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Interviews

Q&A with Vic Williams – Author, Motivational Speaker, Trainer & Business Consultant

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Interviewer: Mariham Magdy

“I would say to any entrepreneur starting from zero, have the right philosophy about yourself and what you want to achieve, about your product or service and then take the most appropriate action to get it done.”

Vic Williams
ABOUT THE
INTERVIEWEE

Vic Williams is author, speaker, trainer and business consultant, with over 30 years’ experience in starting and growing businesses in various industries in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

In 2011 he began to grow The Audacious Company, which is focused on leadership, management, sales, LinkedIn and presentations skills training, almost exclusively using LinkedIn for business development.

He is the author of ‘Audacious Leadership’, founder of The Prepare for Awesome Podcast and have developed numerous training programs in the leadership, management, sales and presentation skills environments, which have been delivered to clients across the United kingdom, into Europe, Africa, the Middle and Far East.

The Prepare For Awesome Podcast is a motivational program which is available every Thursday at 3 P.M UTC.

THE INTERVIEW

1- HR Revolution Middle East: Thank you so much Mr. Vic for accepting our interview request. This interview is an honour to HR Revolution Middle East, as well as an amazing learning opportunity for our readers.

You have such an inspiring success story which I really want to highlight for our readers to learn from it: You had to leave school at the age of 16, which did not diminish your thirst for knowledge nor your desire to become the great person you are now, and despite the discouragement you had from your father at some point of time, you decided to fight against all this at a very early age.

Mr. Vic, your success journey says a lot about your persistence & your refusal for any limiting belief, what piece of advice would you share with our readers about that, and how were you able to get over all the discouraging conditions you went by?

Vic Williams: I think the most important thing I learned at an early age and the piece of advice I would give to your readers is, never allow the opinions of other people define who you are or who you become. No one knows the skills and abilities which you have that are just waiting for an opportunity to be showcased to the world.

At an early age, I looked around me and saw so many people achieving great things despite their background, the country they were born in, their family disadvantages and was inspired to live the life I determined, not one determined by my father or by circumstance.

Does it mean I always succeed? Certainly not. I probably fail more than most other people, but there is an inner drive to get up, dust myself off and get on down the road to the goals I have set for myself.

I think a second thing I would say is, never compare yourself with other people. When you compare yourself with other people, you will always be second best and a failure. Compare yourself with your own previous best and each day try to improve on that. It is pointless and demoralising to compete with anyone else.

2- HR Revolution Middle East: Another milestone you were able to successfully overcome, which I believe many entrepreneurs are experiencing as well and needs to learn from you about it: moving from South Africa to UK & starting all over again. What does it take from an entrepreneur to be able to make it “moving from a place where he managed to build connections & develop a business to a totally new market starting from zero”?

Vic Williams: It is all about 4 things. Firstly, your philosophy is your thoughts; your thoughts about yourself, about the country you live in, the country you are heading to, etc. Your thoughts then drive the second component and that is your attitude. If you have negative thoughts, you will have a negative attitude and that won’t change simply by changing country or town. You have to start by changing your thoughts where you are and your attitude where you are.

I did not leave South Africa with a bad attitude toward the country, but a good one. My view was, if I could make it in South Africa, I could make it in the UK.

The right attitude will then drive the right actions which will give you the results you want. And so those are the 4 things I focus on.

It is easy to go to a country like the UK and live off the system, but I was determined that would never be me. And so my philosophy has always been I will do what I need to do which is legal, moral and ethical to ensure that I am able to support my family and create the lifestyle we want.

So I would say to any entrepreneur starting from zero, have the right philosophy about yourself and what you want to achieve, about your product or service and then take the most appropriate action to get it done.

3- HR Revolution Middle East: Mr. Vic you have an amazing performance as a Motivational Speaker & trainer which I really believe that it results from years of hard work & sincere efforts, mostly on the inside as you have taught us in one of the most distinguished workshops I have attended in my life. How can leaders work on their inside to be able to lift others?

