Connect with us
Subscribe

Interviews

Interview with Founder of Nutellopia ~ Mr. Sherif El Medany

Published

on

INTERVIEWER: MAHMOUD MANSI

EDITED BY: NADA ZEYADA

“Our success is based on our different point of views, which allows us to see the bigger picture and satisfy a larger audience.”

12650302_10154000486302147_1931090743_n

About Nutellopia: “The first Nutella Bar in Alexandria. We serve the most delightful and delicious desserts using only the best topping, Nutella!”

12647924_10154000493382147_1557103176_n

THE INTERVIEW

1-HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Were you inspired or forced to make your own private business? What was your motive behind it when you already have a well-established career?

Sherif El Medany: Well first of all, we can say it was a mix and match between inspired and forced *grins*. I was inspired to do my own project as I always loved the idea of project management and of creating something new, something that would drive my passion and love for business. At the same time, I was forced to make this private business as after working for 3 years in the corporate environment, I was always touched by a quote saying: “If you don’t take risks you will always work for someone who did.”

So my main motive was my passion for making something new, and the challenge of turning a dream into reality.

My well-established career had a major role in helping me develop this business from the expertise I acquired from it.

12650356_10154000490282147_1862611415_n

2- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Did you previous experience in the food industry? How did you learn about this industry before launching Nutellopia?

Sherif El Medany: No, I had no experience in the food industry before, but I always believed in the idea that it’s never too late to learn something new. This belief was inspired from a friend I met in the USA, whom I found working as a car driver in New York. When we got to talk I found out that he was a well-established man who made a fortune from launching a series of restaurants which are still running until today. And when I asked him, “Why are you working on a limo?” He said that he loves to meet new people every day who are inspiring him and whom he had learnt from a lot.

So, my first steps were to start learning about cooking desserts and making a lot of trials. Eventually, most of them ended with a big explosion in the kitchen or a ruined cake *grins*. After this, came the step of mastering our products and designing them which was the responsibility of Aly Fayed, my partner, and whoever visited our store could say that he did a really good job in his task.Our team consisted of 7 partners; each of them was responsible for gathering information about the industry so we can be able to compete properly when first launching the business. It was one hell of a ride but I guess we succeeded in making it happen.

3- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: On what basis did you choose your team of co-founders and investors? What were the criteria?

Sherif El Medany: As I was saying before the team is formed of 7 co-founders each of them had a talent which made the choice really easy.

Aly Fayed: The enthusiastic person who doesn’t eat Nutella, which was really healthy for our business to see things from another perspective, also he helped a lot through his strong contact list and planning skills.

Mohanad El Gohary: The chill out person who is always keen on making decisions slowly but properly.

Doha Mourad: The young lady whom the business needed to add her girly touch. She was still in high school when she partnered with us, but with strong cooking skills, which was a strong added value to our business and a role model for every girl who can chase her dream at a very young age.

Ahmed Dowidar: The designer and branding specialist who made it easy for us to design anything we wanted in the place, starting from the packaging and ending with our visual designs.

Mohamed Samy: The energetic accountant who always had a different theory which most of the time proved to be right.

Karim Hegazy: The sweet talker, who has social skills and different perspective of the business and how to manage it in an easy way. He proved the theory of Bill Gates right: “I’ll always choose a lazy person to do the job because he will always find the easiest way to perform it.”
I guess this sums up how we all got together to make a team.

2222

The Founders & Their Families

4- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: After you created the idea of the project and after you chose the partners, what was your first decision?

Sherif El Medany: Our first decision was to measure how willing we were to sacrifice for the sustainability of the business, and how long we were willing to stand by its side.

So our next decision was that we will work with ourselves until we learn every single thing about the business so we can better remotely manage it when needed. Whoever pays us a visit, will find always one of the founders on his way to greet him or her.

5- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: How did you start the recruitment process from A to Z?

