Insights into the Cultural Dynamics of Saudi Gen Z Professionals
Date Posted:Wed, 10th Jan 2024
This year I have had the privilege, of training graduate cohorts of young Gen Z professionals in Saudi Arabia. This experience has not only been an opportunity for me to share my knowledge as a facilitator but was a great opportunity for mutual learning. Interacting with this generation of young Saudi’s has given me a unique perspective into the cultural nuances of the Saudi Gen Z generation.
What struck me about this generation was their blend of tradition and modernisation. They embrace their cultural heritage while bringing a fresh perspective to the table. Many have pursued education overseas which can be a transformative experience that can shape an individual’s cultural values. This is because the global perspective gained through overseas education goes beyond academics. Exposure to international viewpoints encourages individuals to think with Cultural Intelligence CQ®.
In 1953, King Abdulaziz Al Saud established the Ministry of Education to enhance the education system in Saudi Arabia. This led to the initiation of sending Saudi students abroad, to Western nations, including the United States and the UK. The Ministry also provided scholarships to cover the cost of tuition fees and living expenses which remains as an incentive for Saudis today. This created an opportunity for Saudis to pursue education abroad, providing them with the chance to embrace a different daily lifestyle and help develop skills such as adaptability and resilience.
Studying abroad is not just about the ability to cope though, it's about thriving in diverse environments. Overseas education teaches Cultural Intelligence, enabling students to navigate nuances and adapt behaviour to acclimatise to the local customs. International education also builds global connections. Interacting with people from various backgrounds enhances students’ interpersonal skills and their cultural knowledge (CQ Knowledge) which create individuals with a unique cultural identity that blends elements from both their home culture and the culture of the host country. The appreciation for education itself deepens, as exposure to different educational systems provides a nuanced understanding of various approaches to learning. In essence, overseas education shapes students into culturally aware, adaptable, and globally conscious individuals.
Throughout the various conversation I had with my cohorts, it was emphasised again that Saudi, often portrayed as a homogenous nation, is a mix of diverse cultures, traditions, and histories. This is influenced by the geographical expanse of the kingdom, the development of the country and the exposure to other cultures through overseas education and access to online information. Some holding more traditional views alongside others embracing more modern ideologies.
Contrary to the misconception that Saudi students want to remain abroad. Their desire is in fact to return home to contribute to their country's transformative phase, being described as a "golden era" of development in Saudi Arabia. The nation's rapid progress and commitment to innovation have created a magnetic pull for its youth, enticing them to contribute to their country's growth and prosperity. They see themselves as key players in shaping the future, actively participating in, and driving the changes that defines Saudi Arabia today. It's a profound commitment from the young people to contribute to a collective determination to shape a future that aligns with their cultural identity and aspirations. In light of this, I anticipate a notable surge in the 20 -30 age group joining the workforce in Saudi Arabia, surpassing numbers in previous years.
In conclusion, it's essential to recognise that there will be a diverse mix of individuals, some possessing a high level of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) who have ventured overseas and have an open mindset to different ways of working, while others may lack the skills required to effectively collaborate with the emerging workforce of Gen Z Saudis. Managing this diversity in cultural sensitivity within the workplace is crucial for building a harmonious and productive environment that leverages the strengths of each team member, ensuring effective collaboration across generations.
For organisations in Dubai that are newly establishing themselves in Saudi it will be important to strike the right balance between tradition and modern. Its clear the country is open to development and modernisation, but it needs to be conducted in a way that is respectful to the traditions of old. There is a much greater percentage (58%) of the population in Saudi that is Saudi national then that of UAE(11.48%) which will obviously impact and shape the culture of your organisation. Saudi is also the birthplace of Islam and is committed to preserving the Islamic tradition.
To become ready for the move to Saudi, your senior leadership need to lead with Cultural Intelligence CQ. This means being acutely aware of their own worldview, acknowledging the lenses through which they perceive the world. Because understanding others starts with understanding ourselves. As leaders, acknowledging our biases allows us to lead with authenticity and empathy. This ongoing introspection enables us to be open to working with a diverse array of employees.
If you want to learn more about Cultural Intelligence Assessment, Training or Coaching then Infinite Consulting will be happy to support you and your team.