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Diversity Hiring Trends in Gulf Cooperation Council: Insights from HR Conference Dubai hosted by Saurabh Rana

Pratisrutee Mishra
October 11, 2023


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The Dubai Roundtable Conference, hosted by Saurabh Rana, was a landmark event for the GCC region's dynamic labor market. The conference brought together industry experts and women thought leaders to discuss the key aspects of hiring and talent management, such as Emiratization, Diversity Hiring, DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) strategies, HR technology, and Psychometric Assessments.

According to Statista, the GCC labor market size is expected to grow at a CAGR of 2.60% between 2024 and 2032, and McKinsey say, the share of expatriate workers in the region was 66.2% in 2020. These statistics highlight the importance of developing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce that can drive innovation and competitiveness.

On November 27, 2023, the Roundtable Event on GCC Diversity Hiring in Dubai commenced at 6 pm GST. Top women HR figures in the Middle East graced the evening and shared their invaluable insights and experiences on the challenges and opportunities of talent management in the region. The event was a huge success, with more than a thousand participants joining the live session on LinkedIn.

Speaker Highlights at GCC Dubai Conference 

Saurabh Rana, the event host, set the tone by discussing the vibrant sectors in Dubai, including AI and remote work. He emphasized the readiness of the workforce and the leadership challenges in adapting to these dynamic sectors. He hosted and interacted immersively with 10 experienced professionals from diverse industries in the GCC region: 

  • Deepti Shanmughan is an experienced HR professional for 16+ years with expertise in various industries and regions. She has a proven track record in building and leading high-performing teams. She spoke about the tightening employment market in Dubai. She emphasized the need for HR professionals to upscale their strategies in talent acquisition, particularly in management consulting and startup sectors.
  • Sonia Amna Mian is the Group HR Director for Trycheros, a business consulting company that offers the best people partnership solutions for various industries and organizations. She has more than 16 years of experience in HR and wellness across various sectors like construction, hospitality, retail, and fintech. At the conference, she emphasized training and communication as key components in embracing diversity, sharing an example of adapting psychometric tests for different cultural backgrounds.
  • Reema Akhtar is an official member of Forbes Council HR and is the Group HR Head at SeerSolutionz with 15 years of HRM experience. She is skilled in SHRM – CPID, Performance Appraisal, and Diversity and inclusion. She discussed initiatives like culture mentorship and reverse mentoring, highlighting their impact on retention and inclusivity.
  • Amina Ahuja is an HRBP at Montfort Investment Group with 15 years of experience in the HR industry and has expertise in performance management, talent advisory, compensation, and HR policies. She stressed on the importance of technology in HR, sharing her experience with implementing new systems and the necessity for HR professionals to become adept in financial and technological aspects.
  • Jennifer Varghese is an HR Business Partner with 15 years of experience. She enthusiastically collaborates with leaders intending to foster a dynamic and inclusive workplace. Being from the manufacturing sector, she believed the challenges of diversity in a traditionally male-dominated industry and the impact of automation on recruitment and employment practices needed to be discussed.
  • Abbie L. Abbott is the Head of HR & Corporate Affairs for Sia Partners in the Middle East looking after offices in the UAE, Qatar, and KSA. She is an entrepreneurial People Strategy leader with 8 years of experience in the GCC. She has expertise in HR, Operations, and the UAE corporate governance. She highlighted Dubai's positive outlook in attracting international talent, especially in management. She noted the government's role in creating a conducive environment for talent attraction.
  • Shivani Gangal is an HR Director, EMEA for Godiva Chocolates. She has 18 years of experience collaborating with business stakeholders on a full employee life cycle which includes talent management and development. She shared her best practices on talent acquisition strategies across EMEA. Also highlighted the dynamics of EXPO 2020 and how it impacted diversity and inclusion.
  • Deepti Deshpande has global experience as a people professional and is enthusiastic about engaging employees, managing change, and developing organizations. She provided insights into the healthcare industry, highlighting the abundance of talent and the challenges in navigating diversity and retention strategies.
  • Arshkiran Sandhu is an HR Business Partner with global project experience and is passionate, intellectual, and driven to support employee relations and HR policies. She delved into the essence of diversity, relating it to innovation and creativity in the workplace, and the role of psychometric testing and culture fitment assessments in reducing biases.
  • Mona Alkoronfali is an HR professional with expertise in talent acquisition, employee development, and positive workplace culture. Streamlines HR processes, leverages data, and drives business outcomes. She shared her perspective on the impact of national diversity on company reputation and recruitment practices.

We would like to thank all the speakers and the audience for making this event a memorable and enriching one. We appreciate your interest and enthusiasm in learning from each other and exchanging best practices. We hope you enjoyed the discussion and gained some useful insights that will help you in your HR journey.

And for those who registered for the event but could not attend, we have recorded the entire session and we are happy to share it with you for free! Catch up on the latest trends and strategies in the Middle East HR landscape.

