Human Capital Drives Growth, Says Samruk Kazyna HR Chief

The Samruk Kazyna National Welfare Fund has launched a revolutionary business transformation programme among its group of companies. On the road to success, modernisation is not possible without the best human capital. Samruk Kazyna Chief Human Resources Officer Daniel Cruysberghs recently discussed the candidate selection rules.

03-2_c30befe4You have worked for more than 25 years in all areas of HR, including 16 years at Philip Morris International. Your last position at Philip Morris International was Vice President of Organisation Development, for which you covered 80,000 employees in 180 markets around the world. So far, you have lived and worked in eight countries around the world. You have enough experience to compare the work of the fund. Does the fund’s personnel policy differ from the leading companies?

In fact, there are no differences. Samruk Kazyna, as all successful international companies, is aimed at finding the best professionals. We hire the best and develop them, for the simple reason that human capital is the main driver of growth. We are not only looking for the brightest ones with the best academic degrees, but for potentials who additionally have leadership skills, who understand that self-development, an open mind, continuous learning, integrity, passion, courage, strategic agility, teamwork and social responsibility are key ingredients for personal, company and societal success. Hence, we look for intellect combined with leadership behaviours and the motivation to positively contribute to the company and Kazakh society.

What is the catch of Samruk Kazyna in the race for brains?

I can say without false modesty that we manage to find highly qualified professionals. The total number of our employees who trained abroad is 44 percent, 14 percent of whom are Bolashak scholarship holders.

Thirty-three percent of the professionals have masters degrees in different branches, where 78 percent have degrees from foreign universities. Eighty-four percent of our staff is fluent in English. For us, it is an important indicator. Knowledge of English is not only conducive to mutual understanding and cooperation in dealing with a global economy but also gives access to a wider range of modern information ideal for personal and professional growth.

How many people are working in the fund?

To date, the holding company employs only 137 people. You have to admit that for guiding nearly 600 daughter companies and employing 320,000 people, this figure is very small, certainly bearing in mind the governmental reporting requirements given that the Kazakh government and nation are our only shareholder. For example, the world-famous Malaysian analogue of our fund, Khazanah Holding, has 419 employees, whilst it guides only 50 companies.

What is the average age of employees in the fund?

Thirty-seven years old. We are blending experienced professionals with young potentials to generate the required climate, dynamics and environment for success.

As you said, the fund tightens candidate selection rules. How does this happen?

The entire process takes place under the sign of openness. When we have a vacancy, we do not hide it from view. The announcements are posted on our website We accept resumes of applicants within 10 days and then we select those who meet the qualifications. The applicants pass through three-stage testing and then they are short-listed. The first step allows us to check the depth of professional knowledge. In the second, they are tested for their level of proficiency in the English and Kazakh languages. The final stage includes ability tests. If a person is not at the required level on one of the stages, he or she is not permitted to the next test round.

Then the short-listed candidates will be interviewed with the department of human resources management and supervisor in charge based on a competency-based interview. The decision on employment is adopted from the results of the collective interview of candidates with the commission, which consists of the Chief of Staff, Chief for Human Resources Management, Deputy Chief for Human Resources Management, the head of the structural unit and director in charge. As you can see, the whole process aims towards maximum objectivity and avoidance of external influence.

Following the contest, we inform the public who is chosen with a short academic and career history of the new colleague to give full transparency.

Why are there so many candidates who want to work in the fund?

The flow of resumes shows not just the desire, but the strong desire to become a part of our team. For example, this year we had 16 vacancies. Do you know how many resumes we have received: 1,550 applications. As you can see, this is a considerable amount. After processing resumes, only 98 candidates met the qualification requirements and they were invited for testing. Fifty-seven people passed the first stage. Only 42 candidates were able to confirm their language knowledge. As a result, 35 applicants successfully completed the third stage of testing. Finally, 16 candidates were selected who met all the requirements of the company. All of them have good experience. In particular, many of them worked with the Big Four. Almost all graduated from leading universities around the world, such as the London School of Economics and Political Science, The Freeman School of Business (USA), and others.

Samruk Kazyna is your first experience in Kazakhstan. How do you assess the level of corporate culture development?

I found a nice, smart group of people; hard working, committed (mainly) technocrats and experts with high loyalty to the Kazakhstan nation building. I saw people with tremendous unlocked potential at all levels. But I also saw too much of a reactive order/task culture, a power/status-based decision making process, too much bureaucracy and limited interdepartmental and intercompany collaboration or sharing of best practices.

The platform for transformation is there, the people potential exists, but we have to unlock the entrepreneurial spirit by working more as a commercial organisation. We have to develop our people into strategic change agents, team players, people developers and inspirational leaders who empower their people to make sure everyone can become the best they can possibly be. We need to make our processes and structures leaner, more effective, efficient and fast. We need everyone to understand that active learning, self-development and developing the right behaviours are key in making sure we realise the vision of President Nursultan Nazarbayev for Kazakhstan to become one of the top 30 developed countries in the world. It will be a long journey, but all ingredients exist to make it happen.

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