Featured Expert

Diaa Mohamed

Vice President - Global HR Delivery
Hewlett Packard

Diaa Mohamed joined HP in April 2010 as the Director of Human Resources for the MEMA (Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa) region.

Effective August 2011, Diaa also accepted the role of Human Resources Lead for the Growth Markets Organization within HP. Diaa joins the company from BP where he was most recently Vice President Human Resources for Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Prior to this, he was employed by Motorola as the Regional Director of Human Resources for the Middle East and Africa region.

Diaa was selected to receive the HR Leadership Award by the Asia Pacific HRM Congress in Feb 2007 and Global HR Award by Rapport Bangladesh Limited in July 2008. He also sits on the advisory panel of the American University of Beirut (AUB)’s Middle East HR Forum, and the advisory committee of “Building Strategic Human Talent Taskforce” – International Gas Union (IGU).

Diaa has spoken in many HR and business conferences in the Middle East, Asia & Europe. He has conducted various case studies in Strategic HR, Balanced Scorecard, Management of Intangible Assets, Compensation, HR Measurement, Training and Development, Performance Management, Ethics and Code of Conduct.

Diaa holds a degree in Systems and Industrial Engineering, and has attended extensive executive education programs from Cornell University, Michigan State University, London Business School, Cranfield School of Management, Thunderbird School of Global Management and Motorola University.

He has also spoken in many international HR and business conferences throughout the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Diaa has lived and worked in Egypt, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United States, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. An Egyptian national, Diaa is based in Dubai where he lives with his family.


Ques. You joined Hewlett-Packard as HR Director - Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa (MEMA). Did you harbour an HR vision or goal for this region?

Ans. Yes I did, I am passionate about HR particularly in this region. I believe that the best way for our countries to prosper and grow is by focusing on the development of its people. This is the ultimate resources we have – Oil in the Gulf and natural resources in Africa will not be there forever. We have some of the youngest and fastest growing population in the world, and they can be our strength if we develop them.

Although I have joined hp to manage HR in the MEMA region, but I am now responsible to manage HR in 63 emerging countries in all contents of the world, and I only see one theme: the huge opportunity these countries have if they use their human resources in the right way. I hope I can play a role to make that happen.

DiaaQues. Motorola, BP and now HP - you have worked with some of the best brands in their respective sectors. Drawing from your own experience, would you say that switching industries helps one to evolve as an HR professional

Ans. Yes 100%, as each industry has its own realities, challenges, and practices. For example, IT and Telecom industries are fast changing, cost conscious, have tough competition, and tend to have young employees.

While the realities in Oil and Gas are very different: long-term planning, huge talent shortage, aging industry, and focus is on safety and operational excellence. In order to meet these realities, you will have to use different HR practices and priorities – and I have learnt greatly from that variation.

Ques. You have led the HR function in the Middle East & African (MEA) region for a significant part of your career. Could you please share your insight on the nuances of HRM in this particular region vis-a-vis other geographies?

Ans. I have worked in the US & Europe, and have managed many global teams. My observation is that the HR function in MEA (and most emerging markets) have a long way to go in order to catch up with the developed markets.

You know, the basic idea in HR is that the employee is the most important asset; you need to hire the best, develop them, pay them well, and prepare them to become the future leaders of the company. And if you do not do so, they will leave you and you lose their intellectual capital. In this model, people are free to leave, they have other good opportunities, and companies compete for the best ones. There is also a strong legal framework to protect employees’ rights.

This is not the case in most countries in emerging markets, and most companies will have the best facilities and buy best machines and tools, but they unfortunately to people as cost rather than asset. In that environment, HR becomes an admin function that does not contribute to the growth of the top line of the company.

Ques. What should be the endeavour of an organization’s senior management while framing its HR policies? What should be the primary focus areas?

Ans. Any successful HR strategy needs to be linked closely to the business strategy. In other words, if a company is looking to grow and become global, its HR strategy will be different than a company that is downsizing. If my company’s strategy is to focus on customer service, its HR strategy will be around hiring the best service people, paying them above market and linking their pay to service results and surveys, creating a strong service-focused training program, and ensuring we have strong succession planning for our service leaders. The strategy will be different of our business focus was on innovation and R&D for example.