Watch Now

Key Takeaways for Middle-east Hiring Professionals

We live in a world where technology, globalization, and cultural shifts are constantly reshaping the workforce, and these insights are invaluable for HR professionals and talent acquisition heads. This blog seeks to distill the essence of the discussions, offering a glimpse into the current trends, challenges, and innovative practices shaping HR in the Gulf region. The roundtable conference covered many vital points of middle-east recruitment and talent management, such as:

Emiratization and Its Impact on Hiring

Recruitment in Dubai has become increasingly competitive, with a notable surge in applications across various sectors. The challenge now lies in efficiently sifting through a vast pool of candidates. The concept of Emiratization stands at the forefront of the UAE's talent management agenda. This initiative, aimed at integrating Emiratis into the private sector workforce, is reshaping hiring practices. This government decision was also claimed by our speakers as she said, 

Panelists shared how companies are navigating this initiative, from adapting recruitment strategies to fostering an environment that supports the growth and development of Emirati talent. To address the obvious issues of cultural shift, companies are turning to innovative recruitment strategies, integrating psychometric assessments, and real-time analytics to streamline the process. 

Employer Branding and Talent Attraction

Employer branding and talent attraction are two interrelated concepts that can help your organization stand out in the competitive job market. Employer branding is how you communicate your company's values, culture, and benefits to potential and current employees. Talent attraction is how you use your employer brand to attract and retain the best talent for your business goals. Here are some points in employer branding and talent attraction that the panel touched up on while discussing:

  • Growing Influence of Employer Branding: Employer branding has emerged as a pivotal factor in attracting top talent. In Dubai's dynamic market, a strong employer brand stands as a beacon, attracting skilled professionals from around the globe. Companies are increasingly focusing on building a brand that resonates with their values, culture, and the unique opportunities they offer.
  • Social Media's Role in Shaping Perceptions: The role of social media in employer branding was a key discussion point. Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter (, and even Instagram are becoming vital tools in showcasing company culture, work environment, and employee experiences. These platforms offer a window into the company's soul, helping potential candidates align their expectations and aspirations with the employer's ethos.

One of the heads of HR, from the Dubai-based retail company shared their strategy of showcasing employee testimonials on social media and said, 

It would naturally result in significant improvement in talent attraction, particularly among the younger demographic. Another similar fascinating case was presented by a startup founder who used LinkedIn stories to give a ‘day-in-the-life' view of their company, attracting diverse talent by showcasing an inclusive and dynamic work environment.

Diversity Hiring and DEI Initiatives

A key focus of the panel was the significance of diversity in the workforce. In a region marked by its cultural richness, the importance of building inclusive workplaces cannot be overstated. The experts shared best practices and trends in implementing DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) strategies, emphasizing the need for businesses to not just embrace diversity in hiring but to create an environment where diverse talents are nurtured and valued.

  • Practices for Fostering an Inclusive Workplace: This means going beyond token measures to integrate D&I into the very fabric of organizational culture. A poignant example came from a healthcare sector leader who implemented ‘Cultural Sensitivity Training' for all employees, leading to a more inclusive environment where different cultural perspectives are understood and respected.
  • Overcoming Cultural Barriers: Implementing D&I in a region as diverse as the GCC comes with its unique set of challenges. The panelists shared their experiences in navigating cultural nuances and fostering an environment where differences are seen as strengths. This involves conscious efforts in training, policy-making, and daily practices that promote understanding and respect for diverse backgrounds and perspectives. 

The Role of HR Technology in Future of Work

The conference highlighted significant shifts in Dubai's HR landscape, especially in the readiness of the workforce amidst the growing influence of AI and technology. Panelists noted the increasing demand for skills that align with remote work trends, emphasizing the need for adaptability and digital literacy in the workforce. 

The pandemic accelerated this shift, pushing companies to rethink their approach to work, leading to a more flexible, tech-driven environment. One of the speakers shared insights on how budget restriction can be an obstruction in leveraging technology and automation that save time while looking for your best fitment. 

Also, In a survey, revealed that 80% of the GCC region companies are planning to invest in AI/ML for HR tasks. The strategy will cover the majority of HR operations such as recruitment, onboarding, and performance management. The conference also shed light on how technological advancements are simplifying and enhancing recruitment processes, employee engagement, and overall HR operations. The discussion highlighted how companies in the GCC region are leveraging these tools to stay ahead in the competitive talent market.

