Attracting talent

Abbed Anabtawi, managing consultant of telecoms-focused executive search firm RP International, discusses the scarcity of the right human resources in the region.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  June 27, 2007

Abbed Anabtawi, managing consultant of telecoms-focused executive search firm RP International, discusses the scarcity of the right human resources in the region.

CommsMEA: What is your assessment of the local talent pool in the MENA region's telecoms sector?

Abbed Anabtawi: A good local talent pool does exist in the MENA region telecoms sector, but the continuously evolving technology in the sector often requires specialist expertise to be imported from outside the region.

This has a positive impact when companies proactively seek to ensure that the knowledge being imported is shared amongst existing staff, which then addresses nationalisation issues in the medium to long term, as well as protecting the company against downtime if the expatriate employee decides to leave the company.

The right training and mentorship programmes, for both local and international employees, implemented to share imported knowledge, can also then attract staff from other companies, or industries, as they reduce perceived barriers to entry.

CommsMEA: How is the rapid consolidation taking place in the sector affecting the type and scope of senior staff required here?

AA: This recent trend has definitely heightened the need for companies to look for candidates with strong merger and acquisition skills. We are also seeing an increasing requirement for people who can sit at a holding company level and manage a number of different operators within their area of expertise.

In the longer term, consolidation may provide the opportunity for certain technologies to be unified across a number of operators, potentially reducing the overall headcount and the average cost per subscriber.

CommsMEA: What is your assessment of the level of compensation paid to senior telecoms executives in the MENA region as compared to other, more developed markets?

AA: At a senior level most candidates are sourced globally, which means that packages are standardised to a certain extent. Variations reflect the location of the role, and the package may take into account unstable political history, or hardship allowances to compensate for reductions in overall quality of living, taking into account access to amenities and facilities otherwise taken for granted.

This means that even within the MENA region there can be significant disparity between packages offered to senior executive staff.

CommsMEA: What type of skills and experience are in the greatest demand with respect to management positions within the telecoms sector in the MENA region?

AA: The rapid growth of the telecoms sector in the region is driving competition. Operators are ensuring subscribers' loyalty by providing strong network coverage and attractive value-added services and products. This is driving the need for candidates with stronger technical and marketing expertise and a particular emphasis on convergence.

Additionally, the deregulation across regional markets has created an urgent need for candidates with prior start-up and launch experience. Such talent does exist in the region, but due to high demand, companies are now using executive search firms like RP International, which have a strong international reach, to look for candidates globally.

CommsMEA: Do you believe companies in the region understand the value of investing early in human capital and developing it to its greatest potential?

AA: Yes they do, and the process is continuously evolving. The trend has been, and should always be, focused on investing in people. Training and development are essential functions of any human resources department. Employees are encouraged to participate in various training programmes across the region and abroad, to further develop their existing skills, enhancing their knowledge, and exposing them to various methods of conducting their jobs.

CommsMEA: What is your forecast for the development of executive search and recruitment in the MENA region's telecoms sector in the medium to long term?

AA: Established executive search companies that have spent time in the region have also experienced rapid growth driven by the needs of a diversifying and developing market. The resulting database and network of past and present clients and candidates gives the top tier human capital management companies an invaluable reach in to local talent pools when conducting a new search, reducing timelines and ensuring that the candidate is culturally aware. In the future, we would expect to see further specialisation in line with the direction of the industry to ensure that firms can recruit very specific teams to address particular projects or contracts in the telecoms industry around MENA, either for short or long term requirements.

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