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Amr Shokry is a leader in Human Resources with more than 18 years of experience in the field.
Amr has worked in the Human Resources field in Europe for several Fortune 500 companies, including Eli Lilly, Novartis, and 3M. For the last four years Amr has worked in Canada, first in Toronto and now as an HR director at InterWrap Inc. in Vancouver. He has been teaching the Human Resources Management Diploma at Ashton College for over a year. Amr recently met with us to discuss his career path and achievements, as well as talk more about emerging trends in the HR field, and what it takes to be successful in Human Resources.
I originally started my career as an engineer. Early in my career with 3M, I was assigned to be the leader of supply chain and production planning at one of the sites. It was the late nineties, and at that time we didn’t have any HR departments on site. I build the team from scratch, and due to my success, I was asked to take on the HR department as well. That was the first time I was introduced to the term ‘HR’ back in the nineties.
3M was a great company that provided me with training; eventually I was sent to different affiliates in Europe to learn about HR management. After a couple of years working in the field, I decided that HR actually was my passion, and I shifted 100% from engineering to HR instead of doing two jobs.
The ability to influence the company at a broader level, build teams and develop talents – I would say that’s what truly attracted me to HR. I enjoy having the opportunity to build teams and attract talent.
I believe that teamwork is absolutely crucial in any company environment; as your company grows, teamwork can be the determining factor of whether the organization becomes successful. I believe a significant part of HR is to ensure the company sets and follows ethical, organizational and leadership standards.
Consider this: we have some companies falling behind in the market place, even though they have, or had, great products. One prime example would be Volkswagen: their popularity went down not because of the product, but because of ethical issues and ineffective leadership, which we witnessed through the media during the emissions-cheating scandal.
Another example would be Blackberry – they now are on the verge of bankruptcy. The leaders in the organization did not take the time to listen to feedback from customers and their advisers, and now they are behind Apple and Samsung products. It wasn’t their marketing strategy, or the market share, or the products that pushed the sales down for the company – they were the leaders of the industry, “the phone” ten years ago. Now they’re very out of touch and outdated.
It is not only about the product, or the market share, or even the brand as much anymore – it’s really the people that carry the company long-term. This is why the role of HR is so important.
The stereotype is that individuals working in HR need to be outgoing and a “people person”. However, if you go back to the history of management, you will see that many jobs have evolved. For instance, let’s take marketing. In the past, marketing was all about public relations, but now we have market research, brand management, planning for new products. Marketing has become very sophisticated, with different branches of marketing that require very different skills.
I’d say the same is now happening to HR. For instance, you might be a qualified, certified, skilled person for payroll and managing taxes. This position is related to finance and is very number-driven, and it may not necessarily require any leadership or people skills (you are more likely to need CPA certification). You could, on the other hand, be working as a project manager, focusing on organizational tasks and HRIS (Human Resource Information System). In this case, you need the hands-on computer application experience. You could also be an HR representative working on healthy human relations: recruitment and union relations, organizational tasks, learning and development jobs. People skills are more applicable for this position.
For the HR department, the company needs either a diversified person who can manage the whole scope of tasks (which has become very difficult), or a few players to manage the HR sector of the organization.
I believe that the HR market will grow because of three major factors; the first one being demographics. The makeup of the workforce has become very diverse: people are coming from different cultural and economic backgrounds, specifically in a country like Canada – especially in Vancouver. It is very clear now that you can’t simply rely on the employee handbook, or the policy manual to manage a company. People are very diverse, and they expect to be treated as individuals. That’s why HR needs to be close to the people, understand the demographics of the specific company or office and react accordingly.
The second factor is recent laws and regulations: the anti-bullying and harassment in the workplace, inclusion, and ever-changing employment standards for the benefit of employees. All of those things need someone to ensure that they are implemented in the workforce, which is one of HR’s main roles.
The third factor is the realization that the biggest asset for the company is the people, the workforce. We have seen now that the companies with the big names and big products can fail because of the conflicts they have with the people, so it is important to maintain good relationships both in the work environment and with the customers.