Interviewee: Safa Hassan
Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi
1-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Why did you choose to enter the HR field? And how did you?
Safa Hassan: HR has been my passion for over 20 years. Apart from studying it at college, I became increasingly interested in it during my graduate management training internship, during which I quickly realised the importance of people to any organisations’ success.
I have been fortunate to work in a wide variety of industries in three different contents. This has allowed me to grow my experience and skills in multiple HR disciples and at the same time develop my commercial and operational aptitude.
In fact it all happened during my graduate management training at the prestigious Royal Horse Guards Hotel overlooking the river Thames close to the Houses of Parliament. I was completing my operational and management training for a career in general management when one day I was on duty at the front desk and my eyes caught sight of a rather large sized stern faced lady who was coming across the lobby with an equally plus size cat in between her hands. I was intrigued and began asking questions about who she was. The more I asked the more I wanted to learn about her.
She was the lady of the house! The General Manager who ran the entire show. She was well known for her tough no nonsense approach and had a celebrated track record of success in the company. She was rewarded by being given this jewel in the crown. Wow I thought at first and wanted to know more about her daily routine and personal life.
Her day spanned a good 12 hours at least, often working weekends and holidays too. She lived in and was therefore on call at any time. She was in her mid-forties yet not yet married or even engaged. Her only companion was her ginger cat.It suddenly dawned on me that this was a sacrificial way of life. This lady was giving up a lot to be where she is.
When I pictured myself a few years down, I didn’t feel fulfilled. “No, I can’t see myself doing this. Yes I want a successful career but I also want a family and a life”. Here, my 3 months in HR answered my dilemma. I found myself in a problem solving and analytical type of work which suited me, and I also enjoyed the people aspect of the job. From that moment on, this was my chosen career.
2-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As EIPET, who are your employees? How do you recruit them?
Safa Hassan: EIPET is the first green field PET plant of its kind in Egypt. It is a joint venture investment project between Dhunsari and Echem (the petrochemical arm of the Petroleum Ministry). The plant was purpose built to produce PET resin (a consumer grade type of polyester that goes on to produce plastic bottles for human consumption) for the local market needs and to export to the international market. The plant has a daily production capacity of 1600 tons. Some of our clients are Arma, Nestle, Danone, Pepsi, Coca Cola, etc…
Because the nature of business is industrial petrochemical production, our core business units are production, supply chain, marketing and sales. Production, process and instrumentation Engineers are hired. Chemists, quality control, operators, and technicians are also needed to run the plant. Blue collar staff is also commissioned as labour and fork lift operators.
3-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How does HR cooperate into forming the strategy of EIPET?
Safa Hassan: This process started a few years back when the plant was being built before commissioning. Following on from the joint venture agreement, senior management teamed up and decided on the strategic plan for the next 5 years. Of course this plan has been reviewed regularly and tweaked to adjust the course due to changing local and global environment especially the recent oil price drop and global economic slowdown.
4-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine:You received the Best Trainer Award three times with Six Continents in Dubai. What are the reasons that made you receive this award? And what are the qualities of a professional trainer from your own point of view?
Safa Hassan: Six continents placed a huge emphasis on training and development and at the same time strongly believed in rewarding for performance. One of the main reasons I received the award was that I simply took my job very seriously in conducting the training in accordance with the required standards. From my side I stressed on the “Why” factor of the task, having learned that knowledge is passed on more effectively when you demonstrate the reason and the benefit behind the “what”. In addition, the staffs trained were reviewed by an independent assessor for understanding and performance improvement to test the process had been executed properly.
In my view, an effective trainer will possess a few key qualities. On top of the list, is the ability to impart knowledge to others in a simple and interesting way. Experience in the subject matter is key; and I am a strong believer that academic knowledge alone is never a substitute! Passion in wanting others to learn, understand and develop also gives the trainer an edge.
5-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: At EIPET, do you provide the training programmes to your employees yourself or is it done through another instructor? Why?
Safa Hassan: Technical training is provided by specialized agencies and our sister plant in India. Soft skills and management training is mostly provided in house simply because we can and we know exactly where we need to target the need.
6-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: In 2002 you received the Hilton’s Top Award ‘HUKI HERO’ (Hilton UK & Ireland) 2001/02 for your outstanding achievement to the company and a saving of £350 K. Can you tell us about this achievement? How did you feel on that day? And how did you save this amount of money?
