Interviewer: Mariham Magdy
Publisher: Ahmed Mohamed Hassan
First of all I would like to express you my great pleasure to make this interview with you both.
Throughout my career I got to attend different training courses with different agencies here in Cairo, and although I can admit that I learnt a solid knowledge from all of them, however the practical experience I got to learn from “Real Hands-On” courses has really played a great role in enhancing my professional experience & career.
I got really curious & enthusiastic to learn more about “Real Hands-On” Co-founders story & how were they able to provide their courses attendees’ with such impactful learning experience.
1- HR Revolution Middle East: Can you tell us the story behind Real Hands-On foundation?
Yasser: Building on more than 15 years of experience in the training industry, we identified untapped areas of real learning in most of the HR functions, especially after meeting lots of HR people who went through several training courses, certifications or diplomas, yet they really miss the hands-on part! A training program that enriches their technical practice in their day-to-day activities and gives them the real hands-on know-how and secrets of skillful practice, not only the theory behind it, from real Subject Matter Experts of the field. So we decided to make this happen and bring an exceptional HR learning house to the Egyptian market. And that’s why we decided then our slogan to be “When Theory Doesn’t Do”, the market had enough studying high-level approaches and theories, and needed some unrevealed tips of application.
2- HR Revolution Middle East: What was your vision when you decided to found Real Hands-On?
Yasser: We have a big belief that the HR people have great impact on growing & steering the business in the current dynamic economical setting. We had a very clear vision to equip our clients with robust, advanced and practical approaches, to assist them as well as their organizations to grow, by identifying the learning gaps and bringing the Subject Matter Experts around the globe, making this exceptional learning experience not only available to the Egyptian and Middle East market but also at a very competitive investment.
3- HR Revolution Middle East: What were the initial challenges you met at the beginning of Real Hands-On foundation? How were you able to overcome?
Yasser: We were not satisfying an existing learning need in the market, we rather had to create the need, we created the awareness of the new training programs in HR and their impact, programs that elevate your perspective as a forward-thinking HR practitioner, a true Business Partner who is most valued and invited by the Top Management. Another challenge is that we had to work on the somehow existing stereotyping that a learning program is only valuable if it’s accredited from some historical body, but overtime this mindset is changing, people who attend our programs tell their friends how this training saved years of trials for them, how concise and rich in information it is. People now are beginning to search for real learning rather than just certifications or titles.
4- HR Revolution Middle East: How do you succeed to abide to the realistic realization of your vision?
Maha: We plan a lot and as we said we have a clear vision, with defined milestones yet while we are moving forward towards our goals, we have the flexibility to respond to the ever-changing business dynamics.
5- HR Revolution Middle East: How do you choose your annual training strategy to be unique in the market?
Maha: Our reference has always been the international market as well the business dynamics and their need, we do not necessarily follow the local training direction or provide a program just cause it has great demand, and that explains why our training menu lacks some of the “Must haves” for any training firm let alone an HR training provider, the Egyptian market is saturated with all those HR diplomas and basic HR learning courses. We only provide eye-opening experiences, programs that would make you want to revisit and reassess how things were done before, or programs that immensely answers all the Hows and Whys that you have ever come across in the domain in question.
6- HR Revolution Middle East: What challenges you still meet today in the market?
Maha: Hmmm where do we start J There definitely are some challenges just like any other field, but in a way we actually enjoy working on those challenges, it keeps on reminding us how strong we are. Some have to do for instance with the training budgets in the market given the economic situation, but then again companies now started to realize that the less money you have, the more skilled you need your manpower to be, you need your employee to learn how to work smarter & not waste any resources or potential opportunities, no room for errors.
Other challenges have to do with how some clients are skeptical or worried that short-duration professional workshops or certifications are less informative than a long program or a 1 year diploma, but this challenge is automatically overcome after they attend any of our programs, they instantly feel the difference, they actually find the information and practical tips they’ve been searching for and had to struggle with trial & error with no guidance to show them how things are actually done. After that we never receive any concerns or worries regarding the courses duration, on the contrary, they’re rather very glad we didn’t waste their time and gave them what they needed in a nutshell.
7- HR Revolution Middle East: How do you choose your trainers & how do you get to ensure that your trainers will be able to realize your strategy?
Yasser: We don’t call them trainers per se, we bring subject matter experts of the field with extensive proven track record of successful implementations, scope of diversified industries in addition to their exposure to the business and market needs. Our subject matter experts share the same vision for people development and knowledge transfer. They reveal all the untold know-how and tips of seasoned experts.
8- HR Revolution Middle East: How do you see the training market in Egypt?
Yasser: The training market is growing, we can see that organizations invest in developing their human capital. We still see that training providers need to work on their offering making their clients feel the value of training and development for their business.
9- HR Revolution Middle East: What do you believe we still miss in the training providers in Egypt? What are the criteria of the successful training providers?
Maha: We miss the hands-on learning, the modern learning topics and methods, in most domains not only HR & Management. A successful training provider should always be aware of the global changes, the state of the art practices of the field, and linking that to every company’s unique situation, some robust solutions might cause huge harm if applied as is to a company that is not ready yet. A training provider should be very aware of their local market as well as the international one.
