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A summit addressing Egypt’s HR and leadership issues

Last week three human resources gurus and 11 speakers representing eight countries were hosted by HR Summit Cairo, for HR professionals in Egypt and North Africa. Presenting strategies for promoting the role of HR departments in Egypt was the main theme of the three-day event.

It was a platform where speakers and delegates from multinational companies engaged in practical sessions and debates which could be directly applied in workplaces. Speakers focused on two of the main HR pillars: leadership and coaching.

During the inaugural session, Javier Bajer, founding CEO of the Talent Foundation, introduced fresh approaches that he said are key enablers for  promoting leadership skills and re-engaging the workforce. In two hours, attendees gained knowledge of how to inspire their teams to become efficient leaders in times of crisis and take part in their organizations’ growth process.

Bassem al-Attar, a training and development consultant and the summit’s chairperson, believes that upgrading leadership skills is essential for the crucial phase Egypt is going through now. “The 25 January revolution broke out because of the leadership crisis.”

He explained that when then-president Hosni Mubarak cut off the internet, he wrongly thought that people would stay at home and not find another way to reach each other. “This proves that there is no understanding of how to deal with the situation, and this is basically because the leader had become out of touch with the youth.”

Consequently, he added, there is a dire need to develop the skills of managers to listen and understand the mentality of the young generation, and to go from instruction to coaching and advising as well.

Amr Salem, vice president of Human Capital and Strategic Development and an HR expert, echoed this view, saying, “We lack leaders in the country. We have bosses or managers, but we don’t have capable leaders.” He cited Egypt’s current political scene, saying there are several presidential candidates who lack leadership skills. He said Mohamed ElBaradei is in his opinion a great achiever in his field, but incapable of becoming the next president.  

This was followed by a session given by Adrin Gilpin, chairperson of the Institute of Human Development in England. In his inspired enterprise presentation, he said coaching is about instilling vision, passion and belief in employees to fully exploit their potential.   

“We have to spend quality time painting our vision of the future in vivid detail,” Gilpin said, adding that people must fight and survive to make their dreams come true. “This never happens without having passion and belief.”

He emphasized that belief requires a leap of faith. “When you stop believing in yourself, people will definitely stop believing in you,” he said. “So if it is not you, there is nobody else.” The outbreak of 25 January revolution was an example he cited about having faith in your goals. “It is about moving from stepping backward to stepping forward to what you really need to change in your life with a positive attitude.”

On the second day of the summit, the third gurum Ghassan Takkale, an author and professional speaker, divided the reactions of employees to change into five Cs. "Changephobics, challengers, converts, chasers and champions" are the five phases that every manager should keep pushing his colleagues to move through so they each become a champion.  

Engy Abdel Gawad, general manager of IMI, said Takkale’s session reflects the current stance of Egyptians, who need a change in management policies as much as in politics. “Employees want to feel they have a choice in their future and participate in decision-making process,” she said.

Compensation and salary benchmarking were among other issues tackled at the summit.

In his session “Are salaries the only retention factor?” the regional manager of Bayat, Jamal Suboh, explained that although big salary is the first employee motivation factor, it has little effect on long-term satisfaction.    

“The right formula for motivating employees is comprised of four factors: compensation, recognition, development and environment,” Suboh told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

He explained that employees should be compensated fairly at market standards to perform at their best, but recognition is the second method of increasing the employees’ sense of loyalty to their workplace. “It is something small, but has a huge effect on employees’ psychology," Suboh said. “Unfortunately, a lot of managers take recognition for granted, showing no appreciation or encouragement.”

People need to feel that their organizations are taking them to the next level, whether through training, projects which meet their ambitions, or teamwork projects that help them grow personally, he said, explaining the importance of career development for motivation.

Suboh concluded that all those factors should go hand-in-hand with a healthy environment that encourages productivity. Caring for working conditions, even details such as lighting or social events to bring employees together, is important.

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