The CPO’s Role in Employee’s Retention and Development

March 11, 2024

Nathalia Klein

Chief People Officer, Allsopp & Allsopp Group

Nathalia Klein, Chief People Officer (CPO) at Allsopp & Allsopp Group talks to The HR Observer about how her primary focus is on employee retention and development. She believes that ensuring employee engagement and providing a good progression pathway for employees are crucial to their happiness and development; hence engagement and retention.

She highlights the signfiicance of nurturing and managing the enire employee life cycle, keeping up with industry trends, and setting standards for employee practices. She stressed the need for communication, transparency, and clarity to make employee feel cared for and valued.

Nathalia also pointed out the challenges of maintaining a balance between employee happiness and business growth in a fast-changing industry like real estate in Dubai.

Below is the transcription: 

Hello, this is Omnia. I’m the Editor of the HR Observer, and today I’m speaking to Natalia Klein, who is the CHRO of Allsopp & Allsopp Group.  Welcome, Natalia. It’s great to speak to you today, I would like to start our chat by asking you some insights on your role as CHRO and in your current company.

What are your primary responsibilities and focus areas when it comes to a real estate and recruitment company?

Nathalia: I would say my primary responsibility is the main focus areas for me are employee retention and development. Of course retention is the result of great work and several fronts of the employee journey and employee lifecycle with any company.

So I would say I’m primarily responsible for guaranteeing employee engagement development, a good and healthy progression pathway for every single person that is within our company and joins us at any point in time. So nurturing, managing and doing a good work into the entire employee lifecycle as well as looking at industry trends, market trends, setting the standards for an entire industry in terms of employee practices, employee program, engagement practices as well, and making sure our employees are happier.

So I mean, ultimately making sure employees are happier, are developed, are challenged and feel good here.

Omnia: So it’s funny, you mentioned employees are happier because it’s always difficult to make everybody happy. So how do you have an organisation of a lot of people and how do you make sure that you’re actually providing them with a platform to nourish and grow?

Nathalia: Get some feedback. I think it’s a permanent collection of feedback. Of course, we’ll never be able to please everyone but make sure that the fundamental aspect of the journey and of the experience are covered and for me the fundamental aspects that any company can look at our communication, transparency, providing clarity, because clarity equals to care. When someone has clarity, they feel cared for, they feel cared about.

So making sure that we do good work and all of these things helps having more happiness.

Omnia: Do you think it is really the responsibility of HR to actually make sure employees are happier or is it the employees responsibility to be happy?

Nathalia: It is a combination. I think HR is responsible for developing leaders, developing the environment, maintaining a certain level of a good environment, and then employees would naturally react to that.

So I would say my job is to work with the leadership, work with every single person in the company, giving them the tools to manage their teams better, which will eventually make people happier.

So even employee happiness is a result of working with them on several fronts. It is not necessarily that my main KPI is employee happiness, not  my main KPI is employee retention and engagement, but this is a result of the work then.

Omnia: What do you think is the importance of your role now in actually driving business growth versus employee happiness?

Nathalia: I would say it’s finding and being in the midpoint in between what is the industry trend, It’s a very competitive industry. It’s very fast, it’s a very fast market.

So if you have and connect back to employee happiness, if you have happier and developed employees, you have a good performance, you have a good business performance. So I would say I can hope to directly impact the business growth by ensuring retention and showing productivity, giving employees a better platform to do their jobs right. We hire a lot of people, which is natural to the industry, but the more people we retain, the happier they are, the more results they’re going to bring out of our businesses, our people.

Omnia: I agree with you. But why do you think it’s a little bit challenging nowadays, however, with everything that is going on in terms of business growth, to actually make employees more engaged in business and at the same time drive business growth.

Nathalia: Challenges would be, again, the speed, how fast the real estate industry in Dubai grows. I mean there’s no there’s no such a thing as a bubble.

It’s a permanently and constantly changing and evolving industry that is all about real estate. I would say the biggest challenge here is to again find the balance in between what leads simply happiness. What is the platform you can provide as a company? Biggest challenge is it is a permanently changing industry and people will look elsewhere. So back to the communication and transparency.

It’s communicating clearly and very often about what is the work that we do as a company that gives the employees this platform.

Omnia: How has the industry changed since you’ve first started? You started around a decade or so ago, so what do you think are now the actual responsibilities that weren’t there a decade ago?

