INTERVIEW WITH MS SHIREEN NAQVI, SENIOR ASSOCIATE, NAVITUS
Jan 16 - 22, 2012
PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.
SHIREEN NAQVI: Born and raised in Peshawar, my childhood was rich with diverse experiences, specially through my many travels by road from Europe to Pakistan and within Europe and all over Pakistan. Kinnaird College, Lahore, groomed me further, while my Masters from IBA Karachi decided my career. Having had multiple ambitions and immense variety of interests, I wanted to do everything. However, in 1996, the vision statement of an organization caught my eye, "Developing the human factor." I joined KZR, which is now Navitus, and have single-mindedly dedicated my time and energy to the cause of people development. I benefit the most as my own learning and development is best when working with people from all walks of life. Having indulged in training with adults in the corporate sector, and being encouraged by the results, my colleagues and I started the school of leadership in January 2003 to commence development work and build professionalism in youth.
PAGE: HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT (HRD) PLAYS A CENTRAL ROLE IN THE ECONOMIC GROWTH OF ANY COUNTRY. CURRENTLY, PAKISTAN IS FACING SOME SERIOUS CHALLENGES WITH REGARDS TO THIS. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS?
SHIREEN NAQVI: From my many cross-cultural interactions while working with people internationally, I have come to admire the intelligence of Pakistanis. We are not only gifted with extraordinary natural resources, but our human potential is also enormous. Both of these need channelizing, else they go to waste. That is what is happening. Starting from how we raise our children to what academics prefer to lay value on, we are only breeding confusion. The challenges we face today are of our own making. If and when the people change, so will their leaders. This begins at home and depends on the quality of the culture of the family. The urban climate has adapted to investing its human capability on jobs, day-to-day management of mundane affairs, with little or no demonstration of larger than life goals, while a few visionaries drive the economic affairs. At the rural level or the lower economic urban habitats, people are drowning themselves through over population. The country cannot provide for so many consumers through such few producers. There are more mouths to feed than hands to produce the necessary. Thus, a nation suffocates in its own doings.
PAGE: IT IS BEING SAID THAT PAKISTAN DOES NOT HAVE AN INSTITUTION TO REGULATE HUMAN RESOURCES. WHAT DO YOU SAY?
SHIREEN NAQVI: We have a plenty of boards, associations, federations etc. to guide and regulate people in how they work and grow. However, times have changed and so should these guiding institutions. No one can steer the human power of the 21st century with the rules of the 20th century. This is the biggest challenge - for those at the helm to change their mindset so as to become a beacon for others. Professionalism is a way of life. It is an attitude and not something one acquires when starting a job or wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase. In my 16 years of working with over 200 organizations, I see the human potential stifled and buried in matters of the ego, discrimination, favoritism, bureaucracy and just simply not listening to anything new. Those who understand change and thrive but are too few. Others are stuck in games of power and control.
Conventional management is redundant, but few are willing to admit their ways are dispensable. They hold on to their positions for personal security, money, and status (SMS), not moving on neither allowing others to. It is only through individual efforts - those few who feel the difference between what they are and what they can be, that there is true human development in small pockets.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON HR PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS, A CODE OF CONDUCT AND STANDARDS OF BEHAVIOR RELATING TO FAIRNESS AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN OUR COUNTRY?
SHIREEN NAQVI: The words fairness and social responsibility are mostly spoken but rarely acted upon. Surely, Pakistan has been repeatedly declared as the 3rd biggest charity giving country; so there exists enormous will to give. [I believe that is why poverty is thriving as there is too much charity sustaining it].† But, qualities of fairness can only be found in highly civilized societies. Fairness demands a developed sense of empathy, where one is able to sense, feel and act upon the state of another, to uphold the rights of the other. Once such feelings emerge, then the superior brain processes the act of being fair and doing justice. We have been raised to survive, to keep body and mind together, at worst - to look after our own interests and to fight for them to get our rights. Remote is the notion of first fulfilling ones responsibilities in order to deserve ones rights. HR professional standards require certain sets of behavior; mostly articulated by the values of an organization. These behaviors are, at times, assessed through 360 degree feedback processes or, at times, in certain organizations, these preferred behaviors are broken down into smaller actions as to help people grasp them, become aware and try to make them a habit. Fairness is invariably one value. Had it been a habit already, an organization would not have had to proclaim it as a value. I have been actively involved with a social enterprise since six years, trying to set up business enterprises for the differently-abled. This is my social responsibility. People come, they join in the movement and they donate a certain number of hours per week as it is evaluated in their performance appraisal but they all come once only. Then the spirit dies. I have hardly seen this particular spirit sustain itself for persistent effort and investment of time. Thus, I have often failed in these ventures. Of course, we have brilliant examples like SIUT, Shaukat Khanam Cancer Hospital, the Kidney Centre, The Citizens Foundation, the Edhi Foundation etc, which are doing excellent work and commended internationally. These are signposts of hope and role models of positive changes. Another aspect of professional behavior that is vivid in Pakistan is, if you know someone, you offer them better service. If it is a rich person (arrived at the office in big car or nice suit), s/he will be treated well. If a laborer appears, the level of professionalism or customer handling deteriorates. Is that professionalism?
PAGE: IT IS SUGGESTED THAT THE GOVERNMENT MUST SERIOUSLY CONSIDER SETTING UP A PROFESSIONAL HR INSTITUTE, WHICH CAN BETTER SERVE THE NEEDS OF THE PROFESSION BY PROVIDING AN ESSENTIAL AND COMPREHENSIVE SET OF RESOURCES AND EXPERTISE. IT CAN BE A FOCAL POINT IN FRAMING HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTICES CONFORMING TO OUR NATIONAL REQUIREMENTS AND ALSO ADVISE POLICYMAKERS ON HR PRACTICES AND LEGISLATION. YOUR COMMENTS.
SHIREEN NAQVI: Why should the government have to do everything? In the past 65 years, we have held the government responsible for so much and have been disappointed so often, that it is high time we learn to do it ourselves. This is a great opportunity for the private sector and should not be too difficult to do. We have the PSTD (Pakistan Society of Training and Development), which, along with the EFP (Employers' Federation of Pakistan) and a few other active bodies can manage this concept of 'practice to policy' very well with huge dividends to the professionalism of the country.