Interview with an HR Manager, Al-Futtaim Logistics
The following is the transcript of an interview with an HR Manager from Al-Futtaim. She refuses to be named and requested that her identity be kept confidential. This interview is about the HR practices they have at Al-Futtaim Logistics. Editing out introductions and expression of thanks, pauses, and personal expressions, the following transcript reflects the gist of the answers to all the questions posed by the interviewer.
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What are the qualifications you look for in your employees when you are hiring?
It depends on the job and position they are applying for. The candidate should have the necessary educational background, skills, and know-how. It would help if the candidate is eager and ready to be trained and know how to go along well with co-workers and supervisors.
What is your hiring process?
Employees come to us when we have job openings or we actively recruit the people we want on the team. Once we hire an employee, he is given a thorough orientation to the company, then he goes through the induction process wherein the employee is trained. If he performs well, he becomes a regular employee enjoying the benefits after about 3-6 months from the time he was hired.
How do you orient your new employees to the organization?
Their training commences before they attend the orientation. They are required to read up on the company’s website and some materials about the company so they get to know the culture. They see this first hand during the orientation when they meet the heads and the people they will be working with. Then the orientation workshop lasts for about 2 days. They know more about the company, our stakeholders, the services we offer and get a tour of the whole facility. They are also given a primer on safety on the job. The last part of the orientation is the discussion of the compensation package and the motivation to advance in the company.
What are your motivational strategies for your employees?
We do have several. Our company activities make employees feel like they belong and they embrace the values of our company. We have employee wellness and social program that also include their families. Our compensation and benefits package is competitive and is slightly above other companies. Of course, if they perform well, they get rewarded accordingly. The prestige of being employed by Al-Futtaim is one motivator and we are able to attract the right people for the jobs we have in the company.
Tell me about your organizational culture?
Working at Al-Futtaim is ideal in terms of flexibility and professionalism. Al-Futtaim does a lot for the employees such as organizing various events for them to make them feel like they are family members. The company also supports employees with training and development programs. We also encourage a work-life balance.
How do you keep your work environment friendly?
Although everyone is busy and always on the go at Al-Futtaim, we manage to stop and chat, share meals, or just coffee and snacks and have a regular fellowship just to unwind and talk of things other than work. Our workplaces are cheery and bright and we have areas to lounge in and just relax.
How do you manage diversity?
We have several employees who are ex-pats from different countries that we hired because they are the best in their work. We also have a big number of nationals and I can say we all get along fine. Our nationals are trained to keep up with the skill level of the foreigners who are mostly experts. We do not want our local employees to lag behind so much, so we have specialized programs for them.
How do you evaluate employees’ performance in their jobs?
We implement the 360-degree performance appraisal wherein evaluation goes all around. We encourage feedback, but mostly, the employees are closely watched and evaluated on demand by their direct supervisors. There is open communication between employees and managers so they freely evaluate performance. However, if the supervisors need to report either very impressive or very alarming performance, they communicate it to HR and we deal with the issue ourselves. Again, this goes for both positive job performance that deserves rewarding and negative job performance that requires sanctions.
How do you reward employees who perform well?
Apart from the attractive compensation and benefits package received by our employees, we identify those who deserve to be rewarded with a little more. They do get recognized and appreciated publicly to serve as role models for other employees. Most of the time it comes as a promotion for them. We also offer bonuses, appointments to more and bigger projects, vacation leaves, flexibility in work time, etc.
Tell me about your training and development process
We offer a wide variety of training and development programs and it falls under 4 categories, namely: Competency training; customized training; feedback on training; and Training for Nationals vs. Training for Ex-pats. We have general training, addressing behaviors and skills as well as more specialized training for technical skills. At Al-Futtaim, employees have no excuse to be idle and unproductive because there is an abundance of learning opportunities for them to avail of aside from the training required of them. We believe developing talent is something that is collaborated on by the management and the employees, but mostly, it is not forced if the employee is not willing to grow. Those are the ones that get left behind.
How do you view leadership?
Personally? I view leadership as an initiative and not necessarily an appointment. I can vouch for our organizational leaders at Al-Futtaim, that they have truly earned their positions because of how they engage employees towards organizational productivity and success. But all of us can be leaders in our own way. We are encouraged to volunteer our own ideas and efforts. Management considers these, and if it gets approval, credit goes back to us as the owner of such an idea. That is part of our growing learning management system… it actually breeds leadership by acknowledging and developing leadership potentials.
How do you involve your employees in the organization?
It depends on the kind of involvement called for, but most of the time, employees are highly engaged in all the organization’s activities and projects. Do you mean in terms of decision-making? Yes, we involve them in that as well, to a certain extent. We invite those who we think can contribute much to some brainstorming sessions and listen to their insights. That makes them feel valued as workers. But of course, we must choose carefully who to include in those sessions, as some meetings can be highly confidential.
Share with us your corporate social responsibility initiatives
The nature of our business innately requires us to be socially responsible because we deal with several customers, stakeholders, etc. who depend much on our service. Delivering this service with high quality is already part of our corporate social responsibility, ensuring the safety and protection of goods, people, and the environment.
