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Interview with Mr. Raj Kumar Paramanathan Managing Partner CnetG Asia



Interviewer: Mariham Magdy

“Recruitment is not about ticking the boxes… It is an art.”

Raj Kumar Paramanathan

Brief Biography about the Interviewee:

He believes diversity is paramount for the success of businesses today, and insists that reverse mentoring can help industries create a new set of leaders.

Meet Raj Kumar Paramanathan – the co-founder and Managing Partner of CnetG Asia, a boutique executive search firm with offices in Malaysia and Thailand, and a member firm of IRC Global Executive Search Partners – one of the world’s largest alliances of owner-run executive search firms.

Raj specializes in C-suite and board appointments in the energy and industrial sector, while his firm has expertise in pharmaceutical, consumer goods, insurance, investment banking, private equity, agriculture and chemicals.

He is an advocate of diversity, and is convinced that only diverse workforces will bring about different perspectives and experiences to enhance business performance and profitability.

As an active member of 30% Club – that works at achieving 30% representation of women on public-listed boards in Malaysia – and as a founding member of Malaysia Women in Energy, Raj has helped develop various best practices to attract, retain, and nurture women leaders in the energy sector.

In an interview by Mariham Magdy, Raj shares his views on the future of leadership and recruitment. Read on for more…

1- HR Revolution Middle East: “Welcome Mr. Raj, it is our pleasure to make this interview with you. Let me congratulate you first for the amazing speech you made at HRTAC19_Kuala Lumpur. I am keen that you would share with our readers, one of the amazing ideas you have addressed during your speech, which is the “Reverse Mentoring”. Please share with them more about it, and how can we apply such amazing technique?

Raj Kumar:  

The business world is evolving at a fast pace, as new business models get introduced to cater to diverse consumer segments and incorporate latest technologies. Thus, leaders need to constantly update their knowledge and skills to navigate rapid change.

Reverse mentoring is one way to help senior executives come up to speed, and get comfortable with changes in technology. Working in tandem with young executives will give them new insights on business and marketing strategy, product development, adoption of tech, as well as ways to strengthen talent attraction and retention.

At the start, reverse mentoring can be implemented in an informal setting. But, as it evolves, a formal system can be adopted. It can be initiated by the CEO first, who is the focal point of business transformation. He can hire one or two interns, or ask bright executives to report to him directly…

This process will be mutually beneficial – the CEO will understand the minds and needs of the younger consumer generation, while the interns or executives will get direct access to high-level strategy building and execution.

As the practice evolves, the organization can then chart clear expectations, communication tools, and performance measurement systems to aid the process.

2- HR Revolution Middle East: “Mr. Raj, you are currently a Board Member of IRC Institute, a thought leadership body that focuses on intercultural management. Would you please share with our readers more about the IRC role & activities?”

IRC, or IRC Global Executive Search Partners, is currently the world’s largest alliance of owner-run executive search firms. We help boards and CEOs hire exceptional senior talent across sectors. Our global presence offers clients seamless support wherever they are located. Our partners, who are independent owners of the firms, work with a long-term perspective with clients, to preserve our reputation and credibility.

Our global presence also helps the convergence of deep market knowledge with leadership expertise. Here, IRC Institute, a thought leadership platform within IRC, aims to empower boards and leadership teams with global insights on leadership and cross-cultural management.

This means our client in Finland can make well-informed decisions when they set up operations in Jakarta, because of the local market knowledge and talent landscape they gain through our network. Likewise, our client in the United States can tap into our partner office in UAE, if their leader decides to relocate to the UAE, or if they wish to hire locally.

3- HR Revolution Middle East: One of the statements that actually captured my attention while reading your Bio is “I enjoy leading executive round-tables in the area of Diversity under CnetG Asia” Would you share with us about your diversity round-tables? How is it organized and what is the outcome of these round-tables?

Raj Kumar:

Diversity is our differentiation. Asia is a large continent, rich with diverse ethnic groups, cultures and rituals. Thus, understanding cultural nuances is a key skill for leaders managing a diverse workforce.

