Colin Farmer, Vice President Business & Talent Development MEAP at Impact BBDO, explains how his network is coping with a transforming job environment and work culture.
In early 2021, optimism was in order with 74% of employers expecting business activity to increase, leading to a boost in recruitment. Have these prospects materialized in 2022 for you?
They have been slower than expected. We had also felt a business kickstart was due to arrive back into the market and [from] Q3 onwards, we have seen the [number] of new business requests steadily increase. That new business growth will drive recruitment needs.
Do you believe that the Great Resignation predicted in 2020 finally materialized in our industry in the GCC?
I would call it an evaluation of life! I think a lot of people realized post Covid that they needed to reevaluate what they were doing professionally and, importantly, personally, and this did see a percentage of people changing course.
What are the main drivers behind employees’ decisions to change jobs or accept a new job offer?
These vary significantly across personal life stages and professional opportunities that arise. I think that career development is a main driver professionally, as it is in global markets.
Have salaries increased in your organization in 2022 and, if so, do you expect this trend to continue in 2023?
Not significantly. We monitor average living costs as well as market rates to help us set salary guidelines. Currently, we are monitoring the energy costs that are affecting inflation, and review yearly. This relates to travel and living cost support. We also try to leverage discounts where relevant for staff, within our office environment.
Some studies show that salaries have been increasing more abroad than in the GCC. How does this impact recruitment and retention?
Any remuneration must reflect the living costs of the country you are in and the growth of the market you are in.
What are the main changes that you are implementing in compensation schemes to attract/retain employees, if any?
We have a standard approach to compensation in line with most other companies.
Many companies in our industry are calling their staff back to the office, moving away from flexible/remote work. What about Impact BBDO and how does this affect recruitment/retention?
Yes, most companies are now following work-from-office policies [and] we have a work-from-office policy now in place. Our business relies partly on human interaction to help spark the creativity we provide. We state this clearly during any recruitment process, and retention has remained for 99% of staff.
Has your headcount increased in 2022 so far and do you expect this trend to continue in 2023?
No. Our headcount has been and always will be related to our clients’ needs. Business comes and sometimes, the reality is that business goes. Our headcount reflects that.
Which roles are you most looking for in the GCC?
We are always on the lookout for good Arabic talent, especially Emiratis. Copywriting and conceptual thinkers are always in demand.
2021 saw an increase in fixed-term contracts and freelance offers. Has this still been the case in 2022 for you and if so, why and how?
Yes. The new UAE labor law requires contracts to be fixed, and hence we have complied ahead of time. The freelance market is more buoyant and fits with the changing nature of our clients’ businesses, where we see an increase in project-based work.
How have the new labor laws in the UAE transformed the way you approach employment? In KSA, boosted by Saudi Vision 2030, in terms of women employment in particular?
We have always been a diversity-cognizant employer, and this covers both gender and nationality. It is something we pride ourselves on and will continue to develop with our staff.
How has the new, longer weekend in the UAE impacted the workforce and performance?
This was a great initiative by the UAE government and has helped us provide better flexibility to staff. And that can only increase performance.
Has the role of HR teams transformed and even been strengthened by the recent crisis?
The HR team has actually been overwhelmed in recent times, with the amount of process management related to Covid; changes in client business requirements; and also, with the [number] of contract turnovers related to freelance projects.
This has resulted more in an all-hands-on approach to managing the workload but I’m happy to say there is light in that tunnel and we are developing the team to cope.
What innovations do you see in our industry in hiring, retention, employee development, and remuneration/reward systems?
Innovation needs to come within culture-build initiatives. A happy place to work means a happy place to be, and this helps drive hiring. Development needs to come through mentoring and training, and post Covid, this is now coming back online with staff. It is critical we are on the curve – hopefully ahead of the curve – when it comes to creativity, media, and data management.
What other trends are you identifying for 2023?
Geopolitical events continue to impact us as a region, so [it’s] hard to say when things will settle down business-wise.
The good news is the region will host COP27 and COP28, and important discussions on sustainability and the future of energy will take place. This will drive a narrative for the region and for the world, and we will see business develop accordingly.
This article was published in Communicate's latest issue.