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On a more humanitarian level, we do have CSR activities that reach out to a wide variety of beneficiaries allowing the employees to volunteer to be part of some charity projects. They extend their help to support the advocacies of the company, thereby motivating them to embody the values of the organization. This also encourages the employees to feel a sense of belonging to an organization that cares for others. Some small CSR initiatives such as serving poor families and providing them with their needs have been done and supported by the organization. We are open to the ideas of the employees as long as it is aligned with our mission and vision.
How do you promote learning in the organization?
At Al-Futtaim, learning and development are major things we focus on, and not only do we help employees track their own path, but we also give them opportunities to create the path themselves. We have a learning management system we call ‘iGrow’ which allows them to learn on-demand, meaning they exert their effort towards their own preferred learning path. For example, we see that one employee is proficient in customer relations.
We discuss with that employee options to further improve his or her skills through various training programs or maybe even create a position wherein their skills are put to better use. Sometimes, a person can be developed not by training alone but with a project or another position more suited to his or her competencies. The Individual Career Development Plan (ICDP) is a plan discussed together by the employee and the manager then reviewed every six months to consolidate their plans with the targeted training plan.
How do you promote work-life balance with your employees?
At Al-Futtaim, we define motivation through our employee engagement kind of activities and it starts right from the way we define policy; so we do have a policy that enables employees to have a good work-life balance are they able to spend quality time at work as well as with their families; they do get enough time off. This is an organization that looks after their health and the health of their families; so how we do show to our employees that we are an organization that cares about them and the time that they spend with us in the company.
What benefits do your employees enjoy from their job?
Al-Futtaim offers competitive packages, slightly above what other companies in the region offer. More than the monetary incentives, they are provided several other benefits such as medical insurance, statutory benefits, leave credits, participation in social events, travel incentives, and several opportunities for professional and personal growth. High-quality performance has its corresponding rewards such as bonuses, time off from work, and consideration for a job promotion.
How do you promote socialization and camaraderie in the workplace?
We have team-building activities scheduled regularly. We do go out together once in a while as a group and sometimes, organize events like picnics or excursions with our families in attendance. With new employees, we encourage interactions, and the usual ‘check-ups’ if they are adjusting well. We also hold coffee break sessions and one-on-one meetings with some employees who seem to need more support. Our team has grown closer over the years because of everything we go through together for the company. Friendships have grown stronger and I believe it is something most of us cherish in our jobs here in this company.
How do you keep communication lines open?
I think it becomes a given because our work environment and organizational culture encourage it. We managers have been trained in effective communication and how we can also pull out our employees to really open up to us about certain issues in ways that are more productive. With some employees, more effort is needed, so we try to establish rapport and try to get him or her to open up on their own. Eventually, they do. We also have a great feedback system and the employees do not feel intimidated to share their own ideas and insights with us.
How do you go about mentoring protégés?
We are always on the lookout for talented people whom we can develop further. Mentoring them involves engagement in the training sessions because these are crucial for competencies to develop successfully. Managers provide engagement surveys to monitor that their protégés are engaged. Action planning sessions among managers are facilitated to ensure that engagement activities in training programs are maintained. It is believed that the more engaged they are, the more they learn and develop the necessary skills that will not only benefit them but the whole company.
With our mentoring program, we consistently do evaluation meetings, like if we send some people to certain training, from an HR perspective, we ask, “Does the training and development suit your needs? Is the training specific to your needs? Is it benefiting you?” So that’s how we check if the training is appropriate for them or perhaps there’s something better out there for them.
We also employ shadowing, or the protégé can follow the mentors around to learn directly some tasks they need to learn. Throughout all these, there is consistent open communication that goes on so everything is clarified and evaluated.
How do you deal with a misdemeanor in the workplace?
Our expectations are communicated to the employees beforehand and the disciplinary procedure is explained to them. They are aware of what performance and behavior are considered for disciplinary action and what particular action we take when they go against our policies for performance and proper demeanor. Examples are gross misconduct or poor performance in their tasks or complaints from customers or co-workers.
Misconduct is immediately corrected and sanctioned without humiliating the employee in public. When there are allegations of a misdemeanor, we investigate judiciously. We talk to the person involved in private, hear all sides needed to be heard and implement appropriate sanctions, if necessary. These may come as memos for warnings with clear indications of consequences for breaches in the psychological and written employment contract.
Sometimes, it takes an investigation to get to the bottom of things, and this may require a third party to facilitate it for objectivity. As much as possible, we try to resolve conflicts in a swift but relevant manner.
What is your procedure for terminating employment?
For cases that merit suspension or termination of employment, we go through a disciplinary process. We do not just fire people just like that. There is a just and fair procedure. Basically, when a case referred for termination it is investigated thoroughly and the employee has the right to defend himself or herself. He or she is given the opportunity to air his/her side of the issue to answer any allegations made. He/she may ask questions, present his/her own evidence, and call relevant witnesses to appeal his/her case. After considering all the information, management informs the employee of the disciplinary action in writing.
Depending on the nature of the termination of employment, a separation package is usually considered by management for compensatory purposes.