INTERVIEW WITH HOSSAM SOLIMAN

HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR OF L'OREAL EGYPT

The field of human resources plays an important role in the process of evolving individuals, teams and organizations. In every issue, we like to interview HR leaders in the region to hear their opinions and share their learning experiences. Here we catch up with Hossam Soliman, HR Director of L’Oréal Egypt.

WHAT ARE THE KEY CHARACTERISTICS THAT HELPED YOU REACH YOUR CURRENT POSITION?

I believe many major characteristics played a vital role:

• Passion

• Dedication

• Love of learning both personally and professionally

• Transparent and effective communication skills

• And, of course leadership

Additionally, as a certified life & executive coach with professional experience, it strengthens my ability to guide people in their professional career.


WHAT IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?

Firstly, I like to look at challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Challenges stretch us to think outside of the box. If I look at what is my biggest learning so far: HR is all about people. New generations arise with many different characteristics and habits and as a business grows, strategies and structures need to grow as well. To stay abreast, you need to constantly study and adapt to those changes to manage accordingly. This is whilst translating it all into new HR visions, strategies and processes.


HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE OF HR EVOLVING IN EGYPT?

The role of HR is evolving very fast in Egypt, especially in the last two decades. Most organizations have realized the role of HR and its vital impact on organizational change. This role has evolved from a back office, administrative and reactive function to a proactive department that lives right at the heart of the organization. In addition, the chang-es in the economic conditions of the 21st century have brought about the need for HR leaders to take on additional responsibilities, make strategic decisions and be an important member of an organization’s executive committee.


As a result, HR is now a much more effective function and it is leaving a positive footprint in many sectors. By offering professional develop-ment, it is helping to create leaders that are more able to explore new horizons and excel in their careers. This in turn is developing an enter-prising spirit that is positively influencing the country.


WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES IN HR MANAGEMNT BETWEEN THE FMCG INDUSTRY AND OTHERS

In my opinion, HR principles and basics are the same in all industries. The difference is how to adapt these principles relevantly to the business type and accordingly translate them into a specific HR vision and mission that aligns with the business goals and strategic plans.


The FMCG sector is a vibrant work environment that requires an HR management style to be just as dynamic. With the massive move towards digitalization, which is currently prevailing in the FMCG sector, there is a high move towards Millennials, and this generation requires special attention in terms of HR management to ensure that they stay motivated and engaged.


WHAT ARE THE STANDARDS OF L’ORÉAL WHEN IT COMES TO HIRING EMPLOYEES?

At L’Oréal, we always seek to hire the best caliber of people. We keep our corporate values in mind and strive to match them with people competencies, so that we can provide the best working environment. This allows us to secure our position in being the employer of choice. To do that, we have certain competencies that we assess in our hiring process on both an individual level and on a managerial level:

1. Entrepreneurship is at the heart of these competencies. Taking initiatives and accountability with courage and transparency and demonstrating responsiveness to internal and external stakeholders.

2. Being an innovator, challenging the status quo, striving for excellence and opening new ventures.

3. Developing cooperative relationships and collective performance of the team and being an effective integrator.

4. Strategic and effective leaders to build a shared vision and strategic frame, and to lead transformation by aligning both organizational and human capabilities.

5. Leveraging diversity and empowering employees to contribute their best.


We foster gender diversity and we grant equal chances for every-one. This guarantees objectivity regardless of age or gender. We believe that assuring the utmost equality amongst all employees is a core element inside our organization.


CAN YOU NAME A COUPLE OF CHALLENGES THAT ORGANIZATIONS IN EGYPT ARE FACING RIGHT NOW AND HOW L’ORÉAL’S HR DEPARTMENT IS RESPONDING TO THESE CHALLENGES?

Business is growing in Egypt and with this fast paced rhythm, people and organizational structures are changing as well. This requires special attention from HR to anticipate the changes required for the future and to play an advisory role on how to build the best people organizations for a specific function or division, and hire top caliber from the market to build the right kind of internal talent pool.


