Soukie Speaks

Protiviti Oman: How one corporate is empowering millennials in the MENA

Shatha Al Maskari is a country Managing Director at Protiviti Oman, a global consulting firm that provides consulting solutions in finance, digitalization, operations, advanced data analytics, governance, risk and internal audit to clients all around the world. The firm strongly believes in empowering millennials in the corporate workplace.

As the leader of the Protiviti Oman office, Shatha has accelerated the growth of the practice by creating new talent acquisition and development solutions using international scientific tools for assessment and employee engagement to promote change and innovation. Especially for her new young recruits.

Thanks to the special attention that Protiviti leaders, like Shatha, give to millennials, the corporate was recently listed on Forbes’ 2016 100 Best Places for Millennials to Work list. So, what is the secret? What is Protiviti doing to keep millennials happy? Shatha shared her insights from her experience at Protiviti Oman with me in the following interview.

1) How does Protiviti engage its millennial employees? Can you give me an engagement strategy you have used in the past?

We treat employees as a partner in thought leadership, whether they’re an intern, new joiner, or an experienced professional. We have an extremely agile environment that thrives on new ideas and concepts and the firm itself is agile at a global level, because it buys into ideas of smaller offices around the world. Whatever serves the better good is welcome.

One initiative that we designed to drive engagement at Proviti is a competition on innovative ideas, where all our offices around the world were encouraged to compete in devising an innovative concept that could serve the interests of the firm internally, and also, be used for clients.

2) What kind of strategies do you use to promote team-building and cohesion throughout Protiviti?

We create a high level of engagement with employees by breaking silos and encouraging collaboration vertically and horizontally and integration with various service lines, where we bring together various experts who are well versed in the areas of people and change, digitalization and business transformation.

We also involve interns and new joiners in all kinds of meetings, providing them with full exposure to client pitches, board meetings, negotiations, planning, execution and deal closure.  As we believe that it is important for our younger employees to get full exposure to all aspects of our business from the beginning of their career, so they can develop a “big picture mindset” without losing sight of the importance of the finer details of our work.

Unfortunately, this is not always possible in larger firms, which tend to be very specified and task-oriented, as they go from one project to another. For us, teamwork is all about connecting our leadership with our execution teams, because it generates immeasurable growth in our millennial workforce.

3) How does Proviti promote innovation in its regional offices?

We set boundaries, but there are no hard rules in the way we provide consulting for our clients. As long as the foundation is firm. We embrace diversity of skills and backgrounds to brainstorm new ideas for our clients and this has produced some great success stories.

Several solutions, and even service lines, have been introduced at a regional level by just one or two people who had a vision to deliver exceptional value to the clients. In fact, some of our clients have liked our methods of operating so much that they referred us to other clients, who requested that we implement the same solution in their organizations.

Millennial employees in a meeting at Protiviti Oman

4) How does Protiviti promote entrepreneurial mindsets as a part of its work culture?

We encourage employees to constantly develop new skills, but we focus more on their attitude towards work, because experience helps with the organic development of knowledge and skills. However, it does not help them change their attitudes. That requires other interventions.

Entrepreneurial attitudes need to be formed from the onset of an employee’s career or else it becomes difficult to help them shape favorable attitudes later in their career. For this reason, we have special coaching programs, where each employee is assigned to a coach, other than their direct supervisor, who listens to them and helps them develop the skills and behaviors we expect from them as employees.

To train our younger workforce on accountability, self-management, quality management, and overall responsibility, we assign them smaller scale projects with bigger responsibilities. Alternatively, sometimes we shape a group of tasks into one project, so our millennial employees can gain direct exposure to our work and rapidly develop the key skill sets that they need to be a successful consultant. Thus, producing a high performance workforce.

In this day and age, where young professionals seem to be continuously “job hopping,” we can’t afford to merely assign them tasks and make them plug in the number of hours they have worked. This only produces a “zombie workforce,” who quickly become “dead weight” in the talent pool. As upper management, we must encourage and seek value creation in every thought and proposition that our millennials employees come up with.

Millennial employees at Protiviti Oman

5) Why does Protiviti feel so strongly about including its younger employees in the company’s day-to-day operations?

We are trying to break old school mindsets and practices by getting younger people, who are great story tellers, to deliver compelling speeches and insightful presentations to our clients, who generally expect a senior employee to deliver certain messages.

At Protiviti, we are trying to break that stereotypical way of doing business, because the younger generation have so much to offer and we can’t expect them to feel important 30 years into their career. That would be tragic for this restless generation, especially now that the baby-boomer generation are going into retirement. We need to promote more inter-generational collaboration throughout our businesses globally, because the majority of our employees are millennials and will continue to be so.

If we hope to establish stronger economies and better workplaces, we need to be smarter in how we present youth and we need to remind them that they need to be presented as entrepreneurs with an agile mindset with the strong desire to constantly learn and innovate.

6) What philosophy does Protiviti use to develop its millennial employees? 

We strongly encourage “upward-support” for our young workforce, because it is important to make them feel responsible for how they utilize their team to support leadership and organizational development.

We also train them how to think things through and suggest solutions, rather than just rushing to bring problems to our attention, because we want them to adopt more proactive work habits and prevent them from developing robotic behaviors.

At Protiviti, we believe it’s extremely important to empower our millennial workforce “to give their seniors a nudge” on “what’s next” and what can be done to stay relevant and we do so by ensuring that our millennials are actively involved from strategy to execution to celebration.

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