Vic Williams: That is a great question, Mariham and thank you for the complement. There is a quote you may have heard, particularly from people in the IT space when talking about computers. The quote is, ‘Junk in, junk out.’ The idea is, of course, if you feed a computer the wrong type of information, you will get the wrong result out as a result.

I believe the same is true with humans. If we feed our brains, which is after all the most sophisticated piece of equipment in the known universe, junk then we can expect the same out. And the way in which we feed our brains is not only through the actual food we eat, but through the things we read, that we listen to, that we watch. All of these things define what we think, and as I said previously, what our attitudes are.

So if a leader wants to work harder on themselves than they do on other people to become inspirational, motivational and to lift other people up, they have to be keenly aware of the what they read, what they listen to and what they allow influence them.

If you are putting the good stuff in, you will generally have the good stuff to give out. Reading books like, ‘The Slight Edge’ by Jeff Olson and ‘Over the Top’ by Zig Ziglar, have given me the ability to give out the good stuff and that is what I would recommend to any leader. Let what you put in define what you give out.

4- HR Revolution Middle East:The Prepare for Awesome Podcast” what a Brilliant Initiative! How did you think about it & how much does it really benefit people to change and develop? I am sure there are a lot of success stories to share about that.

Vic Williams: The Prepare for Awesome podcast came about as a result of a desire to make a difference in peoples lives and to use every medium available. And one of those mediums is podcasting. The name developed out of some very lengthy discussions my wife and I had over many months as we formulated the idea. She is a partner in the business and so has been integral to developing the podcast and the subjects we speak about.

We set out with a very clear intention of sharing content with would empower people in their daily lives. We have all read and heard the stories of the great adventurers who have climbed the highest mountains, swam the worlds oceans, trekked to the North Pole single handed, etc. And these are great inspirational stories, but my question has always been, ‘What about you? What about your seemingly ordinary life. How can you see the greatness in that place?’

And so, we focus on the ordinary person, with an ordinary life. How can we inspire them to grow and develop through stories like their own. For example, there is the story of a young man from a small village close to where I live. Tommy was born and raised in a very poor family and was told he would never be anything more than a street sweeper, because that what his father and grandfather had been.

I am not sure how he came to listen to the podcast, but I received an email from him with his story. In the email he told me how the things he had heard have inspired him to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer and had begun to take steps toward that goal.

And that is the point of The Prepare For Awesome podcast. To share with ordinary people ideas, motivation and inspiration which shows how awesome each of them are.

5- HR Revolution Middle East: “Audacious Leadership” is a great book for such a great & authentic leader “Vic Williams”. In this amazing book you address the five key levels of leadership which starts by developing oneself & ends by developing new leaders. What is one indispensable trait leaders must develop in order to grow throughout the five levels?

Vic Williams: Fantastic question Mariham. I think you hit on the key to success as a leader and that is to focus on learning the skills of leading yourself first. There is a vast gap between the skills of leadership and the skills of management, but these often become confused. 

From my experience and research, I have discovered that great leaders work harder on themselves than they do on other people or on the situation they face.

We must remember that leaders are not special humans endowed with special super-powers. Leaders are just like every other person. They are flawed, faulty and make mistakes. But the true leaders have that one quality which makes them stand out which is they consistently and persistently strive to improve themselves in every area of life.

A great example of true leadership is Nelson Mandela. Not a perfect human. Not without fault. Made some huge mistakes, but constantly tried to change himself. In fact he said, ‘One of the most difficult things is not to change society, but to change yourself.’ He spoke these words from a lifetime of changing himself to become better every day.

6- HR Revolution Middle East: From your marvellous experience Mr. Vic, how “Leadership” has become a crucial key for business success? What losses do businesses really incur when they disregard developing a leadership capability within?

Vic Williams: These are really great questions Mariham and for me very important questions.

To go back to my previous answer, it is firstly important to understand the vast difference between leadership and management. To understand what defines each of these ideas as separate skills sets.