Safa Hassan: This was an extraordinary experience in my career that I will always cherish. It is probably the most challenging and at the same time rewarding. I was selected to work on a huge refurbishment grade 1 listed project costing £70 m. I was the third person to be hired after the GM and the Project Manager. From then on I was responsible for recruiting the rest of the team. We worked from anywhere we could plug in a computer and get internet as we had no offices. We sometimes met at Starbucks for breakfast to touch base with some of our associates who had not yet joined. As the team got bigger we would move premises to accommodate the number and this was not easy. As we began to get our management team together, it was announced the project would be delayed. The challenge increased as commitments had been made to take senior people on and they too had tendered their resignations!
The management company, the building consultants and the owner were not in agreement over the project time laps and this was costing a lot of money. The pressure began to increase as new dates were promised and preparations were made to have the team hired, trained and ready to go for the opening.
Actually, this project ended up being delayed 15 times in 18 months! There were times when we as a team felt disillusioned frustrated and no one would have blamed us if we had walked away. And the thought had crossed my mind several times too. What kept me from doing so were several key reasons.
I took an oath between myself that I would do everything in my power and more to make this assignment a great success come what may. This in itself was a great deterrent against any adversity.
The team we built was exceptionally brilliant the harmony between us acted as a catalyst to keep everyone going and committed. We started a programme of regular meetings and outings to maintain transparent communication and allow new members to be introduced.
When we announced that the owner was not ready to pay our salaries while the project was still not complete, and we came up with the solution of secondment, the majority was enthusiastic and jumped at the opportunity. This was a sensitive task as we were dealing with senior professionals who were now going to be temporarily assigned to other properties to do real jobs. Some were posted in London; others went to Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Some took 2 and 3 posts throughout the delay period. We sent some to France, New York, Germany and Holland.
During this time, I also took on some regional tasks for UK & Ireland while coordinating the postings; keeping in regular contact with each one and making visits to their locations. Something they appreciated very much.
The benefits of this were many. The team was still on the payroll and the owner was happy too since she was not footing the bill! They were gaining valuable experience where they went and many came back with raving reviews for their contributions. The project eventually made the opening and during this long awaited event when our Chairman came and all was said and done people were very emotional. By everyone’s’ admition, this team had endured many obstacles, all of which they passed with flying colours.
A few months later, I was nominated to receive the HUKI HR HERO award. At that moment I felt that all the pain and tears had not gone to waste or unnoticed! It was a fabulous feeling to be recognized.
7-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You have worked as an HR Manager / Director in six different hotels. As an HR in that field how did you support tourism through your job? And what advices do you have to HR Directors who work in hotels in Egypt?
Safa Hassan: In short, my simple advice is “No one should enter this field or any other for that matter, unless they are passionate about it”. Everything you do or say will come through. When you are in contact with customers, your inner soul shines without even uttering a word. They feel it.
To HR Managers I say be careful who you recruit. Your people are your biggest asset and this is where your differentiation lies. Have well trained and motivated staff who are treated well and you’re on your way…
To individuals I always encourage them to be delighting and try to deliver more than the customer expects. Don’t make the mistake of running after money or the tip. Do your job well and be sincere and the customer will automatically respond favourably. Look after your current and regular guests and they will become like family and will be your biggest advocate.
8-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Can you tell us more about the “employer branding” concept, and provide us with examples that you have applied?
Safa Hassan: I was chosen to be part of the steering committee for employer branding for Hilton UK & Ireland. In the early 2000 there was fierce completion for qualified and experienced work force which sparked a new challenge for employers to promote themselves to prospective employees in an attractive way. The equation was simple; “Strong employer brands attract the right talent”.
So, what represents a strong brand in the eyes of the employee? A successful, well-known brand is a start but that can be short lived without the proper follow on. Quite simply it is things that make employees happy to be at work. Getting down to work involved a complete overhaul of work values and ethics, pride, fun, belonging, discovering yourself etc…A lot of the information was elicited from our employees who were glad to share with us their thoughts and emotions. A complete programme was drawn up to translate these values into tangible benefits, rewards and behaviours that everyone can identify with. The entire organization bought into it and it was rolled out regionally. A training programme was designed on branding and everyone’s role. The results were even measured using the balance score card and units began competing with one another for top place.
So, what was the objective? To keep attrition to the minimum, hold on to our good people who we knew were the key to satisfied customers and ultimately profitability.
9-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: From your point of view, what were your success factors that made you become an HR Director?