Sherif El Medany: The recruitment process had many factors. The most important ones were the personal skills like the ability to talk with the customers and the technical skills in operating the space. We had a tough training period but it all ended up well. The middle-management recruitment was the hardest, as we needed to make them adapt to the system we were implementing and fill out the gaps that were being made.

We first had to go through a zillion interviews. Our questions were related to the business to assess their skills. We faced a tough situation at first at the opening stage that some of the approved workers did not show up and we had to fill the gaps ourselves, then we went through a filtration process when we had a full staff to reach the ultimate efficiency of the staff employed.

12625665_10154000528022147_116736504_n

6- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: How did you filter the CVs? And what is your criticism regarding the quality of the CVs you received?

Sherif El Medany: Unfortunately many Egyptians do not know how to make a CV, at least the ones we filtered, as we found out hilarious stuff written in them. Many were written unprofessionally that even if the person is well-qualified, the CV is not in their favor. Eventually, we had to ignore the CVs and filter people by actually trying them; like giving them a grace period for a couple of days to prove they are hard workers, that they could add value under a strong supervision, and seeing how they would deal with different situations. If they manage to stay strong, they will get accepted.

7- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: The products of Nutellopia have very special standards. Do you have a Research and Development Department that is responsible for developing your recipes? Or is it the creativity of your chefs?

Sherif El Medany: Yes, we do have some sort of a Research and Development Department which is operated by me and Doha. Our goal is to always improve our products and develop new recipes to continuously innovate and serve new ideas to the audience to keep on the fast pace of the competing market we are in. In addition, we seek to guarantee our leadership of this market that serves products that no one has seen in Egypt before.

12659656_10154000438287147_938012694_n    12665619_10154000502062147_328309783_n12647726_10154000512337147_104987325_n           12647840_10154000526807147_111844712_n

12660221_10154000512512147_188860494_n

8- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: From your point of view, what are the specifications and qualities of a professional chef, and how to test these qualities through an interview?

Sherif El Medany: Our main concern and quality is commitment. As I said before, the kitchen is being operated by the owners to always guarantee the best quality served to the audience. Accordingly, the professional chef, from our point of view, should be able to be creative and flexible enough to adapt to our ongoing development process. This specific quality is easy to detect in the chefs at the interview. Specifically at a flexible place like ours which offers Chocolate Shawerma, which is first of its kind, as well as Magic Jars, Nutella Molten Cake and our exotic breakfast, all of which are new to the market. It is impossible to find someone who knows how to make them by experience.

12626196_10154000471512147_60925069_n

9- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Aside from the obvious success principles of Nutellopia, what are the internal reasons of your success together as a team?

Sherif El Medany: Our success is based on one major thing which is our “differences”. Some other people would say that success comes when they all think alike. From my own point of view, our success is based on our different points of view, which allows us to see the bigger picture and satisfy a larger audience.

Another factor would be the ability of the team to get up after a strong fall, a quality that is hard to find in some other teams.So, passion towards the business would be the perfect answer as we all share the same passion.

10- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Are you outsourcing your social media and marketing campaigns? Why?

Sherif El Medany: The answer would be 50% yes and 50% no. We do outsource with social media agencies but with our ideas. All the partners had previous experience in travelling and following the foreign and exotic ideas, so we try to introduce new marketing ideas to the Egyptian market like giveaways, festivals and professional videos,which are all made by us; specifically, our creative partner Ahmed Dowidar, who also works as a lecturer in the university. So, yes we do outsource, but no we make it our own way to a creative extent.

11- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Does your employer know about your private business? Did this create any conflict? Does this affect you in your career in a positive or negative way?

Sherif El Medany: No, none of the employers know about our private business, but no conflicts were created as all the team is able to provide professional work at both careers without any shortage in performing their tasks.

My own opinion would be that all of us have been affected in a positive way in our careers as we learned a lot from Nutellopia, because not less than 10 years of experience have been provided in this project. Therefore, all the co-founders have a wider view of business now and can both positively affect their career and employer, and can also provide an expansion for Nutellopia.

12- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: In your day job you work as a financial auditor. What is your opinion about HR in Egypt in general from an auditor’s perspective? And what sort of advice would you pass to HR professionals?

Sherif El Medany: My own advice would be that HR in Egypt are so bookish and traditional, most of the recruiters search for qualities in a person and do not think about developing creative minds. They only search for people who are able to perform donkey-work. On the other hand, all of the HR departments in all developed countries search for the creative youth and give them space to create and add value to the organization. Take Google for example and see how they recruit people. You will find out that this is their main reason for success. So my advice is to start giving space to their new hires, and allow them to add values to their organizations, not just teach them simple steps to work in a bookish environment, which is a great hindrance to Egypt’s economy.

12665867_10154000496952147_959952136_n

Sherif El Medany – Cooking

13-HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: In Nutellopia, how do you audit the responsibilities of each of your employees? And how do you audit the quality of your products?

Sherif El Medany: We do have an audit system for each and every function. The idea of an audit is to set up controls to allow people to monitor each other to reach transparency and make it harder for anyone to break the chain or the system. So, for example, we have someone who closes the financial closing at night, then the manager oversees his work and ensures his accuracy, and then my turn comes to compare this data with the system that we use and do my analytics along with the inventory count to ensure that the data I got was reliable. So, this control could help the financial process be more firm and strict. For Aly, he does a product count on a daily basis and then sends me his data from a separate point of view, which I then compare to the system to ensure that accuracy was obtained. So overseeing and audit could always help a system to improve the controls and facilitate the work done, and to efficiently manage your resources without wasting any of them.

12647996_10154000501697147_1326749892_n

14- HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: If someone from the readers is willing to start their own business. What would be your advice for them?

Sherif El Medany: “If you do not take risks you will always work for someone who did.”

But actually it’s not only about risk. There are several factors that I would like to advise people about:

1- Always be different. People who imitate are not authentic.

2- Do the opposite of everything you hate about your job. For example, if you are tightened to certain working hours, try to give your employees a flexible working environment. You will find out that they will work harder, smarter and more efficiently.

3- Be nice to your employees. Treat them like team members and always use their ideas and also appreciation is always the key.

4- Be a smart planner, and even a smarter implementer.

5- Serve people in the best way you would like to be served. This is the key to success, so you have to work yourself in your business until you are able to make all your team with the same professionalism.

6- Always start a business with a team, not alone. Your team will always have diversified opinions, which is always healthy to the business.

7- Be creative.

8- Do not forget number 7.

9- Be a risk-taker.

10- Always keep on training, improving your skills, your team, and your employees.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Mr. Sherif, thank you for being so generous with us in the interview. I am sure the readers will have a lot to learn from Nutellopia as a one of a kind case-study.

FullSizeRender(1)

Photography: Mahmoud Mansi

logo

Find Nutellopia on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/NutellopiaEgypt/?fref=ts

Interviews

Interview with Keith F Watson -Online Tutor ICS Learn

Published

on

“We feature our student success stories in our monthly Student Newsletter, as we know this inspires learners to keep going with their studies, as well as showing them how other students overcame the challenges they faced” Keith F Watson – ICS Learn

INTERVIEWERS: MARIHAM MAGDY & MAHMOUD MANSI

The Interviewee: Keith F Watson, LL.M, Chartered FCIPD, FCMI, FLPI, FITOL

Job Title: Owner 360 HR Solutions and Online Tutor ICS Learn

Keith’s qualifications include LL.M (Employment Law and Practice) and CIPD. A tutor since 2007, Keith worked in the financial services sector from 2006 in a variety of senior HR roles before setting up his consultancy in 2016. He’s actively involved with the CIPD in various capacities, including being a past branch chair, member of Council and a voluntary membership assessor. He is currently a member of the Professional Standards Panel (Chair) and a member of the Qualifications Advisory Group, as well as a member of the Employment Tribunal. Keith is also an Equality Act Assessor in the Sheriff Courts.

