Interviewer: Mariham Magdy
“Focus more on the book of business than the book of HR, and seek the “best fit” rather than the “best practice”. HR is more of a contingent science and profession than most of the HR practitioners think…”
1- HR Revolution Middle East: Would you share with us how did you shift your career from engineering to HR, and how engineering helps you as an HR professional?
Ahmad Youssef: It is a mix of risk taking, passion to try new things, lack of interest in the engineering career in Egypt and HR seemed to be a more intriguing idea.
The engineering background with all the logic and searches for whys involved formed an unusual HR perspective that was recognized and encouraged by the HR leaders in my company and my views were much appreciated. I was offered an HR job in the communication department after few months from my hire date as a networks engineer in my company.
In general, good HR practitioners should always question a lot of things, why & how things go around in a specific way and in a specific context: Are we satisfied with the performance level? And how can we improve it efficiently? And actually these are basic competencies for an engineer.
2- HR Revolution Middle East: Ahmed, you are really known as one of the most professional in your field although you’re younger than your experience & professionalism, to whom and to what do you owe your excellence?
Ahmad Youssef: Awww, I am surprised, but I will take this as a compliment, because I am assured that I still have a lot to learn and I am lucky that I meet people every day that inspire me and show me that I need to add more to my experience. I owe a lot to the engineering background here, but most importantly the organization culture where I’ve raised in as a professional. The trust and value based culture were always there around me and always reflected by my leaders. Trust culture means that people offer each other spontaneous support without narrowing it to the calculation of the cost or anticipating any short-term reciprocation; they communicate honestly and freely; they share knowledge and grant access to information. I was told to just put my thoughts and efforts and we will support you in every possible way, I was given my space and my sometimes radical perspectives were recognized. I needed nothing more really to hit my highest motivational levels and being able to oversee more diverse responsibilities.
In a parallel context, I was happy to have the chance to get to know the owners of an HR practical learning and consultancy platform named “Real Hands On”. We felt very aligned as we share the same concerns about how to develop and promote the strategic contribution of the HR role by providing practical and hands on HR education that is based on solid academic and scientific bases. I am glad to finally meet an HR specialized education provider with this mission in Egypt and we are working together towards the achievement of such mission. This allowed me to pursue my passion of transferring a blend of technical, practical and academic HR/business knowledge rendered to address our specific HR and organizational problems within the business context of Egypt and the Middle East at large.
3- HR Revolution Middle East: The HR field in Egypt is receiving every day professionals from different educational disciplines & backgrounds, how do you think this boosts the HR profession in general?
Ahmad Youssef: I am always a fan of diversity, not just “surface level attributes diversity” concerning apparent physical attributes like sex, age, ethnicity, etc. but rather “deep level attributes diversity” concerning personality, values, educational/functional background, etc. that proved consistent implication on creativity and innovation. On the other side I am distressed with the saying that “HR is the jobless job, or anyone can work in HR”. Diverse educational disciplines and background could benefit the HR field by adding more perspectives but without possessing the qualifying knowledge these perspectives may take us where we don’t want to be.
4- HR Revolution Middle East: What advice would you give to HR professionals to strengthen their positions as business partners & contribute in the business decision making process?
Ahmad Youssef: Focus more on the book of business than the book of HR, and seek the “best fit” rather than the “best practice”. HR is more of a contingent science and profession than most of the HR practitioners think. The understanding of the business strategy, model, process, culture and structure are the fundamental competencies for a good business partner, these are commonly known as “business acumen” and “organizational savvy” in any competencies dictionary. It is also more tangible field than many people think it is, so there should not be any unanswered question in any good HR practitioner’s head. For the core HR knowledge it is good to understand every function in the HR, what it intends to achieve to the business, how it is deeply connected to all the other HR functions, where it begins and where it should end and why. This is how to be good, but in order to be great, HR professionals should know how to tweak and customize all these HR practices and functions to best support the achievement of their business strategies, and believe me; strategy is the organization finger print, no any two on the planet share the same strategy, so are the fittings of HR functions in the organization.
For example, although we may share the same HR book, we will implement totally different HR practices if you were working in an organization that adopt a “differentiation” strategy and I work in another adopting “cost leadership” strategy, although both of our practices are coming from the same understanding of the same book.
Unfortunately there are HR professionals that apply the same practices regardless to its congruence to the organization strategy and they lose a big ground on the strategic table where critical strategies and decisions are discussed because they fail to convince the table with any valuable contribution to such strategies.
5- HR Revolution Middle East: From your point of view, which were the most aggressive challenges faced by the HR professionals in Egypt, during the past 7 years? Were we able to face it the right way?