Regarding leadership, it is defined by the person as an individual, not by position, status, job title, education, etc. So, leaders are the visionaries in a business. They are looking down the road at where the industry is going and are ‘seeing’ the companies position in that space. They are the people who have the skills to see opportunities where other people see obstacles. They are focused on answering the why questions of business success.

Management, by contrast, focused on the what and how questions. In other words, they are focused on the route to making the vision a reality.

This means, if leaders fail to develop other leaders and help them develop those skills which define leadership, the business will always follow and never lead in their industry. They will become a ‘me-to’ company. Innovation and inventiveness are key skills of leadership and so these will be lacking if real leadership is not developed and nurtured in the organisation.

A very good example of this fact is the tech giant Apple. When the founder was alive and with the company, it was innovative, inventive and they were at the forefront of their industry. However, if we are honest and look at the company today, we will see they have great management, but are far behind companies like Samsung and Huawei when it comes to innovation and product development. They have become a ‘me-to’ product.

Good leadership is therefore critical, throughout an organisation to ensure its sustainable growth and long-term success.

7- HR Revolution Middle East: You said that “Using LinkedIn as my primary source of marketing, new client development and retention of my existing clients has pushed me to learn not only the basics of the platform, but also what the best strategies for connecting and engaging are” What is one of the best engaging strategies you would like to share with our readers to adopt?

Vic Williams: You are right Mariham. I have used LinkedIn from almost the first day I arrived in the UK to build a business which now sees me travel extensively and that has come from developing an engagement strategy which is designed to develop long term relationships with the people I want to engage with.

I think the one thing I would say that people could adopt immediately if they want to increase their engagement is to get involved in the conversations which are relevant to their environment or relevant to the environment of the people they want to engage with. The key to engagement is to be involved and engage. Don’t be a silent stalker. Get into the conversations and you will very soon find people seeking you opinion and then real, deep engagement happens.

8- HR Revolution Middle East: The “Audacious Training Company” actually offers one the best courses designed for equipping participants with the skills needed to be great presenters. Can you share with us three secret tips to apply for presenting more effectively?

Vic Williams: 3 presentation tips? I think first thing is to nail the opening as it is the opportunity to catch the attention of your audience. So, instead of starting with an introduction and a bio, start with a startling and relevant fact or with a thought provoking question which draws people in.

Secondly, throughout your presentation, whether it is one minute at a networking meeting or a key note address to a thousand people, speak with the audience, not at them. Any presentation should be for the benefit of the audience and not for the benefit of the presenter.

And thirdly, use the full extent of your voice. Speak louder when needed, but equally lower your voice to an almost conspiratorial level when you want people’s attention. Use the higher register notes in your voice and the lower register notes when appropriate.

In any presentation, your voice is your super power, so use it to its fullest extent.

Thanks you for the opportunity to share these ideas with you and your readers. It is a privilege for me to do this interview.

THANK YOU

Mariham Magdy with Vic Williams

Interviews

Interview with Mustafa Naisah, Mustafa Naisah, People Learning & Growth Partner

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“We need to tap into the mind-set and enhance it by changing the story we tell ourselves each morning and in every situation, and that requires some training and practice. Once we acquire that positive, proactive, and growth mind-set, it will flawlessly reflect on our behaviors, and eventually the results we get.” Mustafa Naisah

Interviewer: Mariham Magdy

Brief Biography About the Interviewee:

Mustafa Naisah, People Learning & Growth Partner (CRP, ORSC, CVT, ADTTAL, MBA).

Mustafa has extensive experience in the GCC region since 2005 working with Pay TV and Telecom organizations such as Arab Radio and Television (ART), Pehla, FirstNet, ShowTime, and du Telecom, to help them deliver on their brand promise and achieve their commercial aspiration through people and culture development. His last role at du Telecom as a Sr. Manager People Learning & Growth for the Enterprise Business & ICT for 14 years was invaluable one as he assisted in shifting from conventional training methodologies to a more agile and digital one, with many key achievements such as launching Marketing, Sales and Service, and ICT Academies, applying ROI methodologies and enhancing overall business results.

