Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEE
Silvia Garcia is the CEO of Happiest Places to Work. She writes and does consulting about using happiness as a force to live to the highest, fullest and truest expression of ourselves in our life and at work. She helps create cultures, products and brands that result in better economic outputs and higher happiness for employees, customers and communities. She measures each ingredient of happiness at work with the first science-based index valid for all cultures.
As International Director of The Happiness Institute for Coca-Cola she was highly acclaimed for applying the latest knowledge on happiness to employees, strategy and brands alike; creating communication campaigns that spoke both to the heart and the mind. She proved the impact of increasing employees happiness on the business results, and created new brands and products that gained immediate consumer love. Her speeches have been told to change “lives and companies”.
Silvia is one of the top worldwide leaders on happiness and, as such, she is annually invited by United Nations to discuss the estate of happiness in the world.
She is a foresighted and humorous storyteller who enjoys simplifying big, complex ideas to make them actionable for a wide range of audiences. She is known for her keynotes that she had given in the 5 continents. She is described by clients from sectors like banking, consumer products, the sharing economy, media and various universities and business schools as a “standout favorite for audiences”, with a “rare and visionary intellect.”
1-HR Revolution Middle East: Happiness has been a global trend at the workplace, yet many organizations have a misperception or confusion regarding the essence of “employee happiness”. Why do you think is the cause behind that? And how could we define employee happiness?
Silvia Garcia: It may come from the word “happiness” itself. The word happiness comes (etymologically) from the root “happ”, like in the verb “to happen”, and means “something that occurs because of luck or fate”. Therefore, happiness, historically, was something that “happened” to a very few lucky ones or to “the selected ones”. Marketing has traditionally used this association. If you have this (if this happens), you will be happy. So many people mistakenly think that happiness comes after you have this thing or the other (the promotion, bonus, the car, the marriage, and so on).
But happiness is only 10% dependent on such events, while there is at least 50% of our happiness that can be greatly influenced.
Now, this confusion is the source of another mistake in companies. Organizations want to increase happiness and many try to do it by improving employees’ experiences. Experiences are only one of the tools they could use to improve happiness in a more lasting and effective way. In fact, employees experiences are only one of the eight ingredients of happiness at work. Each ingredient can be measured and there are proven actions to make happiness grow in a company, resulting in better business results All the eight ingredients of happiness at work can be grouped under the acronym HAPPIEST© (Healthy balance, Autonomy & Control, Purpose, Pleasure score, Inner & Outer Recognition, Employees Experiences, Social Support, Time to grow). At Happiest Places to Work, we use the Happiest index to help our clients measure happiness and detect the areas of strength and improvement. We train Chief Happiness Officers around the world on how to measure happiness at work, and on how to implement actions to improve each on the components that create thriving cultures and businesses.
2-HR Revolution Middle East: Silvia, as the Founder and CEO of Happiest Places to Work, can you please tell us the story behind your organization?
Silvia Garcia: I started working in marketing and communication. I got a dream job at the Coca-Cola Company with a dream salary. I was appreciated and successful. But I did not feel fulfilled. What I loved was to understand people and to help bring the best out of each person. I had seen that people behave differently depending on the culture that a company or a department has. I had lived through that myself with my first job. The same person can become tyrannical or compassionate. One of the five top regrets of the people who are about to die is to have lived a life they did not choose. So I was about to leave the Coca-Cola company, when the President on my division called me and told me he had thought about me for an experimental project called The Happiness Institute, aimed at bringing together the top thinkers and researchers from different fields to learn everything about happiness and help people thrive.
I think I was one of the first Chief Happiness Officers, before the term even existed.
I had the privilege to work with the best in each field, around the world, and to try with employees different programs and interventions to learn what worked.
After five years leading the Happiness Institute, I had opened sister institutions in several countries, I had been invited to the United Nations to discuss happiness, and happiness at work, and I was giving several keynote speeches a week. There was such a huge interest!
I then decided to leave The Coca-Cola Company to be able to help as many businesses and organizations as possible to create the conditions for their employees and business to thrive alike, by using the first scientific index of happiness at work, as well as all the techniques and interventions that I had tested.
3-HR Revolution Middle East: You offer a very unique and niche certification program; Chief Happiness Officer (CHO). Can you tell us more about the certification?
