As we come out of the COVID-19 crisis and get back to normal, what are the changes you witness in the career aspirations of the younger generation? Are there any expectations from the employers? 

At Gulf Bank, we have certainly noticed a substantial shift in the younger generations post pandemic. They demonstrate a remarked thirst to learn and eagerness to make change from the old way of doing things. 

They are natives to technology and hence expect all processes and activities to be done speedily using technology in a paper-free environment. The younger generation are certainly more digitally savvy and have an open mind toward innovation. 

Moreover, post pandemic, there is a belief that work can be done from anywhere and hence flexible working hours and distant working should be considered moving forward. This also stems from their belief in their overall well-being as a priority and having a healthy work-life balance.

How have human resource departments around the world evolved during the pandemic? What changes have you implemented in your department at Gulf Bank?  

I believe HR professional across the globe were very likely challenged during the pandemic; from lockdowns and curfews to zoom meetings and working remotely.  HR needed to demonstrate resilience and quick decision making as they treaded into unknown territory. This has shed new light on the criticality of having a reliable HR team, one that is agile and resilient to a constantly changing world. 

I believe HR professionals post pandemic have expanded their skill sets, are able to work more efficiently, and are much more conscious of their roles within the organization. At Gulf Bank HR post pandemic, we are very focused on digitization and using digital platforms to empower employees. Following the pandemic, we launched an HR application where employees can access all the features of HRMS from their mobile.

We also launched internal social media channels during the pandemic which are still running and proved to be successful additions to our internal communications. Of course, the pandemic has also shed a new light on the criticality of staff well-being with particular emphasis on mental health. 

During the pandemic, we conducted several webinars on these topics which were also accessible to the public. This triggered us to establish an ‚Employee Experience & Branding Unit‘ where they are fully dedicated to ensuring a healthy culture and engaged workforce.

The gender pay gap is a point of discussion globally. What measures does your organization take to promote gender equality within the organization? 

Gender equality is not a new topic at Gulf Bank and has been at the center of a number of initiatives. It began with the establishment of the WOW initiative in which challenges facing women in the corporate world were discussed and plans put together to overcome them. Such plans included equal opportunities for recruitment, gender conscious promotion decision making as well as retention coaching discussions for female staff.

Statistics and data analytics were used extensively to monitor progress against set plans for gender balance and reported regularly at the Management and Board meetings. Substantial improvement was achieved particularly in the number of women in leadership positions. This further facilitated our cause by now having more role models to set an example to aspiring young women. 

In 2021, the efforts toward gender balance and minimizing the gender pay gap were crowned with the momentous policy change approved by the Board to eliminate all gender bias in the policy. Female staff and their families are now eligible to all benefits such as health insurance, school education, airfare tickets, etc.,  provided to their male counterparts without discrimination.

I believe we were amongst the first to introduce this policy in the banking sector in Kuwait which was announced by our Chairman and was received with jubilation by the entire workforce.

Our findings highlight that showing empathy toward employees is one of the motivational factors for employees in a post-pandemic world. Do you agree with this statement? If yes, what measures does your team take to create a positive culture within the firm? 

I completely agree with this statement. As a Human Resources professional, it constitutes a very important and critical part of my job. 

At Gulf Bank, we really sprang into action during the pandemic and, as the General Manager of HR, my priority was to create a sense of unity and compassion considering this was a global predicament which was likely to affect everyone in one way or another. 

Post pandemic and following the return to normal, we were very keen on holding events that fostered connections and engagement. We began holding more and more events for recognition, product launches, graduations, and special occasions such as Ramadan. We found employees were happy to attend and socialize with their colleagues. Most times attendance was at full capacity which encouraged us to hold more and more events.

We have recently also launched 'employee happiness sessions' in which small groups of staff are invited to team building exercises and given a space to discuss engagement at work and suggest ideas to improve it. 

Can you talk more about the Gulf Bank Women of Wisdom initiative? How has it helped shape future women leaders at Gulf Bank? 

Gulf Bank’s Women of Wisdom (WOW) is an initiative committed to the strategic development of women in the financial sector by empowering them in the workplace and promoting the advancement of female professionals toward achieving executive and leadership roles. As a firm believer in the economic and social advantage of advancing female leadership in the private sector, I was keen on providing a support system and an interactive platform for women at the bank to address the challenges and obstacles female professionals face in the corporate environment, and how to balance the pressures of familial commitments and career advancement. 

WOW began by inviting groups of 10–12 females on a monthly basis to round table discussions on challenges faced by females in the corporate world and provide support and mentoring to help overcome these challenges.  

WOW has since evolved and is now an impactful program that has led to Gulf Bank becoming one of the first signatories of WEP (UN Women Empowerment Principles) and a founding member of KWEEP (Kuwait Women Economic Empowerment Platform).

Statistically, the numbers have certainly demonstrated the success of the program.  We have also embarked on creating a pool of certified female Board Members in Kuwait by training them with international certifying bodies.

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