By Andrew Seymour
Human Minds is a UAE-based HR and leadership specialist that offers a range of custom-made training programmes to help organisations develop employees in a way that meets their business goals. Geoff Spratt, CEO at the company, explains why internal skills development is actually an area that resellers and retailers should be giving plenty of thought to right now.
Human Minds is a UAE-based HR and leadership specialist that offers a range of custom-made training programmes to help organisations develop employees in a way that meets their business goals. Geoff Spratt, CEO at the company, explains why internal skills development is actually an area that resellers and retailers should be giving plenty of thought to right now.You provided training services to CE retailer E-City ahead of its launch in the UAE earlier this year. Tell us about that.
We were approached by E-City because they wanted to work out a way of driving their differentiation. Electronic retailing is a pretty competitive market, there are a lot of big players here and they wanted something that was going to be different, so they realised that it needed to be through their people. We helped them put together the right programme to deliver that.
What advice would you give to the IT channel when it comes to people investment at the moment?
I think it is about how you want your customers to experience your brand and how you want them to experience your values. If you set out your business strategy with a mission and a set of values — and let’s be honest the values are really the behaviour and culture that the business wants to portray — then how do you actually live that? If that process is confined to documentation or a senior level within the team, it is not going to filter down. You have got to bring that alive in the business.
How do you do that though?
Through training, through specialised programmes, through performance review processes that look at measuring things such behaviour and competencies. And you can drive it through team building. It is about inculcating that culture within the business so that [employees] really live it.
Do you think companies in the IT market under-estimate the importance of making investments in HR and skills development?
In terms of IT I don’t know that I can answer that confidently, but I would certainly say that it can ride the boom in retail. When you look at those businesses that are successful and have developed a strong brand image, it often comes through the people practices. I think E-City had the foresight to recognise that. Their stores have a pretty fantastic lay-out — they are really fresh and aesthetically attractive — but it has got to be down to the guys that are working within them.
Are there any particular type of skills or areas that IT retailers should focus on in the current climate?
I have worked in retail for many years and some of the brands I have worked for recognised that it is the people that always make the difference, because they are the ones that are building the brand image and the relationship with the customers on a day-to-day basis. So it has got to be all around the customer and the service side of the business. There are lots of other things that go behind it. For instance if you look at technology then E-City has been highly innovative in using SAP and that has had a fantastic impact on their business, and it has allowed them to analyse data and be a lot smarter in how they work. So there are tools within the business that support that, but ultimately it is based on the people who are using it. It is about customers, service and just being the best at what you do.
Many organisations in the IT channel are fairly small and operate fairly loose corporate structures. Is it really worth such companies investing in HR development?
We worked with a business very recently that had 27 employees and one of their concerns when they spoke to us was that they were a small business without the resources to run a HR function. My reply was that’s fine, but do you have a direction for the business? Yes. Do you have people working in your business? Yes. Are you sure that these people are delivering exactly what you want? Question mark. So even if you take a very small business, they want to be able to measure the performance of their individuals to make sure, at the very minimum, they are driving the goals and the objectives of the business. Even in a very small business you can bring in that relativity.
If a channel company was interested in the kind of tailored programmes you offer, what kind of investment would be required?
That is very difficult to answer to be honest. It all depends on the size of the organisation and what they are trying to achieve. We don’t sell an off-the-shelf training programme that costs AED1,500 per head — our advice to those companies is come and have a chat with us, let’s look at what you need and what is affordable. We are realistic and recognise the times. What we want to be able to do is make sure that the businesses get what they want when they want it. We would tailor-make a programme for them and hence any costs would be varied.