Nathalia: I think I can break it down. I think periods and being ten years ago are a bit before when I started my career in Brazil, I was in a different industry. I have been in the real estate industry for the past three years, give or take. I would say people as a human aspect has changed a lot and has evolved a lot in the past ten years.

From looking for stability has changed a lot in the sense of what’s more important. But the employee needs remain the same. An employee needs. For me, everyone wants clarity about how they can grow,what’s there for them, what do they need to grow at a company? Is it a leadership position or as an individual contributor?

Employees want stability, financial stability, and want a good package of benefits. There is that concept of emotional salary, which I believe has evolved a lot in the past decade. So ten years ago you wouldn’t see working remotely as a perk. This was not something considered ten years ago. When I look back, most of the companies I worked for ten years ago were using desktops so you wouldn’t have the tools to be able to work from home or to work remotely when in fact now, especially after a pandemic, people look at flexibility as a perk.

They have the tools every company has that themselves with the cloud tools and with everything that someone needs to be able to work from everywhere. So I think this is something that has evolved. But back then, employee needs, people still need clarity, people crave transparency in regards to their growth and to their progression.

Omnia: And people are more open about their needs now. People can go and ask for whatever they want, though some are not as lucky as others to actually have that ability.

Nathalia:  I think this is a particular evolution in the HR function. So you have asked me about what has changed in my role.

I think the HR functions are now way more tuned into I need to drive the business growth as well. I’m not here to support the business to grow, but I’m here to drive together with the other leadership members. So business leadership and founders and CEOs. But the HR function has also evolved on asking the right questions. So I wouldn’t go ten years ago, but 20 years ago, when I started studying about development of HR, every company had at some point in the HR department that was more of  HRoperations, payroll benefits, leave management, and the evolution comes with asking the right questions.

Giving employees a platform to if they feel comfortable to bring in their needs. But finding out what our employee needs, having a proper channel for feedback. So the HR partner in a way has evolved into. I want to know how you feel. And I know that no company is going to grow if I am not tuned, if I do not have every employee on my radar.

And this is how we actually understand our priorities every five years or decade over a decade, which is okay if you’re not tuned to how people feel, to what they are looking at, then we don’t know if the human being’s needs have changed. I would say it’s on the HR function to become an active listener instead of thinking of okay, I can process salaries and manager leaves.

No, no, no. I want to know more about you. I want to have meaningful conversations. And you mentioned some people don’t have the ability to come in with their needs when you don’t know how to verbalize your needs or when you don’t know what your needs are. I think the HR function is crucial in guiding you through the process of finding these things out.

How can you find consensus?

Omnia: Just as a little bit of a background about you, what made you go into HR. to begin with?

Nathalia:  That’s a funny thing. I wanted to change the world. And I know this. I mean, very little thing, very idealistic way of seeing things. I have a bachelor’s in international relations and affairs because I thought that would equip me in terms of information history about how to, I  have always known that I wanted to get corporate.

I wanted to work in the corporate environment. And I found out that in my first experience where I was in touch with an HR function but not properly in HR, I found that you can change the world by changing the relationship people have with their jobs. We all spend more time, it may sound like a cliche, but we all spend more time at work than with our families, more time at work than doing something else.

So if you have a good relationship, if you love what you do, if you find passion in this place, these corporate, these activities that you spend most of your time doing, you change your environment and you can change the world by having happier people at their jobs. I am very passionate about being able to help people find passion in their jobs.

And I think if everyone is a happier employee, they are also happier father, happier mother and happier colleagues, happier friend. So it’s changing the world by changing this relationship. That’s why I  got into HR And why I fell in love with it.

Omnia: No, I totally agree with you. I mean, people’s self-esteem is affected by their jobs.

I mean, a lot of people allow jobs to affect their self-esteem, and it’s questionable whether that’s the right approach or not. To be honest, I try not to let my job affect my self-esteem, but let’s see about that. lovely. I wanted to ask you a question about being within the workplace industry, and I wonder if you have any opinion about how you have seen the evolution of different women interacting within the workplace.

And the reason why I asked if there were a lot of reports coming out now or speaking a day or two days before the International Women’s Day, and there are a lot of reports coming out now asking just actually saying that females are not really given the liberties and given the benefits, perks, just like their male counterparts.