Safa Hassan: I have been fortunate to work with and learn from some very professional people along the way. But most importantly, I believe it was my initial determination and perseverance to cross over any boundaries that came my way. As much as you put in you get out so a lot of hard work, patience, sincerity and the willingness to learn from others and teach others.
Passionate about people and the great difference they can make to any organisation given the right tools and environment.
10-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What were/are your challenges as a “working woman” in Egypt?
Safa Hassan: It wasn’t so much as a woman, but really my background and credential that posed the biggest challenge here. Out of the three countries I’ve worked in, Egypt has been the most challenging to find a suitable job and gain acceptance. A lot of what I used to hear was “Wow, great CV, you shouldn’t have any problems working here” and the reality was that I did. I wanted to work in a legitimate way without any help from acquaintances. I soon learned that society doesn’t operate this way and even if your qualifications and experience speak for you, you still need that push.
My wish is that one day we can eradicate the “It’s who you know, not what you know” phenomenon. I believe that a lot of our problems will be on their way to be solved if we can ensure that the right person gets on the right bus and is assigned to the right seat! especially in our public sector.
11-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What was the most valuable lesson you have learnt from a situation at work? Can you please share with us this situation?
Safa Hassan: Adversity can often give birth to success.I would say during my industrial release when I was posted to a very posh deluxe property in Green Park, London. The six months were in Food & Beverage and my first 6 weeks were in the kitchen. Heavily dominated by males who were load and had loose tongues to alleviate the pressure and heat, I came face to face with the Head Chef who sized me up and decided I was a waste of time being a female in a man’s world and petite.
He decided to put me to the test immediately by giving me barrels, a knife and a peeler. He showed me to the fresh fruit larder and asked to get to work. For one whole week I did nothing but peel and cut up fruit for 12 hours each day! Huge fruit salad barrels to fill, and standing on your feet all day long, I quickly became bored, frustrated, and very exhausted. “This is not what I came here to do”! I could moan and complain but I knew this was what he was expecting of me and moreover I didn’t want to risk jeopardizing my degree. I decided to bite my tongue and was determined to make it. After a few days of fulfillment, I attempted to make a deal with him that if I successfully pass the week; he would allow me to move on to other things more interesting. He agreed because he was certain I wouldn’t last. When I miraculously finish my 7 days, he kept his word and moved me on to the dessert section where I really learned a great deal. He began to change his attitude towards me and as I slowly gained credibility, he gave me more responsibility. I was assigned to cover room service dessert orders in the absence of a colleague! We became friends and I gained his regard and respect.
From this experience, I learned that prejudice and misplaced judgment have no place at work. Character and attitude are more profound than first impressions. I also learned that you also make your experience what it is. No one is going to take you by the hand and show you; you need to grab it yourself and show others you can.
We should never write anyone off. Every person deserves a chance!
12-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a member of Global HR Forum, how does this add benefit to you?
Safa Hassan: All I can say is that I wish we had this forum 20 years ago! HR has certainly come a long way since and I am pleased with the array of talented and professional people we have in the group. I look forward to more engagement whereby we can make a difference in the field.
13-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Tell us some case-studies / challenges you faced in EIPET and how did you overcome them?
Safa Hassan: I would have to talk about the challenges faced in dealing with blue collar “labour staff” from Suez and the trade union. Although I had experience in dealing with unions before, in the industrial sector it is a different ball game. I found myself faced with an extremely demanding group who can also be hostile towards HR and Management. Today, 3 years on we have managed to forge an amicable working relationship that is based more on respect, open communication and a common goal.
14-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You have worked in London and you are currently working in Egypt. What is the difference between the two business environments from your own observations?
Ms. Safa Hassan: The working culture is very different in London. There is a huge emphasis on commitment and self-discipline. An employee may be protected by the law in many aspects especially against discrimination, but that does not mean that an employer will have to suffer silly excuses for non-attendance or negligence either.
Whatever the challenge, transport strike, or bad weather conditions you simply make it to work! No excuses are tolerated. There is a tendency to have much less manning compared to Egypt. Everyone is kept busy the whole day and there is no time to gossip; just enough for a lunch break. Your work speaks for itself and that cannot be hidden.
Yes, the standard of living is much better in the UK, but this also comes at a very high price. You have to work very hard to earn it.
I have faced many challenges in my career. One of the most poignant was when I had to move from country to country several times. Searching for a new job and starting over again was very trying indeed and at some point even having to take a step back in career! This taught me that fear of the unknown cannot hurt you unless you allow it. When you treat it as an adventure, it becomes OK to go for a new experience and savour all the opportunities that come with it. Believing in your abilities will carry you through any challenge.