Psychometric Assessments in Diversity Hiring in Gulf Cooperation Council

The use of psychometric assessments in the hiring process was another highlight of the roundtable. These tools are proving invaluable in understanding the capabilities and potential of employees. Panelists shared how psychometric assessments aid in making informed hiring decisions and understanding the nuances of employee behavior and skills. Below are some points relevant to the roundtable conference discussion, you may like to explore:

  • Spotting the Right Candidate: The discussion erupted with a spark of experience shared by one of the speakers in the conference. It addressed the difficulties of spotting the right candidate among a large pool of applicants, especially in high-volume hiring scenarios. The panelists shared some best practices for screening and selecting candidates, such as using data-driven assessments, behavioral interviews, and structured feedback. 
  • Reducing Bias in Hiring: Psychometric assessments have become vital tools in the modern recruiter's arsenal, helping to reduce unconscious biases in the hiring process. These assessments provide objective data on a candidate's abilities, personality traits, and potential fit within the company, allowing for a more balanced and fair evaluation process.
  • Ensuring Cultural Relevance: The effectiveness of psychometric assessments in a multicultural environment like Dubai hinges on their cultural relevance. The Roundtable emphasized the need for assessments that are not just technically sound but also culturally sensitive, ensuring that they accurately reflect the diverse talent pool in the region.
  • Employee Engagement: Innovative Strategies for employee engagement emerged as a crucial theme in the discussions. In today's fast-paced and often remote working environments, keeping employees engaged and connected poses a significant challenge. 

The HR leaders shared various innovative strategies, from creative online team-building exercises to personalized career development plans, highlighting the importance of a proactive approach to engagement. One of our panelists shared their opinion, which we strongly admit to as we encourage our clients to avail employee surveys of satisfaction and engagement. 

  • Tackling Retention Challenges: With the fluidity of the modern workforce, retention remains a key concern. The Roundtable shed light on the various factors impacting employee turnover, from lack of career advancement opportunities to inadequate work-life balance. 

Addressing these issues requires a holistic approach, focusing not just on monetary incentives but also on creating a supportive, growth-oriented work environment. One of the panel members shared a strategy for retention that starts right after hiring. 

  • Finding the Right Leaders: The Roundtable emphasized the crucial role of leadership in employee retention. Leaders are responsible for setting the vision, direction, and culture of the organization, as well as motivating, inspiring, and empowering their teams. Finding the right leaders who can align with the organization's values, goals, and mission is essential for building trust, loyalty, and engagement among employees. One of our speakers believes the leaders should be open to changes. 
  • Fair Skill Gap Identification: The panel also discussed the importance of identifying and closing the skill gaps among employees, especially in the face of changing business needs and customer expectations. One of the members shared their experience while hiring a lady with a year gap of professional practice. 

Another member claimed skill gap identification will be fair when the interview is fair and does not involve irrelevant questions. 

  • Blue Collar Hiring: The Roundtable acknowledged the challenges of hiring and retaining blue collar workers. They discussed some ways to attract and retain blue collar workers, such as offering competitive pay and benefits, providing training and development opportunities, creating a safe and healthy work environment, and recognizing and rewarding their contributions. One of the panel members resonates the urgency of recognizing special training for the blue collar workforce. 


The PMaps Assessment roundtable conference in Dubai offered a treasure trove of insights for HR professionals and leaders. The discussions underlined the need for innovative and adaptable strategies in talent management, reflective of the unique dynamics of the GCC workforce.

To gain a deeper understanding and revisit the invaluable discussions of the Dubai roundtable, we invite you to access the full conference recording. This is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the expertise shared by our panelists and to enrich your HR practices. Furthermore, we offer a comprehensive guidebook on Diversity Hiring in the GCC Region, an essential resource filled with practical insights and strategies tailored for the GCC workforce.

Download Now

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Performance Appraisals - Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about performance appraisal commonly asked questions:

What were the key topics discussed at the HR Conference Dubai hosted by Saurabh Rana?

The HR Conference Dubai, hosted by Saurabh Rana, covered a range of important topics including Emiratization, Diversity Hiring, DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) strategies, HR technology, and Psychometric Assessments.

Why is diversity hiring significant in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region?

Diversity hiring is crucial in the GCC region due to its dynamic labor market. With the labor market expected to grow steadily and a significant percentage of expatriate workers, fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce becomes essential for driving innovation and competitiveness.

What is Emiratization and why is it important?

Emiratization refers to the nationalization program in the UAE aimed at increasing the participation of Emirati citizens in the workforce, particularly in the private sector. It is crucial for promoting economic growth, reducing unemployment rates among nationals, and fostering national identity and pride.

How can organizations in the GCC promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?

Organizations can promote DEI by implementing inclusive recruitment practices, providing equal opportunities for all employees, fostering a culture of respect and belonging, offering diversity training and education programs, and creating policies that support diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

What role does HR technology play in diversity hiring?

HR technology, such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, and psychometric assessments, can help organizations identify and attract diverse talent pools, mitigate unconscious bias in the hiring process, and ensure fair and equitable opportunities for all candidates.

How can organizations measure the effectiveness of their diversity hiring efforts?

Organizations can measure the effectiveness of their diversity hiring efforts by tracking key metrics such as diversity representation across different levels of the organization, employee satisfaction and engagement levels, retention rates of diverse talent, and the impact of diversity initiatives on business performance and innovation.

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