1. HR Revolution Middle East: Welcome to HR Revolution Middle East Magazine. It’s our pleasure to make this interview with you.

“Changing behaviors to deliver stunning business results” what a catchy introduction to your respectable profile. How can we change people’s behaviors?

Mustafa Naisah: Pleasure is mine to be interviewed by HR Revolution Middle East Magazine. I hope I can provide your readers with few tips that they find practical and actionable

I believe that, if we want to change the results we achieve as individuals or as a business, we need to change the behaviors we demonstrate. However, these behaviors stem from the feelings, which can’t be easily changed, unless we work on the deeper cause of the feelings, and that is The Mind-Set.

The mindset is the reason why we feel the way we do, and therefore, act –behave- the way we do, thus, get the results that are always linked to how we behave.

We need to tap into the mind-set and enhance it by changing the story we tell ourselves each morning and in every situation, and that requires some training and practice. Once we acquire that positive, proactive, and growth mind-set, it will flawlessly reflect on our behaviors, and eventually the results we get.

2- HR Revolution Middle East: How does people behaviors shape organizations?

Mustafa Naisah: Individual behavior, group behaviors, and organizational system correlate together to form the shape of the organization, however, each one has its impacts

Most of organizations nowadays have competitors that offer the same products or services. The main differentiator to why customers will choose one over the other is the authenticity in the way they are being served. This service is delivered through people, thus the formula is simple: Happy employees = Happy customers.

Having the right products or services, knowledge, skills, processes, and abilities is critical, however, to stand out of the crowd, the multiplier for that is the mindset.

The key to success for most organizations is how they motivate and empower their employees to demonstrate 3 behaviors: Empathy, taking ownership, and creating a culture of feedback and coaching.

If we manage to create the right mind-set and improve these 3 behaviors, the results is guaranteed and the organization will have the desired culture and shape, and shape. Ultimately, it’s all about how we treat our internal and external customers, however, customer service is not a department. It’s an attitude.

3- HR Revolution Middle East: As a Certified ROI Professional, how does the ROI Methodology inspire leaders to plan for preparing people reactions towards new projects? To what extent do you believe that this critical factor can impact the success or failure of any project?

Mustafa Naisah: This is indeed an excellent question. See, all organizations would require an answer to the question: why will I invest my time, money, and resources in this project or initiative? What’s in it for me (WIIFM)? And it’s absolutely a justifiable question. A lot of organizations now understand that ROI is a since and an art. Unlike a few years ago when the assumption was ROI is merely applicable when purchasing a new machine, or asset, or deploying a new system. Organizations now prefer to measure all the 5 levels of the evaluations, and the 5th one (ROI) is applied to strategic initiatives as a standard practice nowadays.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. ROI actually can be greatly predictive as well, and to a high extent of accuracy, thanks to its scientific methodologies and isolation techniques. Moreover, it can measure not only the return on investment (ROI) but also the return on emotions (ROE) for a short term and a long term and it provides that to a very wide array of projects, investments, and programs that many people are not aware that it can be measured. Doing so gives the organization a good predictive indicator whether to proceed or not, and later on, whether to continue or not. Moreover it justifies the money that was spent as the results are measured and analysed.

4-HR Revolution Middle East: As a lecturer to MBA Students, what specific value do you believe the MBA offers to professionals in today’s business world? At what age do you advise professionals to complete their MBA Degrees?

Mustafa Naisah: I personally believe one should not rush to the MBA unless he knows clearly why they are heading for it. With the many MB specializations, one should go for the relevant and applicable specialisation. Otherwise it may not add the same value. New graduates should spend the first two or three years deciding what is it that they really want to do. During these years they may change jobs at a very low cost. Once they have the clarity on what they’ll be doing, it is the right time to go for the MBA (or other qualifications such as CIPD in case of HR Professionals) as it will be more relevant and it will relate to things they are already doing or seeing in the real-world environment.

5- HR Revolution Middle East: What are the most common challenges do People Managers face in order to maintain a positive organizational culture? What special tips would you share with HR professionals about this?