Interview with Mr. Vijay Gandhi, Regional Director of Korn Ferry Digital
“2021 is here and there has been never a tipping point like this before for governments and organizations to transform how they work, engage the employees and service their clients. It is this mix of internal and external challenges that will also create opportunities for leaders to make a difference as we embark upon a new calendar year.” Mr. Vijay Gandhi
Interviewer: Mariham Magdy
Brief Biography about the Interviewee:
Mr. Vijay Gandhi has worked with human resource teams for over 20 years to provide them with tools, benchmarks, insights and data to help them design high level global HR frameworks and make decisions for local executive teams, remuneration committees and board of directors in public and privately owned companies across different sectors. He oversees the commercial activities of Reward & Benefits in KF Digital across Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Vijay has an MBA from Durham University (UK) and BBA in Finance & International Business from University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA). He joined Korn Ferry in 2001 in Dubai and has worked in EMEA and Asia region. In May 2018, he was honored with Forbes “Top 50 Indian Executives in Arab World”
1.HR Revolution Middle East: Mr. Vijay, welcome to HR Revolution Middle East Magazine. It’s a great pleasure to have the opportunity to make this interview with you.
As the Regional Director for Korn Ferry Digital, we are keen to learn from you more about KF Digital, how do Korn Ferry’s digital applications help organizations to transform or enhance their organizational strategy?
Through the Korn Ferry Digital platform, our clients gain direct access to our data, insights, analytics and digital solutions – enabling them to drive performance in their organizations in a scalable way through their people, using one enterprise-wide framework and language of talent. Our digital solutions cover the whole talent journey. So, whether it’s developing a new talent strategy or reward program, making informed decisions about hiring or developing talent from within the organization, getting the right people on board, or even collecting feedback on how engaged employees really are, right across the organization – Korn Ferry Digital provides the answers.
Our solutions serve as an integrated platform that gives clients direct access to the data, insights and analytics. Clients benefit from one enterprise-wide talent framework and language that helps drive organizational performance through people.
2- HR Revolution Middle East: To what extent can we trust the results of the digital assessments? How can organizations use the data that Korn Ferry collects to make intelligent hiring, reward, development decisions?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
Korn Ferry Digital is fueled by the most comprehensive and up-to-date people and organization databases. This data provides the DNA for our digital solutions, bringing a research-based foundation to underpin quality and consistency in your HR practices. Over 4 billion data points have been collected, including:
- Over 69 million assessment results
- 8 million employee engagement survey responses
- Rewards data for 20 million employees across 25,000 organizations and 130+ countries
We’ve pulled the data together into a comprehensive set of actionable and dynamic Success Profiles. Success Profiles define “what good looks like” and include data around three dimensions – the accountabilities of a role, the associated capabilities to perform these responsibilities, and the traits and drivers that are characteristic of a person who will thrive in this role.
Organizations have access to over 4,000 individual Success Profiles across 30,000 job titles – and we are continually updating and adding new profiles, so you get to leverage the latest thinking on emerging roles. The results are therefore based on deep insight and research.
3- HR Revolution Middle East: Mr. Vijay, we are eager to learn from you more about the success story behind honoring you as one of the Top 50 Indian Leaders in Arab World by Forbes Middle East in 2018 – Region’s greatest success stories as Regional Director at Korn Ferry Digital.
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
I am a long-time resident of the Arab region, where my family roots go back 60 years, before the UAE federation was formed. Knowing the culture, people and dynamics of working in the Arab world has been natural as this has been home to our family where my kids are the 5th generation. For more than 20 years, I have worked closely with human resource teams in the Arab world to execute their talent strategy. A lot has changed in this period in HR function itself which was regarded as a payroll function few decades ago. Today, HR and People strategy are board room discussions where HR plays a strategic role in driving workforce performance.
In these positively growing and changing times, my focus was on leveraging tools, benchmarks, insights and data to design high-level global HR frameworks for senior executives in the region – helping them more effectively manage their talent. We have built successful client partnerships in the region which has made Korn Ferry as a go to organizational consulting firm.
4- HR Revolution Middle East: For over 20 years, you have overseen the activities of pay, talent, surveys and listening products across Europe, Middle East and Africa. What are the unique characteristics of the Middle East organizations especially in talent and pay management? How does we differ from other regions as Europe & Africa?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
Change is taking place rapidly in the world of work with any organizations taking unprecedented steps to remain relevant and connected to their people , their customers and society. In the Middle East we have seen many companies implement temporary pay-cuts. Diversified conglomerates have shifted their employees from one division to another to balance the demand and supply. There is no denial that the way we work is changing and organizations have had to prepare a blueprint for the unexpected. This year it’s coronavirus. Next time, and there will be a next time, it could be a natural calamity, a recession, talent flight or something else unforeseen.