There has also been a greater focus to attract, retain, and develop women leaders. Because, companies have begun to feel the need for greater diversity of thought and experience, better control and governance, and a more sustainable leadership pipeline.

Our diversity round-tables invite CEOs and CHROs to exchange best practices and insight on diversity in leadership and business transformation. To attract top-notch leaders, we conceptualise compelling topics and build frameworks for discussion. CEOs commit at least three hours of their busy day for the round-tables, and hence I invite them personally.

So far we’ve seen a great response… Delegates leave with valuable insights that emerge from the discussions. They come here to learn and share, and leverage the power of the network.

4- HR Revolution Middle East: Mr. Raj, you have written a number of very interesting articles on LinkedIn, which I really enjoyed reading so much. They are really full of very valuable insights for different seniority level. Let me ask you, what triggers you to write such articles? And how much do you believe that professionals shall really dedicate special time for writing?

Raj Kumar:

Today’s leaders can definitely not ignore the power of social media. Social media platforms are an opportunity to share our knowledge with a global audience.

The best leaders embrace social media as a tool to develop themselves, whereas the astute leaders go a step further, and build a personal brand to translate their passion, belief and knowledge, to their following on social media… That is also what I do.

As I constantly learn from various leadership voices on social media, I contribute back with the domain knowledge and cultural insights I have gather from my sector… Most of my topics are on diversity and leadership, as I’m curious and observant about different cultures, people, behaviors, and leadership styles.

So, I keep my eyes wide open… You have to be present and tuned in with situations, or stay focused and curious in conversations to gain more insight. Thus, I ask questions and listen, and then get more ideas. I also get ideas at the gym, during candidate interviews, or at breakfast meets with clients.

I think I have an innate ability to creatively link situations to specific theories or business tips, and “join the dots.”

I believe writing is a great way to influence and inspire action. Thus, every leader should write and share their valuable thoughts and insights. Moreover, it is not as daunting as it seems… You will be surprised how easy it is when you decide to put pen to paper, and simply flow with your thoughts.

As different brushes create different strokes, each person will eventually create a unique style, and also build his/her own audience or following as a result of it.

5- HR Revolution Middle East: “One of the most amazing initiatives you have worked on Mr. Raj is “Building Women Executive Pipeline”, how is it difficult? And what are the benefits you believe in for such initiative?

Raj kumar:

Businesses are constantly evolving, and hence there is always a thirst for good talent. The female talent pool is largely unexplored, and this gives businesses a whole new set of opportunities to tap into.

We have noticed that female executives bring significant improvement to businesses. They bring diverse perspectives to issues, take on different approaches to challenges, and harness relationships and trust much better. Recently, a board member from among our clients, asked the Chief HR Officer to hire more female executives into the leadership team, as they saw the benefits of diversity in the organizations.

For significant change to happen, we need to lead by example. In all our search assignments, we deliver a diverse long-list and shortlist of women candidates. But an unconscious bias is inherent in the recruitment process… Interviewers gravitate towards those with a similar background as theirs, whether it’s the way they think, ideas they share, common university, company they’ve worked for, similar gender, or ethnicity.

Unconscious biases result in decisions that are beyond rationality and logic, and consequently pose a potential risk to businesses. Thus, we engage in healthy discussions with the board or CEOs after each interview, and, if we spot an unconscious bias, we try to counter it with reason.

We have learned that interviewers expect more proof of performance from female candidates than from men. Also, female candidates tend to undersell their achievements. Moreover, they are more sensitive to masculine traits in job descriptions, and thus resist from taking on such roles.

6- HR Revolution Middle East: “As a founder for CnetG Asia, would you share with us what challenges do you usually encounter in your executive search? How is it difficult to find the most appropriate talents that can fit in different Organizational environments? I am sure you exert a lot of efforts in the background.

Raj Kumar:

You need a strong differentiation to thrive in an industry facing many challenges. Being owner-run, we work on a long-term perspective with clients. As thought leaders in diversity and leadership, our candidates have succeeded in making quicker and clearer contributions to the business. We have also been able to understand our clients’ needs and assess candidates with greater accuracy.