Mustafa Naisah: Silence and sense of indifference by employees. That’s is the most poisonous item to the culture, and that can be from both sides, manager to subordinates and vice versa. However, managers are responsible and accountable for not eliminating this culture killer.

Imagine a culture where the company mission, vision, values, and promise are not communicated clearly and instilled in the employees. That is silence. The reason # 1 for employee engagement and performance is having a clear sense of their MEANING. Imagine if that wasn’t nurtured in them.

Imagine when a company is going through a restructure or change initiatives and employees are sitting worried, confused, hearing rumors, and not knowing what’s going on, due to the silence. Can you see the impact on the employee productivity?

Imagine a company that doesn’t talk to its employees unless something goes wrong. A super-achiever or even an on-target achiever that doesn’t hear an appreciation or encouragement, or an underachiever that doesn’t receive constructive feedback, personal development plan, and proper coaching, just to realize when it’s too late that he has not been doing well.

For the above and many more reasons, I regard silence as the biggest challenge and companies that want to maintain a positive and healthy culture must have strategies to switch to a culture where communication, feedbacks, and coaching are daily practices.

6HR Revolution Middle East: How can organizations quantify the ROI of having positive leadership styles in the workplace?

Mustafa Naisah: This is a controversial question and not an easy one to answer in fact. Jack Philips & Patricia Pulliam published an interesting book named “Measuring Leadership Development” where he linked the positive leadership style with the organizational performance, then quantified that into Impact on Business and ROI. In short, many companies claim that they care about their leadership, but few only show the commitment to that philosophy. Many companies promote employees to become managers based on technical performance, but unless they invest in their development, and equip them with the sophisticated competencies and skills, both hard and soft, with a deep sense of when to offer help and directions and when to hold back. Leaders are most effective when they drive team performance, that means engaging, inspiring, and coaching, doing fewer tasks themselves, and spend more time helping others achieve better results.

Investing in positive leadership development pays-off in many ways. Trust, engagement, retention and reduced turnover, productivity and performance, in addition to many other things that can’t be measured in numbers. Engaged employees are more likely to work 140% for their best boss, and thus the overall company performance improves.

7- HR Revolution Middle East: What final piece of advice would you share with HR professionals world-wide to develop special competencies that can help them excel in todays’ business challenges?

Mustafa Naisah: My advice to HR professionals is to comprehend their business very well, engage and partner with them, and add value to them. Widen your skills and network and stay updated with best practices and industry trends. Be a game changer without essentially trying to apply every new trend or practice that are seen as the “topic of the hour”. What works for others may not necessarily work for your organization. Focus on the desired outcome. Finally, Communicate, communicate communicate…

THANK YOU

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Interviews

Interview with Keith F Watson -Online Tutor ICS Learn

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

INTERVIEWERS: MARIHAM MAGDY & MAHMOUD MANSI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THANK YOU

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Corporate

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

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“2021 is here and there has been never a tipping point like this before for governments and organizations to transform how they work, engage the employees and service their clients.  It is this mix of internal and external challenges that will also create opportunities for leaders to make a difference as we embark upon a new calendar year.” Mr. Vijay Gandhi

Interviewer: Mariham Magdy

Brief Biography about the Interviewee:

Mr. Vijay Gandhi has worked with human resource teams for over 20 years to provide them with tools, benchmarks, insights and data to help them design high level global HR frameworks and make decisions for local executive teams, remuneration committees and board of directors in public and privately owned companies across different sectors. He oversees the commercial activities of Reward & Benefits in KF Digital across Europe, Middle East and Africa.  

Vijay has an MBA from Durham University (UK) and BBA in Finance & International Business from University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA). He joined Korn Ferry in 2001 in Dubai and has worked in EMEA and Asia region. In May 2018, he was honored with Forbes “Top 50 Indian Executives in Arab World”

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

As the Regional Director for Korn Ferry Digital, we are keen to learn from you more about KF Digital, how do Korn Ferry’s digital applications help organizations to transform or enhance their organizational strategy?