Ahmad Youssef: For sure a lot of us, our understandings, our practices and the quality of our crises management were exposed to a tough test around the revolution, the time of the political unrest, loose security and frequent strikes. It sent us a harsh signals and revelation on how good we thought we were at “people management” as many call it, I prefer “influencing people”. I know organizations where people didn’t strike at all, but rather stood for their organization’s benefits, search for those, there must me a plenty of good leaders there and HR leaders in specific. Others organizations were shocked with voluminous lessons to learn, others are still striking and others went to complete business shut down.
The more we brace the psychological contract over the formal contact between organization and its people the more we can expect from people in the toughest time.
6- HR Revolution Middle East: What are the secret tips you might give to junior HR professionals to consolidate their understanding & practice of their mission?
Ahmad Youssef: Take off the police-man suite, act and behave like the rightness guardian, that balance people rights and the organization benefits. Being emotional and being human is two totally different things, emotional is unprofessional and unfair, human is ethical and fair. Seek business knowledge from the experts, they enjoy telling about it to juniors, if they didn’t tell, they are not the experts. Look for the strategic relevance of the HR functions not just its duties.
7- HR Revolution Middle East: How can HR professionals keep the red line between their friendship with colleagues in the workplace & the confidentiality of their work?
Ahmad Youssef: HR role require the access to sensitive and maybe personal data for other people, we don’t own these data, and we can’t reveal it in unofficial contexts. This is simply our profession ethics and we can’t claim to be professionals without enjoying these ethics. We have to make our colleagues to understand that we respect such responsibility, and any attempt to breach it will trigger our sever outrage. I don’t think that normally our colleagues will intend to disappoint us if we share the minimal mutual respect.
8- HR Revolution Middle East: Do you believe that organizations in Egypt are on the right track empowering their HR departments & involving them in the business? To what percentage?
Ahmad Youssef: HR can be a strategic formulator and contributor not just a business partner, this is a reality that has been demonstrated in hundreds of academic laboratory and field research and recognized by the majority of the great organizations that achieved turn around in the last 20 years and almost all of the fortune 500.
Such fact is either realized proactively or reactively by organizations. Proactively means that organization capitalize on its human capital and leadership qualities before any other sort of investments. At the other side organizations that reactively recognized the inevitability of sound HR at later stages usually have been through an unpleasant situation of drifting away from fitting the character and parameters of their environment. This is the situation in Egypt especially after the revolution. So yes, definitely we are on the right track, but unfortunately unwillingly, it is just because all the other tracks had failed us already. We are still in the early phase of the developmental curve, but the exposure to the international competition with its volatile and hostile change will accelerate our development as long as we have decided to be a part of this competition, and I really see number of Egyptian local and international organizations that takes very bold and smart moves towards promoting the role of HR within its business contexts, you can know them too, they are the current employer of choice where many talents will love to work with, and they are unnecessarily the highest payers and some of them didn’t exist 5 years ago.
9- HR Revolution Middle East: A problem, we are currently facing as HR professionals, that although the HR practices differ relevantly in relation to the industry, we don’t have institutions that provide sectorial HR knowledge, from your point of view what are the tangible results of that at work & how can we overcome such challenge?
Ahmad Youssef: If you allow me Mariham, I would like to rephrase the problem to be the lack of sound academic qualification within the HR realm. HR is an academic field of research and study since and even before the 1970s in the world top universities, so it is a profession that require rigour qualifications should it be mastered.
The results of such a problem are simply confusion: we don’t know the purpose of what we are doing, inefficiency: we are draining our resources, ineffectiveness: we are not achieving our objectives, and worst is the unawareness of the problem that may be aggravated to its denial as well. I have seen a lot of HR practitioners that call themselves experts just because they are very good at repeating their companies practices for years in isolation from the world and the academic knowledge where the “not invented here” syndrome form a barrier to their knowledge development and enlightenment. This does not only hurt the reputation of our profession, but also affect the perception of fairness of our work impact towards people. You see, unqualified HR practitioners are dangerous for the planet :).
I highly recommend degree programs from a reputable academic body of knowledge, the good news that these programs are facilitated to suite the professionals tight schedules, and there are many advantages for online and distant learning that even don’t exists on campus learning like the access to unlimited resources and the extremely diversified make-up of the class that enrich the learning experience even further.
10- HR Revolution Middle East: Ahmad, you had the opportunity to assist World-class HR conferences & training worldwide, what do you think we lack in Egypt to reach the same standards of these events?