All of this will not be successful if senior management does not value its HR function. I usually make a quick judgement about HR’s value in a company based on the reporting line of the Chief HR officer. It clearly should be to the CEO, but we still see many companies make their CHRO’s report to CFO’s or other level-2 leaders – what a waste? I will not join such a company for double my salary.

Ques. Leadership vs. Team-spirit. The former is of an individualistic nature while the latter involves collective measures. How challenging it is to strike the right amount of balance between these two amongst employees?

Ans. It is a huge challenge especially for multinational companies that work in many countries as cultures are very different in this area. Both are extremely important, but I personally would rather have a cohesive team of average players that work well with each other and not a dysfunctional team of stars that spend the time fighting each other (I think I am over-simplifying here as stars are very important and make huge difference).

Look, this is like the question of centralisation vs., decentralisation, or having business unit structure vs. geographical structure. There is no wrong or right here – each company needs to develop the right balance based on its industry, culture, competition, etc

Ques. How is the aspect of employee engagement addressed in a globally diversified organization like HP?Diaa

Ans. It is a top priority for senior management and for HR. Tons of studies have shown why engaged employees produce better results, and it is just common sense to give this a priority.

hp runs an annual engagement survey and does a lot of benchmarking and focus groups to identify what we do well and what we need to improve. We hold managers responsible about the engagement of their employees, and it is usual to have an employee engagement objective for managers in their annual 4-5 objectives. The engagement score of my team will be visible to senior management when they take a decision about my promotion or growth in hp.

We still have some way to go here, but any company that loses the minds and hearts of its employees will not survive for long. It is just a simple sustainability fact.

Ques. How important it is for an HR executive to also don the role of a business leader? Do organizations encourage this school of thought?

Ans. I think it is important, but most companies are not good at it. I am aware of only few companies that encourage and enable movement between various business units, and between Business units and functions, but I believe that is the minority.

In my HR team, I always hire couple of people from engineering and from Marketing – I found that very useful and enriching to the team.

However, what I want and encourage is to hire the best talent from other departments and not to hire those they want to take them out. This concept should be used to strengthen HR and not to make it weaker. I also would like to have senior HR leaders with solid knowledge and experience in HR. HR is a science and has a lot of theory behind it – just like marketing and finance, and I want my boss to be a solid HR leader.

Ques. Does being an HR professional require a thorough training or can a graduate of any field with vigour for people management be one?

Ans. I am not formally trained as an HR executive (my first 12 yrs were primarily operations), however I have skilled up over the years with about a dozen certifications.

Now I teach an MBA class in HR. Its more sensible to go to school for an undergraduate or grad degree in business with a concentration in HR, or an OD degree. In the end, the school of real life is the best training though. My years in operations gave me the balanced perspective on managing people and issues. So I say it should not be all one or the other.

People can succeed in HR without the formal training as long as they skill up quickly in the role.

DiaaQues. Highly ambitious, restless & yet sharp – a description for most young professionals today. Do you feel this could also be a significant reason for high attrition rates in some companies? If so, how can this issue be resolved?

Ans. Yes agree and I would not like that to change. I think certain level of attrition is healthy and needed as far as it does not exceed certain level and I do not lose my critical talent. Business today is different than what it used to be 30 years ago and we need to adapt fast. As a company, I will first try to find out what is the benchmark (what is the attrition rate in my industry in the country), and I would worry if my rate is higher.

We also need to continue investing in the young generation. Most of their attrition is due to poor managers, lack of personal development, or lack of career growth

Ques. What, according to you, is the best thing about the field of people management?

Ans. The best thing about my role is when I hire someone in the company and see him/her growing and advancing in their career – if feels very rewarding. In many cases, I will be play a role from behind the scene to enable this growth and it is great to see the return on investment happening. There is nothing more rewarding (or challenging) than dealing with people. I just love it!

Ques. An inspirational quote or motto that is close to your heart and has helped you to grow personally as well as professionally.

Ans. We do not stop laughing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop laughing

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