Q & A with Ron Thomas, a Chief Human Resource & Administrative Officer

Posted on: August 14, 2013, by :

I am very pleased to have recently had the privilege of interviewing Ron Thomas, a Chief Human Resource & Administrative Officer currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  We asked him to share his insight and recommendations for human resource practitioners.

Ron Thomas
Ron Thomas

Q:  Would you speak to your experience as a professional and describe how you stay current with the market and your professional development?

A:  In my climb to reach my HR goal, I figured out long ago that it was about staying current in the field.  You can’t just hunker down in your job and not self-develop.  By this I mean that you should read everything you can about your chosen field.  What are the key points that every department is struggling with?  What are the thought leaders discussing online?  Are you reading the top HR websites?

Develop a strategy for all the key transformation topics.  I tried to develop a strategy for every issue that HR and the organization was facing.  I figured that if I was ever confronted with these issues I would have already thought it through and would have a position not only on paper but to discuss as well.  This was a lot of work that kept me busy but it is like an athlete, you must always be in top shape that if the opportunity presented itself, you could hit the ground running.

Q:  What has proven effective in your progression as a human resource professional?  Do you have a board of advisors, mentors, learning plan, or other methods or resources?  I’m just finishing a guide on planning to network.  I’m curious about your perspective regarding the value of networking and any ‘lessons learned’ you would be willing to share. 

A:  My chosen method of networking has been social media.  I started blogging about 5 years ago.  I had strong opinions about HR and wanted to get them out there.  It was a daunting initiative in that I hesitated for so long.  My first blog post I was afraid to click submit….

When I did post, the responses were unbelievable.  The comments that came through gave me the confidence to write more.  I noticed that my thinking and narratives resonated with so many people in the industry

I had a good friend that was just starting up an HR site and asked me to consider writing a column for him.  Intimidated, I still however agreed to take him up on it.  That put me in the spotlight so to speak because it gave me a platform that was much stronger than my personal site.

This blogging eventually expanded to the UK top HR site where I post a weekly article that is repurposed from my site.  This expanded the reach of my brand to a more global perspective

I am also a believer in sending notes to people that I come across in the HR space to introduce myself, thank them for a nice article etc.  It is about building connections and expanding your network.

This was confirmed when I sent a note to an editor of a major site commenting on an article that she had posted.  We exchanged notes back and forth over a period of time.  About a month later, she profiled me on the front page of their website.

This kind of solidified my global presence.

The other and most important form of networking is LinkedIn.  Everyone, regardless of their profession has to be on this site with a full profile.  This is an area that so many people fall short.  Your profile is your brand.  If you have a site that has little connections and it not completely flushed out, that says a lot about you as a professional.

Twitter is another site to gain insight into your chosen profession.  Begin to build a presence by “tweeting” articles that you find exciting.  If your brand in your profession, keep your tweets focused on that.  Do not muddle the brand with anything that deviates from that.  If you want to connect with music, celebrity gossip etc. set up another twitter account.  Keep it separate and STAY FOCUSED with your network

Q:  What practical advice would you offer human resource professionals that could be used to learn effective ways of reacting to the changes that result from macro forces?  (Regulation, demographics, etc.)  

A:  So many times HR people put the blinders on and just do their jobs.  Keeping the head down and staying immersed in the day to day is not an effective way to stay on top of what’s happening around you.

In order to bring value to your role within the organization and to yourself, you must be aware of all the trembling that is going on around you.  What transformational changes is your industry going through?  Think of publishing and how that has been decimated by social media.  News properties [Washington Post, Newsweek] that were at the top of their industry are now being bought for pennies on the dollar.

How would HR bring value to this type of situation if you were in the publishing industry?

Every industry has been affected by the new thing called social media.  It has been such a “disrupter” that the dynamics of people has changed as well as organizations.  How would you guide your organization through this?  What effective ways would you react or guide your organization through these changes.  Think about it and prepare ahead of time.

Yes, it is a lot to think about but you know what you have no choice.

Q:  Will you elaborate on what you’ve discovered the expectations are for professionals who seek to be strategic partners?  

A:  The defining word in that question is strategic.  Strategic is not about transaction, strategic is about getting into the organizations business and being the expert of human capital.  You are the one that will develop strategies that will help your organization reach its strategic goals.  How will your talent acquisition strategies change and align with this strategy.  How can you increase employee engagement if your industry is in turmoil?

Within any organization: Finance, Marketing, IT are in all strategic meeting.  Your mission should be to elevate HR to the same level of importance.  This is done by being viewed as the human capital expert with your company.  That is the threshold that you must reach.

Q:  What advice would you offer to human resource professionals? 

A:  Read, read and read some more.  Every day I develop a list of the top 2-3 articles as it relates to HR.  I have created Google alerts on Talent management, employee engagement, leadership. So my reading assignment never stops although I have been in HR for 20+ years.  The learning can never stop, that is if you want to be viewed as a top HR person.

On twitter I follow on the top thinkers in this space.  I get HR brief from McKinsey, Harvard Business Review, Wharton Business School etc.

On I Tunes, I subscribed to all the top thinkers in HR and that is my “commuting music” a few days a week.

You have to prepare so that when the opportunities arises you are ready.


Ron Thomas is a Chief Human Resource & Administrative Officer currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He formerly was Director, Talent and Human Resources Solutions at Buck Consultants (a Xerox Company) and is certified by the Human Capital Institute as a Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner (SWP). He’s also worked in senior HR roles with Martha Stewart Living and IBM. Ron serves on the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel, and HCI’s Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy. He also serves as a Faculty Partner and Executive Facilitator at the Human Capital Institute. He has received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence by the World Human Resource Development Congress in Mumbai. Contact him at ronaldtthomas@gmail.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Ronald_thomas.


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