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Saudis Are Seeking New Jobs. Can Companies Retain Them?

Saudis Are Seeking New Jobs. Can Companies Retain Them?

by Abdullah Bader

Story Highlights

  • The number of workers in Saudi Arabia looking for a new job has doubled since 2019
  • Saudi companies will struggle to retain talent unless they value workers
  • A focus on engagement and purpose can fortify Saudi retention strategies

Despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, employers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia succeeded in maintaining the engagement and satisfaction of their workforce. As a result, employee engagement has seen a modest increase from 21% in 2019 to 24% in 2022. Additionally, the percentage of employees who describe themselves as "extremely satisfied" with their employer has also risen from 46% in 2019 to 50% in 2022. This is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of both employers and employees in the face of adversity.

Talent Retention and Attraction Challenges

While workplace engagement and satisfaction among the Saudi workforce is up slightly from recent years, new data from Gallup's 2022 workplace study suggest that Saudi companies may be facing significant challenges when it comes to retaining top talent and attracting new hires. These findings underscore the need for companies to continually evaluate and improve their employee retention and recruitment strategies.


The study reveals a worrying trend among Saudi employees in terms of their willingness to seek a new job. A staggering 24% of employees stated that they are currently actively looking for a new job, a significant increase from the 11% who reported the same in 2019. When combined with the percentage of employees who are not actively seeking new job opportunities but are still open to them, the total has jumped from 30% in 2019 to 48% in 2022. These figures indicate that employers in Saudi Arabia may be facing significant challenges when it comes to employee retention.


The Hays Saudi Arabia Salary Guide 2022 report shows that most employers in the Kingdom, 80%, had plans to grow their workforce in 2022. This trend is reflected in the findings of Gallup's study, which found that 27% of Saudi workers have been approached by recruiters or headhunters with job offers in the past 12 months. 

At the same time, the percentage of employees who strongly agree they are paid appropriately in their current job decreased slightly to 38% in 2022, compared with 43% in 2019, and employees who strongly agree that there are sufficient growth opportunities with their current employer also declined, from 52% to 44%. Finally, less than half -- 40% -- of Saudi employees strongly agree that their current employer offers good opportunities for development.


Taken together, these statistics highlight the increased competition for top talent in Saudi Arabia, as companies are facing a growing need to both retain current employees and attract new ones to their organizations.

To Improve Retention, Leaders Must Prioritize Engagement

Fortunately, there are effective strategies company leaders can implement to improve employee loyalty and retention. One key approach is prioritizing employee engagement. Research from Gallup has consistently shown that employee engagement is a significant factor in retention: Gallup’s 2020 employee engagement meta-analysis found that, when comparing highly engaged, top-quartile teams with those in the bottom quartile, there was a median percent difference in employee turnover of 43% (teams employed in low-turnover sectors) and of 18% (teams employed in high-turnover sectors). 


Engaged employees also tend to have a stronger emotional connection to their workplace and are more willing to put in extra effort to achieve their goals, which ultimately leads to improved performance.

The link between employee engagement and retention is reinforced by the findings of Gallup's 2022 Saudi Arabia study, which shows that only 19% of engaged employees in the Kingdom said they are actively looking for a new job; in contrast, 22% of not engaged and 47% of actively disengaged workers said they are actively looking for a new job. This underscores the importance of employee engagement in retaining talent, as engaged employees are less likely to seek new employment opportunities.


By prioritizing engagement, leaders can create an environment that is more attractive to top talent and ultimately achieve desired business outcomes such as increased productivity, safety, quality, customer satisfaction and loyalty. This is a powerful way to increase the competitiveness and resilience of an organization -- by creating a workplace environment that encourages employees to be more invested, engaged and motivated to achieve their goals.

When engagement is made a part of the daily workplace experience, employees are also more open to change and better equipped to adapt to shifting business conditions.

Clearly Communicate Mission and Purpose

One of the most effective ways for leaders to make a positive impact on their employees’ engagement is through consistent and effective communication. The best leaders actively seek employee input, value their opinions, and stay attuned to their needs. By fostering open communication and engagement, leaders can inspire enthusiasm for the future among their workforce.

To build an engaged, high-performing and resilient organization, leaders must ensure that their organizational purpose is clearly defined and widely understood by all employees. An organization’s mission and purpose is one important component of engagement: Do employees see meaning in what they do, and do their jobs connect to the overall purpose of the organization? Does this purpose engender enthusiasm and hope?

Employees need to see that their leaders have a clear direction in mind. When leaders communicate a clear mission and purpose, they help employees feel more enthusiastic about the future and engaged in their work.

By pursuing a strategic, purpose-led approach to employee engagement, leaders in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can help their organizations attract and retain top talent, build a highly motivated and dedicated workforce, and accelerate progress toward key performance goals.

Attract and retain the top talent in your region by creating an engaging workplace.


Abdullah Bader is an Associate Principal at Gallup, Middle East.

James Rapinac contributed to this article.

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