May 19, 2020

The benefits of investing in a local talent pipeline

business expansion
Local Talent
Education For Employment
Salvatore Nigro
4 min
The benefits of investing in a local talent pipeline

Global Vice President and CEO in Europe of Education For Employment (EFE), Salvatore Nigro, discusses the benefits of local talent when expanding abroad.

Whilst access to credit is becoming easier in some parts of the globe, business leaders and HR professionals have for some time expressed concern that it is becoming increasingly difficult to locate job applicants who have the skills, educational qualifications and experience to perform certain roles. As a skilled, diverse and quality workforce is an important factor in determining the success of a business, these challenges can directly influence the growth and competitiveness of companies both today and in the future.f

For many organisations, one of the key drivers of an integrated global HR strategy is the need for talent mobility within the company. This is increasingly significant for companies looking to expand abroad, which must source the correct talent to open and run their new premises.

For HR teams, deducing the most suitable recruitment strategy for international expansion can be difficult. On average, an expat costs a company three times what they would in an equivalent position back home, mostly due to transportation, relocation benefits and training costs. This is a hefty investment considering that a large proportion of expats return early or join a competitor one year after repatriation.

The other option is to hire local staff, a strategy that is commonly overlooked out of fear that local talent pools lack the required skills. The irony of this is that well-trained local professionals can offer a huge amount to a company in terms of language skills, cultural knowledge and economic stability. As natives to the region, they have strong ties with their communities – enabling them to navigate potential problems more effectively – and come at a fraction of the cost of expats.


Local talent also has a statistically higher retention rate, particularly in developing areas. This is because businesses are engaging a workforce that has limited economic opportunities in life and is grateful to those who have invested in them. As such, these employees often stay with a company for a large proportion of their career, saving businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds in recruitment costs.

By investing in training and educating, businesses are also creating a younger pool of ‘wider talent’ to reduce pressure on existing trained resource. This strategy is notably useful in developing regions such as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which concentrates more than half of the world’s ‘working poor’ and unemployed youth. A large proportion of these youth have a tertiary education but require training on the 21st century skills, particularly digital skills, needed for infrastructure and economic development. By tapping into and upskilling this population, businesses can widen their talent pool and assist with economic development in these regions.

Morocco is a key example. The entry of aeronautics, renewable energy or automotive companies such as Renault pushed economic growth to 3.1% in 2018, making it the sixth largest African economy. In partnership with specialised organisations and the Moroccan government, these businesses have been developing local training programmes and employing local talent to upskill workers. These sorts of efforts have had the added benefit of gaining positive media traction and enhancing brand recognition. In addition, 66% of consumers are also willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies, so training local staff can aid company sales and form part of their CSR initiatives.

Overall, a large number of companies are expanding abroad in search of greater profits and lower production costs. Yet, until businesses increase domestic hiring levels, they will continue to rely on the unsustainable and expensive method of expatriating staff. By adopting an inclusive and flexible corporate culture that supports the integration and development of nationals into the workforce, businesses can enhance reputation and create a reliable and stable workforce, whilst tackling skills shortages in regions such as MENA.

Education For Employment (EFE) is a leading network of non-profits that trains young people and links them to jobs across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). EFE operates in nine countries across the region to boost youth employment.

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May 11, 2021

5 Minutes With PwC's Amanda Line on Digital Leadership

Georgia Wilson
4 min
PwC | Digital Leadership | Strategy | Technology
Amanda Line, PwC Partner and PwC’s Academy Leader on what it means to be a digital leader...

1. Define digital leadership, and what it means to be a digital leader?

Leadership has always required a specialised set of skills, such as curiosity, empathy, and decisive action. In today’s world, there is an urgent need for a new type of leader – one who has a digital mindset and has the skills to drive transformation. With the ever-expanding spectrum of new technologies, we need a new wave of digital leaders who not only understand the application of intelligent technologies in the workplace, but also know how to enable and empower their teams - and that comes from frequent upskilling. Digital leaders are represented across numerous sectors and industries, with a common goal to drive a culture of innovation and transformation. 

2. What do you believe are the essential traits of a digital leader?

Knowledge of digital and data literacy is a given essential to have a strong command of the future economy. In my opinion, what’s even more important are human-centric skills. It is the soft skills such as communication, resilience, emotional intelligence, and entrepreneurial thinking that are pivotal in this new-age digital world. 

Despite the demand for future skillsets, we’re currently facing the biggest skills shortage of our lifetime. PwC’s Middle East CEO survey highlighted that 80% of CEOs believe that a shortage of skills in the workforce is one of the key threats to their organisation’s growth prospects. 

Part of our drive at PwC’s Academy Middle East in leading the upskilling revolution in the region is to facilitate lasting change. We deliver innovative and practical training, that includes both digital and soft skills components, for individuals and organisations across industries to create a truly future-ready workforce in the Middle East.

3. How have these traits changed since the outbreak of COVID-19, or have they remained the same but their significance has grown?

Prior to the pandemic, the World Economic Forum set an ambitious target to upskill one billion people by 2030. This was initiated to tackle the 75 million jobs expected to be displaced by automation and AI by 2022. Since Covid-19, the window of opportunity to reskill has become shorter in the newly constrained labour market.[1] 

The way we live, work and learn has changed drastically, placing digital technologies at the forefront. The pace of change has accelerated the need for upskilling and reskilling. In many organisations and economies, this crisis has highlighted the discrepancy between the skills people have and those needed for jobs in the digital world. 

4. What was the role of a digital leader when the initial outbreak happened?

The need for digital leadership was brought to the forefront by the pandemic. With the huge transition to work from home (WFH), strong leadership has helped guide and steady employees, and ensure continued productivity. Leaders who understand the application of technologies in the workplace have been able to create new drivers for success, including streamlining operational systems, mindful connection of their employees and improved agility in the workplace. 

5. How has that role evolved and what are the next steps for digital leaders going forward in 2021 and beyond?

Eighty-four percent of employers are set to rapidly digitalise working processes, including a significant expansion of remote work—with the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely.[2] This is a very significant change towards a digital future. Technology is moving at a rapid pace, and having digital skills is no longer a ‘good to have’, it is critical to business success. Leaders and employees alike must adapt to a cycle of constant learning and upskilling to remain competitive.

6. How do these roles mentioned compare to pre-COVID?

Digital leaders were in demand before the pandemic, but now there is an additional urgency for a pipeline of talent with the skills to implement new technologies in the workplace. In order to create sustainable success, digital technologies must be adopted as a core business strategy – and upskilling is key. In 2020, PwC’s Academy introduced a number of qualifications in the region to support training for the digital economy, including the region’s first qualification for AI, the Certified Artificial Intelligence Practitioner (CAIP). 

7. Whilst the initial strategy for digital leaders was to survive the outbreak, what is the strategy for digital leaders as they look to thrive going forward?

We will see more sophisticated technologies being integrated into the workplace, driven by digital leaders. To support these transformations, we will need to close the existing skills gap, and ensure that younger generations are prepared for the future workplace. 

Young professionals will need huge investment in education and skills development. This requires a collaborative effort from governments, private organisations and education providers. In the Middle East for example, PwC’s Academy is working with the regional governments to upskill the national talent for future leadership roles. We also work with the private and public sector for upskilling solutions in finance, tax, HR, marketing, leadership and management, graduate development, digital transformation to name a few. It is this multi 

faceted approach to upskilling that will help our region to thrive. 

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