Mr. Vijay Gandhi:

Through the Korn Ferry Digital platform, our clients gain direct access to our data, insights, analytics and digital solutions – enabling them to drive performance in their organizations in a scalable way through their people, using one enterprise-wide framework and language of talent.  Our digital solutions cover the whole talent journey. So, whether it’s developing a new talent strategy or reward program, making informed decisions about hiring or developing talent from within the organization, getting the right people on board, or even collecting feedback on how engaged employees really are, right across the organization – Korn Ferry Digital provides the answers.

Our solutions serve as an integrated platform that gives clients direct access to the data, insights and analytics. Clients benefit from one enterprise-wide talent framework and language that helps drive organizational performance through people.

2- HR Revolution Middle East: To what extent can we trust the results of the digital assessments? How can organizations use the data that Korn Ferry collects to make intelligent hiring, reward, development decisions?

Mr. Vijay Gandhi:

Korn Ferry Digital is fueled by the most comprehensive and up-to-date people and organization databases.  This data provides the DNA for our digital solutions, bringing a research-based foundation to underpin quality and consistency in your HR practices.  Over 4 billion data points have been collected, including: 

  • Over 69 million assessment results
  • 8 million employee engagement survey responses
  • Rewards data for 20 million employees across 25,000 organizations and 130+ countries

We’ve pulled the data together into a comprehensive set of actionable and dynamic Success Profiles.  Success Profiles define “what good looks like” and include data around three dimensions – the accountabilities of a role, the associated capabilities to perform these responsibilities, and the traits and drivers that are characteristic of a person who will thrive in this role.

Organizations have access to over 4,000 individual Success Profiles across 30,000 job titles – and we are continually updating and adding new profiles, so you get to leverage the latest thinking on emerging roles.  The results are therefore based on deep insight and research.

3- HR Revolution Middle East: Mr. Vijay, we are eager to learn from you more about the success story behind honoring you as one of the Top 50 Indian Leaders in Arab World by Forbes Middle East in 2018 Region’s greatest success stories as Regional Director at Korn Ferry Digital.

Mr. Vijay Gandhi:

I am a long-time resident of the Arab region, where my family roots go back 60 years, before the UAE federation was formed.  Knowing the culture, people and dynamics of working in the Arab world has been natural as this has been home to our family where my kids are the 5th generation.  For more than 20 years, I have worked closely with human resource teams in the Arab world to execute their talent strategy.  A lot has changed in this period in HR function itself which was regarded as a payroll function few decades ago.  Today, HR and People strategy are board room discussions where HR plays a strategic role in driving workforce performance.

In these positively growing and changing times, my focus was on leveraging tools, benchmarks, insights and data to design high-level global HR frameworks for senior executives in the region – helping them more effectively manage their talent.  We have built successful client partnerships in the region which has made Korn Ferry as a go to organizational consulting firm. 

4- HR Revolution Middle East: For over 20 years, you have overseen the activities of pay, talent, surveys and listening products across Europe, Middle East and Africa. What are the unique characteristics of the Middle East organizations especially in talent and pay management? How does we differ from other regions as Europe & Africa?

Mr. Vijay Gandhi:

Change is taking place rapidly in the world of work with any organizations taking unprecedented steps to remain relevant and connected to their people , their customers and society. In the Middle East we have seen many companies implement temporary pay-cuts. Diversified conglomerates have shifted their employees from one division to another to balance the demand and supply.  There is no denial that the way we work is changing and organizations have had to prepare a blueprint for the unexpected.  This year it’s coronavirus.  Next time, and there will be a next time, it could be a natural calamity, a recession, talent flight or something else unforeseen. 