- Redefining the nature of work: Even today most organizations in the Gulf region are measuring success or performance using the metric of attendance. There is a mismatch between modern, flexible ways of working and traditional ways of organizing and rewarding work. To close this gap, organizations need new approaches that fit today and can flex for the future. New and evolving technologies allow organizations to operate more effectively and more efficiently. They do this by preparing people to work more productively and by introducing virtual ways of doing things that previously required physical presence. Some organizations in the region have started tocreate “flexible teams” for specific projects, and then dismantling them once the project is complete.
- Moving towards a liquid workforce: HR laws in the Middle East region have undergone change in the last 3 years to allow for part-time employees, internships and with the spring of an independent freelance community offering specialized professional services which were rare to find few years ago. In the future, we will see more organizations tailoring their resource requirements to the needs of the labor market. Organizations will move towards a liquid workforce to capture the best talent regardless of source or nature of contract which may not be employed full-time.
- Splitting time and skills: A few global companies are making use of employees’ skills and motivation within the confines of a traditional role. They have developed a SharePoint platform where employees can give up to 20% of their time to projects outside of their core role. The 80/20 approach allows for flexibility without the contractual implications of making significant changes to roles and functions. The projects range from large, like supporting big corporate initiatives, to small, like moderating a series of workshops. These smaller projects may last just a few weeks and take up less than 20% of a person’s working time. Trainees, called ‘Start-up’ participants, also work according to the 80/20 principle. That means they follow a set rotation programme for four days of the week and meet on Fridays to work on joint projects.
- Rethinking Reward: Even after right-sizing in many Middle East companies, there has been a significant impact of grade/title inflation on performance. In the short-term it is important to preserve operating capacity in the event demand returns to normal sooner than expected by managing leaves and cutting pay for a limited time. In the medium-term, organizations will have to adjust individual performance incentives as conditions normalize and consider crisis-related spot awards where applicable. In the long-term, organizations will have to not only maintain awards for top-performers but also consider tying bonuses and incentives to crisis-related health and-safety metrics.
With no ‘rules of the game’, and such rapid evolution, it’s not surprising that many companies feel they don’t know where or how to start. They need fresh thinking and new approaches on a whole range of topics – including how to create a ‘new deal’ that works for their people.
5- HR Revolution Middle East: The digital transformation has changed totally the way businesses make decisions. Given that almost every organization has been forced into a new way of working, how can they navigate through a new normal?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
The positive new is that, apart from solving immediate effects of the crisis, we have seen a resilience to operate from home by employees and employers moving from “no flexible hours” to “you can work remotely if the job doesn’t require you to come to the office”.
Whilst it’s great to move to more flexibility, we may be going over the top to think that this will be the norm for all employee segments. Let me share some of the discussions with HR professionals in last few months in the region.
- Leadership matters and they want to be visible with the workforce. Ask any leader when do they have the most impact? It’s when they are spending time with their people to engage with them and enable them by listening to their concerns.
- There were aspects of our lives – work, family, friends – which were separate but now happening all in one physical space. The self-complexity theory shows that individuals become vulnerable to negative feelings when these social activities and goals aren’t differentiated.
- Certain roles in healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality sectors cannot work remotely, and fantastic efforts have been made to make the workplace safe.
- Sales and Business development were areas identified as most dependent on face-to-face meetings. According to Harvard Business research, in-person meetings were seen as most effective for:
- Negotiating important contracts (82%)
- Interviewing senior staff for key positions (81%)
- Understanding and listening to important customers (69%)
Although there are many reasons why video conferencing works well to stay connected in isolation and keep dispersed teams connected and aligned, latest research shows they wear on the psyche in complicated ways. Psychologists say a new phenomenon “video call fatigue” is emerging. It describes the feeling of being worn out by back-to-back virtual meetings and having to perform for the camera by over-scheduling ourselves.
So, whilst working from home since March 2020 was considered as a great move from being non-flexible to trusting people, it’s now time to rationalize our thinking. The answer lies somewhere in the middle by being flexible and not drifting like nomads too. We cannot take all home and it won’t be forever.
