Tell us about you, your experience, and your time in the Middle East.
I am a Mathematics graduate, with a Postgraduate diploma in business management. From selling consumer durables, telecom services in India & investment products in the UAE, to managing a diverse team of customer service professionals for high-net-worth clients, I have been able to utilize my business experience to the needs of the current role of being a talent professional. Over the last 25 years, having worked in sales, customer services and HR, I can connect the dots of the business needs to what we are required to customize and deliver for them.
I have been in the region since 2005 and it’s been a very rewarding journey as I have worked in multiple industries in different organizations both in MNC as well as local conglomerates. This experience has really helped me shape my career as well as my ability to influence the results in organizations at different levels.
We have some great organizations in this part of the world who have successfully implemented some great talent practices which has helped UAE establish itself as a leader in attracting and developing talent.
How would you describe the culture of your business?
Since I have worked across different industries, every organization has their own culture either by design or default. Be it a large organization or an SME, an MNC or a local conglomerate, at the end of the day what matters is how the leadership wants to drive and influence the culture of the organization. In the recent past I have been fortunate to have worked with some great leaders who have focused their efforts on talent in the organization which has made them successful.
It is also important to note that culture sets the tone to make the strategy work and eventually it is all about how the leaders drive the talent in a manner that the execution is effective… that’s what matters. We have seen both successes as well as failures and the key differentiator (beyond some of the market forces / situations) has been the leadership effectiveness.
How easy is it for you to get direct access to the decision-makers in your company?
I have been leading HR over the past few years within different business units, and I have been fortunate to have worked or reported directly with the senior stakeholders in the organization who were the key decision makers for most of the important talent management initiatives. In most of the instances, I did get the right support to drive the key changes and in some we did not progress much due to other priorities like recovery from the current pandemic wherein the company has to focus on both talent retention as well as commercial priorities. It’s always a balancing act.
As mentioned earlier in all those cases where the leadership was effective, they really drove the key initiatives in the right direction with the right sponsorship.
What are your biggest challenges in the next few years & possible solutions that you could suggest with your experience?
Perception driven by HR actions:
As and when HR leaders have tried to follow and implement good HR practices, it seemed like HR for HR’s sake. This has led to a perception issue that the senior stakeholders might feel the disconnection with the real business and how are these practices and policies solving their real-life problems.
The Solution that has helped in the past: The key is to align & re-align, check and cross reference and calibrate most (not all) of the activities with key stakeholders. This will improve Buy-in & Credibility and can eventually help build a better ‘People’ function.
We have witnessed a big gap between the experience of the Gen X managers and the Gen Z employees, and this has widened the engagement gap.
Solution that has helped in the past: Conscious conversation as a part of the management development programs to bring awareness about the needs of the younger generation and what changes are required by the managers to drive effectiveness and engagement across the teams. In addition, effective Employee Engagement Action planning at a local level drove effective measures – which really mattered to the employees. Guidance on career pathways has been a positive help too. A refreshed communication and culture revamp could help. Managing expectations on Hybrid working (post Covid) also need to be addressed.
In today’s market when the companies are trying to revive the pre-covid models of growth (or surpass them), HR has seen that the payroll cost as a % has increased. we have lost some good talent & continue to be at risk of losing some more possibly as the market opens. Effectively the EBITDA numbers puts the pressure on shortage of manpower, the non-alignment of market salaries – as it becomes difficult to justify the increases.
Solution potentially will vary from one business to the other – some may be able to tackle this and with some who are not able to tackle, we need to put even higher emphasis on engagement actions by the managers to safeguard till the time market bounces back fully. We have had more thorough justifications of manning additions to ensure P&L positive conversations.
Upgrading organization’s skill set / Capability has always been a challenge. These could be attributed to many reasons. Mindsets of some legacy managers (could be a will issue) OR Limitation of ability or aptitude to manage / drive change (could be a skill issue). Budget and resources could be a constraint which is a reality for both big and small organizations. Technological advancement and understanding of the generation gap also add to organizational development issues.
Solution would vary – depending on what / how we prioritize first. Leadership development should be an integral part of the equation and depending on the financial situation, we can propose a customized solution for leaders at different levels.
Along with ALL the above, it is ability to manage CHANGE effectively and manage stakeholder expectations while we continue to calibrate the effectiveness of the initiatives along the transformation journey.
What is your philosophy?
Be a LIFELONG LEARNER.
Being achievement oriented coupled with affiliation is the main driver for me. I believe in two main things: One is “how do I learn and grow” and second is “How do I value add to others?”
It is my endeavor to take new projects as learning opportunities and my search for new challenges keep me on my toes. At times we succeed, and at times we learn from the experience (stated by some as ‘failures’) and then it is time to experiment with something new. Infusing new ways of doing things is a journey that I am ON right now with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Spotlight: Jiten Puri People Practitioner