“Building the Right Foundations is Critical to any Business” – Pauline Charlotte Armstrong- Head of Human Resource – Masafi

Pauline Armstrong

Pauline Charlotte Armstrong-HR Head – Masafi

In this interview with Naukrigulf.com, Pauline Charlotte Armstrong, HR Head at Masafi Co LLC, an FMCG company based in UAE, talks about company culture, employment trends and working in the UAE. Here’s what she had to share:


Please tell us a little about your professional and academic background?

I have worked in Human Resource for over 20 years in roles covering learning & development, recruitment and business partnering. I hold a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management and several professional certifications. I am also a qualified PRISM® Brain-mapping practitioner.


In your professional journey, how and when did you reach the Gulf?

My family lived in Oman for 10 years when I was younger so I was already accustomed to the GCC before I worked here professionally. My first professional role was with Alshaya in 2007 in Kuwait and they relocated me to UAE in 2008 where I met my now husband.


What prompted you to choose a career in HR?

It’s a perfect combination of my three most favorite things – legislation, common sense and the unexpected!


What does a typical work day in your life look like?

We meet every morning as a Management team for a 15 minute update and I like to ensure that I touch base with a least 2 or 3 of our Department Heads daily – there’s always something (or someone) to talk about, resolve or agree. But the majority of my time is split between coaching my HR team, project development and implementation and resolving exceptional or critical issues. I also spend a fair bit of time analyzing KPIs because the numbers always tell you what’s really going on! I don’t really take an official lunch break, I tend to stay at my desk Googling the latest HR trends and news.


How do you balance your work/family life?

It’s difficult to get this right, but for me it’s about never placing one ahead of the other for too long. While I do sometimes have to let my family down because of a critical work matter, there are also occasions where I have to put a critical family matter ahead of work. But I find that getting into the office early as much as I can helps – it’s always such a productive time of the day for me and it means I don’t end up working late in the evenings and missing family meals and homework time.


What is your most favorite way to de-stress after a long day at work?

I’m rather fortunate as I use the Dubai Metro to get to and from work so I usually arrive home fairly relaxed as I haven’t had to deal with driving in heavy traffic – but if I do need a de-stress I will play with my three dogs or chat with my husband about life, love and the Universe while we cook a meal or a braai together.


What is the best part about working in your company?

We have such exciting growth plans and are constantly reviewing our plans and adapting to the environment – it’s not called Fast Moving Consumer Goods for nothing! It’s also a real privilege to be in a role that has such a huge part in building and developing the high performing teams that are driving our business growth.


Which aspect of your role do you enjoy most?

Numbers, charts and graphs! Any spare time I get is spent with my head in a spreadsheet – I’m a firm believer that if you cannot measure it, then you cannot manage it! Establishing robust People KPIs has been a key focus for me since joining Masafi in 2014 – but there’s always more to be done!


What has worked for you to take you further in your career in HR?

I think keeping it simple has probably been key. I believe that building the right foundations is critical to any business so if you haven’t invested the time in building clear and transparent HR SOPs and Policies for your people before you try to implement initiatives then as an HR function, you will lose credibility. I perceive HR as a delicate ecosystem and every ecosystem must be built on strong foundation to survive.


Do you live by any particular motto?

I size up everything I do by asking “is the juice is worth the squeeze” and I am constantly reminding myself and others that “things don’t happen by chance, they happen by change”… I really do love a good sound bite!  It’s one of the best ways to connect and engage people with a purpose. We use a simple, well known motto as our employer branding – “Love What You Do” – but then that’s the type of talent we want to attract – those who genuinely love what they do!


Any advice for employers who want to retain their top performing talent?

If you haven’t already, then structure a robust C&B policy that rewards and values individual performance and then focus on developing, promoting, equipping and empowering great managers to develop and grow their own teams. It never ceases to amaze me that I still meet managers (and HR colleagues!) who genuinely believe that talent retention and great performance will only happen when HR give everyone a salary increase or send the good performers on a training course.


Do you have any predictions for trends in hiring and training in the Gulf region in the next few years?

I believe that the next 12-18 months will see businesses consolidating manpower, skills and talent and I don’t think we’ll see any sweeping new trends until mid to end of 2017. But before the decade closes I believe that the face of the GCC private sector will have changed forever and will be working to attract and retain talent through formal engagement programs. We’ve already seen large private sector players embrace employee engagement in recent years and given that competition for the top talent will be fierce by 2017 end, the rest of the private sector will have no choice but to follow. Candidates will no longer be selecting employers based on salary alone by then, they’ll be putting more importance on finding a role in a company which offers enhanced job security, a great culture, a manager who knows how to manage and a career path that’s easily navigated.


What are the top 3 things you look for in candidates when making a hiring decision?

We have a clear hiring process involving structured interviews, aptitude tests and PRISM® and these are key to our hiring decisions. However, when I am personally involved in a hiring decision I like to explore three key things;

1.  Can candidates describe how they have structured and delivered their KPIs?

2.  Is the candidate authentic, i.e. is how they are coming across in an interview closely matched with how they will be in the workplace?

3.  How much of what they are telling me is “known theory” and how much is “genuine experience”? Candidates often forget that it’s actually their experience that we are exploring, not how many books they’ve read.

These three things are key to finding a perfect match and without them I couldn’t support an appointment.


What are the most important skills that you believe job seekers must possess?

From production floor Helper to Board Room Executive, even the most enviable qualifications and employment history are utterly pointless if job-seekers don’t have traction in three critical behavioural competencies: communication, personal leadership and relationship building.


What advice would you like to give to the Job Seekers who are struggling to find a job?

Stop applying…. for everything! I see so many job-seekers pressuring themselves into having to look for a job that they inevitably end up completely diluting their credentials within a particular industry or market by applying for anything and everything. I frequently see the same CVs coming on to my radar time and time again for different jobs. My strong advice is to sign up with a recruitment specialist such as Naukri, make sure your profile is accurate and complete, and then specifically focus on what the specialist is recommending you to apply for. As a recruiter there is nothing more soul-destroying than seeing you have 2000 applicants for a role of which only 2% actually have the skills and experience you advertised for. Candidates should treat their CVs as limited edition!!


Can you tell us about your experience with Naukrigulf.com?

I’ve been involved with recruiting through Naukri for almost as long as it has existed and I am very excited about the way that they have developed the portal in harmony with the developments and changes in the GCC job market. Naukri is always a natural first port of call when Masafi are sourcing for a new role.


Any advice for HR Professionals?

Keep it simple… and give up payroll! Spend six months taking your department back to basics and really challenge the efficiencies in your processes – trust me, you will find so much opportunity for HR to become an even more valuable department to your business than it already is. Most HR professionals latch on to payroll as if their existence would be meaningless without it. But what they completely forget is that payroll administration was never an HR core-skill (neither is visa administration)… So give payroll to Finance and focus on the things that really matter to your business, the things that will be key to success – or put it this way, if you worked for FC Barcelona or Cirque Du Soleil who would you rather be – the bookkeeper or the talent scout?

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