  1. Redefining the nature of work:  Even today most organizations in the Gulf region are measuring success or performance using the metric of attendance.  There is a mismatch between modern, flexible ways of working and traditional ways of organizing and rewarding work. To close this gap, organizations need new approaches that fit today and can flex for the future. New and evolving technologies allow organizations to operate more effectively and more efficiently. They do this by preparing people to work more productively and by introducing virtual ways of doing things that previously required physical presence.   Some organizations in the region have started tocreate “flexible teams” for specific projects, and then dismantling  them once the project is complete.
  2. Moving towards a liquid workforce:  HR laws in the Middle East region have undergone change in the last 3 years to allow for part-time employees, internships and with the spring of an independent freelance community offering specialized professional services which were rare to find few years ago.   In the future, we will see more organizations tailoring their resource requirements to the needs of the labor market. Organizations will move towards a liquid workforce to capture the best talent regardless of source or nature of contract which may not be employed full-time.
  3. Splitting time and skills:  A few global companies are making use of employees’ skills and motivation within the confines of a traditional role.  They have developed a SharePoint platform where employees can give up to 20% of their time to projects outside of their core role. The 80/20 approach allows for flexibility without the contractual implications of making significant changes to roles and functions. The projects range from large, like supporting big corporate initiatives, to small, like moderating a series of workshops. These smaller projects may last just a few weeks and take up less than 20% of a person’s working time. Trainees, called ‘Start-up’ participants, also work according to the 80/20 principle. That means they follow a set rotation programme for four days of the week and meet on Fridays to work on joint projects.
  4. Rethinking Reward:  Even after right-sizing in many Middle East companies, there has been a significant impact of grade/title inflation on performance. In the short-term it is important to preserve operating capacity in the event demand returns to normal sooner than expected by managing leaves and cutting pay for a limited time.  In the medium-term, organizations will have to adjust individual performance incentives as conditions normalize and consider crisis-related spot awards where applicable.  In the long-term, organizations will have to not only maintain awards for top-performers but also consider tying bonuses and incentives to crisis-related health and-safety metrics.

With no ‘rules of the game’, and such rapid evolution, it’s not surprising that many companies feel they don’t know where or how to start. They need fresh thinking and new approaches on a whole range of topics – including how to create a ‘new deal’ that works for their people.

5- HR Revolution Middle East: The digital transformation has changed totally the way businesses make decisions.  Given that almost every organization has been forced into a new way of working, how can they navigate through a new normal?  

Mr. Vijay Gandhi:

The positive new is that, apart from solving immediate effects of the crisis, we have seen a resilience to operate from home by employees and employers moving from “no flexible hours” to “you can work remotely if the job doesn’t require you to come to the office”.

Whilst it’s great to move to more flexibility, we may be going over the top to think that this will be the norm for all employee segments.  Let me share some of the discussions with HR professionals in last few months in the region.

  1. Leadership matters and they want to be visible with the workforce.  Ask any leader when do they have the most impact? It’s when they are spending time with their people to engage with them and enable them by listening to their concerns. 
  2. There were aspects of our lives – work, family, friends – which were separate but now happening all in one physical space.  The self-complexity theory shows that individuals become vulnerable to negative feelings when these social activities and goals aren’t differentiated.
  3. Certain roles in healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality sectors cannot work remotely, and fantastic efforts have been made to make the workplace safe.
  4. Sales and Business development were areas identified as most dependent on face-to-face meetings.  According to Harvard Business research, in-person meetings were seen as most effective for:
    1. Negotiating important contracts (82%)
    2. Interviewing senior staff for key positions (81%)
    3. Understanding and listening to important customers (69%)

Although there are many reasons why video conferencing works well to stay connected in isolation and keep dispersed teams connected and aligned, latest research shows they wear on the psyche in complicated ways.  Psychologists say a new phenomenon “video call fatigue” is emerging.  It describes the feeling of being worn out by back-to-back virtual meetings and having to perform for the camera by over-scheduling ourselves.

So, whilst working from home since March 2020 was considered as a great move from being non-flexible to trusting people, it’s now time to rationalize our thinking.  The answer lies somewhere in the middle by being flexible and not drifting like nomads too. We cannot take all home and it won’t be forever. 