Ahmad Youssef: We need to appreciate the value of learning and collaboration, we need to recognize the value of investing in these things. Learning and development managers should be concerned more about covering their people competencies gap rather than consuming their budgets on the one size fits all soft skills trainings at the end of the year. Networking is good, but knowledge sharing is more important, this should be the base of conferences design and speakers selection. Also the topics should be more oriented towards supporting business where strategic partnership and entrepreneurship languages prevail over HR jargons.
11- HR Revolution Middle East: Do you believe that Egyptians need to adapt HR certificates like PHRi/CIPD to be able to apply their knowledge in the Egyptian/Arab communities?
Ahmad Youssef: They have their values, but they are not the best investment in gaining credible HR knowledge. My concern is on their cost rather than their relative quality. I prefer more degree programs from credible academic body of knowledge with similar or a bit higher cost, then practical learning initiatives and trainings. I always recommend learning after gaining suitable practical experience about the subject, and against starting our exposure to new subjects in a class room.
12- HR Revolution Middle East: What do you think is the main downfall for most of the HR practitioners in Egypt?
Ahmad Youssef: Thinking they can do it without knowing what, how it and why it should be done. And taking any bias towards the company or the people side.
13- HR Revolution Middle East: Being a regional manager for the MENA & North Africa region, how do you assess the quality of HR professionals in Egypt in comparison to other regional professionals?
Ahmad Youssef: Well, I am not ethnocentric nor prejudiced, I don’t believe in good and better in human or professional traits based on geography especially and logically among similar culture. The chances of better qualifications, personal qualities and innate capabilities and behaviors can decide better than nationalities on the quality of a caliber in a given context, contextual factors are very important here. Our Egyptian tok tok will outperform a Lamborghini in some of our streets, so you can’t tell which is better without defining the context. Culture of course is a critical contextual attribute that can falsely add or detract credit from the individual caliber subject to the assessment. I think this will be an obvious subjective assessment so I will give you the same answer if we were comparing Egyptian versus German our Japanese professionals.
14- HR Revolution Middle East: Would you tell us more about your relation with your work teams & your employees?
Ahmad Youssef: Awww, my team, they are my friends, I prefer to work in a casual, relaxed and friendly atmosphere, we trust each other and believe in each other, I just do a lot of effort in selecting them, then I never needed to do any effort in managing our relation, they are very nice guys, I take a lot of pride in finding and working with them.
My employees, or better my people, I work for them, before any complicated HR process that I apply on these nice group of humans, I always try to make them happier or at least less stressful. It is a big reward when I come back home at the end of the day to my another few group of humans that are called my family with the feeling that I have put some effort in making another man or woman happier, a bit more motivated or at least less stressful. I really would like to thank God for this opportunity of contributing to touch other people life in a positive way. By the way we can apply the same in our normal lives away from work.
15- HR Revolution Middle East: Ahmed, we believe u have a very inspiring story behind founding “OD expert“, and for sure it is a result of years of sincere efforts & practical experience, would you kindly share with us more about it and how it plays a sound role in assisting Comp & ben specialists?
Ahmad Youssef: (OD expert) is a consultation firm focusing on organizational development, it is driven by a purpose of challenging the status quo of organizations’ efficiency. We deliver consultations services and develop solutions that demonstrate our purpose and what we believe in to our partners. Our latest release is a pay management platform that perform merit increases, salary adjustment and pay gap identification versus targeted markets, salary structure and internal equity. It uses the merit matrix approach to direct funds towards rewarding high-performing employees who are paid less than the market. This approach helps in looking at salaries adjustment from both an internal (performance) and an external (market value) standpoints and ensures that we are rewarding your talents that gears forward your organization. The novel idea is to perform all of these operations visually with plotted comparisons graphs instead of the typical dull spreadsheets, plus it carries out what used to be completed in weeks in just a couple of minutes. We have two offices one in Cairo and the other is in Dubai serving our clients around the world 24/7.
16- HR Revolution Middle East: How do you escape your work stress?
Ahmad Youssef: Piano, Jazz, Sinai, Reading and YouTube. I love Sinai so much, I like traveling in general, but it always goes around this sweet spot of the world.
17- HR Revolution Middle East: What is your dream for the future of HR in Egypt?
Ahmad Youssef: I first wish that HR will have a future in Egypt, the future is getting more unpredictable and more radical every day, so I hope we will be still needed, we still be able to change at the speed of life and get at the center of the stage by adding more value to the people and the organization and this value to be appreciated in return.
