Oman’s Leading Leaders: Badriya Al Ismaili

What inspired you to pursue a career in HR?

I began working in HR by chance.  My first position was as a recruitment assistant; a very junior position but I worked hard and soon I found myself growing and developing into other roles.  My first extensive HR position was when I joined Haya Water in 2006.  There I focused on talent management and development and it was then that I really discovered my strength and passion for HR.    I decided that HR was a field that I had a lot of interest in and something that I wanted to build a career around.

In a nutshell, the reason I decided to pursue a career in this field was because I felt that the essence of HR was close to my nature.  I believe that in any organisation, HR is the mother – it sets the guidelines and policies to keep the organisation healthy and growing but at the same time it nurtures and cares for all of the employees.  This is something close to my heart.  I always felt that I can add value to a company through my role in HR. If HR is done well, the organisation as a whole will be successful.  

Tell us about your role as Head of HR at Awasr.  What is a recent success story that makes you especially proud?

When I joined Awasr it was still a relatively new company and part of my role was to set up the HR department and infrastructure. The first thing we did was to set up the HR strategy which was aligned to the business objectives and this became the base of the entire HR function in the company.

We started from scratch and today I am proud to see a comprehensive HR function at Awasr.  Of course, we still have work to do but I’m happy to say that we have most of the policies in place, most of the processes are structured and we see that our employees are engaged and proud to be part of Awasr.

Moving forward, we would like to maintain a lean organisation with a start-up mindset.  We are not planning on growing much in terms of resources but instead our goal is to ensure that those resources we have are working in the best possible way for the best possible results.   We are currently rolling out great initiatives to build a strong company culture and I’m sure we will see even more exciting things to come in the next five years.

How does Awasr attract the right talent considering the other large players in the sector?

I am proud to say that in a very short time, Awasr has become a popular company in terms of recruitment.  As soon as we advertise a position we receive thousands of applications which is a great sign.  This shows that the Awasr brand presence is strong.  I believe there are several reasons for this.  Of course, there are the tangible aspects such as compensation and benefits which must be competitive in the marketplace.  However, more importantly there are the intangible elements such as company culture which feeds into our positive brand perception as an employer.  We pride ourselves on our flexibility and open-door policy.  We work hard to break down any barriers between management and the staff.  All of these things mean that employees feel like Awasr is their home and we are all family.  This positive environment influences how our employees speak about Awasr outside of the office.  Our employees are our best brand ambassadors and help us to attract and recruit the best possible people for any position we need to fill.

What is the mood like in your office? How do you motivate and engage your team and those around you?

Over the last year or so we have been working to build a winning culture at Awasr.  In doing this we have created certain activities that we do on a regular basis to boost both the effectiveness of each person and team and the positive mood in the office.  For example, every Thursday we all meet and have a coffee together.  The management shares updates and we swap stories from the week – even personal stories.  This helps to create a feeling that we are all one family.  Another activity that we have implemented to help build our culture is daily huddles in each department.  Every morning, each team will meet and talk briefly about the tasks for that day.  This is also an opportunity to check the moods of each team and if someone is not feeling their best, their colleagues can see how they can step in and help.  This is great for the productivity and morale.  We believe that our employees are our most important assets and for this reason, we are trying to create this kind of culture at Awasr.

Which current HR trends do you see as most important for Awasr

There are so many trends in HR however for the Awasr HR department we are limiting our focus to two key areas this year so we stay aligned with the overall business strategy.  Customer experience and creativity are our key points of focus at the moment.  All our activities and processes revolve around these two concepts – whether it be training, policies and other activities.  In order to focus on customer experience as the HR department, we must first focus on our internal customers – our employees.  If our employees are satisfied and engaged, this will positively affect how they interact with the Awasr customers.

What advice do you have for young Omanis wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I always say to young people; take the opportunity, be positive about your job, try your best and ask if you don’t know.  When you are beginning your career don’t expect a high position with a generous salary right away.  You need to start from step one, gain experience and from there you will grow.  Experience is the most important thing you can gain from your position.  It doesn’t matter where you start out.  Focus on learning, gaining knowledge and building skills.

Another key bit of advice I give is to never stop learning.  You can always improve your knowledge no matter where you are in life or what position you have.  Read books and articles, speak with those with different experience and skills to you, and ask if you don’t know or understand a concept.  Don’t be idle and don’t wait for someone to hand you a task.  Always seek to improve your knowledge and experience and motivate and encourage yourself and those around you.