1-HR Revolution Middle East: The CIPD has become one of the most important certifications in the HR and the L&D field. Would you please explain to our readers the scientific value of the CIPD Certification, as well as its impact on the professional career progression in those fields?

ICS Learn: HR is an art underpinned by science, and the CIPD qualification benefits individuals and organisations by going beyond the technical aspects of people management and development. 

Whilst the qualification requires a robust technical knowledge across a range of topics, the real strength lies in the requirement to adapt that knowledge to the business environment and become a critical thinker who can devise best-fit solutions.

There is no doubt that the increasing requirement by organisations for their HR teams to have CIPD qualifications is due to those already with these qualifications having demonstrated the effective application of their technical knowledge in the workplace, rather than taking answers from a book and trying to make them fit situations where they simply don’t work


2- HR Revolution Middle East: From your experience, what are the most recurring challenges do learners have in completing their CIPD studies? What recommendations would you give them to help facilitate their time management for study?

ICS Learn: One of the most reoccurring challenges is time management. New learners – especially those studying part-time – do sometimes underestimate the time commitment in undertaking a professional qualification. Whilst we generally recognise the time necessary for classroom attendance, be it in-person or virtually, we often forget about the additional time required for self-study, research, and assignments – all of which are critical to our success.

There are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and even in lockdown, there are very few people claiming to have a lot of free time. Therefore, we must decide (ideally in advance) what activities we are going to put aside for the duration of our studies.

We all have different approaches to learning, so it’s important to free up the time when we’re going to be most effective, be that early in the morning, lunchtime, evening or later at night. Some people study better in short bursts, whereas others prefer to set aside a specific day at the weekend. There is no right or wrong way to study, it’s simply a question of when works best for you.  

Another reoccurring challenge for students looking to complete their CIPD qualification is understanding the question set. Whilst it is never the intention of an examiner to confuse a student with a question, it does sometimes happen. For example, it’s often said that businesses working in English are divided by a common language and HR practice is no different. An SME, for instance, can be a “small medium enterprise” or a “subject matter expert”. To avoid confusion, the first step is to read the question not once, not twice but at least three times to understand what has been written. If there is the slightest doubt as to what is being asked, seek clarification from your tutor.

3- HR Revolution Middle East:  To what extent do you believe that the body of knowledge of the CIPD Certifications can be applied to practical work in different countries?

ICS Learn: Whilst the legal aspects of the CIPD qualification are based on UK law, most CIPD qualifications are very general so that they can be applied internationally. Being that culture varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the core elements of HR practice remain the same in that we help support organisations in achieving their objectives through good people management and development practices.

The breadth of learning is a distinct advantage in all jurisdictions, as is knowing about practice and regulations in other jurisdictions. Given that laws and regulations vary over time, being able to identify and apply relevant regulations in an assignment is a valuable skill to have regardless of whether the same regulations apply in the countries we support. I have often joked that if I was ever to become an employee again, I would wish my contract to be based on Indonesian law as in that jurisdiction employees must agree to their dismissal!  

4- HR Revolution Middle East: As an Instructor, how did your journey with ICS start? What makes you most passionate about this role?

ICS Learn: I started my journey with ICS Learn more than 20 years ago as a CIPD student at which time, in addition to assignments, each module was tested by exam. Around 14 years ago, I received an email from one of my former ICS Learn tutors asking if I would be interested in attending an Advanced Employment Law workshop she was running as she was looking to retire from these workshops and she had been asked to look for a potential successor. Having literally that weekend just finished my dissertation for my master’s degree in Employment Law, for the first time in years I had a “free” weekend.

As I always enjoyed such workshops I readily agreed to attend. However, on arrival, I received a message that the tutor was unfortunately unable to attend and I was instead asked to run the workshop! Perhaps it was being thrown in at the deep end with no time to worry about anything, but the workshop was a great success with all the attendees passing their Employment Law exam a few months later and my having fully acquired the tutoring bug.

Over the years much has changed, and I have had the pleasure of running training sessions and workshops on a variety of CIPD and non-CIPD topics both virtually and in numerous countries including Singapore, India, Sudan, Nigeria, and of course in the Middle East both in UAE and KSA.