18- HR Revolution Middle East: I have been one of the fortunate persons to be one of your students more than once & learn a lot from you; how do you describe your feeling when you contribute in extending your experience to new generations?
Ahmad Youssef: Thank you Mariham, I feel exactly the same. Believe me nothing is more valuable and enjoyable to me than the enthusiasm and the sparkling eyes of an eager listener when discussing an interesting topic. It’s a mutual learning and a forum of exchanging knowledge, perspectives and positive energy. It refreshes my knowledge and flicks my brain. I gain a lot of purposefulness and a lot of self-worth.
Interview with Mr. Vijay Gandhi, Regional Director of Korn Ferry Digital
“2021 is here and there has been never a tipping point like this before for governments and organizations to transform how they work, engage the employees and service their clients. It is this mix of internal and external challenges that will also create opportunities for leaders to make a difference as we embark upon a new calendar year.” Mr. Vijay Gandhi
Interviewer: Mariham Magdy
Brief Biography about the Interviewee:
Mr. Vijay Gandhi has worked with human resource teams for over 20 years to provide them with tools, benchmarks, insights and data to help them design high level global HR frameworks and make decisions for local executive teams, remuneration committees and board of directors in public and privately owned companies across different sectors. He oversees the commercial activities of Reward & Benefits in KF Digital across Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Vijay has an MBA from Durham University (UK) and BBA in Finance & International Business from University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA). He joined Korn Ferry in 2001 in Dubai and has worked in EMEA and Asia region. In May 2018, he was honored with Forbes “Top 50 Indian Executives in Arab World”
1.HR Revolution Middle East: Mr. Vijay, welcome to HR Revolution Middle East Magazine. It’s a great pleasure to have the opportunity to make this interview with you.
As the Regional Director for Korn Ferry Digital, we are keen to learn from you more about KF Digital, how do Korn Ferry’s digital applications help organizations to transform or enhance their organizational strategy?
Through the Korn Ferry Digital platform, our clients gain direct access to our data, insights, analytics and digital solutions – enabling them to drive performance in their organizations in a scalable way through their people, using one enterprise-wide framework and language of talent. Our digital solutions cover the whole talent journey. So, whether it’s developing a new talent strategy or reward program, making informed decisions about hiring or developing talent from within the organization, getting the right people on board, or even collecting feedback on how engaged employees really are, right across the organization – Korn Ferry Digital provides the answers.
Our solutions serve as an integrated platform that gives clients direct access to the data, insights and analytics. Clients benefit from one enterprise-wide talent framework and language that helps drive organizational performance through people.
2- HR Revolution Middle East: To what extent can we trust the results of the digital assessments? How can organizations use the data that Korn Ferry collects to make intelligent hiring, reward, development decisions?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
Korn Ferry Digital is fueled by the most comprehensive and up-to-date people and organization databases. This data provides the DNA for our digital solutions, bringing a research-based foundation to underpin quality and consistency in your HR practices. Over 4 billion data points have been collected, including:
- Over 69 million assessment results
- 8 million employee engagement survey responses
- Rewards data for 20 million employees across 25,000 organizations and 130+ countries
We’ve pulled the data together into a comprehensive set of actionable and dynamic Success Profiles. Success Profiles define “what good looks like” and include data around three dimensions – the accountabilities of a role, the associated capabilities to perform these responsibilities, and the traits and drivers that are characteristic of a person who will thrive in this role.
Organizations have access to over 4,000 individual Success Profiles across 30,000 job titles – and we are continually updating and adding new profiles, so you get to leverage the latest thinking on emerging roles. The results are therefore based on deep insight and research.
3- HR Revolution Middle East: Mr. Vijay, we are eager to learn from you more about the success story behind honoring you as one of the Top 50 Indian Leaders in Arab World by Forbes Middle East in 2018 – Region’s greatest success stories as Regional Director at Korn Ferry Digital.
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
I am a long-time resident of the Arab region, where my family roots go back 60 years, before the UAE federation was formed. Knowing the culture, people and dynamics of working in the Arab world has been natural as this has been home to our family where my kids are the 5th generation. For more than 20 years, I have worked closely with human resource teams in the Arab world to execute their talent strategy. A lot has changed in this period in HR function itself which was regarded as a payroll function few decades ago. Today, HR and People strategy are board room discussions where HR plays a strategic role in driving workforce performance.
In these positively growing and changing times, my focus was on leveraging tools, benchmarks, insights and data to design high-level global HR frameworks for senior executives in the region – helping them more effectively manage their talent. We have built successful client partnerships in the region which has made Korn Ferry as a go to organizational consulting firm.