The levels of services provided 10 years ago are not sufficient to compete today. Clients and candidates constantly demand more. So, we add leadership and market insight to our services, to help our clients make well-informed decisions.

Clients come to us with hard-to-fill positions that require deep experience and insights, in order to find the best talent possible for the requirement. It’s not about just finding CVs; it is about conducting accurate market and talent mapping, and attracting passive candidates with a well-crafted role profile and brand proposition.

Passive candidates seek roles where they can create a greater impact. They want to work with leaders who are inspiring and qualified, committed and dedicated. Alignment with the brand proposition is secondary nowadays, as opposed to earlier days when the best brands attracted the best talent.

Only when you understand these dynamics well, can you seek and attract the best talent for each role.

7- HR Revolution Middle East: What valuable tips would you share with recruitment professionals from your experience?

Raj Kumar:

Humanization of the recruitment process is key to attracting good talent for an organization. While technology has eased operations, and increased the speed of recruitment, it has also created a barrier between prospective talents and organizations.

Hiring is successful when talent has the right culture and environment to perform in. Hence, we need to engage with them – beyond emails – to understand their aspirations, values and behaviors, and match them against the organization’s needs, culture and environment… This enables you to hire the best talent for the role, who will contribute quickly to the organization.

Recruitment professionals should invest time in learning about behavioral psychology and organizational culture. You should take pride and be accountable for the talent you bring in. If they do well, it means you did a fantastic job!

Recruitment is not about ticking the boxes… It is an art. It is not about how many people you have hired into the organization, but how successful they have become two years down the road… If you master the art of recruitment, you will create great masterpieces of talent.

8- HR Revolution Middle East: Mr. Raj, I really like so much the way you express your passion for “Diversity”, what piece of advice would you share with Organizational Leaders to encourage them to boost diversity within? How can diversity open new doors for any business?

Raj Kumar:

Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is how you make the mix work. Diversity is being invited to a party, while inclusion is being invited to dance at the party. Unconscious biases result in only the host and a few good friends enjoying the dance, while the rest feel excluded.

When there is no diversity in a team, there is a tendency for group-think. People are more comfortable when they are surrounded by people who think like them. They will gravitate towards conforming to common decisions. They will refrain from challenging their thoughts or ideas.

There are other forms of diversity besides gender, like age, ethnicity, educational background or industry experience, that result in diversity of ideas and perspectives. Inclusive workplaces, allow everyone to feel confident, valued, and safe in the workplace.

Leaders should encourage voices to be heard at meetings. Team members who are introverts may have more valuable views, but may not speak up due to lack of courage and confidence. You must encourage them to speak in meetings, or walk up to them at an appropriate time and ask for their opinions. Give them the space to feel comfortable and confident that their views are valuable.

Leaders should also step back from making quick judgments, and instead understand each team member with sensitivity and curiosity. This exercise will help you extract the best from them. Once you experience the benefits, slowly increase diversity in both gender and others.

9- HR Revolution Middle East:  Finally, I would love to ask you to share with us one of your success stories that can actually inspire actions in our readers, as you always aim through your speeches.

Raj Kumar:

I once coached a female executive of the Lean in Career Program. By the fourth month of our sessions, she had scaled up her career, acquired new leadership skills, and gained support and trust at home with her husband and family. She initially struggled at presentations, but was eventually selected to lead a presentation to a global team for the launch of a new drug.

As for advice to aspiring leaders, I would say:

1) Be authentic and comfortable in your skin.
2) Build tribes at work and outside. Meet up with different circles of friends to learn and grow quicker.
3) Be a life-long student, and stay curious. You can do this by reading a book a month, an article each day, or joining industry networks that add to your knowledge.
4) Have a sponsor and mentor to boost your career progression.


Civil Work

Q&A with Sherihan Elkamash; Researcher at the Center of Strategic Studies, Bibliotheca Alexandrina & Charity Activist



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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HR Revolution: Ciao Fabio, grazie per aver accettato la nostra intervista e per quanto vorrai condividere con noi. Cominciamo: chi è Fabio De Lucia?

