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Most Sought-After Skills in the MENA Region

Outsized reveals the skills most in demand in the MENA region in 2024

Revealing a remarkable growth in MENA’s independent talent, the platform’s Talent-On-Demand 2024 report identifies future skills driving this transformative shift

News Highlights –

· Diversification from Oil Dependency: The MENA region is focusing on transitioning from oil dependency to a knowledge and skills-based economy, with an increase in demand for freelance talent across various sectors such as IT, finance, real estate, and more.

· Top Skills in Demand: Unlike the global trend leaning heavily towards technology and data analysis, the MENA market demands a broader range of skills including Finance, Risk Management, Sales, Marketing, and Change Management. Emerging macro trends like Environmental Social Governance (ESG), data analytics, and procurement are expected to grow in importance.

· High Expertise Level: The on-demand talent pool in MENA boasts the highest average expertise level at 10.1 years, with day rates for professionals standing at US$309, showcasing the region’s competitive edge in skilled talent.

· Shift Towards Agile Work Models: The report highlights a strategic move towards agile work models in the MENA region, driven by the need for specialization and efficiency in the face of modernization and digital transformation challenges.

· Virtual Bench Feature: Outsized’s unique Virtual Bench feature enables companies to access a dashboard of skilled, pre-vetted professionals ready to integrate quickly into projects, promoting a leaner, more flexible business model.

· Future of Agile Talent: Companies are expected to adopt a more holistic approach to leveraging independent talent, viewing it as a competitive advantage and integral part of their workforce strategy.

The need for agility, cost flexibility, and access to critical skills became increasingly important in the 2023 talent landscape. As a result, Outsized, the leading on-demand talent platform in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Africa, has seen a surge of demand for independent skilled talent from enterprises moving to more agile and flexible workforce models. Findings from its third annual Talent-On-Demand 2024 report, based on proprietary data collected from Outsized’s platform, revealed the MENA region as one of the fastest-growing freelance economies, with 142% growth in freelancer registrations from 2022.

Leading companies in the MENA, APAC, and Africa are now actively implementing agile workforce models to swiftly adapt to market fluctuations and unforeseen challenges. The MENA region, with a focus on diversifying oil dependency into a knowledge and skills economy, is witnessing a remarkable increase in freelance talent demand, diverging from the global downturn seen in the US and Europe. This surge spans sectors such as IT, banking, finance, real estate, construction, energy, and hospitality, showcasing a vibrant employment arena for skilled professionals.

Summarising thousands of data points, the Talent-On-Demand 2024 report identifies the top skills in demand as evidenced by MENA enterprises that have used Outsized. This market is witnessing a diversified demand in response to an influx of major projects like NEOM in KSA, and open immigration policies from countries like the UAE. Unlike the global trend where technology and data analysis dominate, the MENA region shows a broader scope, including Finance, Risk, and areas like Product and Proposition, Sales, Marketing, and Change Management. In 2024, new macro trends such as Environmental Social Governance and sustainability, data analytics, and procurement are expected to rise in importance, which will further accelerate demand for local and international skilled independent talent.

Outsized’s report also reveals that the on-demand talent pool in the MENA region boasts the highest average expertise, at 10.1 years, outperforming the larger APAC and Africa regions. The report also highlights that day rates for MENA professionals stand at US$309, ranking third behind Southeast Asia (US$544) and Africa at (US$316).

Azeem Zainulbhai, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Outsized, commented: “In high-growth markets like the MENA, more businesses are recognising the value of agility and specialised expertise that on-demand skilled professionals provide. At Outsized, we’ve developed the infrastructure to efficiently connect skilled talent with leading organisations and this year saw an increasing number of the region’s companies leverage our platform to access this international talent pool. This change highlights the fading myth that the gig economy is reserved for low-skill or low-value talent, signalling a strategic transition towards a more data-informed and technology-focused business environment. Our commitment through initiatives like the Talent-On-Demand report is to foster a sustainable independent talent market, driven by values that support both businesses and professionals in becoming future-proof.”

As the region undergoes rapid modernisation and digital transformation, the shift towards agile work models is essential to capitalise on growing opportunities, yet companies face challenges due to a lack of niche expertise and the limitations of traditional hiring practices. Specifically, the technology sector is experiencing acute capacity and capability gaps, stalling adoption and driving investments in retraining and reskilling. Consulting firms, especially in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, that struggle with the local scarcity of specialised skills, source talent globally through secondments or new hires to maintain competitiveness. This is where a platform like Outsized comes into the picture.

Leveraging Outsized enables companies to access specialist expertise across various fields through a pool of skilled professionals, to fill and manage workforce capacity swiftly. Unlike other talent platforms, Outsized offers a proprietary feature called Virtual Bench that helps enterprises visualize and have access to an “always-on” talent pool via a dashboard to quickly be able to deploy skilled, pre-vetted, resources ready to integrate into an organisation. Through this feature their clients can have experts join or lead projects in days, not months. Firms can adopt a leaner business model, engaging independent consultants as needed, which minimises idle time and reduces operational costs. Moreover, integrating freelancers brings fresh perspectives and innovative ideas, enhancing creative problem-solving and knowledge transfer. The ‘try before you buy’ facet also enables firms to evaluate potential permanent hires based on fit and performance.

In 2024, companies are anticipated to further progress towards a more holistic approach to agile talent. Employers will not only leverage independents for specific projects but instead see them as a competitive advantage to be used at scale, proactively. Partnering with global talent platforms like Outsized can enable businesses to utilise a flexible workforce model to access and deploy pre-vetted skilled talent, and build variants of virtual benches to create inclusive work environments that harness the full potential of both permanent and independent professionals.

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