4- HR Revolution Middle East: For over 20 years, you have overseen the activities of pay, talent, surveys and listening products across Europe, Middle East and Africa. What are the unique characteristics of the Middle East organizations especially in talent and pay management? How does we differ from other regions as Europe & Africa?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
Change is taking place rapidly in the world of work with any organizations taking unprecedented steps to remain relevant and connected to their people , their customers and society. In the Middle East we have seen many companies implement temporary pay-cuts. Diversified conglomerates have shifted their employees from one division to another to balance the demand and supply. There is no denial that the way we work is changing and organizations have had to prepare a blueprint for the unexpected. This year it’s coronavirus. Next time, and there will be a next time, it could be a natural calamity, a recession, talent flight or something else unforeseen.
- Redefining the nature of work: Even today most organizations in the Gulf region are measuring success or performance using the metric of attendance. There is a mismatch between modern, flexible ways of working and traditional ways of organizing and rewarding work. To close this gap, organizations need new approaches that fit today and can flex for the future. New and evolving technologies allow organizations to operate more effectively and more efficiently. They do this by preparing people to work more productively and by introducing virtual ways of doing things that previously required physical presence. Some organizations in the region have started tocreate “flexible teams” for specific projects, and then dismantling them once the project is complete.
- Moving towards a liquid workforce: HR laws in the Middle East region have undergone change in the last 3 years to allow for part-time employees, internships and with the spring of an independent freelance community offering specialized professional services which were rare to find few years ago. In the future, we will see more organizations tailoring their resource requirements to the needs of the labor market. Organizations will move towards a liquid workforce to capture the best talent regardless of source or nature of contract which may not be employed full-time.
- Splitting time and skills: A few global companies are making use of employees’ skills and motivation within the confines of a traditional role. They have developed a SharePoint platform where employees can give up to 20% of their time to projects outside of their core role. The 80/20 approach allows for flexibility without the contractual implications of making significant changes to roles and functions. The projects range from large, like supporting big corporate initiatives, to small, like moderating a series of workshops. These smaller projects may last just a few weeks and take up less than 20% of a person’s working time. Trainees, called ‘Start-up’ participants, also work according to the 80/20 principle. That means they follow a set rotation programme for four days of the week and meet on Fridays to work on joint projects.
- Rethinking Reward: Even after right-sizing in many Middle East companies, there has been a significant impact of grade/title inflation on performance. In the short-term it is important to preserve operating capacity in the event demand returns to normal sooner than expected by managing leaves and cutting pay for a limited time. In the medium-term, organizations will have to adjust individual performance incentives as conditions normalize and consider crisis-related spot awards where applicable. In the long-term, organizations will have to not only maintain awards for top-performers but also consider tying bonuses and incentives to crisis-related health and-safety metrics.
With no ‘rules of the game’, and such rapid evolution, it’s not surprising that many companies feel they don’t know where or how to start. They need fresh thinking and new approaches on a whole range of topics – including how to create a ‘new deal’ that works for their people.
5- HR Revolution Middle East: The digital transformation has changed totally the way businesses make decisions. Given that almost every organization has been forced into a new way of working, how can they navigate through a new normal?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
The positive new is that, apart from solving immediate effects of the crisis, we have seen a resilience to operate from home by employees and employers moving from “no flexible hours” to “you can work remotely if the job doesn’t require you to come to the office”.
Whilst it’s great to move to more flexibility, we may be going over the top to think that this will be the norm for all employee segments. Let me share some of the discussions with HR professionals in last few months in the region.
- Leadership matters and they want to be visible with the workforce. Ask any leader when do they have the most impact? It’s when they are spending time with their people to engage with them and enable them by listening to their concerns.
- There were aspects of our lives – work, family, friends – which were separate but now happening all in one physical space. The self-complexity theory shows that individuals become vulnerable to negative feelings when these social activities and goals aren’t differentiated.
- Certain roles in healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality sectors cannot work remotely, and fantastic efforts have been made to make the workplace safe.
- Sales and Business development were areas identified as most dependent on face-to-face meetings. According to Harvard Business research, in-person meetings were seen as most effective for:
- Negotiating important contracts (82%)
- Interviewing senior staff for key positions (81%)
- Understanding and listening to important customers (69%)
Although there are many reasons why video conferencing works well to stay connected in isolation and keep dispersed teams connected and aligned, latest research shows they wear on the psyche in complicated ways. Psychologists say a new phenomenon “video call fatigue” is emerging. It describes the feeling of being worn out by back-to-back virtual meetings and having to perform for the camera by over-scheduling ourselves.
