HRM in the Middle East: Challenges & Future Outlook

HRM in the Middle East: Challenges & Future Outlook

Daniel Hall 23/09/2021
HRM in the Middle East: Challenges & Future Outlook

Business success is built on many elements. Human Resource Management (HRM) is among the most important departments of an organization. 

A business that can manage its workforce can unleash the potential of its employees. Modern HRM uses a lot of tools and practices. There has been plenty of research into the field. Its effectiveness and impact are linked with the society it operates in. In the past HR practices were often transported from Western academia to the rest of the world. But a much richer body of work has developed in different regions, leading to a much better HRM. 

One of the exciting new places for HR is in the Middle East. HRM in the Middle East has unique characteristics and challenges. Corporations operating in the region will have to find ways to overcome these challenges in different ways. What does the state of HRM look like in the region right now?  

HR Research in the Middle East 


HR research
focused mainly on Western practices at the start. There were some studies conducted in the Middle Eastern region but much of the research in the region remained scattered. Professionals operating in the sector often relied on other source material. It made the industry hard to monitor as solutions and problems often didn’t really meet each other. In recent years, research has matured and started to develop. 

Not only is there more research available to examine local HR management systems, but the industry has developed in leaps and bounds. The HR sector has lots of local innovations in terms of tools for dealing with HR challenges. HRMS software in the UAE has become a big part of how companies organize and operate. The software solutions are local which means that they are much more suited to answering local problems. 

Current Challenges HRM is Trying to Solve in the Middle East


If you examine the current research in the field in the Middle East, you can notice the most pressing challenges the industry is trying to solve. HR practices in the region are complicated and the current speed of globalization has added its unique flair to the mix. The major challenges facing the industry at the moment include:

1. Cultural Differences

As the workforce in the region is becoming increasingly diverse, issues of culture are becoming more noticeable. Any good HRM has to deal with these issues and find good solutions to them. Not only are the local cultural norms often a culture shock to foreign workers, but the HR sector also has to find ways to deal with the different cultural practices the foreign workers bring into the mix. These cultural issues range from issues caused by different religions to diverse political beliefs. These cultural differences can influence everything from hiring practices to work scheduling and conflict resolution. What is unique to the region is the impact family and family culture has on local HR practices. The region has to ensure that organizations aren’t just looking after the employees but the wider family community.

2. Onboarding of Expatriates

Similarly, HR in the Middle East has to learn to accommodate the expatriate life cycle. Whereas most places can simply focus on the onboarding in terms of getting new employees accommodated to the workplace, the HR professional in the Middle East has to often take a wider outlook. They need to ensure the employee is well settled into the location. This can mean help with finding housing, dealing with healthcare insurance and getting used to the local lifestyle. On top of this, many Middle Easter companies still have to deal with a fast-changing workforce. A lot of employees still consider the region as a stopping place in their career path rather than the endgame. Although this is changing, many do still stay in the region only for a few years.

3. Local Legal Complexities

All HRM practices need to overcome the challenge of legal issues. But while workplace law and employment law has matured in many parts of the world, a lot of the areas remain underdeveloped in the Middle East. The local HR is taking its first steps which means that the legal framework in the region is rapidly changing. HR has to overcome a lot of challenges that deal with changes to the law and regulatory system. The HR management system in the UAE has to be compliant and stay on top of any new changes. 

The problem HR professionals face comes two-fold. First, you have the changes to the actual legal framework that professionals need to be aware of. But on top of this, the region still has very complex non-legal framework organizations tend to follow. This can sometimes mean that the actual legal framework is not followed. The situation can create problems not just for the organization but also for the employees. 

What is the Future of HRM in the Middle East? 

What_is_the_Future_of_HRM_in_the_Middle_East .jpeg

HRM in the Middle East has developed fast in recent years. The industry has been growing and innovation in the sector is speeding up. There is much more understanding of the challenges and issues facing the region now. HRM is more readily accessible and available.  But there is plenty more to do in the future.

As in many other parts of the world, the current pandemic is creating more issues for the industry. Businesses will have to learn to adjust to the post-pandemic world and the pandemic’s impact on the workplace will put a lot more new pressure on the HR sector. However, there is a lot more willingness and resilience in the region right now.

Companies are paying a lot more attention to HR. The value of good HRM is more understood and this is a good thing for the industry. Plenty of regional challenges still remain but the future looks a lot brighter. Local expertise and innovation are paving a way for the region to become a leader in HR management.

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Daniel Hall

Business Expert

Daniel Hall is an experienced digital marketer, author and world traveller. He spends a lot of his free time flipping through books and learning about a plethora of topics.


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