Fabio De Lucia: Ciao e grazie per questa intervista. Sono nato il 21 marzo del 1986 e il percorso accademico mi ha qualificato come perito commerciale con il massimo dei voti. Dopo la maturità e coerentemente con il mio approccio pratico alla vita, trovavo inefficace continuare a studiare per qualcosa di “non-tangibile”, quindi sono partito per Parigi e una volta rientrato, ho trovato impiego presso un’agenzia viaggi nel 2005. Ho iniziato a interessarmi a piani di sviluppo per implementare e migliorare i prodotti offerti. Credevo in quello che facevo ma, non trovando riscontro positivo da parte del mio titolare, ho rassegnato le dimissioni. All’epoca conoscevo già il mio caro amico e colui che sarebbe diventato il mio socio, Andrea (Dettole), il quale lavorava nel settore utilities nel nord Italia. Unendo le nostre conoscenze e competenze, nel 2008 abbiamo avviato Sundera, azienda di vendita servizi Business To Business (o B2B) e assistenza nel campo delle utilities: mi occupavo principalmente dei piani di sviluppo commerciale.

HR Revolution: Come nasce la web agency Deraweb e quale la sua mission?

Fabio De Lucia: Dall’esperienza positiva pregressa, nel 2016 abbiamo deciso di fondare con Andrea la società di marketing digitale Deraweb, brand partner della primogenita Sundera. L’impreparazione dei titolari di partita IVA in fatto di marketing e digitalizzazione dei prodotti aziendali – riscontrata a livello nazionale – è stato il fattore chiave che ha dato vita a Deraweb. La nostra azienda ha l’obiettivo di fornire strumenti efficaci per lo sviluppo aziendale in prospettiva di promozione digitale. In quattro anni il nostro pacchetto clienti è cresciuto in tutta Italia e su piano internazionale, acquisendo 600 clienti e con proiezione di raggiungere quota mille entro fine anno. La famiglia Deraweb conta oggi 15 dipendenti e 20 consulenti.

HR Revolution: Le Risorse Umane sono le componenti-chiave per il successo imprenditoriale. Il COVID-19 ha inevitabilmente imposto un cambiamento degli equilibri nella gestione aziendale. Come avete affrontato la sfida in fatto di nuovi assetti, ripianificazione e gestione del personale?

Fabio De Lucia: Il nostro metodo operativo prevede la maggior parte del lavoro da remoto. Gli strumenti digitali dunque, si sono confermati lo strumento indispensabile nel nostro lavoro; la pandemia è stata un elemento positivo in fatto di consolidamento di Deraweb. Si è trattato di un periodo di transizione per tutti. Nonostante uno stop forzato per alcuni e il crollo degli incassi nel mese di marzo, i nostri dipendenti si sono messi a completa disposizione dell’azienda, dei clienti, contribuendo in modo non indifferente alla buona riuscita degli intenti. Ci sono stati tutti vicini. Sono stati bravi e vanno tutti elogiati per questo.

HR Revolution: Cultura Digitale Aziendale: la risoluzione di problemi attraverso l’utilizzo di strumenti digitali si è rivelata un elemento vincente nella gestione del pacchetto-clienti durante la crisi pandemica?

Fabio De Lucia: Da titolari di azienda, nel supporto ai clienti e per una gestione ottimale dei servizi offerti, abbiamo deciso di operare in modo differente rispetto ai concorrenti. Abbiamo fornito gli strumenti necessari alla “sopravvivenza pandemica” con metodo studiato e mirato, soprattutto gratuito. In che modo? Creando manuali, guide strategiche “BUSINESS WORKOUT”, webinar e consulenze gratuite a disposizione dei clienti per evitare il fenomeno dell’inazione. Non a caso, il feedback è stato assolutamente positivo: abbiamo rafforzato il rapporto di reciprocità e fiducia con i nostri clienti, premiando inoltre coloro i quali hanno rispettato le scadenze in un periodo tanto complesso, fornendo un’estensione gratuita di un mese del servizio. Quest’approccio ci ha permesso di registrare risultati esponenzialmente più alti nel nostro ambito, a dispetto delle previsioni che la condizione economica generale avrebbe imposto.

