Interview with HR Writer & Consultant Ron Thomas – Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group & Country Manager, MENA HCI
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You participated in tens of conferences across the Middle East and beyond. Who was the most exciting audience to you?
Ron Thomas: Wow, that is a tough one. Each audience was amazing in its own right. However I could connect the dots of the various ones and that would come back to a few themes:
- HR Transformation: Moving beyond Operational to the more Strategic Approach
- Strategy Driven HR: Becoming the Workplace Architect
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a speaker, how do you work on yourself?
Ron Thomas: I stay in learning mode based on the model of Comfort Zone_Learning Zone_Panic Zone. I stay in learning zone and once that become comfortable I move to another learning zone.
In order to learn we have to explore, leave our comfort zone and enter the learning zone. Beyond the learning zone lies the panic zone where we are blocked (by fear) from learning – lessons here are only recallable in similar negative situations.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: In the 90’s you worked as a Learning Consultant. Nowadays, what is necessary to make the consultant, and the organization that he’s working for, be successful? Can you please compare to us the qualifications of a consultant in the 90’s and the qualifications of nowadays consultant?
Ron Thomas: That Learning Consultant role was when I worked for IBM and my client was Met Life the insurance Company. The qualifications are about the same but today it is more specialized and each consultant develops their own area of expertise as opposed to the general “jack of all trades”. Today it is more teach oriented and the building of the specialist team is the approach that is used today.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Being selected as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the MENA region, what is the biggest difficulty that Human Resources in this area face?
Ron Thomas: The profession has changed. To add value to any organization, HR has to become problem solvers [Human Capital Consultants]. Your future state of your department should be building a Strategic Human Capital Consultancy within your organization. Brand your department as HC experts solving people issues within the organization.
5- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Why are you interested and passionate about the Middle East? What do you see that many others don’t? And what is your advice to the natives of this region?
Ron Thomas: I love the Middle East. While the USA is years ahead of the curb, the MENA region is in its infancy as it relates to HR Transformation. Being able to assist my clients and the next level of HR Leaders is so very important to me.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: When it comes to recruiting Millennials in major organizations, what kind of qualities they would be looking for?
Ron Thomas: Every organization today must understand branding. The younger worker is very interested in purpose. The days of offering just a check/benefits is not a value anymore. If your demographics are skewing younger, you will have to examine your brand and create value statement around “Why would someone want to work here”
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Advise HR professionals with other fields to study aside from Human Resources.
Ron Thomas: No. 1 is understand your organization strategy. What are the key initiatives they are aiming for in the future. Understand the pain points if you are an HR Business Partner of your clients. Start reading your industry information and get a sense of what disruptions the industry is facing. How has that change the talent equation within your organization. How is your organization facing these disruptions?
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Regarding the competitive environment in the UAE, what is your advice for people who want to establish a career in HR there? (ex: how to penetrate the employment market and how to survive their jobs).
Ron Thomas: Join and follow companies that you would want to work. Follow HR groups on LinkedIn as jobs are posted there quite often. Take any role that will allow you to get in the door. However you must learn to self-develop. That means you have to start a daily/weekly regime of reading everything you can about HR, your industry and your specialty [analytics, strategy, etc]
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How can HR help to create synergy between each department in a company, and encourage these different departments to work together in several projects as one big team? (Share with us some examples please to make this question as a case-study).
Ron Thomas: I can’t use client information..However HRBP focused should be on their department. Once that relationship has been built, connect with other HRBP within and brainstorm as to HOW they can bring those functions together.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a professional, you have been through several job interviews until you have reached your current position. What was the most difficult interview question you were asked, and what was your answer to it?
Ron Thomas: Not a specific question but always be prepared if someone were to ask “Why should I hire you?”
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You are a columnist in many HR magazines across the world (HR Review Magazine, People & Management Magazine, TLNT.com, and more), and writing is an excellent way of self-branding, how did this method of self-branding directly help you in your career?
Ron Thomas: It allowed me to express my thoughts and the reach of these various articles has created tremendous opportunities. Depending on where you are in your career you should consider an approach to getting your “voice” out. Remember every magazine or website is always looking for content.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Do you believe that any employee can become a writer? What can writing add to the personality of employees?
Ron Thomas: No. I have been sent article to review and it was not coherent. Kind of all over the place, referencing things with no backup research, writing is hard. I write a weekly article but I must “feel” it to write it. In other words, if someone were to ask me to write an article around Talent Management, I could not do it. Now on the other hand If I witnessed something relating to TM or read an article that was related, I could expand and give you my take on it.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: In an article you published you said that when we have a “career crossroad”, we should let our desires guide us. But what should we consider before making the decision of which way to go, beyond our desire?
Ron Thomas: Every person has to find out where they want to go. Once they decide the destination, every decision should be pointed towards that as much as possible. In other words, if I go this way am I close to my goal. Sometimes this choice could be a lateral and it will not always be a vertical climb.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Do you believe that learning and practicing HR helps one become a better parent? (If you feel free to provide personal examples this would be great).
Ron Thomas: No there is not connection as far as I am concerned.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Many organizations nowadays focus on recruiting their HR people based on certifications such as sHRBP, CIPD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP for instance, while other individuals could be even more talented but they don’t get the job because they don’t have a certification. What is your opinion about that? What is your advice to HR recruiters? And what is your advice to HR people who do cannot afford such certifications?
Ron Thomas: Certifications regardless of what we feel about it the entry ticket. No way around it. As far as cant afford it? You can’t afford not to have some type. Like anything else we can afford what we deem important. That is the price of entry.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: If you are to create your own HR Summit, which country will it take place in, and what will be the theme you would like to choose? Why?
Ron Thomas: It would be in Dubai without a doubt as it allows you to draw more people in as opposed to Saudi or some other country. The theme would be around Strategic HR. This is where our profession is headed and it must be addressed.m