September Spotlight: Ron Thomas CEO Great Place To Work


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1. Tell us about your experience in the Middle East

I arrived in the Middle East about a 18 months  ago from New York City, as the head of HR for a Saudi based private company. My role was to head up an HR Transformation project. I have been involved in HR for the past 20 years from leading an HR department to HR consultancy at a major consulting firm. My expertise is aligning HR/Talent/Executive Leadership to the organizational goals.

My experience here in the Middle East gave me a refocus of HR , reminding me of how it was practiced in the US in years pas, but I also see companies marching towards developing a new partnership of a modern  Human Resources function.

This modern HR  function is focusing on a slow move from the transactional aspects of HR to a strategy driven approach to the profession, with some enlightened organisations including their HR Director in their Board Membership.

  1. How would you describe the business culture here in the Middle East vs. New York.

I think the biggest takeaway for me is that business is personal. People do not do business with companies, they do business with people. That is why it was important for me to build connections for the long-term. I speak at a lot of HR conferences and I always take care to meet and greet with as many participants as possible. However I also follow up with a quick note referencing our meeting to begin the process of building this relationship.

The rush meeting of the US is not a part of business protocol. Time if NOT of the Essence. Business meetings always begin with “other conversation” and this often can takes some time. I have had to embrace, this as the way business is done and it is a part of the connecting process so important in this part of the world.

  1. How easy is it for you to get direct access to the decision makers in your company?

In my new role as CEO of Great Place to Work, our reputation precedes us. The vast majority of companies have heard of the work we do as employee engagement consultants. So this gives us access to decision makers who are concerned about building an engaged workforce through our “Trust Model”.

We are experts on the field of employee engagement so decision makers understand that we invented this vertical and have been doing this for over 25 years with all the data to back it up.

  1. What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years?

My challenge is to enable companies to build high-performing workplaces in this region. With the list of multi-nationals, privately owned firms and governmental agencies, we are on a mission to partner with them to build  a 21st century workforce that highlights talent as the competitive differentiators.

  1. What is your philosophy?

My philosophy is the most often misunderstood phrase in our business: “People are our greatest asset”. That is the phrase that I live by and that is why my new role syncs up perfectly with my philosophy.

People [Talent] has become the greatest differentiators between successful companies. If you take a look at companies that rise to become great places to work, they outperform their industry peers over numerous financial indices.

The takeaways are relevant for not only organizations but investors as well. That is why culture and engagement should be on the tips of every leaders tongue. This is not only an employee-manager dynamic but a board and executive leadership concern. Everyone benefits from their organization being recognized as great place to work.
Office:  +971 04 44 68706
Mobile: 971.56.142 0403

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