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Gulf needs to become a digital talent builder rather than an importer

(Image credit: Future)

Even though many businesses in the Gulf region are interested in digitisation, only a few of them have moved aggressively while many companies are testing the waters and wondering how to move from strategy to action. Digital transformation is all about deploying technology to solve business problems.

"Talent is the number one challenge in digital transformations, globally and locally. Culture is an essential factor in attracting, developing and retaining digital talent," Abdulkader Lamaa, Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company, told TechRadar Middle East.

The Gulf has a digital skills gap inexperienced software engineers, customer-experience designers, digital marketers, and data scientists. The limited number of individuals with these skills are looking to be part of a culture that many Gulf companies can’t yet offer.

“In the region, digital talent usually comes from global hubs with fierce competition. Many companies are able to attract experienced digital practitioners through ambitious missions, great lifestyle and tax-free compensation. However, retaining the talent continues to be a challenge without a conducive culture and operating model within the organizations” Lamaa said.

Not enough development arms in region

When it comes to local talent, Lamaa said that the region has a large pool of young motivated people graduating every year in relevant domains. The majority of those do not find suitable "work opportunities" where they can develop practical experience working. They tend to work on basic things and self-earn the crafts with minimal coaching and mentoring. 

 “We are witnessing a serious disconnect between the sizable demand for digital talent on one hand and the growing supply of young and motivated graduates who are missing the practical experience. 

"We have a very promising talent potential that is not realised. Bridging this critical gap will require a joint effort among commercial enterprises, government and NGOs" Lamaa continued.

Large enterprises have a great opportunity to match "imported" experts with high potential youth to build sustainable local expertise. Failing to do this systematically would undermine the digital transformation efforts across the region. 

 “For the long-term, to safeguard its competitiveness, the Middle East needs to develop and cultivate homegrown digital talent as opposed to continuing to import experts. This means, shifting from digital talent importer to talent builder - and that requires endorsing a cultural shift and stamina.

“We have great talent potential, but we don’t have enough development arms in the region to help the talent grow their expertise. Companies need to embark on a digital reinvention journey to support the wider development of digital talent by designing their own talent accelerator programmes. Collaborations between global and highly-motivated local talent can help build the next generation of well apprenticed, local, digital professionals.

Furthermore, he said that the term ‘digital transformation’ will disappear in coming few years and it will be only known as transformation as digital will be the core of any transformation. We need to move from digital-enabled to digital-native businesses as drivers for priming digital talent.  Building and sustaining a digital capability, so that technology becomes the core rather than the products they offer, will accelerate their digital transformations.