Last week, Baku hosted the second edition of the "HR Experience", an international event annually organized by P World in several countries with the purpose of putting in touch the local professionals with some of the best HR practitioners in the world. The event took place at the Four Seasons Hotel and featured 12 senior speakers from companies as diverse as BBC, BAFTA, Hertz, Dell, HP or New Look. The most awaited speaker, however, was Jeff Turner, Head of Learning and Development at Facebook, who held a session on the importance of managers. This was the first time a Facebook director spoke in the Caucasus region. Trend.az sat down for a chat with him, representatives of the main sponsors, Nar Mobile and PASHA Bank, and Kosta Petrov, the Global CEO of P World.
1.Jeff, this your first time in Azerbaijan. What is your impression so far?
Jeff Turner: Yes, it is definitely my first time in Azerbaijan and before coming I looked up some pictures of Baku and thought everything looked amazing! Unfortunately, I haven't had time to see much as I am here just for one day, but I walked around the Old City and the main avenue a bit - I find the people and the city to be very welcoming and interesting!
2. How was the interaction with local HR professionals during the conference?
Jeff Turner: The first thing I would mention is that it was different - because I've never been translated before. Before my session started, I met the translator and trying to explain to him my jokes and gags was definitely out of my comfort zone and new and interesting. I thought the questions that were asked by the audience were different than the questions I normally get asked which can mean two things: maybe HR isn't as advanced as it is in other places or they are very intelligent; and honestly some of the questions that were asked were deeply intelligent questions, so I think it was the latter. Really insightful, meaningful questions that made me think "Woaw, I have never been asked that before".
3.If people were to remember only two things from today's event, what do you think those should be?
Jeff Turner: Very simple - Think about the best manager you've ever had and think about the difference between that person and the worst manager you've ever had. As a people manager, you have the opportunity to be one or the other. If you're not on the side of being great, then you should take responsibility and get out and be a good individual contributor. Because you have such an impact on people's lives, not just work but their whole lives.
When I came to work for Facebook, I went from the best manager to the worst one. The person I was going to report to changed and I was given a manager that was very bad. And I thought I was working for one of the best organizations in the world, but my experience was terrible. That's why my presentation is called "The manager trumps the brand" - people join companies because of the brand and they leave because of their managers.
So, the most important lesson is this: make sure that your front managers, that are actually implementing the culture, are good managers. And if they are not, they shouldn't be there.
4.If you had to pinpoint a few aspects, what would you say makes Facebook a great place to work at?
Jeff Turner: I would refer to three things.
The first is freedom: it's not about hours, it's about the outcome. Although, obviously, some people have to work certain shifts, to cover certain things, the majority of people at Facebook are allowed to just complete their job at the best of their ability whenever it suits them - and they make that choice. The idea is of building Facebook around your life, not building your life around Facebook.
The second is authenticity - you can be yourself, you don't have to try and be somebody else. I met a wonderful guy recently in the UK. He had been working for a corporate bank and he quit to join Innocent Drinks (they make smoothies), which was quite an unusual move. And the way he explained it to me was that "I was weary of wearing a mask that wasn't me". The truth is many people do that and it just gets really tiring... And that's why at Facebook, being friends and sharing our pictures is completely fine because we accept people in their whole self rather just their LinkedIn profile.
And the third thing is: ambiguity and change - being able to relish the fact that we don't really know what's going to happen in the next years: we have no idea! We have a plan but there's a huge "if". When I left school, there was no internet, let alone Facebook. And that's only 25-30 years ago - what's going to be like in another 30 years? Things are only accelerating, getting faster, so it's great being able to embrace that and just let go and run with it and enjoy the ride. I speak to every orientation class, to every new person that comes in and my last sentence is "Go and create chaos!"
Have you had any backlashes on that?
Jeff Turner: From finance and legal, yes. (laughs). It doesn't mean "be reckless" - it means disrupt, challenge everything, question everything. Instead of succession plans for roles, we think of succession plans for people. Instead of giving you a manager, why not go work for the person you want to work for. And there's loads of complications around that, but why not think completely different. And at Facebook we are allowed to think like that. And it's scary, it's a blessing and a curse, but it's wonderful.
5.A question for the sponsors now, based on your consistent and generous involvement in the most important HR event of the year in Azerbaijan, we can guess that HR is a strategic function in your company. Why?
Matanat Babayeva, HR Director Nar Mobile: I would like to mention that this is already the second consecutive year that our company supports as a sponsor the largest and the only international event on HR management held in Azerbaijan. Azerfon highly values its staff and employees are our main assets, this is obvious. Highly qualified employees ensure the competitiveness of our company and are the main corporate advantage we have on the market. Our strategic goals are realized thanks to the particular knowledge and abilities of our staff because their activities are practically producing positive and constructive results. In regards to these factors, we can firmly say that the work done by the HR Department is extremely important and predetermines the company's successes. Therefore, the comprehensive approach to the employees' selection, timely steps and the ability to foresee competitors, and building up the creativeness are of crucial importance. The difference is explained by the fact that the non-strategic approach applied in HR management is characterized by the reaction to the occurring consequences, and as a rule, it only slightly increases the value of business beyond the boundaries of daily operations. Azerfon pays maximum efforts to apprehend the contemporary requirements, act on the basis of business rules without disregarding such qualities as integrity and good will. Our motto in relation to the acting personnel is quite clear: "Better inside, better outside!" We always ask questions about the level of professionalism of our employees. Are we right in relation to our staff!? What is the effectiveness of our strategy from the point of view of prospective development of our Company!?