6- HR Revolution Middle East: How did all the twists and turns occurred in 2020 changed the traditional way organizations used to manage pay? Do you expect that businesses would return to the normal management of pay in 2021?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
Shifting to “people” priorities in 2021
2020 will be a fable for us to share with generations to come. It is a year which has revolutionized the way we work and adapt to uncertainty. A year which started with negativity around jobs and pay cuts. Life came to a stand-still. Organizations who have survived the pandemic have shown tremendous resilience and agility to adapt to tough times. As costs were taken out of the business in the first half of the year, we have seen higher productivity and the drive to restore profitability. It was also a year where there remained no doubt that that the most critical driver for any organization was its workforce.
2021 is here and there has been never a tipping point like this before for governments and organizations to transform how they work, engage the employees and service their clients. It is this mix of internal and external challenges that will also create opportunities for leaders to make a difference as we embark upon a new calendar year.
Transformation in business set-up and labour reforms were on top of the agenda in 2020. The Labour Reform Initiative (LRI) brought into action by MHRSD in Saudi under the National Transformation Program (NTP) has swung the focus back onto shared services and their significance in the Saudi business world. This initiative has not only set a strong precedent for the future of workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) but also carved a structured model for businesses looking to hire personnel. Similarly, there were 2 landmark moves in United Arab Emirates (UAE)
- allowing foreign investors to own local companies without the need for an Emirati sponsor will open doors for more FDI and greater business opportunities.
- allowing professionals to reside and work in Dubai residency rule was a big boon for professionals in workplaces where they are delivering or leading teams remotely.
The road ahead for employees working in this region looks bright as these reforms would strengthen labour competencies, enrich the work environment, and put together an inviting job market. The flexibility will help employers in 2021 to drive innovations, provide access to more talent, drive performance and results regardless of where the team is located in the region.
Leaders will have to go beyond showing interest in the development of everyone and be empathetic towards employees who survived the crisis with them in 2020. In fact, the ‘Global Workplace Study 2020’ by ADP Research Institute shows that employees are approximately 13 times more likely to be resilient when more workplace disruption occurs. Empathy was shown by employees in many ways e.g. working from home in different circumstances or taking a pay cut to help companies save further job cuts.
Technology innovation is here to stay
Organizations in both the public and private sectors had to make a change in the way they work and move to digitization. Another conundrum we are presently facing is the real-estate impacts of employees desiring greater work-life flexibility. It’s unlikely that office spaces will disappear overnight, but rather a greater integration of virtual and in-person work is right around the corner. The recent decision by Dubai Government to work-from-home comes at the back of flexible working hours announced in April 2020. Workplace flexibility works best when implemented to address both the organization’s need to for a leaner workforce and employees’ need for work/life support.
The social element of your workplace has likely taken on a much different look in 2021. You may have employees in a social distance-friendly environment, employees working from home, or a mix of both. Organizations will have to find ways to encourage them to stay connected while being physically disconnected. Even before the pandemic COVID-19 had entered our vocabulary, burnout, stress and anxiety were significant issues in the workplace, and society generally. Once we throw the mental health impact into the mix, and work-related stress is likely to reach staggering levels. Going into 2021, leaders must promote the mental wellbeing and invest into benefits which will bring people together in a different way.
7- HR Revolution Middle East: What final tips would you give to business leaders at the beginning of 2021 with all the apprehensions and fears they have for the new wave of covid-19?
Mr. Vijay Gandhi:
Technology will continue to dominate the workplace and improve efficiencies. However, the most valuable services in the marketplace will always be done better by humans. In an era defined by crisis, where emotional intelligence, compassion, resilience, and morality may prove more important than ever before, the future of work is human. If business is about humans, the future of work must be too.
One thing to look forward to in 2021 from job and career perspective is slow change. Disruption has already happened. However, more often and less discussed are the small changes occurring each day that eventually add up to huge impacts. The present moment is worthy of your attention.
Q&A with Yasmine Yehia | MEA Employer Branding Manager at Schneider Electric, Life Coach & Consultant
Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi
“To be able to have a strong brand, you need to start from within – you need to have an attractive story to tell so if this is not there, it won’t be the right time for employer branding. I always tell the people I teach employer branding – fix internally first and then you will have something to say externally.”Yasmine yehia
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How would you introduce yourself to the audience?
Yasmine Yehia: I am an Employer Branding expert, a certified life and career coach from the ICF, a public speaker and a certified trainer!
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How do you define Employer Branding in your own words?