The fact that we are living in a totally digital era and its associated rapid growth and transformation, dominates all aspects of life, including corporate organizations. HR as a business partner has to respond immediately to these challenges and to implement development programs that upscale digital skills amongst all employees and keep them abreast of the exponential growth in the field of technology.


Adding to this, using digital communication for employer brand-ing is now essential for any organization and it has created new work functions that did not exist a decade ago. Social media has become a necessary part of the digital age, and with its recent en-try into the corporate world, who knows what other new job titles are looming on the horizon.


HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE OF TEAM BUILDING IN ANY ORGANIZATION?

It plays a crucial role. In L’Oréal “Teams Are The Heroes” and team cooperation and collaboration is part of our business culture. The 21st century mindset leaves no room for individualism. It is all about team spirit, collective work and shared success. Driven by our keenness to empower our employees and develop their collaborative skills, we find that this is done very nicely with team building.


HOW DO YOU ENSURE YOUR HR DEPARTMENT IS CONSISTENTLY ON TOP OF HR EXPERTISE?

As an HR business partner we work closely with the organization’s senior leaders. We are very keen to involve our HR employees in the expansion projects within the organization, to nurture their exposure to all new HR modules and to develop their HR knowledge and expertise through different learning tools.


HOW DOES L’ORÉAL ENSURE A HIGH PERFORMANCE CULTURE THAT IS IN PAR WITH ITS FRENCH HEAD-QUARTERS?

L’Oréal group promotes an ethical culture. Accordingly, Etisphere Independent Institute, has awarded us, as one of the world’s most ethical companies, eight times in a row. It is a business culture that definitely sets its own standards, and has created a model that strictly follows L’Oréal values that are applicable wherever we operate globally.


WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT RETENTION STRAT-EGIES THAT L’ORÉAL PRACTICE?

L’Oréal is always keen to stay committed to be “the school of excellence”. We develop and execute strategies that hammer on people’s development and are based on a needs’ assessment process. We also aim at enhancing and nurturing employees’ interpersonal and technical skills.


A concrete talent management process is in place throughout the year, as well as an important succession-planning tool to identify, develop and retain talent within the company.


A business culture that embraces cooperation and digital trans-formation, fosters innovation, encourages cross-functional promotions, and offers a clear career path. We hunt for international opportunities within L’Oréal, where our employees can be positively affected on both a personal and professional level, which will also reflect positively on the Egyptian industry.


WHAT IS L’ORÉAL’S HR POLICY IN ONE SENTENCE?

A disciplined policy that fosters effective communication and innovation coupled with a cooperative culture.


WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL?

Always work hard and stay determined. Never regret taking wrong decisions, as there will always be something that you can learn from your mistakes. Take responsibility and be ac-countable for what you do. Take every opportunity to get ex-posed to different cultures, as it widens your horizons and gives you great cross-cultural experience. Take initiatives and be courageous in them. Never stop learning.


WHAT WORDS WOULD YOU USE TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF?

• Ambitious

• Adventurous

• Practical

• Empathetic


WHAT HR ROLE DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST?

I have enjoyed every role I have had in my career so far. I have worked in many different countries around the world in various HR positions and each position has allowed me to take different responsibilities, meet new challenges and manage different people. My career has allowed me to experience many new cultures.

Of course, my current position as an HR director of a big organization offers special enjoyment because of the unique perspective it gives me into the business. Not only because of the involvement in the organization’s priorities and challenges, but also because of the ability to influence the future of the company and being able to make a difference for employees.


SUM UP YOUR PHILOSOPHY IN ONE SENTENCE?

Always seek a new challenge every day.


NAME A LEADER WHO INSPIRES YOU AND WHY?

H.E. Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid. He truly inspires me and he is a great example of an iconic leader. Under his visionary leadership, he has built a solid foundation and guidelines of how to bridge different cultures together in one place, He values freedom and respect for everyone, and always seeks excellence and quality.

FACTS TO KNOW ABOUT L’ORÉAL





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