Dominique Ben Dhaou has been in the Human Resources field for over 25 years, climbing the ranks through several leadership roles in major international organisations. From 2011 to 2016 she was the CHRO of the SGS Group, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, present in 150 countries and employing more than 88’000 employees worldwide. She joined SGS in February of 2001, first as an International Compensation & Benefits Manager, then International HR assistant Vice President to Vice President of Human Resources, before becoming CHRO. In 2015 she inducted as a Lifetime Member and was named “Outstanding Member of the Year” by Bristol Who’s Who. In 2016 she was inducted as an honored Lifetime member of the International Association of Top Professionals and named “Top Professional of the Year in Human Resources”. Today, she advises business leaders in various countries on a range of HR matters.
What’s been the biggest achievement in your career to date?
I thought about the usual things someone in HR would say. I however prefer to think that my biggest achievement is about mindset than one particular moment. I’m proud that I have consistently pushed myself out of my comfort zone, taking on responsibilities or putting myself in positions that can literally freak me out at first. It’s made me braver and more determined; and it has helped me achieve so much more. Here’s one example. I had a fairly comfortable job but then I decided to take up a job in New York when I couldn’t speak much English, I didn’t know anyone and my accommodation was only being paid for the first week. Then when I got there, I was told that my job was no longer open and the only job on offer was at a much lower level. I still took it. One month later I was promoted. Then again two months later. And so on. I learn more out of these situations than staying in a comfortable role.
What’s also been the biggest challenge?
I think the challenges in your mind are the biggest to overcome. You don’t become happy because of external things. It’s about taking responsibility and accountability for your own actions, and making things happen for yourself. That is the way to achieve what you want to achieve – and be happy along the way.
Increasingly businesses have become much more global. What does this mean for organisations and HR?
Globalisation is not new. But there is now an increased complexity and speed about everything we do – and for HR, this is challenging the hierarchical structures that we are used to. Organisations are becoming more focused on informal networks and structures, where collaboration can be more efficient and productive. There is a need for greater cultural sensitivity, to understand colleagues and customers. In this global environment, we need a revised set of leadership skills and decision-making. We also have to look at drawing on different talent pools, and engaging a much more diverse workforce. Are HR ready for this? Some are; many aren’t. Today HR is there to influence, train and guide rather than tell people what they can and can’t do.
In the current business climate what do you think are the major people priorities? And why?
There are two big priorities in my opinion. Digitalisation and Organisational Culture.
Digitalisation can be considered both as a threat and as a possibility. Some will see it as a threat to their way of working. The best people will choose to see it for what it can offer all of us in the world of work.
Organisational Culture provides the building block for creating the employee experience, influencing the way people work, learn and evolve.
Together they are two powerful forces, creating a real humanity at work with all the advantages of digital.
What’s next for you in your career?
I love working with people and adding value to organisations. So right now I am working with the heads of businesses to help them focus on that humanity and how it can leverage business success. Often for leaders like this, it is important to help them understand what this means in their daily activities and giving them ongoing support to achieve their aims. So my work ranges from re-building culture to finding innovative ways to upskill the workforce to defining the value proposition for new hires.
What do you most like doing to relax and get away from the world of work?
Two things are important to me for relaxing. Nature and Music. When I’m tired or I need a break, I spend some time in nature. It helps that I live in the countryside, just outside of Geneva. Music is just as important. It makes you feel like you are day-dreaming and releases the emotions that help me rebuild my energy.