Sevinj Asadova, HR Director PASHA Bank: We have strong belief that HRD should play more significant role in the strategic goals and objectives of our Bank. Currently, the HRD of PASHA Bank plays a vital role in fulfilling strategic goals in all phases of recruitment, training, development, retention and performance planning and management.
Recruitment - hiring right professionals supported PASHA Bank in opening regional offices in Ganja and Zagatala, our office abroad in Georgia and other business units;
Training and Development - relevant training programs help to motivate our employees and in some cases improve employee satisfaction. The training results are measured not only in terms of training hours or number of trainees per year, but also in improvement of the trainee performance measured in terms of productivity, efficiency, and quality of work, customer satisfaction or number of customer complaints received.
As a team our goals are to be more efficient, i.e.: a) to be strategic, understand the business environment; b) to become "forward thinkers" of the Bank, be more proactive than being reactive; c) to be more creative, take new approaches; d) to be fully engaged and always look out for what comes next.
All of that shall help us to become a real strategic partner of our organization, where HRD fully understands the business, what drives growth and profitability and how the money flows. A proper understanding of internal processes and business needs helps HRD effectively manage the most valuable assets of the organization - its human capital!
6.What do you consider to be the most important HR achievement in your company?
Matanat Babayeva, HR Director Nar Mobile: When I joined the company over two years ago, the HR Department was not a decision-maker, and in fact, did not participate in strategic discussions. As my team was underway, one of targets hit by me was the elaboration of a strategy that would be based upon four points. Moreover, one of main points was to set a corporate culture and a to develop professionalism and ability to manage a team. Improvement of professional qualities of personnel and its development are a long-term process that requires huge efforts. Our indicators and parameters of teamwork, co-operation, communication, satisfaction and personnel participate have improved by two times in the course of last two years.
Sevinj Asadova, HR Director PASHA Bank: The key important HR achievements for the last year were review of all existing job roles across the Bank, implementation of new Job Grading system and Performance Related Reward Scheme (PRRS).
Another important achievement of PASHA Bank's HRD team was launching "In-house training programme". This training programme allowed HRD team to develop the organisation's main capital - its employees to the level of "well-rounded bankers". The programme consists of different segments covering professional training, soft skills, technical skills, leadership skills, etc.
Finally, all above mentioned achievements help our staff members and the Bank to attain the highest performance standards and certainly, reach "New Heights. Together" and being able to keep the honoring title of the "Employer of choice".
7.What are the two most important benefits of international events like "Baku HR Experience" for local professionals?
Matanat Babayeva, HR Director Nar Mobile: As I said, this event is the exclusive and unique event of such kind in Azerbaijan. Last year, the Baku HR Experience conference brought together almost 150 HR specialists from various fields of industries. This event is a very good opportunity to share experience, establish contacts and get a positive motivation.
Sevinj Asadova, HR Director PASHA Bank: The HR industry of Azerbaijan is still very young and having such an outstanding opportunity to meet global HR experts from all over the world, discussing the latest challenges and trends of HR industry is very crucial for local HR professionals. Last year the gurus of HR industry such as Rob Veersma (Gazprom International), Rainer Jenses (Coca-Cola), Jenny Arwas (BT Group), Alain De Dauw (Atlas Copco) shared their impressive experience with local HR experts and made us feel that HR professionals all over the world could face same challenges.
It is also a great opportunity to meet all other HR professionals of Azerbaijan and share with them our own experience and challenges we encounter in local market.
8.Going back to the event and the organizers: Kosta, your events are always remarkable especially in regards to the speakers they feature and the interesting topics they approach. Could you tell us some secrets about the way you make the agenda and select the speakers?
Kosta Petrov: When we started four years ago, it was really hard to put the events together because we were brand new. We worked very hard on building our reputation and offering our speakers and customers an unforgettable experience. You know, when someone is happy with your product they talk about it and they become your brand ambassador. Now, four years later, we have some loyal ambassadors that help us get some of the world's best speakers at our events and of course, when you have good speakers, everything else is easy.
9.How do you evaluate the impact on the market of the two most successful brands of events you organize in Azerbaijan ("Marketing Kingdom" and "Baku HR Experience")?
Kosta Petrov: We are overwhelmed with the positive comments regarding our events. We truly believe that our events are greatly contributing towards the development of the marketing and the HR sectors in Azerbaijan. To put this into perspective, three years ago, our Azerbaijani colleagues had to go to New York or London to hear someone from Facebook or Google speak at an event but as a company we are proud to say we have changed that. We are now bringing the best speakers and the most popular global brands to Azerbaijan and we are proud of that. Bakuvians do not have to travel anymore to get in touch with global perspectives and trends. It is now at their doorstep.
10.What are your plans for the future?
Kosta Petrov, CEO P World: We have just finalized our event schedule for 2015 and we are happy to confirm that we will be organizing a third edition of the "Marketing Kingdom Baku" on 16th and 17th of April. We have already secured some outstanding speakers from Google, Unilever, BBC and Huffington Post, so we are confident that this is going to be another big success. As a global company, in 2015 we are also entering three new markets: Egypt, Oman and Morocco, so it is a really busy time at P World.
This year's edition of "Baku HR Experience" was supported by Nar Mobile as "Platinum Sponsor", PASHA Bank as the "Employer of Choice" and Fireworks Azerbaijan as the "Official HR Partner".
Other partners of the event were: AmCham Azerbaijan, trend.az, day.az, Magazine Boutique Baku and Georgia Today.
For more information on P World events, please visit www.thepworld.com