By Nivriti Butalia
She’s been in the business long enough (20 years) to qualify as someone who can give pointers on — not just how to not get sacked, but on — the work front in the UAE market at large.
Palestinian born Jordanian-Canadian citizen, Rania Abu-Shukur is Principal — Talent Consulting at Mercer Middle East. And we picked her brains on topics touched upon in a study called ‘2017 Global Talent Trends’ of a Mercer study called ‘How HR needs to change’ that revealed matters like ‘93 per cent of executives are planning an organisation redesign in the next two years’. Edited excerpts from an interview…
Hey Rania. Thanks for your time. Tell us what it means to be a talent consultant?
I spend most of my time with clients, understanding their organisations’ challenges, culture, and capabilities in order to design solutions that will meet their expectations and enhance the efficiency of their HR services. Having the opportunity to work with different clients is exciting. After a while I feel I work with colleagues and not clients.
Are you always on the lookout for new talent, constantly trawling LinkedIn?
I mainly use LinkedIn to stay connected with my professional network, industry updates and share articles and points of view related to various business topics.
Our HR team uses LinkedIn more for recruitment purposes. We are always searching for ambitious, creative, talented consultants. Having both a CV and a LinkedIn profile is important. A LinkedIn profile provides updated insights about the person’s interests, endorsements from network, etc and it is important to keep it professional.
Would you like to tell us about some mistakes you see on CVs or on LinkedIn profiles? A handy tip, easily corrected?
Most CVs I receive list activities performed by candidates. It would be more useful to demonstrate the impact of their work on organisations and what they have achieved. A short introduction summarising career objectives, key competencies and what they are looking for would immediately capture the recruiter’s attention.
Do the most talented people necessarily make the best employees?
Yes, if they are in the right position, right working environment, and highly engaged. (That is why the behavioural aspect is very important.) If not… then their talent will not be demonstrated or have a positive impact on the organisation. In such situations usually, talented people won’t stay.
Across industries there is a perception that HR people are challenging to deal with. Why is that? Where does that perception come from?
HR professionals can be challenging if they don’t understand their organisation’s business strategy. If HR is not engaged by the leadership team at a strategic level, it will create a huge disconnect.
Clarity of processes, clarity of HR, managers, and employees’ responsibilities, use of technology, availability of information, effective communication — all these factors play an essential role on how HR is perceived… HR has to ensure that the organisation is in compliance with its HR policies and procedures, and unfortunately this is the most prominent role HR is recognised for, hence perceived as the organisation ‘policeman’.
HR needs to change this perception by being more proactive in continuously identifying the causes behind the negative perception, partner with stakeholders to improve HR services and communicate enhancements.
When does an organisation NOT grow?
An organisation stops growing when it stops being innovative in creating and meeting market demand. “Change is the only constant in life”… when there is no clear strategy for its growth.
How long would you say it take for an organisation to change its reputation and to turn things around? Perceptions, for one.
There is no specific time frame… all depends on the actions identified to change perception and how dedicated the entire organisation is to drive the change. Organisation perceptions are formed over time, through different interactions with different people within the organisation. Even if organisations successfully rebrand themselves it takes time before the new image gets recognised externally.
What does it mean to react proactively to disruptive change? And how important is it for employees to be able to deal with this?
Disruptive change refers to innovation that creates a new market. If organisations fail to recognise and immediately respond to disruptive change, their established market will be threatened and overtaken by proactive competitors. It is important for employees to embrace disruptive change and not resist it in order to help their organisations survive.
According to the Mercer study, “68 per cent of high-performing HR functions have redesigned their HR structure within the last 5 years”. So, conversely, 32 per cent of high performing HR didn’t restructure in the last 5 years? What do you think explains their high performance?
HR operating model has levels of maturity. It means that the 32 percent of high performing HR functions have made changes to their operating model at some point in the past. Therefore, they are on high performance but less than those who recently restructured their operating model to a higher maturity level.
You say teams in UAE are building lean, efficient organisations. Is this bad news for job seekers in UAE? In the current market, how do they interpret this?
On the contrary, building a lean and efficient organisation means that business leaders are assessing their current organisation structures to determine whether changes are needed. A heavily layered organisation inhibits communication between top management and employees and hinders sharing of ideas and introduces a hierarchical culture. As a result, job seekers should expect high emphases on high performing individuals owning their professional development and career advancement.
Tell us, how does HR choose the right millennial for the job?
I believe the process is not necessarily different than choosing any other employee. Employees coming from different generations, genders, cultures, religions are hired to contribute to the success of the organisation… All employees need to possess the minimum requirement for the job and fit the culture of the organisation.
On the other hand, organisations should develop their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and HR policies to attract and retain such diversity of employees. HR professionals should understand what will attract, retain and motivate such diversity and come up with innovative processes and solutions that differentiate yet maintain the harmony of the workforce.
Nivriti likes ‘human-interest’ stories and has a thing for the quirky, oddball stuff