Amany Shehata is an experienced HR professional with expertise in HR management, business development, organization design, and change management. Her marketing background allows her to add a new dimension to HR functions in the Egyptian market. Shehata has a deep understanding of operational systems, HR techniques, and strategies from working in top organizations and is recognized as an accomplished HR professional.

In an exclusive interview with Manage HR, Shehata shared her valuable insights on the challenges, trends, and the current best practices in the HR sector.

Could you elaborate on your role at Americana Foods and what your day-to-day activities involve?

As the Head of HR for Americana Foods in Egypt, I lead a full revamp of the organization's structure, design, and people to align with the evolving business model. We establish the appropriate categories, organization design, and talent to meet targets and fulfill business goals. The organization is transitioning to a three-model structure that includes HR business personnel, a center of excellence, and back-office and desk services, along with implementing digital transformation systems. We are integrating support functions, including HR, finance, and IT, to enable digital systems for better operations. This exercise has been ongoing for the last year, and we are still optimizing and standardizing to achieve globalization perspective goals.

What are some major challenges and trends impacting the HR industry lately?  

Challenges faced by organizations evolve, and currently, there are three major pain points that most organizations are striving to overcome. Due to recent inflation and devaluation, securing top talent has become a new challenge. Organizations need to develop new reward and retention schemes to attract and maintain their top talent. It is also becoming increasingly challenging to ensure that organizations have the right fit for purpose, maintaining a healthy workforce. 

Identifying talent is easy, but planning career growth and implementing development aligned with their aspirations can be difficult. New practices and existing methods can be modified, which organizations can use to work on talent development and growth.

With the work-from-home (WFH) model becoming more prevalent, it is crucial to ensure that organizations keep up with the strategic direction and culture while taking care of workplace wellness. This can be a complex balancing act but essential for long-term success.

What are some of the measures that you have taken to counter this challenge of securing top talent?

We have revamped our salary structures and incentives to move towards a performance-based system to address this. We have also implemented individual development plans for our employees and identified almost 50 + talented individuals for future growth opportunities. Overall, investing in our employees' development and creating a culture of growth and advancement is crucial to attracting and retaining top talents in the industry.

What are some of the major opportunities in the HR industry?

One of the most exciting opportunities for HR professionals is to position themselves as strategic business partners. While some CEOs may still use traditional management methods, there is a growing recognition that HR is vital in driving business success. By working closely with leaders across the organization, HR can develop a culture of innovation and collaboration, creating an environment where employees and the business can thrive. With the right support and coaching, HR can make a real difference in shaping the organization's future.  

Can you tell us about the latest project you have been working on and what technological and process elements you leveraged to make the project successful?

Over the past decade, I have been involved in a significant project across multiple organizations focused on HR transformation. The project involved implementing end-to-end processes through proper systems and incorporating change management, communication, and working methods. We also built a shared services platform to enhance employee experience and engaged managers as the primary conduit in the process. We also introduced a technical center with three levels/tiers to further support the model's implementation.

What are some of the technological trends which excite you for the future of the HR industry?  

In the current era, the HR industry is witnessing a significant technological transformation in the form of gamification. This approach is being utilized to support messages, drive change, and engage many employees. With most people constantly glued to their phones, sending messages through games has proven to be an effective and unconventional method for engagement. 

In our organization, only some are equally comfortable with technology or possess the same level of knowledge regarding gaming applications that can be used to engage communities. To address this, we have incorporated gamification into our communication strategy. We have created games that convey our messages and priorities, including a treasure hunt game for less technology-savvy individuals. These games provide an experiential learning opportunity that enhances understanding and engagement, regardless of technological proficiency. We strongly emphasize ensuring that the message is effectively communicated through this approach.

What advice would you give the upcoming HR leaders to better navigate the industry's challenges?

It is essential to comprehend the role of HR, particularly where it tends to be more inclined towards administration, personality, and similar aspects. The HR function is centred around talent, people, and the business. To achieve any goal, HR professionals must collaborate as real business partners with other departments rather than solely focusing on technical and functional activities. Sometimes, technical specialists need to pay more attention to people's perspectives, and HR professionals should try to bridge this gap by partnering with them to develop the skill of employees and ensure the right personnel, organizational setup, and design. Moreover, HR must promote fairness and equity within the organization, as it may only be possible for some managers to have similar measurement tools. Hence, HR must ensure that all managers follow the appropriate procedures and practices.