HR Revolution: Spesso si pone l’accento sulla fidelizzazione del cliente, sottovalutando che la riuscita di un progetto o l’acquisizione di un contratto, derivi da un’ottima commistione di professionalità ed energie di un gruppo omogeneo e coeso. Dicci di più del tuo team. Sono importanti la Diversità e l’Inclusione in Deraweb e perché?

Fabio De Lucia: Assolutamente sì, per noi Diversità e Inclusione sono importanti. E rendono Deraweb un ambiente stimolante: il clima aziendale assume il giusto equilibrio tra competenze, rispetto delle qualità di ognuno e dimensione umana. Abbiamo messo in atto un modello di leadership che ispira gli altri e invoglia a migliorarsi. Dal consulente commerciale al servizio clienti, ai tecnici grafici, addetti marketing, comunicazione e social media, l’elemento della formazione continua inoltre, ha permesso di stabilire la gestione dei progetti in cui, senza più necessità di definizione esplicita, ogni membro del gruppo conosce esattamente il suo ruolo all’interno del processo. 

C’è fiducia e stima reciproca, spirito di sacrificio e altrettanta collaborazione. Da parte nostra c’è attenzione alle proposte di ognuno. Il mio lavoro mi ha dato modo di visitare tante aziende e conoscere altre realtà, ma qui da noi c’è un clima diverso, un clima che piace e che permette di lavorare secondo un equilibrio che dimostra quanto i nostri ragazzi siano “allineati”: in Deraweb proprio non riesce ad arrivare qualcuno che non abbia i nostri stessi valori.

HR Revolution: La Parità di Genere è un obiettivo di rilievo in una realtà aziendale. Definiresti l’equilibrio di genere parte integrante del vostro successo?

Fabio De Lucia: Sì, le donne nella nostra azienda sono un valore aggiunto e particolarmente apprezzate. Hanno un approccio naturalmente diverso all’ascolto del cliente e alla gestione di una richiesta. Sempre attente ai dettagli, precise, sicuramente meno impulsive in fatto creativo rispetto agli uomini. È una scelta aziendale mirata, quella di impostare gruppi di lavoro misti: sono la sintesi perfetta che genera stabilità. In Italia si parla troppo poco di Parità di Genere sul posto di lavoro, noi invece siamo ben felici di dare possibilità di crescita e carriera alle nostre dipendenti, mamme incluse! Sono tutte ben accolte, troviamo che siano una risorsa irrinunciabile e grande indice di maturità nel nostro team. Da sempre puntiamo su piani di sviluppo aziendale assolutamente paritari; la famiglia Deraweb è un gruppo eterogeneo che ha fatto anche di questo equilibrio un punto di forza. 

Grazie Fabio per averci aperto le porte di Deraweb e condiviso con HR Revolution Middle East, l’esempio positivo di una realtà aziendale solida che ha fatto delle Risorse Umane il suo motivo di orgoglio!

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Interview with HRCI Advisory Council Member Dr. Amir Dhia



Interviewer: Mariham Magdy

” The CEO Advisory Council is a model for other industries as they play a role in connecting the lines between the labor market needs and the professional job industries” Dr. Amir Dhia

Brief Biography about the Interviewee:

Previously, Dr. Dhia was Dean at INSEEC MBA & MSc

Dr. Amir Dhia serves on different boards and educational organization programs. He is a member of the HRCI CEO Advisory Council; a Board Member of the Standards Supreme Council of the Global Academy of Finance and Management (GAFM), and a Board Member of the Standards Supreme Council the American Academy of Project Management (AAPM). Dr. Dhia is the Director General of UBT Executive Education (University of Business and Technology, Jeddah); the Director General of UBT English Language Academy, and Assistant Professor of UBT MBA and MSc programs.

Previously, he was Dean at INSEEC MBA & MSc Programs (Paris Campus), Founder & Director of INSEEC MBA in Business Diplomacy (awarded Innovation Program for 2015 by Eduniversal Rankings), and Director of its MBA program in Marketing and Communication. He was also a Professor at the Center of Diplomatic and Strategic Studies (CEDS, Paris), and at the Department of Diplomacy and Strategic Negotiations of the University of Paris XI, Jean Monnet College (awarded Professor of the Year 2009), as well as Head of English language programs at one of the largest language and training centers in Paris, CFILC.

