Interview with Markus Gries, HR Director at Fraport KAIA, KSA



Markus graduated with a MBA from WIU in Phoenix, AZ and then worked as Head of Flight Operations in Frankfurt from 1989 till 1996. Markus has long been working for Fraport´s joint ventures abroad. For nine years in Tenerife and Palma de Mallorca, Spain, as Director Operations for Acciona-Ineuropa Handling, and then for two years in New Delhi, India, for the Delhi International Airport Pvt. Ltd. as cargo specialist. Both assignments had a strong focus on organization development and the transformation of government entities and integration of their staff into private sector businesses. In June 2008, Markus was assigned Director of HR, People Development and Training, for Fraport at King Abdul Aziz International Airport Jeddah, KSA.

1. How do you like living and working in KSA?
It´s just great. One of the best countries on the planet one can live in. Contrary to popular belief the lifestyle is very relaxed, malls to shop and restaurants to eat in are plenty. Living here is seriously a very special experience that one should appreciate.

2. What is your average day at work like?
As a director of HR, People Development and Training, my main focus naturally is training our staff: developing programs, making the necessary arrangements, selecting contractors and participants, etc. But of course there´s a lot more involved when one is working for organization that is currently undergoing a major change process from government to corporate entity.

3. What is your biggest professional challenge?
Bureaucracy which I must say does slow down and complicate processes and delays decision making or taking action when it comes to getting approvals but we are working on it.

4. What is the most important thing you look for in new hires?
The most important thing is MOTIVATION, the will and interest to work. That´s significantly more important than the academic education!!

5. What is the biggest challenge you face in hiring talent?
There are various challenges. Slow, bureaucratic hiring procedures is one, “Wasta” influences another, lack of applicants with good knowledge of English a third, governmental budget restraints a fourth, a partly uncompetitive pay scale a fifth. All the above makes it difficult-to-impossible to attract experienced, highly qualified staff for certain positions.

6. What is your favorite part of your role?
The big advantage of working in HR is that one gets the chance to develop and to contribute in shaping the future of the entire organization. Not just of one department. Another advantage is the chance to get to know and to be connected with all employees: to actually work with people and have a direct influence on their attitudes and the corporate culture as a whole. Creating programs to develop this culture and steer the organization and its employees in the right direction is sure the favorite part of my role.

7. What has been the highlight of your career in HR?
A highlight of my work for King Abdulaziz International Airport so far for sure was the development of “Stargates”, our general airport management staff training program: its development followed by a major implementation success: this program was successful in transferring knowledge, changing attitudes, giving confidence, and increasing the motivation of our staff.

8. What do you read to keep abreast of industry developments?
Various aviation and management publications, internet sources. Increasingly: Professional networking sites.

9. What is your advice to someone looking to enter the field of HR?
One should have a true empathy for PEOPLE. That´s the most important point. Be authentic, open, fair. Good communications and strong conflict-solving and -bearing capabilities are a must. A cooperative mind helps. Since often many parties are involved, and conflicting interests have to be considered to come to a solution. Have a vision. And last but really not least: Love what you do!

10. How do you see the Middle East evolve as a place to practice HR?
The Middle East for sure is an area with major, above average, growth potential and challenges for HR will be plenty. Due to the average high number of children per family, the labor force in the region, namely the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will increase significantly in the upcoming years and decades. New jobs will have to be created, foreign workers will have to be replaced by nationals, nationals will have to get trained. More and more government entities will be corporatized, creating uncertainty amongst the employees that must be addressed by the newly created companies. Looking a bit further ahead, new business fields and sources of revenue have to be found, studied, and developed. And labor will eventually shift away from the oil-related businesses into those other fields. A change process for the entire nation, not just one organization. Very challenging also and in particular for HR.

11. If you could wave your magic stick and make a significant development in one specific area of HR practices worldwide, where would that fall?
Let it fall so that logic and sustainable thinking shall prevail in all decisions and concerns. Independent from who is in charge in an organization. We reorganize and rearrange things too often, just because a new number one feels that this is expected of him. Actually it is not. A good course, once taken, does not need to be changed. And a good organization does not require a constant re-organizing. Change is an option. Not a must.

12. Anything else you’d like to share with the community of Employers?
A bit profane maybe, but anyway: Please do not apply for a job with us at this time. The airport unfortunately cannot hire anybody during this year.

Hiring? Visit:

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