And I wonder how that has that changed in the past three years? My assumption hasn’t changed as fast as it should. MY question is what do you think as a CHRO has been the block to the ongoing gender disparity at workplaces?

Nathalia: When I look back in the past ten years, I have always been extremely lucky and I have always worked surrounded by powerful, talented and exceptional women.

So the workplaces that I have been part of throughout my career have always been very worried and concerned about gender balance, gender equality. And as I have evolved myself as a professional, I was also able to push this agenda, although I have found that lately in the past three years, for example, since I moved to Dubai, let’s get this cohort in my career, it has been easier than before. I think one, because of information, because of access to technology, access to information because the founders I was lucky to work with have been more open minded in the sense of it’s not necessarily about gender, but it’s about talent and about performance. So whenever I saw a gender disparity, that would be I mean, I’ve seen leaders in the past years, they were like, I think my team I have one gender that is, I have more women or more women, and they would be the ones that I need. I need diversity. I need to have a balance because it’s good for the team, it’s good for the company.

So I was lucky enough to work with leaders that have had this mindset. I think in my position the way I see it, providing an equal platform for men and women to succeed, making sure this is distributed equally so having only the platform is enough. It’s like pushing people to use it and to leverage this platform.

And here we have a very good ratio of women in leadership positions as opposed to men. There are sectors that this is not the case. So I think in my position it is about having a good platform for both genders to keep having founders, having a leadership team that is tuned in and they know the importance of this and they know the importance of balancing for both sides. What you mentioned about not thinking that this evolution has happened fast enough recently.

My take on specifically the Middle East,  I think it has been changing weight faster here than in other countries that I have worked before. For example, I think we’re lucky to be where we are right now or where we are in a muslim country in the middle of the Middle East. But Dubai is such a positive, not only positive. I’m trying to find a word, but we see things in such a forward looking way that the companies that I have been interacting with here are some years ahead of what I was expecting to find, to be honest.

Omnia: What do you think? And this would be my last question. What do you think is the responsibility of the CHRO to actually empower the different genders within the workplace, given the challenges and the prejudices against certain gender versus the other?

Nathalia: I would say the first thing is awareness. So having awareness about a certain organisation, so the organisation that you are at. The industry that you are in. It is being aware if there are any gender disparities because everything you need to know, I mean in an HR position, you cannot just ignore this aspect of things. You need to know. We need to be aware, leveraging this awareness and pushing it through.

I mean, I am the one responsible for speaking on behalf of the employees, right. And on behalf of the company. I am the one responsible for bridging the gap and managing expectations on both sides. So I think every CHRO has to push an agenda. Has to be aware of that and how to manage that and how to get it across in the organisation to make sure that every gender has equal opportunities to succeed, equal opportunities to progress.

And it’s, if not seen equally, making sure we have a neutral and an impartial view of things. So I’m always the one to push for a let’s take one step back, bird eye view. What are we doing here? Evaluating for any potential biases. This is in HR  hands as of now, to manage and develop leaders. To identify conscious bias, as you mentioned, across every gender. And I assume you’ll also mean sexual orientations. It has to be about, okay, we know what the bias can be. We are aware of the extent of the organisation. So pushing to continuously fight with unconscious bias, sharing feedback, educating the leadership, educating the organisation to be able to block biases altogether

Omnia: Yeah, I mean, it’s really an ongoing challenge, right? And I hope there is a formula that can help people speak their truth at the workplace. I don’t know if there is.

Nathalia: I don’t know if there is a formula, but there are some things that they’re trying to help. So having a workplace with openness, with open communication, a workplace that inspires and is interested in people. There’s no one size fits all, but I think there’s definitely a lot that we can do in terms of environment and every organisation to provide a good platform for people to feel comfortable and to feel safe.

And none of them are not not only necessarily an agenda related concern. We’re talking, you mentioned International Women’s Day, the different types of women profiles that we have as well. So it’s also about parenthood. It’s also about motherhood. It’s also about managing different care responsibilities. So and again, it’s about maintaining and building an environment where people feel safe, feel comfortable and can progress.

Omnia: Natalia, thank you very much for your time. It was my pleasure speaking with you and best of luck for the rest of the year.

Nathalia: Thank you so much. It’s my pleasure.

Editor’s Note: This year, The HR Observer celebrates International Women’s Day by rolling out different perspectives on how to empower women.