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Suite Talk: Matej Kranjc, National Instruments

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Matej Kranjc, managing director, ASEAN/ANZ of National Instruments on the intrinsic value of HR today, and what more HR leaders can do to contribute better to organisational goals.

You’ve been with National Instruments (NI) since 1999. How has your journey been?

My journey with NI has been a very diverse (geographically speaking), stimulating and satisfying one. In fact, my history with National Instruments goes back a lot further than 1999.

My first exposure to NI was as a customer and partner, using NI technologies to provide solutions to customers in Slovenia, as an NI Alliance Partner, a business that I started early in my career. After developing this business, based on NI technologies, I opened the NI branch in Slovenia, and later expanded to take over responsibilities for South Eastern Europe.

Then in 2015, I took up the opportunity to become managing director of NI ASEAN and ANZ. It is a very exciting time within Southeast Asia with a lot of activity in the semiconductor industry, wireless research and the industrial internet of things.

Throughout my journey we have ensured NI continues to grow and provide all employees with continued opportunities, by empowering our customers around the world to do really incredible things with our solutions.

What is the best part of working in the company?

As a truly emerging market, I had many wonderful opportunities to work with leading educators, researchers and entrepreneurial engineers on educational and business-focused projects in countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Kenya.

With no one industry representing more than 15% of our business, the diversity of challenges our solutions are able to address is very inspiring and incredibly rewarding as an engineer, from controlling the world’s largest particle accelerator at CERN to designing and testing cutting-edge medical devices.

And I have had the opportunity to experience the NI culture, and the consistency of the NI culture, across many countries and continents.

What are some of the biggest people challenges you faced while scaling up operations?

With the scaling of operations, often comes the need for change such as restructuring and increased specialisation.

For the most part, the challenges are short term, with the long-term picture normally a great thing for people involved.

Sometimes change can be taken as a bit of a negative at first, when an employee was very happy with the way things were, but the long-term benefit and sustainability of a satisfying career for each employee is always the intent, and usually the outcome.

NI has a great track record of retaining our employees and providing ongoing opportunity for growth.

How would you define your leadership style?

At NI, we are like one big family and I always do my best to help my team members develop as individuals and professionals, and empower them to make their own decisions with confidence.

I guide them to help them realise the answers to their questions are from within, by coaching them through their own thought and learning processes.

I definitely have an open door policy for all employees, encourage discussion, always try to recognise employee efforts (regardless of the outcome) and give constructive feedback.

It is my hope that every employee has the opportunity to have a lifelong, successful and satisfying career at NI, so I always look for opportunities to ensure we continue to enable and cultivate leaders across all functions of the organisation.

We are very focused on attracting and retaining the best and the brightest, being a great place to work, while maintaining an acute focus on delivering results.

What is your view on the HR division? What role do you think it has to play in companies today?

Our HR division plays an absolutely critical role in providing the infrastructure and expertise to ensure we have the means to develop and maintain the organisational culture we pride ourselves on, and ensure all managers and employees are aligned to their roles in this.

Helping to attract and retain the best and the brightest is crucial to our culture and our success.

As we continue to grow, we rely on HR to educate us on our talent needs, make recommendations, and ensure that all employees continue to be recognised for their efforts and have every opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns they may have at any point in time.

Our HR division provides us with the know-how to make our cultural objectives ongoing realities.

How can HR contribute better to organisational goals?

I think HR already does a fantastic job of contributing to organisational goals, as our employees are at the core of our company values, and key to our customer, partner and shareholder success.

More and more, I am seeing HR becoming more efficient at communicating to all employees with the right level of frequency, and I look forward to seeing this continue.

Many of our leaders manage responsibilities over large geographies, and as NI continues to grow in revenue and headcount, we rely on HR to ensure all employees are well communicated with, and we also rely on them to bring any potential issues or projects requiring our attention to the table at the right moment.

Do you think HR leaders have what it takes to become CEOs?

Absolutely. HR leaders have incredible people skills, an understanding of organisational behaviour and an ability to communicate and relate with all layers of management and the employee.

They also have an extremely strong ethical grounding, and the success of our employees is at the core of their values, along with the knowledge of what it takes to compete in the employment marketplace.

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