|23 October, 2019

2020 Salary Trends: UAE employers keen to hire tech-savvy people with soft skills

Hiring in the financial services and technology sectors is moving upwards

Image used for illustrative purpose.

Image used for illustrative purpose.


It is that time of the year when companies plan headcount and hiring budgets for the year ahead, and employees start doing complex mental math to calculate their salary increments and bonus numbers.

With robust economic growth predicted for the UAE, digitalisation of companies, and growth of small and medium enterprises, 83 percent of CEOs believe they will need to employ more hiring managers to grapple with a skills shortage, according to the findings of a PwC Annual Global CEO Survey issued earlier this year.

While employers struggle to find the right talent, jobseekers too find it difficult to get a good job often enough. The hiring managers have an uphill task to bridge this gap.

Global recruitment consultancy Robert Half’s 2020 Salary Guide, which is based on more than 75 interviews with chief financial officers (CFOs) and 200 responses from hiring managers across the UAE, reveals that the top three employable skills that hiring managers will be looking for in the digital future in the UAE are: technological understanding (63 percent), communication skills (52 percent) and technical know-how (51 percent).

Apart from technical skills, employers will be looking for soft skills in prospective employees to work in digital environments. Communication, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking and adaptability are some of the soft skills that are likely to grow in prominence as workforces change rapidly to meet new challenges.

"Quality candidates with in-demand digital skills often receive multiple job offers, prompting businesses to adopt far more competitive strategies to attract them," said Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director, Robert Half UAE.

The recruitment consultancy studied the response of the CFOs surveyed across the UAE to arrive at key trends that would affect hiring in 2020. They include business optimism in the GCC, artificial intelligence, automation and the future of work. 

In the current hiring market, where about 32 percent of employers have stated they increased their base offering to help fill a vacant role, training and development will be a key consideration for candidates, as professionals strive to keep skill-sets up to date and advantageous.

In-house Training

Among those surveyed, 52 percent of UAE business leaders are planning in-person training sessions for new technologies and 50 percent plan to facilitate knowledge transfer from subject-matter experts.

In 2020, the survey found, that the top-five concerns for UAE managers would be cash flow management (52 percent), followed by talent attraction and retention (47 percent), delivering growth (44 percent), regulatory issues (41 percent) and access to investment financing (33 percent).

As the ongoing skills shortage affect firms, the power of a competitive renumeration cannot be overlooked. For 13 percent of employers, salary is a barrier to securing the top professionals, the survey found.

The survey also studied the actual salaries paid by businesses across five sectors: accounting and finance; financial services; technology; human resources and administration; and legal.

Accounting and Finance

About 41 percent of CFOs are offering training as an attractive benefit to entice new hires in the accounting and finance industry, while 31 percent business leaders are struggling to find qualified talent, thus making it the most challenging accounting and finance role to hire for.

Financial Services

Hiring in the financial services sector is trending upwards. Stable oil prices have increased confidence and investments from sovereign and government institutions continue to roll in, to the benefit of all markets – especially banking. 

Although, many larger financial firms in the country still have hiring freezes in place, there are plenty of opportunities in the growing start-up community, most notably among FinTech companies, according to the report.


The UAE technology hiring market is one of the most competitive, due to the digitisation of services and the expansion of the start-up ecosystem.

The global technology skills shortage is depleting Middle Eastern firms of the high-quality talent they need. To help combat the issue, employers can look to strengthen their appeal to overseas talent by offering relocation assistance and cost-of-living support.

The war for technology talent can also be mitigated with regular salary benchmarks, the report said.

Human Resources and Administration

HR and administrative roles can expect a healthy surge in hiring as new labour laws take hold in the UAE and digital transformation projects require a personnel shift.

Businesses are looking for HR and administration professionals with soft skills in change management. This is a quality that 25 percent of CFOs believe will rise in demand within the next three years.

HR professionals who specialize in compensation and benefits packages will be in high demand, the report revealed.


The legal landscape is changing for businesses in the wake of new developments within financial regulations, FinTech and dispute resolution.

The industries showing the strongest demand for qualified legal professionals are semi-government/government entities and family conglomerates, which are expected to continue showing robust hiring for these roles until 2020.

Perks of the job

Those businesses which cannot afford to pay competitive salaries to hire top professionals, are going down the "career progression opportunities" route to attract talent.

“Employers need to consider the broader remuneration packages they offer to their chosen candidates, who increasingly see perks like flexible working and extended annual leave as must-haves, not just nice-to-haves,” said said El Mettouri.

The report said that while this might appeal to junior-and mid-level candidates, it "may not be as effective when trying to secure highly skilled talent". 

Perks such as flexible schedules, compressed working hours and the option to work from home are very popular in the hiring market. Other attractive benefits include enhanced paternity pay, extended annual leave for top performers and wellness packages.

About 19 percent of businesses don’t think they offer enough unique perks and benefits compared with competitors, the report found.

(Reporting by Mily Chakrabarty; Editing by Anoop Menon)

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© ZAWYA 2019

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