Petronas; Developing Workforce for Successful Talent Management

Meet Puan Raiha Azni Abd Rahman, a 28 year veteran of Petronas who is a living testament to that company’s strategic talent management initiatives to nurture and develop its workforce, aptly described, “Discover Your Potential.”

Back in 1984, a fresh-faced young woman joined PETRONAS under its scholarship programme, whereby deserving students’ educations are sponsored by the company which was, at that time, as young and eager to burst onto the scene as Raiha Azni Abd Rahman. These days, Raiha sits in a lovely office near the top of the world’s tallest twin towers as the recently-promoted Vice President, Human Resources Management Division. Of course, it wasn’t always so, and in those early, pioneering days, the magnificent PETRONAS Towers weren’t even on the drawing board yet. Senses of Malaysia sat down with Raiha to discuss her enviable career and get her thoughts on the future. She started by reminiscing about the company as it was when she joined.

“Oh, PETRONAS was a very different company 28 years ago,” Raiha laughed. “Not many ladies here at all, I can tell you that. Back then, I think we only had three or maybe four thousand employees and it really was, at that time, still a young national oil and gas company that was competing with the big boys.”

A CHANGING COMPANY

Raiha reflected on her own beginnings: “I had a degree in marketing, but actually started working in the personnel department because there simply weren’t any available positions in marketing. So that’s what started me on the path to my career in Human Resources Management.”

It’s a path that has led Raiha to rather lofty heights indeed. That young company with few women employees at all back in the 80s has grown to an impressive multinational company today. With over 43,000 employees and obviously a lot more women, Raiha is now one of three female vice-presidents at PETRONAS. She spoke candidly of the challenges she expects in her new role, which she assumed on 1 July 2012.

“Well, with a worldwide talent crunch in the oil and gas industry, developing competent talent certainly is a challenge. PETRONAS takes a sustainable approach to talent management. We recognise the value of education and capability development to ensure long-term growth and sustainability of our workforce,” she said. “As a global company, there was a need to source talent from within and outside Malaysia, and currently, PETRONAS has some 800 expatriate employees working in Malaysia.”

With PETRONAS’ business growth strategies, attracting top talent when global demand for these talents in the field exceeds supply is a struggle, Raiha explained.

Given Raiha’s own admirable capabilities, her considerable experience, and her unwavering loyalty to PETRONAS, however, it’s a struggle that she appears well-poised to meet. She added, “Apart from sourcing the talent, there’s always the goal of managing and retaining that talent. Human capital is immeasurably important to a company like PETRONAS and we’re very forward-thinking in how we approach this process.”

On this point, as Raiha elaborated, PETRONAS has adopted a merit-based approach with regard to employees, and even in the hiring evaluation process, looks for the same qualities whether the applicant is a fresh graduate or an experienced worker. “Here,” she went on, “it’s up to the employee to chart their own path. PETRONAS provides the opportunity, the support, and the framework. But the individual employee must have the drive and initiative to take advantage of all that the company offers.”

And opportunities abound in the company, as Raiha explained. From leadership programmes and classes that develop business skills and even people skills to fully fledged partnerships with international-calibre universities offering “mini-MBA programmes,” it’s clear that a culture of continuing education exists at PETRONAS.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION

In addition to her Human Resources Management role, Raiha also serves PETRONAS in an educational capacity, working with the numerous initiatives within PETRONAS to encourage educational foundations and development. This includes PETRONAS’

Group learning institutions that focus on niche areas that support the business. The PETRONAS Leadership Centre (PLC), for example, focuses on transforming leaders’ expertise, Institut Teknologi Petroleum PETRONAS (INSTEP) on technical excellence, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) on research and development, as well as Akademi Laut Malaysia (ALAM) as a centre of excellence for maritime education and training. In addition, the company awards convertible loans and scholarships through its Education Sponsorship Unit, with the stated goal of developing and nurturing talents into tomorrow’s industry leaders.

The foresight on this point is a notable strength of PETRONAS. As Raiha told us, the company has an initiative to identify what it calls “Top Talents.” Identifying exceptional employees to a highly focused list of about 200 top-tier candidates, these employees possess not only superior technical skills and industry expertise, but also outstanding leadership skills. These PETRONAS employees are then assessed by a third-party firm and it is from this pool that the company will groom its future senior managers; its leaders for tomorrow.

“If a talented employee wants a job with rewarding career growth potential,” Raiha shared, “I cannot recommend PETRONAS strongly enough. It’s performance-based growth, it’s the managed retention programmes, it’s the commitment to a culture of excellence, and of course, competitive remuneration packages. Plus, we’ve grown from a company managing our domestic resources to a major player on the global petroleum stage, and we’re still ambitious and optimistic about our future.”

She also spoke of the company’s renaissance in human resources as it becomes more globalised. “We need to understand the business on a global scale and cross borders with our search for talent. It requires understanding diverse cultures, shared services, and truly an appreciation of global mobility. And we’re moving towards a differentiated workforce and that really levels the playing field. Everything is performance-based.”

A CAREER OF LOYALTY

Over a quarter-century with one company is an amazing tenure, and it comes as no surprise that Raiha feels a swell of pride and affection for her long-term employer. Incidentally, Loyalty is among the company’s shared values that include Integrity, Professionalism and Cohesiveness that reflect the DNA of a PETRONAS employee. “I’m very loyal to PETRONAS,” she says emphatically. “I’ve been so fortunate to work here for most of my adult life and I’ve been able to travel extensively with the job. And when I, as a Malaysian, coming from this relatively small country, am standing on the shores of the Caspian Sea in Turkmenistan, looking out over the brilliant blue waters and skies, and I see a facility there with the familiar PETRONAS logo on the side, it makes me proud. Honestly, it just brings a tear to my eye.”

She goes on: “I’m so amazed at the growth PETRONAS has managed as this once-small Malaysian company. But we’re evolving, we are global, and the face of the company can no longer be just Malaysian.” Raiha pauses and smiles. “But I think its heart always will be.”

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PETRONAS or Petroliam Nasional Berhad is Malaysia’s national petroleum corporation. Established in 1974, PETRONAS is now ranked among the largest companies in the world. We have a proven track record in integrated oil and gas operations spanning the entire hydrocarbon value chain. www.petronas.com

Keen to discover your potential with PETRONAS? Please visit www.discoverpetronas.com

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Source: Senses of Malaysia Sept-Oct 2012

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