With a PhD in International Relations and Diplomacy (summa cum laude), Master and Bachelor degrees, Amir Dhia is a specialist in the Information and Knowledge Society, a Legal Translation Expert, an Accredited SME Consultant, a Certified Digital Marketing Associate, holds a Chartered Certification in Talent Management, and completed the Distinguished Leadership Development Program from the National School of Administration (ENA, Paris). Training diplomats, officers, government officials, CEOs, executives as well as undergraduate and graduate students, he has worked, lectured and trained in several countries around the world. 

1. HR Revolution Middle East: Dr. Amir, welcome to HR Revolution Middle East Magazine. It’s a great pleasure to have the opportunity to make this interview with you.

Would you please share with our readers more about the international certifications offered by the HRCI and how are they exactly designed to help advance HR professionals’ careers at different seniority levels?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

HRCI has an outstanding record of global certification and recognition for over 45 years. This is in part due to both the well-established standards and credibility and accreditation of its certifications and their impact on HR practitioners. HRCI’s eight certifications and qualifications requirements are significant for the HR profession. Certification adds value to a professional’s career. The various aspects of HR are included in the HRCI certifications and the exams cover a comprehensive spectrum of topics ranging from HR Administration and Operations, Recruitment, Talent Management, Compensation and Benefits, Employee Relations, HR Mobility, Health and Safety, HR Information Management and Business Leadership. With more than 500,000 certification holders in more than 125 countries, HRCI certified professionals lead global HR organizations and businesses. 

2- HR Revolution Middle East: Providing International Certification for such a sensitive profession like the HR is definitely not easy, considering the changing environments for this profession and how they can dramatically impact even the way of managing the HR different functions. Would you please let us know how do the HRCI succeed to tailor a sound know-how for global professionals? How is this secret recipe cooked?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

HRCI certifications are accredited by both the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and International Accreditation Service (IAS), where that accreditation offers impartial, third-party validation that the development and administration of HRCI certification programs has met stringent standards set by the testing industry. HRCI certification exams are conducted at proctored test centres worldwide and to a limited extent online. The certification exams are evaluated and revised to stay in line with current HR practices. Unlike other certifications that may simply require research and memorizing concepts, HRCI candidates need to acquire and master HR concepts and practices to be certified.

3- HR Revolution Middle East:  The aPHRi is the latest Certification added to the series of International Certifications offered by the HRCI. How did the HRCI evaluate the actual need in the market to help support the experience of junior professionals? How can this early certification help junior professionals to advance their careers with quicker steps than usual?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The HRCI aPHRi international certification is indeed highly useful and significant for new practitioners and recent university graduates in the field of Human Resources. Many candidates take the entry-level certification when they shift their career from one field or another towards HR. Recent university graduates also take the certification to combine their university degree with a professional certification to distinguish their qualifications when applying for their first job. HR practitioners who do not have a solid foundation in the field of HR are expressing interest in aPHRi to support them in their positions and careers. Encouragingly, aPHRi professionals are already planning to take their competence to a higher level by preparing for the PHRi certification. UBT Executive Education was among the very first global partners of HRCI to adopt the new aPHRi certification when it was first launched back in early 2018, noting that the number of aPHRi professionals are growing steadily.

4- HR Revolution Middle East: What special tips would you share with professionals preparing for their HRCI certification? How can they prepare themselves for the exams?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

Preparing for HRCI certifications should be a pleasant, enriching and fulfilling experience and challenge. Regardless which certification they target, candidates need to master HR concepts, understandings and practices rather than memorizing definitions for the sake of an exam or certificate. Candidates who take an exam preparation training program are recommended to take the certification exam within a month or two after that training is completed so that the knowledge and concepts acquired remain fresh. The longer the candidates wait to take the exam the more they find themselves spending longer time reviewing the materials. HRCI has a large global network of Certification Preparation Providers (CPP) that are selected for the quality of their training for HRCI certifications. Another important advice that I would like to highlight is that it is better and more efficient to be trained by an HR professional who is already an HRCI certification holder than by a practitioner who is not. That advantage helps aligns the training with the mind-set of the trainer and HRCI certification exams. For example, at UBT Executive Education we only recruit expert trainers who are both active practitioners in the field and are holders of the SPHRi certification. Those two assets are very important for our candidates in terms of trainer competence, qualification and quality standards.     

