Meet our Head of HR: a sit down with Masooma AlTurkamani
With a long history of work experience in the various functions that make up Human Resources, Masooma AlTurkamani’s career saw her support several companies create, manage, and improve HR departments across the kingdom. Having worked with BMMI as a consultant in early 2019, Masooma officially joined the team as Head of Human Resources in November 2020. We recently sat down with Masooma to learn more about her vision for HR and more!
What did your consultancy work with BMMI entail?
I was brought on as a consultant with BMMI because the Group wanted to further introduce best practices for BMMI’s Human Resources Division to be in line with industry standards to benefit its people. I’ve helped other companies set up HR departments and introduce international standards before, and with BMMI, I spent a few months as a consultant to conduct a gap analysis examining Human Resources working standards. I was later approached to take on the Head of Human Resources role to which I was happy to have the opportunity to assist in HR’s elevation.
What initially attracted you to the HR field?
I was attracted to HR because it’s ultimately about people, and I’m a very people-oriented person. I truly feel for others, and I always have the urge to help whenever and however I can. I think that’s what attracted me to HR. I also love coming up with new ideas and implementing innovative solutions, and I think HR is a good place to do all of that!
Speaking about a focus on people, some think of HR as mainly concerned with policies and procedures. What do you think?
HR has changed and developed over the years from being administrative and mainly considered with policies, procedures, documentation, etc, to a place of true business partnership. I don’t see the HR department as only being in charge of drafting policies or disciplining people. I see HR as a business partner that is there to benefit both the organisation and its people. Sometimes it’s not easy to bring those two together because you want to make the management team happy, and the employees happy too. It can be a challenge finding that balance and your approach to your work responsibilities make a difference. HR is about people, so even we do develop policies and procedures, it’s important to keep in mind that it is to create guidance for our employees and not for the sake of just writing things on paper. As HR, we are here to guide, deliver a service, and develop both our people and the organisation as a whole.
You’ve worked in the multiple functions of HR – which one would you consider your favourite?
For me, I think it’s organisational development, especially when it comes to identifying and filling gaps. I consider that one of my core interest areas. I like to fix problems and to resolve what is not working well or what’s out of date. Organisational development allows me to oversee this on a company-wide level, and I’ve found it’s the most area of HR of main interest.
What drew you to working at BMMI?
First of all, when you walk into BMMI, you feel that the culture, atmosphere, and environment are very friendly and cosy. It’s a culture I’ve found to be dynamic and open to change. This was very attractive to me. Furthermore, when I was approached about this position, I knew I could add value to my role and the company overall. I had a sense of what needs to be done and how we can approach that in HR based on the previous experience. The combined factors of great culture and being able to add value, drove me to join the team.
Tell us more about your thoughts on BMMI’s Winning Hearts culture.
I’ve found people to be very attached to BMMI’s Winning Hearts values, and it is something that is often discussed. I have even been bringing it up in interviews for people looking to join the company because a good culture fit is important. When you join as a newcomer, people talk about the organisation’s values, culture and they show true appreciation for each other’s contributions. I think it does attract candidates and you can feel the culture in action, from entering the gate to reaching up to the offices.
What’s your vision for HR at BMMI?
It’s not only my vision but senior managements’ and my team’s, as well. I would like to see HR at BMMI be in line with industry best practices, applying best policies and governances, and be in line with other companies in the market. I want to make the company even more attractive to talent and to solidify our position as an employer of choice. By looking at these aspects and adding the best practices to the company, brings value to the organisation overall.
You joined the company at an unprecedented time – what was it like joining the team during a pandemic?
Well, that was a very different experience! You need interaction with people to get to know them and introduce yourself well. I am thankful that I got to spend some time getting to know people at BMMI during the pre-pandemic period, so I knew most of the key players on some level. I also already had experience working from home in my previous company, so the transition went smoother. We also have the flexibility and tools to work remotely and meet when need be. I think for me, the period has been very productive, which is reflected in global figures. Working from home and having flexibility has made people more productive, responsive, and allowed them a better work-life balance.
A lot of discussions have been had globally about people’s wellbeing, especially in light of the pandemic. What are your thoughts?
I will be very frank. I think people who had been micromanaging their team before the pandemic have found it very difficult to do so while working remotely. They do not have their team directly under their eyes all the time, so they have struggled. However, those who have trust in their employees and who had always looked out for their wellbeing and safety, as well as those of their families and the community, they have had a very good experience. Their teams have continued being productive and loyal. So, in terms of managing people, once you build your trust with your team, and are considerate of the human aspect, your employees will work even harder. It’s hard for people to be productive if they are always wondering if they and their families are at risk – they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on their work! What BMMI has succeeded in doing is building that foundation of wellbeing, trust, and care for its employees, and for the most part, it has worked perfectly. I’ve found people working just as hard during these difficult times, and in many cases going above and beyond. This comes from the culture, from the top down. The way you are treated, you treat others. By prioritising employee wellbeing, BMMI has succeeded during the new reality we live in.
What new trends have you been seeing in HR on a global scale?
What we’ve started learning during the pandemic is that if we hadn’t already started digitalising our processes and capabilities, we would have been in a very difficult situation today. Thankfully, this concept was already out in the market and companies to have been trying to do as much as they can automatically or online. This has helped a lot so far as HR is concerned. Many HR teams around the world have also come to learn that working remotely is not a bad thing. In many cases, studies have shown that it has made people more productive while also helping them strengthen family bonds. In terms of policies and procedures, the pandemic has made us start thinking of how we can prepare for something this big in the future. We have to be prepared with those scenarios to make sure we continue adapting and working effectively no matter what we’re faced with.
Finally, what would you like people to know about you?
Well, I’m a very approachable person. Some people get the impression that I am very strict and firm but in reality, I love opening my door to people and being someone they can reach out to. I consider myself to be very fair, transparent, and straightforward, and I always speak my mind. At the same time, when a situation calls for being firm, I am not shy of being firm, and I have been described by many as a strong woman. I also always stand up for my rights and the rights of others. Furthermore, I also like to work collaboratively with my team. Yes, I will take decisions alone when and if needed, but I am also the kind of person who likes to brainstorm with my team and get their input. At the end of the day, I won’t try to sell a new concept or practice across the organisation if my team does not see it as the right step. Ultimately, it’s my team that has to promote these initiatives within the conversation, so their buy-in is very important to me. That’s why I always test the waters and see how they feel about new ideas. If my team is happy about it, I’m happy too!