Who hasn’t heard of Qatar’s major investments in infrastructure following the announcement of its hosting the World Cup 2022? Yet Qatar is not the only GCC country investing heavily in mega projects. These projects are spreading across the region at a substantial rate, bringing with them a particular set of challenges in the form of talent attraction and retention. From KSA to Kuwait, Bahrain to Oman, the fight for experienced construction professionals increases.

I recently discussed mega projects and the requirements for successful delivery at the Arabian World Construction Summit, held in Abu Dhabi. In my review, I highlighted 3 critical success factors which translate into the difference between success or failure; these are: 100-day planning, supply chain optimization and intelligent project controls. Yet, what unites these 3 factors – and the de facto difference between make or break – are high quality, experienced construction professionals with the expertise and know-how needed to deliver successful projects.

With the construction industry being heavily reliant on experience and judgment, talent attraction and retention is becoming an increasingly important issue. However, and surprisingly, the latter continues to be an issue that is overlooked and whose importance is still understated.

So the question remains: where is this “talent” hiding? Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a ‘talented’ person. Where do I go? Ideally, I would head toward Tier 1 companies. A Tier 1 company is defined as having a great brand, varied project portfolios or iconic schemes and which offers attractive packages and continuity to its staff. If Tier 1 fails, then I would head toward a Tier 2 company, which features lower on the food chain and as such attracts less talent.

As a ‘talented’ person, I would also prefer to head towards the UAE as other GCC countries tend to rank lower on my wish list. This is due mainly to difficulties or ‘perceived difficulties’ of entry/exit, schooling options, housing choice and other general ‘ease of living’ handicaps. In fact, increasingly in restaurants, malls and school playgrounds, I hear stories of those who have ‘had’ to  take jobs in certain locations as a result of the crisis and who are beginning to flex their wishes and return to the UAE  – a worrying sign for the construction industry in less popular locations.

To ignore this growing pressure would be unwise. The threat of increasing key staff turnover combined with salary inflation pressures could together undermine the very ‘capacity’ that these  emerging countries need to deliver the very same mega projects they need to succeed in the future.

In light of the above it becomes clear that the 4th critical success factor is ‘us’. Although perhaps it would be wiser to rank it 1st.

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by: Andrew Jeffery, director, capital projects advisory, Deloitte Middle East