Social media is one of the fastest growing industries in the Middle East and it is a great career choice for millenials, since social networks are an important part of their digital lives. When Meltwater opened its doors in the Middle East, one of the challenges was attracting the right talent.
We foster an entrepreneurial culture, where employees develop professionally and receive opportunities to move into management roles early in their careers. This was a novel approach in the region. Fortunately for us, our model has worked here. We have multiple employees, with all senior management talent recruited from within the company. Additionally, more than 60 percent of our employees are women. So how did we do it?
Developing female executives is an initiative that requires thought and vision. Working with a diverse profile of employees as well as a cross-cultural footprint, Meltwater has helped develop a continuous flow of female leaders across the Middle East, Africa and India region. Nurturing talent, regardless of gender, starts during the interview process.
The selection process is rigorous and my personal commitment towards interviewing every current employee is a first-hand opportunity to understand a candidate’s strengths and areas for improvement. The development of an individual begins during the interview stage itself, where you can understand personality, career goals, motivations and inspirations. The byproduct of this is the key to any professional relationship – trust.
Being optimistic and championing an employee’s strengths are just as important as defining their weaknesses. Through this process of clear goal-setting, the art of constructive feedback is often overlooked when employee development is considered. Creating a dialogue based on regular reviews and coaching of key skill-sets creates an environment of learning and accomplishment.
The process of frequent, in-person (or Skype) conversations enables dialogue to flourish and, most importantly, listening to take place. Listening is a fundamental quality often overlooked when managing women. Active listening and asking questions, trying to fully understand the employee, are vital ingredients in grooming future leaders.
Someone who is willing to be patient, ask probing questions and create a forum of reflection can be very positive. In my opinion, most professionals have the right answers; they just need to be coached to unlock their potential. As a consequence, one of my favorite questions when being presented with a problem from my co-workers is to ask them what they think the answer is, prior to giving my input.
I spend much of my time encouraging my leaders to take risks and to be confident in doing so, knowing that there is confidence and that belief is constant regardless of the outcome. When working with potential, I am a big advocate of setting challenges beyond the individuals’ comfort zone, for this is where the real development will take place. Being comfortable with the task of learning something new or pushing oneself to experience a professional situation that is unfamiliar requires individuals to adapt and learn. In doing so, over time, a new range of skills will be acquired.
Overall, there is no substitute for showing genuine commitment towards someone’s career, setting shared goals and helping someone achieve success. The journey should be enjoyed and embraced with a smile and continued support.