retaining talent, as many professionals migrate to government-backed giga projects.

2. HR Functions:

Discussions revealed that HR functions are still in their embryonic stages. This deficiency impacts retention, workforce planning, and employee branding. Consequently, prioritising employee branding and talent development has become imperative. It was stressed the necessity of a diverse team, underscoring the importance of cultural curiosity, particularly when hiring internationally.

3. Communications Strategy:

Effective communication plays a pivotal role in the ongoing evolution of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, given substantial cultural, social, and economic changes. It has been said that The Kingdom is of the biggest success stories of the 20th century, with the panel emphasising the critical role of communications in narrating these success stories. The emphasis has shifted from reach to impact, with clients seeking truly integrated approaches. In-house teams are being urged to be more accountable for their briefs, mitigating the impact of shifting goalposts on agency talent – which has compounded in long hours for some agency staff.

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI):

AI emerged as the second most discussed topic, closely following talent management. A compelling panel discussed leveraging AI for efficiency and its impact on talent acquisition in the region. While AI is prevalent in campaigns, the challenge lies in maintaining authentic content amidst widespread usage. Weber Shandwick MENA showcased a campaign to drive awareness of modern-day slavery Employing AI helped to address challenges with using real people in the campaign. It also saved 30 hours of production time and therefore ultimately cost, so more budget could be deployed on media spend, helping to reach a greater audience and drive the success of the campaign.

Some businesses now include AI in job specifications and employment contracts, with leaders actively encouraging its use. As AI aids execution, businesses are advised to prioritise hiring problem solvers, creative thinkers, and innovators.

An intriguing debate ensued on AI regulation, with the consensus being that regulation may become imperative as dependence on AI deepens.

If you are looking to grow your team in Saudi Arabia or step up in the region do get in touch to discuss our executive search process and let us support you on finding the best talent for you.

Posted on 14.11.2023

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