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The importance of HR

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It’s an exciting time for HR in the Middle East, says Rita Trehan. She explains why the region offers a canvas for HR to demonstrate its credentials, and how HR professionals can implement its practices.

Those who work in the Middle East today are aware of three main employment market issues: nationalisation, an ageing workforce in the oil and gas sectors and an under-qualified junior talent pool.

The common denominator in the three main employment market issues in the Middle East is people. There is a dearth of qualified candidates in relation to the rapid growth of businesses in the region, which means traditional channels for attracting people aren’t useful. This lack of leadership also affects the internal pool of candidates. Look in any major organisation and the lack of leaders prepared to step into more senior leadership roles becomes quite real. The discrepancy between businesses’ growth and the recruitment of qualified candidates will continue to widen unless solutions are swiftly brought to the table.

Talent growth is key

It is the HR practice that must take on these challenges, creating solutions from a renewed focus on graduate training and recruitment to enlarging the female candidate slate. Overcoming the issues surrounding talent in this geographical sector are addressable. There has never been a better time for HR to shape the future of this region and its human capital needs. So how can HR face these challenges head-on? The answer is that HR leaders will need to ‘buy’ and grow talent. Four powerful strategies are outlined here. Combine them all or pick and choose which suit your requirements, and you have a powerful set of game-changing tools.

Ways to 'buy' talent:

1. Widen the gender slate of your talent pool

Look to attract new candidate sources, such as women, who remain a relatively untapped talent pool in this market. Appealing to female candidates widens your slate of talented and skilled individuals, while positioning your company as an employee of choice.

From the growth and development your business offers its people, to the supportive environment and culture, the goal is to stand out from the rest. To determine how attractive your brand is, ask yourself these questions to see how your company stacks up as an employer of choice for women:

A. Is your value proposition compelling for women? Is your work environment flexible? Do you offer an environment where both women and men feel comfortable? Do you give women opportunities to grow and develop?

B. Are there women in your company who can serve as mentors and, if so, how can you market this strength?

C. Are you supportive of networks made up of audiences – including women – who have skills you desire? If so, how can you become more active and involved with the members?

2. Get involved with local universities

HR should not underestimate the value of investing in universities. Companies that do are more likely to have the best pick of top students when they graduate. There are many ways to improve your relationship with universities: First, find out which universities run programmes that align with your business’s needs. Request information from them – such as the student pass rate, postgraduate hiring statistics and the university rating – from their placement office.

Once you’ve chosen the right universities, create a pipeline programme that connects the best students to your company. Consider sponsoring and/or offering work placements to undergraduates. Don’t wait until they are just about to graduate; engage with them early on. There are plenty of ways to build your brand profile: sponsoring a specific initiative, offering an achievement award, and/or holding informative sessions that appeal to the students. You will be surprised at the results this yields.

3. Establish a leadership model

In order to develop leaders, you must define what a successful leader looks like in your organisation. Ask yourself if your leadership profile is consistent with the needs of your corporate strategy. If not, discover what’s missing and retool it.

Ensure the top management in your workforce agrees with what leadership potential looks like, then review HR practices to ensure they are aligned.

From recruiting to development, ask yourself if there’s consistency between what you say and what you practise.

4. Invest in developing your internal pipeline

Without investing in developing a talent pipeline, you risk frantically searching for people to step into a role at short notice. Instead of finding yourself in this vulnerable position, work to build a robust pipeline.

Ensure you know how many roles you have open, how many you’re going to open, how many are filled by expats, and how much time is needed to fill empty positions. This will allow you to spot gaps in the pipeline and create a strategy to fill them. Understand that developing your pipeline also means focusing your efforts on leadership development. Reviewing leaders you have today against the types you’ll need in the future is the first step.

Once you have answers to these questions, you are in a position to prioritise what to focus on, in order to have a robust pipeline of leaders.

From devising new leadership programmes to establishing coaching and mentoring, and embedding talent management throughout the organisation, you can decide which initiatives will have the biggest impact and are most feasible to implement.

If HR leaders show their excellence with the talent groups in their region, HR leaders in other regions may emulate what they’ve accomplished.

Ask yourself

  • How are you developing your leaders?
  • How effective have these methods been to date? What’s working, not working, and what needs to be done differently?
  • Do you have development initiatives at all levels? If not, where is there a gap?
Rita Trehan

By Rita Trehan

Rita is a senior executive and chief HR officer teaching companies how to rethink business.

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