Q&A on HR in Pakistan: Concerns Mirror Those of HR Execs Worldwide

SHRM Pakistan Forum member discusses development of HR in his country

By Aliah D. Wright Jan 20, 2012
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Hassan Tayyeb Tirmizi is one of the founding members of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Forum in Pakistan. Tirmizi joined SHRM in 2011 and works as the senior manager and head of HR at Developments in Literacy (DIL).

SHRM has forums in 11 countries: France, Switzerland, Lebanon, Egypt, Ghana, the Cayman Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Kuwait, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.

Tirmizi’s career in HR took a circuitous route when he began working as a software engineer shortly after college. SHRM Online talked to him about the challenges HR professionals face in Pakistan, the economy, and what the 56-member forum hopes to achieve for novices and seasoned HR professionals.

How and why did you get into HR?

I started my career as a software engineering professional in an international telecom company in Pakistan. While being involved in telecom operations, I helped HR recruit and train technical engineers. I had my grievances with the HR department regarding their policies and procedures, which increased my interest in HR. I [obtained] a master’s degree in human resource and organizational development [while] I served as a management trainee in the HR department in an oil and gas company. This is how I started my HR career.

How old is the forum in Pakistan?

The forum was established and recognized by SHRM U.S. in April 2011. We had different communications and exchanged … information with the SHRM Global Member Programs Department regarding setting up a formal and recognized SHRM Chapter in Pakistan. I am among the pioneers and founding members. I am the forum’s secretary and I’m on the board. The founder and president of the SHRM Forum in Pakistan is Zahid Mubarak, GPHR, manager of organizational development at Khushhali Bank Ltd.

What’s your vision for the forum?

The vision for the forum is to have a platform at the national level where HR professionals interact with each other, network and engage in mutually beneficial professional relationships. The forum intends to bring into the limelight glaring HR issues in Pakistan and discuss with stakeholders viable remedies. The forum also intends to link [corporations] with academia to get the best quality HR professionals in the market. [Through this platform] we have monthly … learning sessions free of cost for HR students, and new and seasoned HR professionals [are invited to] learn and share from each other’s experiences, build their networks and help provide viable, workable solutions to HR problems faced by different HR professionals from different industries and organizations.

What are some of the challenges HR professionals face in Pakistan?

In this competitive market, organizations have realized the dire need of establishing well-developed HR departments that can contribute toward their organization’s productivity. Unfortunately not much heed has been paid to HR in Pakistan [commonly known as personnel departments.] The role of HR is evolving at a constant pace, and we need to move away from the traditional administrative functions toward considering HR a major contributor in organizations’ successes by aligning the HR goals with the organizational goals. In many organizations, various Western HR models are applied, [but they] ignore the cultural differences, infrastructure differences, and sizes of the organizations. However, the criticisms about HR seem to be the same around the world, and this is at the heart of the issue. In some organizations HR personnel face resistance from old employees and from top management, too.

How so?

Resistance from top management is because they do not have understanding about the true nature of HR. There is a need to increase awareness among the employees in other departments, top people, owners and directors regarding the actual scope and nature of HR.

[There needs to be a link between companies] and academia … in order to discover what HR- related courses must be taught to HR students ... to prepare them to deal with [real-world challenges]. The other … major issue here in Pakistan is the continuous professional development of HR professionals to meet business expectations. Gradually there is a growing trend among the HR fraternity to [get certified so they can] demonstrate their skills … so they can serve as business partners with their organizations.

Does the economy hinder your ability as an HR professional to find qualified candidates? Or to keep people from moving from job to job—as they do in some parts of India? What are some other issues?

Yes, it does. Qualified people are being attracted and retained by organizations and it’s really a challenge to find qualified candidates. [We get lots of resumes for] job opportunities, but very few people are actually qualified for the positions. As far as job hopping is concerned, it’s not very fluid in the current tight economic situation.

What are some of the projects you’re working on?

The SHRM Forum in Pakistan is currently [conducting a] survey hoping to target 500 [Pakistani] companies to produce more reliable and accurate metrics for the HR community and [compare it] to a pilot study, which was conducted and concluded in October 2011.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has formed a technical committee on HR standards, which is composed of … the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal and Pakistan. Its plenary meeting was held in Washington D.C., in November 2011, and the SHRM Forum in Pakistan is participating in this project with the collaboration of the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority on convening a national committee on HR standards in Pakistan from the ISO platform.

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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