5- HR Revolution Middle East: The Middle East is one of the most important markets, the HRCI has been supporting for years now. As Member of the HRCI CEO Advisory Council, can you please let us know how did the HRCI expand lately its role in the Middle East? Are you planning to offer especially tailored products for the ME in the coming period?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

HRCI has devoted a lot of effort in recent years on its international development, particularly in the Middle East. In terms of exposure, HRCI is more visible in the region than ever before thanks to its participation in forums and events, along with its active communication and interaction on social media platforms. The fruit of all that is becoming increasingly obvious as more companies and professionals rely on HRCI certifications as a reference of quality and competence. With 93% of Fortune 500 companies employing HRCI certification holders, that is a testimony to the standards and reliability of HRCI certifications inspiring other companies and professionals, both in the Middle East and elsewhere. Also, thanks to the coordination between HRCI and UBT Executive Education, as of 2019, both aPHRi and PHRi certifications are approved and subsidized by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) in Saudi Arabia. There has been a growing demand for candidates with aPHRi. HRCI is working on launching the certification exam in Arabic language to encourage a wider audience of HR professionals from the Middle East region.    

6- HR Revolution Middle East: Do you believe that the industry trends in the Middle East are different from that of Europe & America, and thus the HR professionals in the region have to nurture special set of skills and knowledge more related to the region?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The fundamentals and functions of any profession are essentially the same regardless of the industry or country. However, HR has a certain level of legal and cultural particularities that need to be taken into consideration per country specifications. For instance, there are HR laws and practices that are unique to Europe, North America and the Middle East region. As much as HR professionals need to adjust to their companies, they also need to adapt to their respective countries and cultures. This is what makes them global in their mind-set and culturally adaptive in their local practices. HRCI has reflected on that notion through three of its certifications (aPHRi, PHRi, SPHRi) that clearly highlight the knowledge HR practitioners need in both a regional and global context regardless of country or business industry, while encouraging them to be creative, flexible and dynamic, as needed locally.

7- HR Revolution Middle East: We are extremely amazed by the idea that the HRCI has a special “Advisory Council” acting as a resource to the HRCI CEO by offering advice, insight into industry trends and market needs.  Do you believe that this special set-up shall be adapted in other businesses as well? How will this help businesses to advance & grow more in the market with a more “customer-need based” approach?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The newly established HRCI CEO Advisory Council brings unique knowledge and skills. HRCI’s mission is to enable people and organizations to discover, develop and demonstrate their fullest potential through innovative learning and certification in the ever-evolving world of HR. Therefore, our role as CEO Advisory Council Members is to offer advice, insights and a different perspective into industry trends. The CEO Advisory Council is a model for other industries as they play a role in connecting the lines between the labour market needs and the professional job industries. I am proud and pleased to serve as a Member of the CEO Advisory Council along with other colleagues who are specialists and experts in HR.

8- HR Revolution Middle East: Finally, we would like to ask you to give an advice for professionals especially in the Middle East, about how they can support their businesses? How does the various technological/ environmental/ physical disruptions nowadays require them to develop their skills/knowledge/competencies in a different way?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The whole world, including the Middle East, has been going through unprecedented challenges as a result of the pandemic. While many businesses have either closed their doors temporarily or are at the risk of permanent closure, many other companies and industries have sustained, emerged and even grown. We should look ahead and adapt to the dynamics of global businesses and industries by exploring opportunities and alternatives. A lot of professionals have made use of the recent circumstances and environment by reflecting on their careers and potentials. Many others spent quality time developing skills and new competencies. While the economy at-large may take some time to recover, let’s move forward constructively, positively and distinctively. 


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