So, whilst working from home since March 2020 was considered as a great move from being non-flexible to trusting people, it’s now time to rationalize our thinking. The answer lies somewhere in the middle by being flexible and not drifting like nomads too. We cannot take all home and it won’t be forever.
6- HR Revolution Middle East: How did all the twists and turns occurred in 2020 changed the traditional way organizations used to manage pay? Do you expect that businesses would return to the normal management of pay in 2021?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
Shifting to “people” priorities in 2021
2020 will be a fable for us to share with generations to come. It is a year which has revolutionized the way we work and adapt to uncertainty. A year which started with negativity around jobs and pay cuts. Life came to a stand-still. Organizations who have survived the pandemic have shown tremendous resilience and agility to adapt to tough times. As costs were taken out of the business in the first half of the year, we have seen higher productivity and the drive to restore profitability. It was also a year where there remained no doubt that that the most critical driver for any organization was its workforce.
2021 is here and there has been never a tipping point like this before for governments and organizations to transform how they work, engage the employees and service their clients. It is this mix of internal and external challenges that will also create opportunities for leaders to make a difference as we embark upon a new calendar year.
Transformation in business set-up and labour reforms were on top of the agenda in 2020. The Labour Reform Initiative (LRI) brought into action by MHRSD in Saudi under the National Transformation Program (NTP) has swung the focus back onto shared services and their significance in the Saudi business world. This initiative has not only set a strong precedent for the future of workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) but also carved a structured model for businesses looking to hire personnel. Similarly, there were 2 landmark moves in United Arab Emirates (UAE)
- allowing foreign investors to own local companies without the need for an Emirati sponsor will open doors for more FDI and greater business opportunities.
- allowing professionals to reside and work in Dubai residency rule was a big boon for professionals in workplaces where they are delivering or leading teams remotely.
The road ahead for employees working in this region looks bright as these reforms would strengthen labour competencies, enrich the work environment, and put together an inviting job market. The flexibility will help employers in 2021 to drive innovations, provide access to more talent, drive performance and results regardless of where the team is located in the region.
Leaders will have to go beyond showing interest in the development of everyone and be empathetic towards employees who survived the crisis with them in 2020. In fact, the ‘Global Workplace Study 2020’ by ADP Research Institute shows that employees are approximately 13 times more likely to be resilient when more workplace disruption occurs. Empathy was shown by employees in many ways e.g. working from home in different circumstances or taking a pay cut to help companies save further job cuts.
Technology innovation is here to stay
Organizations in both the public and private sectors had to make a change in the way they work and move to digitization. Another conundrum we are presently facing is the real-estate impacts of employees desiring greater work-life flexibility. It’s unlikely that office spaces will disappear overnight, but rather a greater integration of virtual and in-person work is right around the corner. The recent decision by Dubai Government to work-from-home comes at the back of flexible working hours announced in April 2020. Workplace flexibility works best when implemented to address both the organization’s need to for a leaner workforce and employees’ need for work/life support.
The social element of your workplace has likely taken on a much different look in 2021. You may have employees in a social distance-friendly environment, employees working from home, or a mix of both. Organizations will have to find ways to encourage them to stay connected while being physically disconnected. Even before the pandemic COVID-19 had entered our vocabulary, burnout, stress and anxiety were significant issues in the workplace, and society generally. Once we throw the mental health impact into the mix, and work-related stress is likely to reach staggering levels. Going into 2021, leaders must promote the mental wellbeing and invest into benefits which will bring people together in a different way.
7- HR Revolution Middle East: What final tips would you give to business leaders at the beginning of 2021 with all the apprehensions and fears they have for the new wave of covid-19?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
Technology will continue to dominate the workplace and improve efficiencies. However, the most valuable services in the marketplace will always be done better by humans. In an era defined by crisis, where emotional intelligence, compassion, resilience, and morality may prove more important than ever before, the future of work is human. If business is about humans, the future of work must be too.
One thing to look forward to in 2021 from job and career perspective is slow change. Disruption has already happened. However, more often and less discussed are the small changes occurring each day that eventually add up to huge impacts. The present moment is worthy of your attention.
Q&A with Yasmine Yehia | MEA Employer Branding Manager at Schneider Electric, Life Coach & Consultant
Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi
“To be able to have a strong brand, you need to start from within – you need to have an attractive story to tell so if this is not there, it won’t be the right time for employer branding. I always tell the people I teach employer branding – fix internally first and then you will have something to say externally.”Yasmine yehia
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How would you introduce yourself to the audience?
