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15 minutes with PETRONAS’ senior VP of HR

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Raiha Azni Abdul Rahman is the senior vice-president of group human resources management at PETRONAS. The national oil company was recently recognised at Asia’s Best Employer Brand Awards 2014, as well as identified as the most coveted employer alongside Google.

Here, Raiha shares her experiences, why she doesn’t have a single favourite aspect of the function, and what HR can do better for its employees.

What was your first HR job and why did you choose HR as a profession?

I like to deal, network and build relationships with people, so naturally human resource management was one of the core subjects I studied at university.

I am always passionate about HR and I know very well that I can contribute the most in this field. It’s for this reason I took up HR as a profession when I joined the organisation upon my graduation in 1984.

How do you think the HR function will evolve in the next five years?

We are currently living in a VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) and this demanding business environment will continue to stay in the many years to come. To survive, we need a strong leadership team, perseverance, determination, resilience and swift decision-making and reaction times, to name a few. HR will need to play a significant role, transforming itself so it’s able to support and provide actionable insights to the business to achieve its goals.

The HR function will evolve in the next five years in response to the VUCA world, particularly in regards to global talent sourcing and acquisition:

  1. Workforce planning and HR analytics will be key to supporting the business in planning, identifying, recruiting and developing talent, and most importantly to ensure a continuous pipeline of leaders to support the business goals. “Talentism” is the new capitalism.
  2. Global mobility: The robustness of workforce planning and analytics will enable talent to be deployed across geographical boundaries where vital business operations are located. Global mobility will not only be about deploying talent to support the business, but to provide exposure for talent development via working in different parts of the world.
  3. Global remuneration rewards will be pervasive across the industry. Talent becomes a commodity and can be deployed anywhere across the globe with the global remuneration rewards.
Talent scarcity will continue to become a global phenomenon, where we will be facing a shortage of skilled talent to run our business operations.

This talent gap will compel us to give greater focus on diversity and inclusion, where we will have to source and recruit talent of different cultures, race, religion and gender from across the globe. Diversity will then become a competitive differentiator in the future. The fact talent is spread across geographical boundaries, companies need to cast the net wider to scout for the right talent for the right job at the right time.

Based on your experience to date, what do you think can be done better within HR?

HR must move away from becoming merely a service provider that manages the voluminous transactional and administrative matters to becoming a strategic partner to the business. To achieve this, HR professionals must strive to enhance their knowledge and capability; know the business, and build networks and relationships internally as well as externally. As a strategic business partner, HR professionals must collaborate with the stakeholders to ensure HR key deliverables are met.

Which HR function do you like best and why?

The HR function is highly integrated and interdependent with one another. It just cannot work on a standalone basis or in a silo. In this regard, it’s hard for me to say which function I like best as all the functions are equally important.

What is the best career advice you have received?

When given a challenging task do not complain, but give your best to deliver it. If your best is not good enough, don’t get disheartened or give up, but make the effort to ask and learn from those who can coach and guide you.

Can you describe a regular workday at your company?

My day is filled with strategic discourse with my immediate subordinates as well as stakeholders, including the management team. Networking and relationship-building with industry partners are part and parcel of my job and these are usually done through mutual meetings, over tea, etc. This is when a lot of insightful discussions and business collaborations are attained.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

To do something that will benefit the employees, the organisation, the community at large, and the nation.

Is there anything you feel HR can do better to play a bigger role in the organisation?

Attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining our talent in the organisation, which is fundamental in supporting and sustaining the business growth and expansion.

I can’t work without… the support from my superior, my subordinates, as well as my constituents. They are the primary building blocks for me to become who I am today.

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