Hessa Al Ghurair: "It’s OK if our staff want to leave"

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 18 Nov 2015

Internal mobility is the answer to recruitment and retention issues, says Tanfeeth HR chief

HR professionals in the Middle East should end their obsession with recruiting and retaining top talent and concentrate on developing future leaders among their existing workforce, according to the HR leader of one of the region’s fastest-growing businesses.
 
At the HR Summit and Expo in Dubai, Hessa Al Ghurair, chief people officer at Tanfeeth, told an audience of HR professionals that 90 per cent of its vacancies were being filled by internal promotions, as she focused on developing a pipeline of talented individuals ready to step up to the next level.
 
Tanfeeth, which was spun out of the Emirates NDB bank, is a business process outsourcing giant with more than 2,000 employees. Al Ghurair said it used a competency model to thoroughly understand the existing abilities of its staff, and a programme of training to upskill them. Many are assigned mentors to aid their development: “I make sure half our people are ready [to be promoted] so if people do leave they can step up.”
 
As a result, said Al Ghurair, attrition wasn’t something that worried her, and even had a positive upside. “If someone gets a job where he earns 20 per cent more, I say go ahead. Call me some time. Looking at it logically, they’ll be going somewhere else talking about our organisation [positively] plus it ensures someone else can move up. Otherwise I’ll end up with a load of baby boomers stuck in jobs.”
 
The internal talent pipeline was the most effective solution to retention issues, said Al Ghurair, since it was hard to stop people leaving. Emirati employees could not be bonded to the organisation, and Tanfeeth allows other staff to leave after six months without incurring any financial penalty: “Of course, if I look at it financially I have invested in them and I lose that money. But it’s part of the cycle.”
 
The HR leader also suggested businesses should concentrate on developing a strong employer brand and a reputation for treating people well, given the prevalence of social media such as Glassdoor and the digital capabilities of younger jobseekers: “They’re getting smarter. They do a check on the managers who are hiring them. They check out the company. And if they don’t like what they hear, they will decline our offer.”