10- HR Revolution Middle East: I was really glad when I knew about your latest achievement about providing in Egypt. “Certified KPI Professional”, “Certified ROI Professional”, “and Organization Design Architect”, “Balanced Scorecard Certification”. Congratulations for this great achievement & please share with us how you were able to achieve this success?
Yasser: Part of our vision to bring the most advanced learning modules to the Middle East, we managed to tie up with The KPI Institute, ROI Institute and Kates Kesler Organization Consulting, bringing their whole menu of programs to Egypt and the Middle East.
Again, what we are adding is tightly linked to our endeavors in providing technical practical know-how by the top notch subject matter experts around the globe to help HR and Management people better reach their goals.
11- HR Revolution Middle East: Would you please explain for us how those certificates can enrich the knowledge of HR professionals to provide tangible changes for their Orgs?
Maha: Actually those certifications were carefully selected to help leverage the HR & Management practices in Egypt. Let’s talk first about The KPI Professional Certification, most people have set KPIs before and went all the way through the process, but only very few companies can claim that their Performance Development System can compete with Fortune 100 companies for example, so we say KPI selection, balancing & alignment can definitely be improved, specially that this is pivotal in the organization success, it’s most suitable for Line Managers even before HR Professionals, as they’re supposed to set their Department KPIs themselves. As for the ROI Professional Certification, it’s especially of great value given our current situation, managements now would always ask “show me the money” before approving any initiative or project, no easy approvals are granted anymore. Line Managers and HR professionals must know very well the financial outcome of their projects, they must know how to translate intangible outcomes into real money, just like a Sales or a Finance Manager talks. The less the organization money pot is, the more vigorous is the conflict and more proofs are needed from each party.
As for the Organization Design, this is becoming a core and expected skill from Managers as well as HR. Based on the book “Designing Your Organization: Using the STAR Model to Solve 5 Critical Design Challenges”, by Amy Kates & Jai Galbraith, we learn the holistic approach of how to link the Strategy, to Structure, to Process, to Rewards, to Capabilities and definitely to People & Culture. A mandatory skill for those who always want to stay ahead of the game.
We also partnered with regional software partner who offers a state of the art HR Management System with all the modules needed to manage and automate the HR function. That in addition to our robust Compensation Management Software that is very unique & time-saving to all compensation professionals.
12- HR Revolution Middle East: I have lately seen also your expansion to provide courses in Dubai & Kuwait; to what extent was it difficult for you to expand in other Countries in the Middle-East such as Kuwait & UAE?
Maha: It is a big challenge, aggressive competition with international market leaders, but for us it was the other way around, as companies in the GCC were approaching us in Egypt, asking for our training programs to be provided in the whole region, so we finally made the decision of being present there as well, and I got to tell you this, we cannot be more excited!
13- HR Revolution Middle East: What differences do you observe between Egyptian, Kuwaiti, and Emirati trainees preferences in training & expectations?
Maha: Well, in the GCC of course they’re more exposed to international certifications and figures more than the Egyptian market, but for their preference I would say both markets are seeking hands-on, practical value to get back and apply it the next day.
14- HR Revolution Middle East: Where do you see Real Hands-on 2 years from now? To what extent do you aspire to enrich the HR field in Middle East?
Maha: I am beyond optimistic for the future of Real Hands-on, especially when I see how well received is Real Hands-on among the Senior HR & Management Professionals in the region. More than anything, we wish to have a significant and tangible impact on the everyday People related practices, and to alleviate the role of HR as well as the workplace conditions for all employees.
15- HR Revolution Middle East: What recommendations would like to give to HR professionals in Egypt?
Yasser: HR people have great opportunity to become a real strategic partner for business owners and executive decision makers, they have all the data linked to manpower, performance, talent management and development. My advice for HR people is to strengthen their HR practical knowledge and make it very linked to their specific business practice.
16- HR Revolution Middle East: How do you evaluate the companies care in Egypt for employee training compared to other countries in Middle-East?
Maha: The Egyptian companies may not need to increase their learning & development budget, they only might need to better utilize it, calculate the ROI of their initiatives, to ensure maximum outcome for every pound spent.
17- HR Revolution Middle East: What skills do you believe a training agency founder should have, in order to be successful in this field?
Yasser: Business understanding, people development and Technical know-how from my point of view are very crucial elements for a training firm’s success. We support business leaders achieve their results by developing their people in certain areas that bridge the gap between the current level of knowledge / skill that the employee has and what’s needed to achieve his objective. And in order to do this, we need to understand the 3 enablers to be able to provide valuable tangible results for our clients.
18- HR Revolution Middle East: How do you feel when you find yourself a reason in enhancing the professional career of your trainees?
Yasser: Actually, this is the ultimate motive behind what we do, when we see our clients progressing with their careers and as you said in the beginning that we add real value to our participants. We hope we continue doing our job in developing the HR people and bring more value to the market.