What are the highest paying HR jobs in the UAE and which roles are in demand?

Talent management professionals, business partners, transformation experts, and compensation and benefits specialists are needed

There’s a demand for human resource professionals with specialist skillsets, recruitment experts say. Getty
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Regulatory changes introduced in the UAE and the continuation of the hybrid work model after the Covid-19 pandemic have driven robust hiring activity in the human resources industry, according to recruitment specialists.

There’s a demand for professionals with specialist skill sets and the number of jobs available in the market remains consistently high, the Hays 2023 GCC Salary Guide finds.

“In the UAE, the sector was impacted by changing regulations, such as the introduction of new labour laws and visa reforms. This led to a growing need for HR professionals who are familiar with these regulations and could advise companies on compliance,” says Aisha Amarsi, senior manager for human resources at Hays.

“As such, consultancies and professional services companies were particularly active. Additionally, demand for HR professionals was driven by government initiatives, specifically, the new Emiratisation decree.”

Recruitment activity within the sector was busy, even throughout the traditional quiet periods, according to Hays.

UAE jobs market

The jobs market in the UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, has made a strong recovery from the coronavirus-induced slowdown on the back of the government’s fiscal and monetary measures.

The majority of companies in the Emirates plan to hire new employees for the remainder of the year and wages are expected to increase by just under 2 per cent in 2023, according to the Cooper Fitch Salary Guide 2023.

More than half of all companies (57 per cent) expect to increase salaries this year, according to the Cooper Fitch survey, which polled business leaders at 300 companies in the GCC.

With fierce competition in the market, businesses need to act fast or risk losing out on the best talent. Four weeks should be the maximum time to hire – the shorter, the better, recruitment consultancy Robert Half suggests.

With hiring on the increase in the HR sector, what are the most in-demand jobs and how much do they pay?

Read on to find out – and check out our comprehensive UAE salary guide 2023 slide show below for a snapshot of your sector.

Which HR jobs are in demand?

There are numerous roles in demand in the UAE’s HR sector.

There’s a high demand for HR specialists in the Gulf region, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. With a growing population and economy, organisations need talent management professionals who can help find, attract, develop and retain the right talent, the Hays Salary Guide reports.

Equally, as organisations scale and evolve, organisational development specialists and business partnering professionals are required to align HR structures, strategies and systems.

Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, FEB 24, 2016. Jason Leavy, MD of Edelman Dabo. Photo: Reem Mohammed / The National (Reporter: Frank Kane /Section: BZ) Job ID: 27616 *** Local Caption ***  RM_20160224_JASONLEAVY_004.JPG

Additionally, competition for top talent in the region is fierce, and there’s a shortage of HR professionals with expertise in compensation and benefits, Hays says.

As companies increasingly offer competitive packages to attract and retain talent, compensation and benefits specialists are in high demand.

With a growing emphasis on upskilling and reskilling, HR professionals with expertise in training and development are in demand, the consultancy says.

“Many companies found existing systems wanting when employees needed to work from home, and are now looking to hire transformation experts,” according to Robert Half.

“With many working in a new hybrid model, senior leaders are investigating ways to use data and tech to boost efficiency, but they need specialist support.”

The most in-demand roles in the HR sector include executive assistant, office manager, operations manager, HR director talent acquisition manager, Robert Half states.

Meanwhile, recruiter Michael Page says in its 2023 UAE Salary Guide that positions in demand in the UAE’s HR industry are talent development specialists, regional HR managers and HR business partners.

What job skills are employers looking for?

Technical skills in demand include human resources information systems, transformation, UAE legislation, and systems and project management in technology, according to Robert Half’s salary guide.

The most sought-after soft skills are people management, senior stakeholder management, adaptability, problem-solving and multicultural understanding, the consultancy says.

“Employees are looking for opportunities where they can grow and develop their careers, so employers are now increasingly looking at ways to develop and retain their talent internally,” the Michael Page salary guide states.