Whilst HR and the world has evolved, facilitating learning in others whilst learning from students and their personal workplace experiences is as inspiring and exciting today as it was 14 years ago.

5- HR Revolution Middle East: As a learner how did the CIPD qualification change your life?

ICS Learn: Without a doubt, gaining a CIPD qualification has been life-changing and has allowed me to have not only a successful career in HR within financial services but to successfully run my consultancy for the last 5 years. I must admit that being able to work internationally in so many different regions has been a distinct bonus and certainly embeds the learning that no matter what we do in HR there is always more than one way of doing it.

6- HR Revolution Middle East: What special tips would you share with professionals unable to choose the appropriate CIPD Certification Level for them? How does ICS Learn help learners in taking this step?

ICS Learn: Our advice would always be to chat to our CIPD Course Advisors, whether that be through our website, email, or on the phone. Their job is to talk through your experience, ambitions, and previous education to make sure that you choose the right CIPD course for you.

7- HR Revolution Middle East: What are the most common challenges CIPD students face? What pieces of advice do you have for them?

ICS Learn: As detailed in question 2, the most common challenge is time. We must be willing to accept that in taking on a new challenge we must set aside some of our current activities. Short term pain for long term gain!

8- HR Revolution Middle East: What should be the “competencies” of a CIPD student in order to excel and accomplish the degree?

ICS Learn: Self-discipline, commitment, curiosity, an open mindset, and of course an ability to understand and write in business English 

9- HR Revolution Middle East: ICS Learn cares to publish students’ success stories with different certifications and how they got opportunities to progress substantially in their careers. How often do you refer to those stories to encourage reluctant learners to finish their studies?

ICS Learn: We feature our student success stories in our monthly Student Newsletter, as we know this inspires learners to keep going with their studies, as well as showing them how other students overcame the challenges they faced. It’s a great way for students to learn from each other!

THANK YOU

Continue Reading

Corporate

Interview with Mr. Vijay Gandhi, Regional Director of Korn Ferry Digital

Published

on

“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?

Mr. Vijay Gandhi:

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. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. Certain roles in healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality sectors cannot work remotely, and fantastic efforts have been made to make the workplace safe.
  4. 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:
    1. Negotiating important contracts (82%)
    2. Interviewing senior staff for key positions (81%)
    3. 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.

Reforms

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.

Empathy

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.

Balancing wellness

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.

THANK YOU

Continue Reading

Interviews

Interview with Meiraj Hussain, Head of Corporate Support & Group HR at Al Masaood

Published

on

Interviewer: Mariham Magdy

“An open and progressive business organizational culture is described as having a healthy work environment where employees feel valued and are recognized as fundamental to the success of an organization” Meiraj Hussain

Brief Biography about the Interviewee:

Meiraj Hussain, Head of Corporate Support and Group HR
Meiraj Hussain joined Al Masaood as Group Head of Human Resources in 2017, bringing over 20 years of professional experience as HR Leader across multiple industries such as Automotive, FMCG, Manufacturing, IT, Services, Real Estate, and Trading. Prior to joining Al Masaood, Meiraj has managed the Human Resources function in both multinational corporations and family-owned businesses across UK, Europe, and the Middle East.
In his current role, Meiraj places great emphasis on talent management, employee-experience, high-performance culture, and leadership excellence development. He is an advocate of building a progressive work culture where trust is the backbone of relationships and creating a workplace wherein employee empowerment and engagement plays a crucial role. Meiraj strongly believes in the digitization of systems and processes, thus, leading to better business results. Moreover, Meiraj has played an extensive role in the Emiratization initiative with the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratization (MoHRE) to ensure top-tier UAE Nationals are recruited and retained within Al Masaood, consequently resulting Al Masaood to become a proud Platinum Partner with MoHRE.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Meiraj welcome to HR Revolution Middle East, we are so happy to make this interview with you. You have extensive experience in different industries such as automotive, FMCG, manufacturing, IT, services, real estate, and trading in both multinational corporations and family-owned businesses across the UK, Europe, and the Middle East. How does HRM differ according to the industry, and also according to the business type (multinational corporations and family-owned businesses)?

