In autumn 2014, the CIPD commissioned research into the current state of the HR and L&D profession across the Middle East. We surveyed a cross-section of CIPD members and non-members throughout the region, encompassing all levels of seniority and specialisms of HR and L&D.

More than 1,000 people completed the survey in just three weeks. The data paints a clear picture of what’s important to HR and L&D professionals – and how the CIPD can support individuals, organisations and governments to raise HR professionalism and capability across the region in the years ahead.

Survey results

Strategic HR priorities

Top HR priorities

We asked directors/senior executives and those in manager roles to identify the top three HR priorities for their organisations. Across the whole region, recruitment and selection emerges as the top priority – although the number one issue in Bahrain is learning and development. Talent planning and management is the second highest priority, while performance management is joint third.

When asked what kinds of professional support they most need to address these kinds of priorities, directors/senior executives and managers alike say they need more access to:

  • international best practice insights and guidance, case studies and benchmarking
  • local research and independent guidance with relevant context from the region
  • professional qualifications and training which are tailored to reflect region-specific practices and culture.

HR strategy alignment and outsourcing

Three in four directors/senior executives and almost two thirds of managers believe that their current HR strategy is well aligned with their organisation’s overall business strategy.

HR-related legislation and policy

The highest-priority HR-related policy issue for directors/senior executives in the region is nationalisation. Meanwhile, HR/L&D managers perceive diversity and equal opportunities as the key policy priority.

Research and information

Specialist topics

For the survey participants not in director/senior executive roles, the specific research areas of greatest interest were cited as talent planning and management, followed by organisation development and performance management. For directors/senior executives, talent planning and management is also the area of greatest interest, although leadership development/executive coaching is rated the second most interesting topic of interest.


Where events for HR/L&D professionals are held in the region, respondents said they’d get most value from those focused on case studies and best practice examples that are directly relevant to the Middle East. HR/L&D professionals would also like events focused on employment law updates for the region and news about the profession which is specific to the Middle East.

Website information

When it comes to information resources available online, HR/L&D professionals in the region say their key need is for more regional employment law information, followed by relevant regional research and information about events/opportunities for networking in the region.

Professional status

Licensed HR profession

Most directors/senior executives and managers working in the region favour the notion of HR becoming a ‘licensed’ profession. However, there is considerable variation between the different Asian markets on this matter, ranging from 84% in Malaysia to 58% in Hong Kong.

Professional body membership

Most directors/senior executives and managers feel that it is either important or very important for HR/L&D professionals in their organisation to be members of an international HR professional body, so they can keep up to date with best practice, global standards and relevant insight. Despite this widely held view, more than half (53%) work in firms where fewer than half of the HR/L&D workforce holds a current membership of an HR professional body, while just 13% say that more than half of their HR function hold a professional membership of this kind.

HR competency models

Across the region as a whole, almost half the organisations in the survey have an HR/L&D technical competency framework in place. In the majority of cases, frameworks have been developed in-house or using an external consultant.

HR qualifications

HR qualifications are mandatory for specific roles in a quarter of Asian-based organisations. Most directors/senior executives working in the region believe that it is important for HR/L&D colleagues to hold qualifications recognised by a professional institute. Three in five managers also believe this is important.


With regard to the delivery of qualifications to meet the needs of Asian organisations, the majority of directors/senior executives and managers are comfortable for this to be in English, but would like to see delivery in other languages. Non-English delivery is more likely to be required in Hong Kong than Malaysia or Singapore.


Over the next three years, one in four employers are expected to spend US$5,000 or more per person per annum on formal HR/L&D qualifications for employees in the function.

HR skills gaps and training needs

HR skills gaps

Across the region as a whole, directors/senior executives and managers identify business acumen as the area where HR/L&D people currently have the greatest skills gap. There are also noteworthy gaps in skills required for strategy design and execution as well as skills associated with organisation development and talent planning and management.

Training channels

Employers in the region use a mix of approaches to train and develop HR/L&D professionals. The most frequent route is via in-house training. External training providers are also relatively widely used. Many organisations in the region make use of professional qualifications as part of their development strategy.

Training mix

A mix of face-to-face and online teaching is seen as the training format that works best for the region, with 57% also saying purely face-to-face teaching works for their organisation. While 67% are content for short training courses to be delivered in English only, 32% say a mix of English and other languages better meets the needs of their organisation.

Download the full report below: