Spotlight on Human Capital with Zardasht Banai

Spotlight on Human Capital with Zardasht Banai
April 10, 2013 at 02:04pm

Zardasht Banai
HR Manager
GE Iraq

What is the biggest challenge when it comes to attracting, developing and retaining quality human capital?

Getting the right people is the key here. Companies need to have the right people in the right jobs with the right skills. It really helps to define your businesses strategy, and to know your value proposition in the market. It’s also important to understand how to differentiate your approaches. I think the biggest challenge is how to identify the required people skills, competencies, and experiences.

Based on this, you can define the type of attraction and selection approach to use. Companies must also design their reward system based on the marketplace. Having reliable data is a key challenge, and putting together a flexible compensation & benefit scheme is another area to focus on.

Next, designing an effective training and development plan for employees is, in my opinion, the most challenging part. This involves a gap analysis between the current & desired competencies of the organizations as a starting point. Then it all comes down to communication: companies must facilitate communication at all levels.

What is the best way to engage talent in the oil & gas sector?

It’s obvious that engaged employees care more, perform better, and stay longer. Engagement is a summation of pride, satisfaction, advocacy and retention. Great leaders have to focus on growth, recognition and trust to engage their employees. The key thing to consider in growth and development is to hold one-on-one meetings with team members to specifically talk about their career goals and know what knowledge, skills, experiences and relationships they need to reach them. It’s also important to help them to identify ways to close the gaps. Learning and development doesn’t always have to be a formal event or cost money. It may come to life through mentorships, job rotations, developmental projects, lunch & learns, conference share-outs, books, etc. In terms of recognition, leaders need to show appreciation readily, offer recognition in public, also express thanks, specifically mentioning the behavior they are grateful for. They also need seek opinions from others and get them involved.

Leaders must nurture trust to eliminate uncertainty. Their words and deeds must match and be transparent. Leaders must share the bad news along with the good, and acknowledge mistakes. S/he must repeat the strategic plan regularly and ensure all team members understand it, by showing how each person fits with the plan.

How is knowledge transfer important in oil & gas and how can we bring it to life in Iraq?

Building the next generation of talent is an important consideration. Companies need to maintain the continuity of the business operation without compromising the efficiency. For the Iraq Oil & Gas sector, a phased approach works well. In this approach, knowledge transfer is key. For instance, in phase one, companies could bring in a senior talent on a rotational basis from another country and hire fresh out graduates and junior staff from within Iraq. In phase two, the rotators serve as leaders to develop the local junior talent while immediate customers and business needs are met. In phase three, rotators are reduced gradually over five years, giving us highly qualified and permanent live-in country employees.

Are the value propositions of younger generations, such as Generation Y, different than generations preceding them in Iraq?

Yes that is true. In Iraq, this has also been affected by the political situation and multiple wars that the country passed through in recent decades. We know that Generation Y is the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce. Employers cannot ignore the needs, desires and attitudes of this vast generation. These young people are tech-savvy, having grown up with technology. They rely on technology to perform their jobs better. This generation is also family-centric, and often willing to trade high pay for fewer billable hours, flexible schedules and a better work/life balance. While older generations may view this attitude as narcissistic or lacking commitment, discipline and energy, Generation Y professionals have a different vision of workplace expectations and prioritize family over work. They are also achievement-oriented – and have high expectations of their employers, seek out new challenges and are not afraid to question authority. They want meaningful work and a solid learning curve.

Do you think the definition of leadership has changed in recent years?

Leadership now speaks to collaboration. Collaboration is replacing the old “command-and-control” workplace paradigm; robust partnerships among employees are important, so the workplace and environments have changed. Engagement and learning becomes key; good leaders don’t use authorities to manage work. To be a leader you don’t need to hold a senior position or to have people reporting to you – the way you conduct yourself, present yourself and interact with others shows your strength. Leadership now is about sharing best practices and leveraging internal and external networks, sharing information to get things done, and collaborating with partners and customers to find solutions. Leadership also demands one must perform and prove oneself before leading others. In a culture like GE’s, leaders inspire others to be their best, that’s the foundation of GE commitment to leadership development. Leaders make the people around them better, when one person grows and improves, many can grow and improve.

What is your advice for companies looking to retain their staff in Iraq?

I will answer this question with one sentence: “Help teams integrate quickly into the culture, engage them well, let them be exposed to the world and reward them well… and competitively.”

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