“Hiring talent development specialists means they can create individualised training plans and career paths, high performer programmes and succession plans. This creates a culture of care for employees and engages them in the future of the business.”

While transactional HR experience still remains prominent in the region, there is a shift towards strategic business partners who provide the link between HR and the business, according to Michael Page.

They will be supported by an operational HR or a centre of excellence team. This means business partners need to be commercially astute to devise plans for their organisation’s people that will directly impact the business as well as collaborate with the centre of excellence team, the consultancy says.

However, there is a lack of supply of strategic business partners in the region as demand for them has only recently increased, according to the report.

There can sometimes be a misalignment in expectations between available candidates and hiring businesses of the definition of strategic business partners, it adds.

With the Middle East continuing to be a booming hub for start-ups, there is demand for professionals who can help set up HR policies and processes as well as drive recruitment campaigns to staff the new business, according to Michael Page.

“Salary and benefits still remain a key motivator for employees, so there is an increase in demand for junior to mid-level reward specialists who can devise and update salary gradings that are aligned to job competencies,” the report says.

“There is also demand for analysing the value return for company benefits and initiating new financial benefits that will further engage employees.”

Are salaries expected to rise in the HR sector?

For the second year in a row, HR salaries experienced a considerable uplift last year – 52 per cent of professionals received a salary increase, most commonly by 5 per cent or less, according to the Hays salary report.

Most salaries in the sector increased due to a standard annual pay increase across the whole organisation.

The salary outlook is good for this year, with 81 per cent of HR employees expecting a pay rise. Up to 26 per cent anticipate a wage increase of more than 15 per cent, Hays says.

Furthermore, 34 per cent of HR professionals are hoping to receive a promotion this year.

What other benefits can employees expect?

Aside from fair compensation and benefits packages, HR employees prioritise positive work-life balance, opportunities for development and career progression, and job security, according to the Hays salary report.

They want to work for an employer that fosters a positive and inclusive work environment, and that invests in their professional growth, through training and development opportunities, it says.

In 2023, 34 per cent of HR sector employees plan to change organisations but stay within the same role or industry, Hays states.

While salary is the most important factor in a new job for HR professionals, other reasons are corporate values, professional opportunities and benefits, according to Robert Half’s salary guide.

“Before Covid, companies were chipping away at benefits – but now they are being used to supplement salaries,” the consultancy says.

“High salaries and big benefits, including business class flights home, are on the table for US and UK relocators. The tight market puts employees and candidates in a strong position to negotiate.”

In the UAE, the HR sector was impacted by changing regulations, such as the introduction of new labour laws and visa reforms
Aisha Amarsi, senior manager for human resources at Hays

Candidates are more interested in workplace culture – more so in HR and business support roles as it often sits at the heart of their day-to-day roles, the report states.

“To compete for the best talent on the market, business leaders need to act quickly and offer good salaries that are bolstered with excellent benefits, whether that’s business class flights home or paying for a family to relocate,” says Gill McIntyre, HR and business support for the Mena region at Robert Half.

What are the highest-paying jobs in the HR sector?

Chief shared services officer: Dh104,900 ($28,563) to Dh147,000 (per month)

Chief human resources officer: Dh104,900 to Dh136,000

Vice president of HR: Dh83,500 to Dh115,000

Executive director of support services: Dh78,400 to Dh95,000

Executive director of HR: Dh73,300 to Dh95,000

HR director: Dh53,000 to Dh84,000

Director of support services: Dh63,100 to Dh78,000

Director/head of talent management: Dh41,800 to Dh58,000

Head of/ director of organisational development: Dh41,800 to Dh56,000

Director/ head of talent acquisition: Dh41,800 to Dh53,000

Director/ head of learning and development: Dh41,800 to Dh53,000

HR business partner: Dh31,600 to Dh47,000

HR manager: Dh31,600 to Dh42,000

Source: Cooper Fitch

Updated: January 29, 2024, 7:19 AM