Q&A with Elrona D’Souza, Founder and Managing Partner of S&K Consulting
After building invaluable experience in HR at various Multinational corporations, in the corporate world for almost 15 years across Oil and Gas, Aviation, Technology, Insurance and Financial sectors in the region, Elrona D’Souza, Founder and Managing Partner of S&K Consulting, has been leveraging her experience and providing bespoke HR services for the past 5 years across businesses looking to ‘up’ the ante on their people strategy. Here is her story…
How did you get into HR consulting?
The GCC is growing rapidly, however, I saw a large gap in the market with startups and SME’s in terms of their talent needs. While many companies don’t fully understand the true value of HR itself, others assign the function to a Finance manager who acts ‘as’ HR, both of which are unfavorable approaches to source and retain the right talent. Having expertise across various industries, I knew I could partner with the leaders of tomorrow to drive their people agenda and change the HR landscape, one company at a time.
Which do you prefer — consulting vs working in-house?
Working in-house is definitely a great place to start as it paved the way for me to build sound HR principles and practices. I worked with some fantastic colleagues and business leaders that truly valued good HR and upheld core values. However, consulting has been a better fit for me. In consulting, I know that I will be contributing at a broader level and driving a bigger vision to affect the HR landscape in the UAE, which is at times challenging in a corporate environment. As a ‘people person’ with a business mindset, engaging in consulting allows me to help both businesses and people. Also, being in consulting allows me to stay current with my HR knowledge and skills as the needs of different types of businesses keep evolving and I evolve along with them.
What’s your favourite part of HR consulting?
HR consulting exposes me to continuously evolving real-life people challenges, some of which are quite unique based on the type of industry, stage of the business, type of workforce, etc. For instance, a tech start-up working towards securing investment has completely different needs than an established hospital looking to grow their business. The variety of work is both challenging and engaging.
What aspects of HR do you enjoy the most?
The lifecycle of HR touches every aspect of creating and growing a business. And generally, 60% of overheads are people related. So what I enjoy most is helping businesses strategically manage that 60% and add value to the bottom line, which is also a key purpose of the function of HR.
In your own words, what is the worth of HR to a business?
The right kind of HR will help leadership teams understand that their employees help deliver the business and enable its success, and managing employees well is not just good business but it also gives a business a competitive advantage. If the HR team is doing the right job, then it’s not just about policies, it’s about showing them value.
The HR landscape is evolving, and businesses are gradually coming around to understanding the value of HR, but there is a lot more to do in this space. I want to take it a step further and make it accessible for all business leaders and employees in their organisation. I want to shift the perception of HR from a cost centre to a strategic business partner. It may take time but we will certainly get there.
What are your thoughts about HR practice in the region?
Since I started in HR, it’s come a long way. The government and many large organisations have invested significantly in developing and managing employees. What’s most admirable about this region is their willingness to learn and adopt best practices. We now have HR centres of excellence such as SHRM and CIPD championing the cause and elevating the HR profession. I myself have got my Masters and SHRM certifications in the region itself. As a region, we attract prominent thought leaders and thinkers of this field through the popular HR conferences and events. That’s a testament to this region’s focus on this field. I am excited to see where the region will be in the next 20 years.
How would you measure the success of HR in a company?
The success of HR is visible through management practices and the bottom line, in terms of revenue. Human Resources provides the framework to enable management to be good people managers which in turn improves productivity and delivers business results. Talent always has a choice; if line managers in any business don’t invest in sound people practices, talent will find a business, that does. It is a constant evolution along a never-ending journey. The needs of talent itself are evolving and so the HR framework has to evolve alongside. HR must be responsive to stay competitive and be successful.
What are your views on HR in the digital age moving forward?
I am really excited about the advent of digital HR. I wrote an article about the HR Tech Trends and the HR space is ready for change. We have better access to tools, analytics and ways to communicate that should make life easier for all of us. A business can stay fairly lean with digital HR and have access to HR expertise for best in class HR without the overhead costs. Data and trends are at your fingertips with HR analytics, which will be key to strategic decision making on the people agenda. I’m looking forward to collaborations with technology partners to inform this agenda and even drive it forward.