Shazmi Ali, director of HR at Pfizer Malaysia, shares how HR can deal with the rise in demand of niche skills in the region, and what the company is doing to engage talent effectively.

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

My first job was as a human resource Officer at Omron Malaysia. I was responsible for payroll, recruitment and manpower planning.

As a people’s person I believe HR was a good fit for me.

In my current role as a human resource director with Pfizer, I am able to promote and implement Pfizer’s values, leading a dynamic team, and planning, managing and implementing new and innovative human resource programmes.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

It is a very simple mantra. "Don't worry about your next job. Just give all that you have for your current job and  the next job will find you"

Can you describe a regular workday? And what do you enjoy most about it?

A typical day would involve engaging with my regional HR colleagues via telecon, which I find a good way to broaden and exchange ideas and best practices across the region. Other than that I also have meetings with my team, as well as the leadership and sales teams.

Don't worry about your next job. Just give all that you have for your current job and  the next job will find you.

Pfizer also grants me the flexibility to work from home sometimes - a perk I enjoy as I also like spending time with my family while not compromising on my work.

I understand that in Pfizer Malaysia, you are responsible for driving culture, engaging talent and building the next generation of talent. Which aspects do you like the most? Why?

I enjoy all three.

However, the focus for 2015 will be on building the next generation of talent. One of our key focuses this year is to become a talent hub within this region. And we are looking at various innovative approaches to accomplish this.

We have a unique culture here called OWN IT! which involves owning the business as your own. We give them a platform to take calculated risk, to timely deliver on their commitments, as well as cultivate a culture of trust and respect.

On the engaging talent font, Pfizer has its own Sports Club which encourages employee engagement through various sporting activities after work such as badminton, bowling, futsal. The club is run by our colleagues.

One of the ways we are developing our next generation of talents is by exposing them to handle different markets like Singapore. This enriches their own working experiences.

Another way is enabling them to deal with our regional teams across functions – which provides a good platform for exchange of ideas and best practices.

Based on your experience in HR to date, what advice do you have with regards to managing employees?

The world is getting more mobile and we are now able to work across geographic borders.

In view of this, with more fluidity, we need to increase flexibility. I really recommend providing flexibility and making people more accountable for their work.

I really recommend providing flexibility and making people more accountable for their work.

Being in the HR industry for the past 11 years, how do you think the HR function has changed over time? Do you foresee any further changes? 

HR has indeed evolved since I first joined in 1999. Until recently, human resources professionals primarily played a supportive role for organisations. They had a more admin function – they filled out paperwork, administered payroll and benefits, and perhaps even had a hand in the hiring process.

Moving forward, many companies are beginning to realise that this position has the potential to be much more dynamic — and beneficial — to business.

The role of HR needs to change and evolve to really support the talent strategy in an organisation and accelerate business results.

Research shows niche skills are in demand yet not easily found in Malaysia. How do you recruit the right people in today’s limited candidate pool?

The demand for niche skills is indeed growing and even our talent pool today has gone beyond our boundaries or universities.

As we get more globalised, hiring has gone beyond geographical borders. In Pfizer, we have hired people from other countries, as well as exported some of our talents to handle different markets.

As a judge for the Asia Recruitment Awards Malaysia, what innovative recruitment initiatives are you really looking for? Do you have a benchmark in mind?

I’m hoping there is a new benchmark that we can measure against.

I’m honestly looking for a breakthrough recruitment campaign/ avenue that utilise social media for an end-to-end recruitment method.