The Facilities Management industry is always on the lookout for quality manpower. Ask any industry expert and they will tell you how essential it is to source out good manpower and retain them. In this article, Gary Segesdy, Director, Big Fish Recruitment, gives us an overview of the FM MENA sector’s recruitment market and the kind of challenges one would face…

Current market

There’s no doubt it’s been a challenging year, especially for those seeking work in the region. The knock-on effect from the oil price has affected most industry sectors, and in general we have seen a conservative approach to hiring staff.

In terms of Facilities Management, we are seeing steady growth in the UAE, and a much higher expansion of activity in terms of recruitment in countries such as KSA. Some of the large-scale developments are requiring a growing number of both blue and white collar personnel who are not readily available in the country. However, companies are still both cautious and selective in terms of who and how they recruit, and are taking their time to interview a larger number of candidates to ensure they are getting the best value possible from the available talent in the market.

Due to market uncertainty in other sectors such as Oil & Gas, there also seems to be an increasing number of candidates currently seeking work from support services sectors such as HR, administration and finance. Many candidates are in fact interested in moving into either FM or construction sectors, which they consider to be a more stable option, and offering better job security at this moment in time.

Overall, taking into consideration the current operational requirements of existing facilities within the region and the continued development of land, I am very positive about the future of the MENA FM sector and expect the market to see continued growth right across the region for the next five years and beyond.


There is a continued demand from our private-sector clients looking to nationalise its’ workforce, however, most Emiratis still prefer working for government or semi-government entities, as they feel this offers them long-term stability and more generous company benefits.

Several new FM contracts have been awarded this year, which has put pressure on a handful of service providers needing to recruit heavily, thereby bringing in specialist blue collar labour (MEP and cleaning, security staff) from the sub-continent, and leaving a number of key local hires for the managerial/white collar positions. However, we have found that the majority of FM service providers are recruiting internally for many of the new contract wins, often shifting manpower from one contract to the next, and absorbing any new work into the existing workforce.


Challenges vary from company to company and from region to region. The main challenges we meet are normally due to budget, qualifications and client approval, and can be summarised as follows:

Budget: Salaries for both blue and white collar staff in the region have not changed in the past seven years, and in fact there is evidence that salaries have even dropped slightly. The demand for quality, however, has increased and clients are asking for higher-level candidates at the same or lower cost. This can be a challenge, and finding better people for less or the same money, is a risky strategy. This often leads to the new employee not being happy in the role, and jumping to a new company paying a higher salary, at the first opportunity. Ultimately this compromises relationships, and it ends up costing the client more time and money in the long-term.

Qualifications: Degree qualifications are often mandatory, and whilst I understand qualifications are sometimes essential and very important, in my experience I have found that most the time they are not. Experience is the key factor, and it is essential. Unfortunately, many organisations are turning away some of the best talent around by being too strict on their degree or qualification requirements. I once heard the quote, “Give me ‘I will’ over ‘IQ’ any day of the week” and I must say, based on over 12 years of recruiting at a senior level within FM, that comment carries a lot of weight.

Client Approval: One of the major challenges we face, is not finding the right person for ‘our client’, but actually finding the right person for ‘their client’. It would appear that the end user has a bigger influence as to whom is managing their facilities, even if they are working for the selected consultancy or contractor. Often our client will be happy with a candidate that we have provided for a specific role, only to then find them rejected by their client. Cost and qualifications appear to be the biggest issue. If a client is limited to a certain budget to fill a position, only so much can be done when it comes to the level of candidate that can be provided. In this instance we have to manage our client’s expectations and more often than not a compromise on experience or qualifications has to be made to meet their budget. If they are unwilling to compromise then a vacancy can be almost impossible to fill.

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