Yasmine Yehia: I am an Employer Branding expert, a certified life and career coach from the ICF, a public speaker and a certified trainer!
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How do you define Employer Branding in your own words?
Yasmine Yehia: Employer Branding is the art of story-telling, each employer has a story to tell, and this story is very useful for those who are interested in the company. A story about values, a story about culture, a story about care – a story about authenticity and uniqueness.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What does an Employer Branding Manager do?
Yasmine Yehia: An Employer Branding Manager is someone who is an expert in storytelling, someone who is also an expert in the employer strategy and people vision and who is talented in showing what differs the employer from any others in the market.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Employer Branding is one of the new global trends in HR, yet still not implemented in several countries and among many organizations. Why do you think some organizations have concerns regarding implementing Employer Branding as a comprehensive initiative?
Yasmine Yehia: I don’t think it is a matter of a concern at all – I think it is a matter of time and maturity. To be able to have a strong brand, you need to start from within – you need to have an attractive story to tell so if this is not there, it won’t be the right time for employer branding. I always tell the people I teach employer branding – fix internally first and then you will have something to say externally.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How do you measure the ROI of your Employer Branding initiatives?
Yasmine Yehia: Oh God, there are zillions of ways to measure the ROI of our initiatives and campaigns, as sophisticated as a brand awareness analysis to as simple as the quality of CVs we’re receiving for open vacancies. Measuring the pride and engagement of employees, measuring engagements and reach on our employer branding social media posts.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Who are your main stakeholders and partners in the Employer Branding process?
Yasmine Yehia: And like I teach in my workshop – Employer Branding is never an independent function, actually we cannot even function or deliver alone, it is a collaborative work between us, HR and Marcom.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Can you share with us one of the challenges you have faced in your current job and how you overcame it?
Yasmine Yehia: Managing a complex region like MEA is quite tough and I think the deep knowledge of each country in the region was my main challenge – what is it that my target audience in each country look for in an employer? I overcame it with loads of study and education and also with using the help of specialized agencies to provide me with the needed reports.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What pieces of advice would you give to organizations who want to empower their employer brand?
Yasmine Yehia: Be authentic! Start from within and have an authentic story to tell. You will reach the hearts of your target audiences effortlessly.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Jessie (if we may call you with your nickname), we are curious what is the first job you ever had and what is the most valuable lesson you have learnt from it?
Yasmine Yehia: My very first job was an IT Recruiter for fortune 1000 companies in USA – I learned the art of assessing and dealing with people, if there is one thing recruitment has given me, it is the strong people skills!
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You are also a certified Life Coach, how does this help you in your role in HR?
Yasmine Yehia: In both HR and Employer Branding your main customer and target audience is people, right? A life coach listens to so many people, to their issues and struggles, it makes you a people person by heart – it gives you the perfect listening skills and it strengthens the way you interact and communicate with people, and this is exactly what you need as an HRian!
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a Life Coach, what advices do you have to professionals who want to sustain a work-life balance? Do we all need to have a work-life balance?
Yasmine Yehia: YES, we all need a work life balance definitely – you need time for yourself, to recharge, reflect and develop. I’d tell them, make the time for yourself a priority – do not miss it, this time is actually good for your work too because you will always have the right energy to continue. If there is a learning lesson from 2020, it is the importance of our mental health. Have a routine and this routine must include time for yourself!
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a Career Coach, how do you think Covid-19 impacted the employment market?
Yasmine Yehia: Well, from what I see from my clients – so many people are thinking to shift careers post covid-19. Some of them must because they lost their jobs and some of them realized the importance of mental health, so they decided to leave a very stressful career. I think moving forward companies will have to learn to be flexible in their hiring process and start accepting candidates having the right skills for a job rather than a big number of years of experience! It is hiring for talents not years! People also need to be more resilient and smart in using their skills.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Finally, as a Trainer – why do you think personal branding is very important? We know you teach the topic.
Yasmine Yehia: In a world that has gone totally virtual – people need to learn how to build a strong personal brand online, it is how you will smartly use your skills and get paid for it! You no longer have the big chance to meet your recruiters face to face, following the new ways of working, we are heading towards working from home and flexible hours more, your personal brand is the only thing that will differentiate you in the market and open doors for you.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Thank you for your time, would you like to say anything?
Yasmine Yehia: Thank you for having me – I hope I continue inspiring those interested in the employer branding career!
