IBM Study: Employee Well-being is Major Priority for Many CEOs in the Middle East

Focus on talent, technology and partnerships can be key to thrive post-COVID-19 pandemic, according to insights from Middle East CEOs.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, February 17, 2021 -- A new IBM (NYSE: IBM) Institute for Business Value (IBV) study revealed that a top challenge for many surveyed CEOs in the Middle East over the next few years is managing an "anywhere" workforce. Additionally, many CEOs in the Middle East are prioritizing technology, people, and partnerships to position their companies for success post-COVID-19 pandemic. The new IBV study polled CEOs from nearly 50 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in the Middle East.

Empowering Employees in the Hybrid Workplace
IBM's annual study found that more than half of CEOs surveyed in the Middle East reported empowering a remote workforce was a very or extremely important priority during 2020. IBM recommends that leaders consider carefully the longer-term challenge of a hybrid work environment, which can include things like providing employees with digital, cloud-enabled tools for collaboration, preventing employee burnout or sustaining company culture with focus on diversity and inclusion.

In addition, over half of the CEOs surveyed in the Middle East report they will prioritize employee well-being even if it costs near-term profitability, reflecting that the surveyed leaders are heavily focused on their people in this moment.

"Many business leaders across the Middle East have faced the challenge that COVID-19 presented to them head on with new modes of working to ensure the safety of employees,” said Hossam Seif El-Din, General Manager, IBM Middle East and Pakistan. “While technology has made distance working a reality for employees across the world, we are seeing that managing a remote workforce is a challenge in itself. We believe that utilizing the right technologies and adopting more empathetic forms of leadership can help ensure a positive state of mind amongst employees and a thriving business.”

Scalable and Flexible Technology Foundations
The IBV study also revealed that over 50 per cent of CEOs surveyed in the Middle East see technology factors and people skills as the most important external forces that will affect their business in the next few years, following the massive disruptions of 2020.

Across the board, surveyed CEOs in the Middle East said Cloud, AI, IoT and advanced analytics were top technologies that they believe can deliver benefits for their business.

Growing Importance of Partnerships
CEOs are also more focused on partnerships, according to the IBV study. 46 per cent of CEOs surveyed in the Middle East said partnerships have become more important for driving business performance. Based on the results of this study, IBM's thesis is that outperforming company CEOs globally are narrowing their focus to what they do best and relying on partners and ecosystems for access to broader ideas and innovation opportunities.

In addition, IBM notes that as many leaders increasingly see how their organizations can help address interconnected global issues like climate change, ecosystems may be able to play a pivotal role in driving lasting change. 

The IBV study includes recommendations from IBM for how leaders can seize this moment to reset and focus on what may be essential for success: choosing flexible and scalable technology platforms like an open hybrid cloud, investing in the holistic well-being of their people, and partnering to win with an open innovation approach.

The "Find your essential" study polled 3,000 CEOs across 26 industries and nearly 50 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. It was conducted in cooperation with Oxford Economics and benchmarked against more than 20 years of IBM's annual CEO surveys. The full IBV study is available at