Complex Made Simple

Exclusive interview: HR recruitment just got smarter

Barbara Van Pay Expert Tech Startup Recruitment & HR Consultant in EMEA, Public Speaker & Influencer,  CEO of Smart HR was born and raised in the USA, but for the last 22 years has been living abroad in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, expanding her horizons, learning how to apply her HR and Recruitment practices in different cultural environments.

Barbara launched Smart HR in Dubai, UAE in November 2010 with the goal of implementing western best practice HR solutions across the region as well as offering tailored projects to specifically suit Middle Eastern clients.

Ameinfo had the following Q&A about Smart HR’s competitive edge and strategies.

 AMEinfo: What are the main drawbacks of current HR practices?

VAN PAY: HR is experiencing numerous pressures for change because there are many drawbacks and the old model does not address globalization, family diversity, or shifts in the economy.  HR is also slow to adopt technology.

Technology has created new demands for businesses and propelled HR in some completely new directions. But these challenges also create numerous opportunities for HR and organizations as a whole.  I’m a huge fan of using AI in the recruitment space for example, as it saves time and money and allows the candidates to experience the company brand and culture in real time without ever seeing anyone from the company face to face.

It’s a very exciting time in the HR space.

Read: 3 crucial things SMEs need to thrive, not just survive

AMEinfo: The US is a pretty wide territory – what brings you over to this region?

VAN PAY: I’ve lived overseas since 1995.  I worked in Europe for 15+ years and in the Middle East for 10+ years. From the age of nine years old I started studying about different parts of the world and felt a strong desire to learn as much as I could about the rest of the world outside the US, so I made it my mission to work overseas and to experience all that I can.

I was headhunted to come to Dubai in 2005, I loved it, but I saw gaps in the market to do things differently in HR, so I founded Smart HR in October 2010 in order to make a difference.  Our motto is “HR with a Heart and we strongly believe in putting people first”.

AMEinfo: How different are the clients/HR workforce in this region than their US or European counterparts?

VAN PAY: Obviously, the labor laws are very different, so companies follow the employment law in jurisdictions.

Eastern and Western countries have different approaches and practices to HR. The differences are primarily in organizational structure, incentive programs, communication and conflict resolution.

But I feel that my clients are really looking to emulate best practice HR and it give me a lot of hope for the work-life culture in the UAE.

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AMEinfo:  What core services do you provide?

VAN PAY: Smart HR is an HR Outsourcing Company, HR Consultancy, and a Recruitment/Headhunting firm.  In other words, we attack HR from all angles.  Smart HR do mentoring one to one or team coaching. Our experienced team of trainers and coaches give people the tools enabling them to develop and blossom.  Good coaching and mentoring encourages loyalty and helps improve staff retention and wellbeing.

AMEinfo:  What edge does Smart HR have over other recruitment agencies?

VAN PAY: Smart HR is agile and flexible, we are creative, and we work closely with our partners, embracing their cultural identity and values.

I had the great pleasure of working as the Regional HR Director for Jabbar Internet Group who, at the time consisted of Souq, Sukar, Cobone, CashU, Joob, Ikoo, and so on.

I joined during the time when the sale of Maktoob to Yahoo was being completed.

Working in this group gave me exceptional insight into the start-up world.

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Souq were less than 100 employees when I joined Jabbar and during my time there we recruited well into the thousands across the region.

Not only did I learn first-hand about the unique needs of HR and Recruitment in Start-ups, but a fully grew to understand what is important to entrepreneurs.

I learn what makes entrepreneurs tick, why speed is important to them, why budgets matter so much, and I learned about other things like exit strategies and funding challenges.

It’s an experience that gives me a big edge when working with start-ups.

The Smart HR Model is responsible, driven, purposeful, progressive & intuitive – just like our clients. We understand the challenges our clients face, and we are perfectly matched to meet their needs in a timely and efficient manner.

Read: Entrepreneurs ‘don’t have to take risks, but manage them’

AMEinfo: What is your core USPs and have they changed over the past years?

VAN PAY: Our USP’s have not changed in our 8 years because they are our values.  Our values guide us and form the basis of the relationships we nurture with our clients and candidates.

Our philosophy is based on strong ethics and empowerment and a belief in demonstrating our core values with our clients whether they are a small business or a multinational. Our principles and values are based strongly on respect, trust, teamwork, excellence, and loyalty.

We believe in recognizing and appreciating ‘PEOPLE’ as the heart of every business. We understand how important it is to recognize the value and contribution made by every key asset of each business, ‘The People’, thus leading to a successful work environment and business.

I think of my clients as friends, almost like family because of some of the unique challenges we go through each and every day.   I love what I do from the bottom of my heart and that makes us unique.