6- HR Revolution Middle East: How did all the twists and turns occurred in 2020 changed the traditional way organizations used to manage pay? Do you expect that businesses would return to the normal management of pay in 2021?

Mr. Vijay Gandhi:

Shifting to “people” priorities in 2021

2020 will be a fable for us to share with generations to come.  It is a year which has revolutionized the way we work and adapt to uncertainty.  A year which started with negativity around jobs and pay cuts. Life came to a stand-still.  Organizations who have survived the pandemic have shown tremendous resilience and agility to adapt to tough times.  As costs were taken out of the business in the first half of the year, we have seen higher productivity and the drive to restore profitability.  It was also a year where there remained no doubt that that the most critical driver for any organization was its workforce.

2021 is here and there has been never a tipping point like this before for governments and organizations to transform how they work, engage the employees and service their clients.  It is this mix of internal and external challenges that will also create opportunities for leaders to make a difference as we embark upon a new calendar year.

Reforms

Transformation in business set-up and labour reforms were on top of the agenda in 2020.  The Labour Reform Initiative (LRI) brought into action by MHRSD in Saudi under the National Transformation Program (NTP) has swung the focus back onto shared services and their significance in the Saudi business world. This initiative has not only set a strong precedent for the future of workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) but also carved a structured model for businesses looking to hire personnel. Similarly, there were 2 landmark moves in United Arab Emirates (UAE)

  • allowing foreign investors to own local companies without the need for an Emirati sponsor will open doors for more FDI and greater business opportunities.
  • allowing professionals to reside and work in Dubai residency rule was a big boon for professionals in workplaces where they are delivering or leading teams remotely.  

The road ahead for employees working in this region looks bright as these reforms would strengthen labour competencies, enrich the work environment, and put together an inviting job market.  The flexibility will help employers in 2021 to drive innovations, provide access to more talent, drive performance and results regardless of where the team is located in the region.

Empathy

Leaders will have to go beyond showing interest in the development of everyone and be empathetic towards employees who survived the crisis with them in 2020.  In fact, the ‘Global Workplace Study 2020’ by ADP Research Institute shows that employees are approximately 13 times more likely to be resilient when more workplace disruption occurs. Empathy was shown by employees in many ways e.g.  working from home in different circumstances or taking a pay cut to help companies save further job cuts. 

Technology innovation is here to stay

Organizations in both the public and private sectors had to make a change in the way they work and move to digitization.  Another conundrum we are presently facing is the real-estate impacts of employees desiring greater work-life flexibility. It’s unlikely that office spaces will disappear overnight, but rather a greater integration of virtual and in-person work is right around the corner. The recent decision by Dubai Government to work-from-home comes at the back of flexible working hours announced in April 2020. Workplace flexibility works best when implemented to address both the organization’s need to for a leaner workforce and employees’ need for work/life support.

Balancing wellness

The social element of your workplace has likely taken on a much different look in 2021. You may have employees in a social distance-friendly environment, employees working from home, or a mix of both.  Organizations will have to find ways to encourage them to stay connected while being physically disconnected.  Even before the pandemic COVID-19 had entered our vocabulary, burnout, stress and anxiety were significant issues in the workplace, and society generally.  Once we throw the mental health impact into the mix, and work-related stress is likely to reach staggering levels.  Going into 2021, leaders must promote the mental wellbeing and invest into benefits which will bring people together in a different way.

7- HR Revolution Middle East: What final tips would you give to business leaders at the beginning of 2021 with all the apprehensions and fears they have for the new wave of covid-19?

Mr. Vijay Gandhi:

Technology will continue to dominate the workplace and improve efficiencies.  However, the most valuable services in the marketplace will always be done better by humans. In an era defined by crisis, where emotional intelligence, compassion, resilience, and morality may prove more important than ever before, the future of work is human. If business is about humans, the future of work must be too.

One thing to look forward to in 2021 from job and career perspective is slow change.  Disruption has already happened.  However, more often and less discussed are the small changes occurring each day that eventually add up to huge impacts. The present moment is worthy of your attention.

THANK YOU

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