Silvia Garcia: It is the only certification that:
- Brings together the best of programs existing in Harvard, Penn, and Stanford Universities, adding real work-life examples and situations.
- Teaches students how to measure happiness scientifically, and it any culture or generation (millennials, gen-Z, etc)
- Helps students develop their own strategic plan to increase happiness at work and gives them one-to-one coaching to fine-tune their plan.
4-HR Revolution Middle East: What is the role of the Chief Happiness Officer in an organization?
Silvia Garcia: Chief Happiness Officers exist to make sure that the culture and management style in their organization promote the eight pillars of employees happiness at work. Their role has three key success factors that will allow Chief Happiness Officers to create alignment among management to support and invest on employees happiness The first one, is to make a compelling business case on employees happiness as a competitive advantage that will bring between 10 and 37% higher sales, + 10% client satisfaction, and reduce employee rotation by half. We offer an automatic ROI calculator to be used by our Chief Happiness Officer training alumni.
The second success factor lies in making leaders and managers aware that employees’ happiness can grow and that 50% of it depends directly on the company’s culture and on the behaviors, and management style that the organization promotes.
Finally the last success factor is to prove that happiness and its components are not a “fluffy concept” that varies from person to person. Chief Happiness Officers need to use a scientifically validated measure of happiness at work as a key business indicator, and as a base to create strategic programs to improve happiness at work and analyze the results.
5-HR Revolution Middle East: As a Happiness subject matter expert and a consultant who have worked with many global organizations. Can you please share with us some of the challenges your clients were facing and how you helped them overcome them?
Silvia Garcia: Most companies can probably recognize themselves in the three main challenges that I help organizations around the globe overcome.
In highly competitive environments, with high levels of stress, organizations see teams compete against each other, managers prioritize results to the point of taking unethical decisions that can greatly compromise the survival of the whole company, like it happened to Enron or to the companies involved in the recent “Dieselgate” scandal. These clients call me to help their teams collaborate better and take better decisions when faced with complex choices and conflicting objectives. They have read articles about the key role of happiness in better decision making and collaboration. I remember this automobile client who was losing market share, their latest models were losing client preference versus other companies, their models were probably less innovative and their design was less creative. Their teams did not come together as one to solve problems, instead, they criticized each others’ decisions. Management was under pressure and employees were tired of working under permanent stress. When I first did our “culture audit” for this client, almost all the lights of employees’ happiness were red, and compared to the benchmark, their level of stress had skynrocked and the employees’ sense of autonomy and control over their work was top button. We started by engaging the whole workforce on training on how to manage stress and how to use it to your advantage when it can enhance performance, as well as how to disconnect and recover from it, when it appears in situations when it is compromising our decision making or performance. We also coached managers on how to have a growth mindset at work that reduces stress while increasing employees’ autonomy and control over their job. The change was huge, from 87% declaring to feel high stress and low energy, to 20% after the training. Then we focused on increasing the “Autonomy and Control” component of happiness at work, and a key competitive advantage for companies that wish to move forward quickly with innovation, design or other. We started by offering all employees a tool so they could find their unique and differentiating skills. Afterwards, we proceed to do workshops by department to help employees redesign the way they carried out their job and tasks so they could enrich it including their unique skills. Finally, we created some creative sessions to allow departments collaborate better. Our client was able to reduce by 15% the timing to design and launch their new car and recuperate their market share.
Another typical challenge that our clients face is that of maintaining a culture that they love but that they risk of losing when they grow very fast. Some of our clients are successful star-ups that see their original culture dilute and change as they hit the 150 employees bar. Curiously, human groups are sociologically adapted to collaborate and trust each other in groups up to 150 people. You need a clever culture design if you want to keep that type of culture as the organization grows. One of our clients, a successful European start-up was facing this challenge. We helped them to have a clear picture of each of the ingredients of their successful current culture. We used our HAPPIEST model, that measures each of the eight ingredients of happiness. Then we partnered with them to help them recruit based on employees’ values and on their cultural expectations; so there was a better fit. And finally we designed with them an on-board program to get new recruits aligned with the type of management, behaviors and culture that the company valued and expected from them. Our client’s employees are thriving while the business keeps growing at two digit numbers.
6-HR Revolution Middle East: Internal audit is essential for several reasons. You are specialized in “culture audit”, what you tell us more about this sort of auditing and why is it essential?
