Talent Management Practices in the Saudi Arabia Private Sector: A comparative study of talent attraction and retention in local and multinational corporations in Saudi Arabia

  • Masoud Hadi Alhaider

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)’s national plan, Vision 2030, has spurred economic growth that remains unmatched by the ready availability of talent. Over the years, both multinational corporations (MNCs) and local companies have depended on expatriate labour, a practice that is unsustainable in view of the government’s Saudisation policy. The aim of this study was to critically evaluate the talent management practices (TMPs) – specifically attraction and retention – of firms in the KSA private sector and then to compare the practices to understand the challenges faced by both MNCs and local companies operating in the country. To achieve this aim, the study addressed three questions focusing on: how private organisations from KSA could adopt talent management strategies to gain a competitive advantage over others; what micro- and macro-level factors enable management to ensure effective talent management; and what differences and similarities exist in the TMPs of local businesses and MNCs in KSA. Based on an interpretive research paradigm and underpinned by a theoretical framework derived from the resource-based view (RBV), dynamic capabilities theory (DCT), and institutional theory, the study answered the research questions using data derived from a purposive sample of three multinational corporations and three local companies, each represented by one senior manager, one line manager, and two talented employees.

    The findings showed that private organisations in Saudi Arabia can use TMPs that help them gain a competitive advantage by adopting an approach that balances being exclusivist with an element of being inclusivist. Such an approach would enable the companies to handle the serious talent shortages, the high dependence on expatriate labour, and KSA government’s policy directing private companies to hire local talent. In terms of the macro- and micro-level factors influencing effective TM, it was demonstrated that sophisticated organisational TM systems backed by integrated and internally consistent human resources management practices are required that enable the development and fostering of competitive advantage for the firm. The possession of dynamic capabilities by organisational leadership and management emerged as being necessary for sensing developments in the micro- and macro-environment, identifying and seizing opportunities, and reconfiguring TM practices. From the practices utilised in both local businesses and MNCs, it emerged that while it was indisputable that talent is an internal resource that an organisation can use to gain or sustain competitive advantage, differences in economic systems, institutional frameworks, and leadership and managerial capabilities mitigated against a ‘one jacket fits all’ approach to TM.

    The study extended the applicability of the RBV to understanding TM by showing that in dynamic, talent-starved environments, as is the case in KSA, in addition to having the talent as a resource, competitive advantage came from possessing dynamic capabilities to fully align and exploit both the internal talent and accessible external talent for the achievement of business goals. Further, the study showed that competitive advantage from TM practices is achieved by adopting a structured approach that integrates the practices with other management processes such as the clarification of business goals, talent attraction and retention, and succession planning as part of building and maintaining critical talent pools.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsKing Abdulaziz University
    SupervisorBill Russell (Supervisor) & Jihye Kim (Supervisor)

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