Normalis Mohd-Sharif is the Human Resources Director Integrator, India - South East Asia at Danone. As an experienced Human Resources Director with a demonstrated history of working across different industries, she has strong HR Business Partnering experience and has worked hand in hand with senior business leaders to shape the people agenda of the companies, in line with business strategies.
Could you share with us your career progression to date?
I graduated in International Relations and was supposed to be a diplomat. However, I decided to start my career as a management trainee in a conglomerate in Malaysia. I then decided to do a Master’s degree in HR and since then I have taken on different jobs with different challenges in HR. I have also been managing HR in different industries, namely Financial, Legal, Oil & Gas and FMCG industries. I joined Danone as the HR Director of Malaysia and then my role was expanded to oversee HR for Southeast Asia. In 2020, India was included in my portfolio.
Could you tell us about Danone's employer branding programme?
Danone has just launched our new EVP, “One Planet, One Health, By You”.
One Planet, One Health is our company’s vision, that the health of people and the health of the planet are interconnected. We would like to work with our society, consumers and other stakeholders at nurturing the adoption of healthier, more sustainable eating and drinking habits.
We are a very people-focus company and as such, “One Planet, One Health, By You” means that our people are the ones who make our vision live. We count on each and every one of our employees to bring this vision to reality, in their respective businesses and wherever they are. Hence, at Danone, we empower our employees to make an impact through our One Share One Voice programme, wherein our 100,000 Danoners around the world are consulted on the company’s global and local agenda, as true shareholders and co-owners of the company. We also create a collaborative and social workplace with a focus on well being, we encourage entrepreneurship and innovative ideas, and we provide many platforms for our employees to learn and grow.
What factors do you think have helped you in your career?
Try. I always give things a try and never say something is too difficult without trying. I have been lucky that I have been given very interesting job opportunities. Every time I move to a new job, I know that there are parts that will be difficult, but I will always give it my best shot. A second factor that has helped me is my interest in coaching people and building good teams. The higher you go, there more that you would need good teams to work with you. You can't do it alone. I can say that I invest a lot of time in building good teams, coaching them, and empowering them.
How do you manage your work/life balance?
As a working mom, this can be challenging at times, but I have been very fortunate that my family is very supportive and understanding. I have also come to understand what work/life balance doesn’t mean the same for everybody and it changes as your life evolves. Some people want to go to the gym daily, some people enjoy going on holidays, and some people may just want a bit of ‘me’ time every day. For me, I treasure my family time. I would like to get my work done on time so that there is no impact on my family time aside from when there are emergencies. I get up early to do some exercise in the morning and have breakfast with my family before our day begins. We also make it a point to have dinner together at night, which is something that my parents always practised with my siblings and I when we were growing up. If I'm travelling, which can be about 40% of the time before the COVID pandemic, I would call home at both of these meal times so that we are still connected, though digitally.
When did you first notice an emphasis on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in your career?
D&I has been practised in the organizations I have worked in, but the emphasis and extend of the practices may differ. Some companies are more advanced in their D&I awareness and practices and make it an important agenda for them while some may be more at a developing stage in their D&I journey. What strikes me most when practising D&I is that diversity is actually the easy part: you can easily measure gender or nationalities. The difficult part is inclusion, as the more diverse your business becomes the more factors you have to understand and consider in being inclusive.
In your experience, what are the benefits of diverse teams?
Diversity gives you exposure to different things. Whether it is culture, family backgrounds, languages, business knowledge, interests etc , the richer the diversity, the better the ideas and discussions that will be coming into your organisation.
What advice can you give to leaders who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture?
You have to understand what it means in your context or environment. What is acceptable in one country or organization may not be acceptable in another. You also have to be open in accepting that other people and culture may be different than what you are used to. It's also important to walk the talk. If you would like others to embrace diversity, you have to lead by example because inclusion is a behaviour, rather than a skill.
What initiatives does Danone have in place for diversity and inclusion?
We have a team at the global level who launch various global initiatives and work closely with the teams throughout the world. In India and Southeast Asia, while we implement initiatives launched by the global team, we also have programmes which are tailored to our local context and needs. For example, when we first integrated the businesses in this region under one leadership, we launched a campaign to introduce the culture, food, celebrations, language etc of each country to the rest of the region. We also have our Inclusive Diversity Roadmap which was designed to suit the India-South East Asia journey and is currently being implemented.
How do you help emerging female leaders?
It depends on what support is required by the individual. Some require support in being more confident to present their ideas, some would benefit from being introduced and have more visibility to regional or global leaders, some require support in improving their leadership competencies etc. I would try my best to create opportunities that enable them to showcase their abilities. For example, some of our women are exceptional talents but are not able to move to other countries to take up higher-level or regional jobs due to family obligations. For this situation, we have established “work from where you are” where talents who are willing to travel can take on regional roles and not have to move to another country.
What advice would you give to young women looking to build a career in your industry?
Do not put a limit on yourself before you try. We are all humans, we make mistakes, we learn from our mistakes and we move on. Secondly, do your very best in your job and don't let people fault you for your work. Be recognised for doing your job well. Thirdly, especially for women, do not make excuses for non-performance because of your circumstances. Stand by the life choices you make, about getting married or having a family, and don't turn those choices into excuses. If you try your best and do an excellent job despite your circumstances, people will recognise your efforts and hold you in high respect.
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