Yasmine Yehia: Employer Branding is the art of story-telling, each employer has a story to tell, and this story is very useful for those who are interested in the company. A story about values, a story about culture, a story about care – a story about authenticity and uniqueness.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What does an Employer Branding Manager do?
Yasmine Yehia: An Employer Branding Manager is someone who is an expert in storytelling, someone who is also an expert in the employer strategy and people vision and who is talented in showing what differs the employer from any others in the market.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Employer Branding is one of the new global trends in HR, yet still not implemented in several countries and among many organizations. Why do you think some organizations have concerns regarding implementing Employer Branding as a comprehensive initiative?
Yasmine Yehia: I don’t think it is a matter of a concern at all – I think it is a matter of time and maturity. To be able to have a strong brand, you need to start from within – you need to have an attractive story to tell so if this is not there, it won’t be the right time for employer branding. I always tell the people I teach employer branding – fix internally first and then you will have something to say externally.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How do you measure the ROI of your Employer Branding initiatives?
Yasmine Yehia: Oh God, there are zillions of ways to measure the ROI of our initiatives and campaigns, as sophisticated as a brand awareness analysis to as simple as the quality of CVs we’re receiving for open vacancies. Measuring the pride and engagement of employees, measuring engagements and reach on our employer branding social media posts.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Who are your main stakeholders and partners in the Employer Branding process?
Yasmine Yehia: And like I teach in my workshop – Employer Branding is never an independent function, actually we cannot even function or deliver alone, it is a collaborative work between us, HR and Marcom.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Can you share with us one of the challenges you have faced in your current job and how you overcame it?
Yasmine Yehia: Managing a complex region like MEA is quite tough and I think the deep knowledge of each country in the region was my main challenge – what is it that my target audience in each country look for in an employer? I overcame it with loads of study and education and also with using the help of specialized agencies to provide me with the needed reports.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What pieces of advice would you give to organizations who want to empower their employer brand?
Yasmine Yehia: Be authentic! Start from within and have an authentic story to tell. You will reach the hearts of your target audiences effortlessly.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Jessie (if we may call you with your nickname), we are curious what is the first job you ever had and what is the most valuable lesson you have learnt from it?
Yasmine Yehia: My very first job was an IT Recruiter for fortune 1000 companies in USA – I learned the art of assessing and dealing with people, if there is one thing recruitment has given me, it is the strong people skills!
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You are also a certified Life Coach, how does this help you in your role in HR?
Yasmine Yehia: In both HR and Employer Branding your main customer and target audience is people, right? A life coach listens to so many people, to their issues and struggles, it makes you a people person by heart – it gives you the perfect listening skills and it strengthens the way you interact and communicate with people, and this is exactly what you need as an HRian!
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a Life Coach, what advices do you have to professionals who want to sustain a work-life balance? Do we all need to have a work-life balance?
Yasmine Yehia: YES, we all need a work life balance definitely – you need time for yourself, to recharge, reflect and develop. I’d tell them, make the time for yourself a priority – do not miss it, this time is actually good for your work too because you will always have the right energy to continue. If there is a learning lesson from 2020, it is the importance of our mental health. Have a routine and this routine must include time for yourself!
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a Career Coach, how do you think Covid-19 impacted the employment market?
Yasmine Yehia: Well, from what I see from my clients – so many people are thinking to shift careers post covid-19. Some of them must because they lost their jobs and some of them realized the importance of mental health, so they decided to leave a very stressful career. I think moving forward companies will have to learn to be flexible in their hiring process and start accepting candidates having the right skills for a job rather than a big number of years of experience! It is hiring for talents not years! People also need to be more resilient and smart in using their skills.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Finally, as a Trainer – why do you think personal branding is very important? We know you teach the topic.
Yasmine Yehia: In a world that has gone totally virtual – people need to learn how to build a strong personal brand online, it is how you will smartly use your skills and get paid for it! You no longer have the big chance to meet your recruiters face to face, following the new ways of working, we are heading towards working from home and flexible hours more, your personal brand is the only thing that will differentiate you in the market and open doors for you.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Thank you for your time, would you like to say anything?
Yasmine Yehia: Thank you for having me – I hope I continue inspiring those interested in the employer branding career!
Q&A with Sherihan Elkamash; Researcher at the Center of Strategic Studies, Bibliotheca Alexandrina & Charity Activist
Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi
“I am always trying to not lead members, but inspire them and gain their trust by encouraging my team to work on new projects. I help them make their work plan, and I provide them with some guidance and coaching to finally have a successful deliverable to help impact more people in the community.”Sherihan Elkamash
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Sherihan you are multi-talented and active in building the community in several different ways, one of your main roles is working at the Center of Strategic Studies at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, can you tell us more about your role?