Silvia Garcia: This sort of auditing gives companies a unique look into each of the ingredients that scientists have found to be key to highly performing cultures where people and businesses thrive. Companies can also see the gaps and differences between them and the top performing companies for each component. Finally they get our expertise and recommendations to grow employees’ happiness.
7-HR Revolution Middle East: Many organizations deal with their employees’ stress by providing wellness programs after the problem appears. What is the role of the organization and specialists in order to mitigate stress in the first place?
Silvia Garcia: I work with many companies to train their employees to distinguish when stress can be enhancing, so they use it to their advantage, and when it is detrimental to their health and performance. Once they know the difference, there is half of the stress that is not worrisome or diminishing anymore. We then teach them ways to manage and recover from the undesired stress. At the same time, we work with the company in finding aspirational role models of the behaviors that encourage actions to recover from stress, like disconnecting from work, not multitasking, reducing the use of mobiles or computers during meetings, or taking a vacation.
8-HR Revolution Middle East: One of the very interesting models included in the CHO certification program is the HAPPIEST model. Can you tell us more about it?
Silvia Garcia: The HAPPIEST model is the first science-based index of happiness at work that can measure each of the ingredients necessary to facilitate employees and business to thrive alike in any culture. It is an acronym for each of these eight ingredients of happiness at work. Healthy engagement, Autonomy & Control, Purpose, Pleasure, Inner/Outer recognition, Experiences balance, Social relationships, Time for growth.
9-HR Revolution Middle East: Silvia, no doubt your success has an inspiring and grandeur impact on society. We are curious to know about your first job ever, and interested to know what did you learn most from it?
Silvia Garcia: Thank you so much for your kind words. I had a very particular first job experience. A company from a northern country (curiously a country on the top 5 on happiness at work) was looking for the next generation of leaders around the work. They were recruiting based on values, attitude, and desire to grow. I was extremely lucky to be selected to participate in this training program that was supposed to last for 3 years before being promoted into a high responsibility position within the company. The program was incredible. I, together with other 20 people from around the world, were assigned and trusted with high functions, we rotated all departments in the company, from directing a factory to working on the production lines. We were empowered, trusted, trained to stretch to the maximum of our capacities. On the other hand, while I was not on training and doing assignments with my trainees’ group at the headquarters, I had to go back to integrate the offices that this company had in Spain. And there, the culture was a different one. It was hierarchical, and defensive. Managers just wanted to get a promotion and gave their team members the least interesting challenging tasks. So, while one month I was designing the next product to be launched and was trusted to lead and engage with teams and experienced leaders, the next month I was in Spain, in charge of making photocopies, and manually entering data on computers. I learned that giving the opportunity and under the right management and culture, people stretch and perform to their best selves, and are extremely happy to do so. But that under a different culture, talent can be completely hidden and never flourish, and employees will leave at the first chance to do so.
10-HR Revolution Middle East: Silvia, on an “individual” level, how can one sustain his/her own happiness at work?
Silvia Garcia: Happiness at work has eight ingredients. It is almost impossible to be very high in all of them all the time, but there are a lot of things we can do to make happiness at work grow. Accepting that happiness varies and that our happiness will be constantly challenged, but that we can grow it, is part of a positive attitude to our current level of happiness. Some of the things that we can do to grow our happiness at work are those that depend on us, and not on our managers or on our company’s culture. For example, discovering our unique skills, those things that everyone who knows us well say we do outstandingly well and almost without effort, and trying to use them in our job as much as possible. Also, making sure that we engage in projects or in new ways of doing things that allows us to grow, personally, technically or professionally. Finally, making sure that we create relationships of trust, even friendship, at work.
11-HR Revolution Middle East: We would love to leverage the opportunity that we are interviewing you and ask you to pass a piece of advice to leaders who work in Strategic Human Resources.
Silvia Garcia: Leaders who work in Strategic Human Resources have the power to shape their organization’s culture. That great power comes with a high responsibility; that of making sure leaders are aligned behind creating the necessary conditions for people and business to thrive alike. Leaders who work in Human Resources had few key business indicators and few research to prove the importance of creating a positive culture. But today, the importance of employees happiness has long been proved to be a key to better results, and employees’ happiness can at last be scientifically measured. Let me invite all leaders working in Strategic Human Resources to lead the change they want to see in their workplaces, measuring and improving the conditions of employees’ happiness.
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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