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How is the UAE HR sector responding to the digital drive?

Since AI implementation is still nascent, this may be the ideal time for HR to proactively spur the workforce and instill confidence, a KPMG survey indicates.

About 90 percent of executives stated that their enterprises have invested in one or more digital solutions Close to 62 percent of HR personnel expect an increase in technology budgets by 2021 HR innovation is led by automation of payroll systems, adoption of HCM software, and mobile HR applications

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has developed an increased appetite for innovation and digital transformation. In line with these current trends, the UAE HR sector has also begun to welcome change with the adoption of technology in both the public and private sectors. With the growth of a digitally-inclined workforce and improved employee engagement, the HR sector is likely to start taking a leading role in driving cultural change within organizations, thus, heralding a new digital age with data-centered leaders.

The Future of HR 2019 report released by The KPMG Lower Gulf focuses on understanding how the convergence of policy, technology, and innovation in the UAE is driving digital transformation. About 90 percent of executives interviewed stated that their enterprises have invested in one or more digital solutions over the past two years, with 62 percent expecting an increase in technology budgets by 2021. The implementation of digitally-driven HR innovations is led by automation of payroll systems and/or vendors (62 percent), adoption of Human Capital Management (HCM) software (55 percent), and use of mobile HR applications (40 percent), the report indicates.

“The HR function appears to have evolved to occupy a far more strategic role for organizations in the UAE, and senior leadership teams are now looking at new ways to drive business and operational performance by investing in digital tools and solutions, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. As the UAE continues to invest in building a knowledge-based economy, a combination of a skilled workforce and suitable corporate culture will be fundamental to enable successful transformation,” said Marketa Simkova, Head of People and Change, KPMG Lower Gulf.


Recent expansion and digitalization in the HR function is largely a reaction to changing organizational requirements and business priorities. HR professionals are well positioned to assist when it comes to incorporating past practices with disruptive innovations by adopting new skills and technologies, the report states.

Since the implementation of AI is still in its early stages, the survey suggests that this may be the ideal time for HR not to simply manage disruption but to also proactively shape the workforce and instill confidence in the organization. In fact, nine out of ten HR leaders in the UAE, as well as 83 percent globally, feel that HR can bring tremendous value through analytics, enabled by technologies such as AI. 

Further underscoring the widespread nature of this transition, 86 percent of senior HR executives are undertaking transformation initiatives with a focus on adopting digital service delivery. According to the report, 26 percent of HR executives stated that an enterprise-wide digital work plan is in place, indicating that the UAE is, in fact, slightly ahead of the global trend of 23 percent. Digitalization is picking up momentum in the UAE and businesses are taking steps to embrace it, the KPMG Lower Gulf report adds.

The survey also identifies capabilities vital to the successful development of related functions in this era of technological disruption. These include a modern problem solving framework that promotes collaboration, diversity of thought, visual expression and results in a shared vision and sense of ownership; leveraging data analytics to accurately predict business needs and individuals’ behavior and enable efficient decision making; and leveraging innovation to realize unique capabilities and potentially rethink how business is done.