My main work is about making strategic researches. I also, write articles about the recent international political events. One of the main roles for me is to organize virtual discussions to discuss different economic and political subjects. I am always in contact with high profile degenerates in the political arena to make interviews with them to be published. I am also the social media specialist for the center, responsible for managing the official page by managing and posting the news, declare about the new events and conferences for the center.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Across your career you have worked in different careers and gained different experiences. Can you tell us what did you learn from these experiences? And how those skills are helping you at your current role?
I have been working in many fields since a young age I have acquired professional experience in many fields for the past fourteen years; working in NGOs, media, research, translation and communications. These experiences taught me to navigate in different kinds of structures (public/private/international), as well as dealing with the internal dynamics of each organization. In my previous roles, I have demonstrated exceptional ability to manage external stakeholders including senior government officials, high-profile clients, and well-regarded organizations. As a trilingual officer, I can communicate effectively in Arabic, English and French.
Working in all those fields taught me how to work in full power with a great performance, deliver my work in a high quality and always being in time and following the timetable.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You also have your own charity project “El Rahmoun”. Can you tells us more about managing people in a charity structured projects?
Let me first talk about myself when I was a regular member in NGO’s and volunteer projects. I starting volunteering since I was a 13-year-old school student. During those 21 years in charity, I’ve learned many things:
-I learned how to take the initiative to start new projects to help the maximum number of people in need.
-I learned more about contributing to the community and helping solve issues.
-I learned how to deal with all categories in my society, understanding their needs and being helpful to them.
-It is not only about leadership, but I have also been a great “team member”, by coming up with new ideas, working with enthusiasm and integrity.
As a founder or a leader for “El Rahmoun” charity group – like any business structure or project – it depends on the number of volunteers whether they are many or few, based on that we put a strong administration and operations management plan.
I am always trying to not lead “El Rahmoun” members, but inspire them and gain their trust by encouraging my team to work on new projects. I help them make their work plan, and I provide them with some guidance and coaching to finally have a successful deliverable to help impact more people in the community.
There is an interesting difference between a traditional corporate structure and a charity structure. In charity the individual is the one who deicides his/her responsibilities and commitment to the charity work. I cannot obligate them to attend the events or to do their tasks. Which means that I have to be their friend so they love me and maintain a good communication with the youth, meanwhile at the same time I have to be their leader when it comes to the big decisions. And this is the most difficult part. I think after 3 years of continuous work, while our volunteering community is getting bigger… my team and I are doing it well.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How do you define success your own way? And what would be your success tips for youth?
I have learned the perfect strategy to achieve success, it is balance. We all have the desire towards success but those who are working and planning for it are the ones who are reaching their goals in a steady way. We all grew up with big dreams, seeking success in life, but few of us who understood that sustaining the success is the hard part. Balance is the key, youth need to know the importance of balance in their life between their studies, hard work, community service and social life. Youth need to make balance between physical, emotional and spiritual elements, to keep the high performance in everything they do. When we maintain our balance it shortly affects our sense of security and helps us to move forward. The balance in all activities in our days helps us maintain our mental health in order to have healthy minds and lifestyles. Stress is a serious threat to Youth and one should make it a priority to keep the stress away because stress prevents success.
Balance = Success
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: With the development of technology, virtual communication and accessibility to knowledge, do you believe that some jobs are in threat? Can some careers take another form, offer different services and still impact the community?
The whole world is turning digital. The easy access to knowledge and data is the way of living now. Well, the development of technology can never be a threat. It actually helps us and is not a threat to our existence nor to anything created or made by the human being. NEW careers have been created and much more are on their way to glow and have place due to the virtual life. Furthermore, thousands of activities and services are provided through the internet now (website- social media) which also supports entrepreneurs and organizations to easily create new projects.
The Egyptian Government is taking the same track now in most of its governmental institutions. The pandemic helped a lot. It was a red light to hurry and accelerate our path, not only organizations that are turning digital but also individuals are becoming more focused on e-learning and other daily life services and in their lifestyles. I am very optimistic; because of the development of technology, new jobs are opening and great opportunities for youth which is very advantageous, beneficious and profitable to the growth of our great Nation EGYPT and to the rest of the world.
Thank you Sherihan for this interview and for developing and inspiring the community in such a unique way!
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