Meiraj Hussain: Across industries, Human Resources Management (HRM) is a critical part of business operations that focuses on unleashing the people’s best potentials and building a work culture where employees can truly flourish. From process improvement and employee experience enhancement to talent management and performance, HR professionals, as a success partner and enabler, play a diverse role in any organization regardless of business type.

The difference, however, lies in organizational culture. While multinationals have robust policies and processes in place, local family-owned companies are often more agile and faster in implementing the best practices.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Meiraj, I loved so much this statement in your bio: “He is an advocate of building progressive work culture.” How can we build a “progressive work culture?” What advice would you share with other HR professionals about that?

Meiraj Hussain: An open and progressive business organizational culture is described as having a healthy work environment where employees feel valued and are recognized as fundamental to the success of an organization. All workers have so much to offer and contribute, but, oftentimes, they are constrained by internal dynamics, poor leadership, and weak policies designed to create “carbon copies” instead of celebrating and unleashing individual ideas and potentials. Another equally important feature of progressive work culture is employee engagement. As humans, we can easily lose our motivation, which translates to poor performance and low productivity in the workplace. In such a case, HR professionals can steer the employees back to the path of motivation and engagement by taking quick and corrective actions that effectively address employee sentiments and issues.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Digital disruption is one of the most important challenges facing organizations nowadays. To what extent shall organizations shift to the digitization of work processes? How would this lead to better business results? What considerations shall they take in this transformation process?

Meiraj Hussain: At this age and time, digitalization is considered a business enabler. It is for this reason that businesses should consider transforming through automation their time-consuming and mundane processes. By freeing their employees from doing repetitive tasks, they can shift their attention to business-critical tasks such as in the areas enhancing customer experience and driving revenue. For the HR department, the staff can focus their time on core areas of performance, leadership, employee development and people support.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Employee engagement is always an important topic among HR leaders worldwide. Would you share with us how Al Masaood can use its strategy as a tool to empower the employees and engage them in its success journey?

Meiraj Hussain: Communication is the backbone of employee empowerment and engagement. As such, we consider it important to know the sentiments of our employees so that the management can act and address them accordingly. We measure employee sentiments through surveys regularly conducted at the business unit and corporate support levels. Additionally, through the joint efforts of the HR department and the Marketing and Communications office, Al Masaood’s strategy, organizational viewpoints and milestones, and challenges are communicated to the employees across departments to provide clarity about their role and impact on the organization’s success under the guidance of their respective managers and leaders.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Meiraj, you played an extensive role in the Emiratization initiative of the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratization (MOHRE). Can you walk us through the Emiratization initiatives Al Masaood has recently taken?

Meiraj Hussain: In response to the directives of the country’s wise leaders and as per the decision of its Board of Directors, Al Masaood has fully expressed its strong support for the Emiratization initiative. More and more Emiratis continue to join our employees of different nationalities. Al Masaood’s Emiratisation program comprises four main pillars: the Internship program, the Functional Training program, the Scholarship Program, and Job opportunities; which all aim to enhance the skills of university students, fresh graduates, and experienced Emiratis, and equip them with the required competencies across business units and corporate support departments. Our Emiratization journey has begun two years ago, starting with offering UAE nationals internship opportunities and training programs. We have also ramped up our recruitment drives in universities as well as formed partnerships with vocational institutes such as Abu Dhabi Vocational Education and Training Institute (ADVETI) to advance the employment of Emirati youth. The UAE Government’s measure to close the salary gap between the public and private sectors is a major boost to our Emiratization efforts as well. In recognition of the intensified Emiratization initiatives across the Al Masaood Group, we have achieved the Platinum Partner status given by the MoHRE. Rest assured that we will continue to recruit local talents, invest in their skills development, and provide them with opportunities for growth in a progressive and fast-paced work environment.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Meiraj, you wrote a series of very interesting articles, posted on your LinkedIn profile. One of the controversial articles you wrote is “The Inglorious 6 – HR Types to Avoid.” What made you write this article? What important traits shall HR professionals have, on the contrary, from your point of view?

