Q&A: Dr Alia Al Serkal: “Organisations have to rethink how they manage their human capital”

Author: PM editorial | Date: 13 Apr 2016

The senior director of talent management at du talks talent planning for the future

Dr Alia Al SerkalThe talent challenges in certain service sectors are becoming increasingly profound – which is why the Global Retail and Hospitality Talent Summit in Dubai, from 25-26 April, is particularly well timed. Dr Alia Al Serkal, senior director of talent management at telecoms giant du, is among the experts who’ll be holding forth about talent acquisition and development. Ahead of the summit, she spoke to People Management about talent management and the challenges that may lie ahead for a forthcoming cereal café in Dubai.

What talent plans should organisations in retail and hospitality be making?
Keeping in mind the economic situation that the world is facing at the moment, organisations have to rethink how they manage their human capital. Make sure that individuals are well trained, because new trends are emerging and the focus is more on customers. Technology is changing rapidly as well – what we did 10 to 15 years ago may not be applicable now.
 
The population of millennials is quite large and they have specific needs. They have different expectations and that’s where organisations need to start upping their game and considering that demographic as part of their talent planning.
 
What challenges are the retail and hospitality sectors facing in the Middle East?
We have a large number of expatriates who come with different skills and backgrounds, but we also need to make sure our GCC nationals are developed and getting the same exposure and the same skills.
 
Once we’ve trained these individuals, they may get headhunted and go to other organisations. Our challenge is making sure we have the right career plans for our nationals and the right opportunities to challenge themselves, so they stay with our organisation for the long term.
 
How can a new, foreign-owned organisation succeed in the hospitality market? Take for example the British Cereal Killer café [which serves breakfast cereal all day] that is opening a branch in Dubai.
They would need to make the experience unique with the best customer service possible, have high standards and meet their customer’s expectations at all times. Of course, this all comes back to recruiting and retaining the right talent.
 
They also need to demonstrate why it’s going to be unique and where the value for money is. Understanding their customers is another challenge we have such diversity of people, and over 200 nationalities in the UAE. They need to understand who is likely to come and who is likely to have a bowl of cereal outside their home. Maybe they will add a regional experience to their menu, like camel milk, which is available in our supermarkets but unheard of in the UK. It will be interesting to see how it develops.