Q&A with Sherihan Elkamash; Researcher at the Center of Strategic Studies, Bibliotheca Alexandrina & Charity Activist
Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi
“I am always trying to not lead members, but inspire them and gain their trust by encouraging my team to work on new projects. I help them make their work plan, and I provide them with some guidance and coaching to finally have a successful deliverable to help impact more people in the community.”Sherihan Elkamash
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Sherihan you are multi-talented and active in building the community in several different ways, one of your main roles is working at the Center of Strategic Studies at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, can you tell us more about your role?
My main work is about making strategic researches. I also, write articles about the recent international political events. One of the main roles for me is to organize virtual discussions to discuss different economic and political subjects. I am always in contact with high profile degenerates in the political arena to make interviews with them to be published. I am also the social media specialist for the center, responsible for managing the official page by managing and posting the news, declare about the new events and conferences for the center.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Across your career you have worked in different careers and gained different experiences. Can you tell us what did you learn from these experiences? And how those skills are helping you at your current role?
I have been working in many fields since a young age I have acquired professional experience in many fields for the past fourteen years; working in NGOs, media, research, translation and communications. These experiences taught me to navigate in different kinds of structures (public/private/international), as well as dealing with the internal dynamics of each organization. In my previous roles, I have demonstrated exceptional ability to manage external stakeholders including senior government officials, high-profile clients, and well-regarded organizations. As a trilingual officer, I can communicate effectively in Arabic, English and French.
Working in all those fields taught me how to work in full power with a great performance, deliver my work in a high quality and always being in time and following the timetable.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You also have your own charity project “El Rahmoun”. Can you tells us more about managing people in a charity structured projects?
Let me first talk about myself when I was a regular member in NGO’s and volunteer projects. I starting volunteering since I was a 13-year-old school student. During those 21 years in charity, I’ve learned many things:
-I learned how to take the initiative to start new projects to help the maximum number of people in need.
-I learned more about contributing to the community and helping solve issues.
-I learned how to deal with all categories in my society, understanding their needs and being helpful to them.
-It is not only about leadership, but I have also been a great “team member”, by coming up with new ideas, working with enthusiasm and integrity.
As a founder or a leader for “El Rahmoun” charity group – like any business structure or project – it depends on the number of volunteers whether they are many or few, based on that we put a strong administration and operations management plan.
I am always trying to not lead “El Rahmoun” members, but inspire them and gain their trust by encouraging my team to work on new projects. I help them make their work plan, and I provide them with some guidance and coaching to finally have a successful deliverable to help impact more people in the community.
There is an interesting difference between a traditional corporate structure and a charity structure. In charity the individual is the one who deicides his/her responsibilities and commitment to the charity work. I cannot obligate them to attend the events or to do their tasks. Which means that I have to be their friend so they love me and maintain a good communication with the youth, meanwhile at the same time I have to be their leader when it comes to the big decisions. And this is the most difficult part. I think after 3 years of continuous work, while our volunteering community is getting bigger… my team and I are doing it well.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How do you define success your own way? And what would be your success tips for youth?
I have learned the perfect strategy to achieve success, it is balance. We all have the desire towards success but those who are working and planning for it are the ones who are reaching their goals in a steady way. We all grew up with big dreams, seeking success in life, but few of us who understood that sustaining the success is the hard part. Balance is the key, youth need to know the importance of balance in their life between their studies, hard work, community service and social life. Youth need to make balance between physical, emotional and spiritual elements, to keep the high performance in everything they do. When we maintain our balance it shortly affects our sense of security and helps us to move forward. The balance in all activities in our days helps us maintain our mental health in order to have healthy minds and lifestyles. Stress is a serious threat to Youth and one should make it a priority to keep the stress away because stress prevents success.
Balance = Success
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: With the development of technology, virtual communication and accessibility to knowledge, do you believe that some jobs are in threat? Can some careers take another form, offer different services and still impact the community?
The whole world is turning digital. The easy access to knowledge and data is the way of living now. Well, the development of technology can never be a threat. It actually helps us and is not a threat to our existence nor to anything created or made by the human being. NEW careers have been created and much more are on their way to glow and have place due to the virtual life. Furthermore, thousands of activities and services are provided through the internet now (website- social media) which also supports entrepreneurs and organizations to easily create new projects.
The Egyptian Government is taking the same track now in most of its governmental institutions. The pandemic helped a lot. It was a red light to hurry and accelerate our path, not only organizations that are turning digital but also individuals are becoming more focused on e-learning and other daily life services and in their lifestyles. I am very optimistic; because of the development of technology, new jobs are opening and great opportunities for youth which is very advantageous, beneficious and profitable to the growth of our great Nation EGYPT and to the rest of the world.
Thank you Sherihan for this interview and for developing and inspiring the community in such a unique way!
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