Meiraj Hussain: “The Inglorious- 6” article went viral and I received comments and feedback from global HR thought leaders. The article uses humor to identify some of the common pitfalls HR leaders should avoid.

HR, as a profession, is going through an identity crisis and, unfortunately, many professionals may not make it through in the course of this transformation. HR is an art and it’s understood through practice; HR is learned through doing and mentorship. Further, there is an unclaimed territory in organizations that other corporate support functions are not addressing. This territory can be claimed by HR.

But the biggest enemy facing HR today is mediocrity. It could be mediocrity of people, leadership or processes, which, in turn, leads to the mediocrity of performance and business results. Leaders need to determine the high standards that their respective organizations should adhere to for them to compete successfully in their markets. This is because consumers are now less and less forgiving of companies that deliver average value in terms of experience and engagement.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Finally, what should be the focus of HR initiatives in organizations nowadays?

Meiraj Hussain: HR initiatives should be in sync with the company’s overall growth strategy. Once this is clear, the implementation plan can be developed. The initiatives can cover talent and leadership; training and development; processes and technology; performance; culture; and talent acquisition and management, among others. The major consideration in executing these initiatives is to identify how they support the leadership in its efforts to attain the vision of the organization. It is important to note as well that HR acts as the voice of reason with leaders. It should be able to challenge management decisions and resolve conflict for the good of all. Moreover, HR is the voice against the hidden enemy of mediocrity.

Continue Reading

HRCI

HRCI

Recent Posts

Articles2 days ago

Wellbeing @ Work Summit Middle East 2021 – where balance, resilience and authenticity break the Mental Health Stigma

Written by: Cinzia Nitti Globally, 2020 has been a year like no other. Coronavirus pandemic caused a massive business disruption;...

Articles3 weeks ago

The Wellbeing @ Work virtual Summit Middle East returns for its 5th annual event on 22-24 February 2021

The summit provides an innovative and experiential virtual learning opportunity for our audience of CEOs, benefit and reward business leaders...

Interviews3 weeks ago

Interview with Keith F Watson -Online Tutor ICS Learn

“We feature our student success stories in our monthly Student Newsletter, as we know this inspires learners to keep going...

Press Releases4 weeks ago

Gulf Sustainability Awards are open for entries

HR Revolution Middle East has been announced as an official media partner of the 2021 Gulf Sustainability Awards. Taking place...

Interviews4 weeks ago

Interview with Mohamed Faisal Al-Nizami, Country Manager at Mercer Egypt

“Nowadays, Reward in specific is one of the hottest topics that keeps execs busy, in a world that is shifting...

Interviews2 months ago

Interview with Dr. Sanjay Batheja, the Co-Founder and Director of Capital University College

“Capital University College believes in fostering young talent by giving students an international perspective and ideology to the industry. With...

Interviews2 months ago

Interview with Mr. Ishaq Ameen Alkooheji, Founder & Senior Consultant at IMA Consultancy

“The ROI methodology can be used for not only measuring the impact and ROI, but also for planning for better...

Magazine2 months ago

WELLBEING @ WORK SUMMIT 22-24 FEBRUARY 2021 MIDDLE EAST

Now is the time to make wellbeing & mental health at work a strategic priority The fifth annual Wellbeing @...

Corporate2 months ago

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...

Magazine2 months ago

DECODING FUTURE HR: Global 24 hour virtual event | 19 and 20 January 2021

DECODING FUTURE HR: Today’s challenges are tomorrow’s trends and opportunities Global 24 hour virtual event | 19 and 20 January...

ICS Learn

ICS Learn

Categories

Trending

Hrrevolution News

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter below and never miss the latest News.