Rizan Afeef looked young and bubbling with personality. I tried to guess his age. 38? I was wrong. He’s 41.
What does his job as Director of Human Resources at Corinthia Palace entail? ‘Starting from recruitment and following the employee’s journey within Corinthia Palace. Trying to make all my colleagues have the best possible experience while working together as a team. It is difficult, to say the least, if not impossible, to do all things to all people. I look at people’s journeys day-to-day to make improvements for all concerned. Of course, the best way to find these things out is to speak to them, find out what they feel, and be mindful of their emotions. It’s all about work-life balance and giving them opportunities to feel better.’
And what about promotions? ‘Whether you have colleagues who have worked incredibly hard to develop their skills over time or their role has taken on more duties, recognising colleagues by promoting them is one of the best parts of managing people. It’s a positive outcome for the employee and the business. The promotion concept encourages employees to work hard within their roles to progress. However, it’s a good idea to consider both timing and reasoning when promoting an employee. If you promote an employee too soon, he/she may become overwhelmed and lose the confidence to excel in the new role. Conversely, stalling talented employees in a role they’ve become overqualified may contribute to poor job satisfaction and lead to employee turnover. Promotions inspire colleagues to work hard and achieve their career goals and encourage colleagues to grow and develop within the company, thus increasing employee retention and loyalty.’
I could tell from Rizan’s expression and tone that he loved his job. ‘I am passionate about working with teams to help elevate the brand in the eyes of its guests and the wider community. This is a vital combination in making a hotel work successfully. As one of the world’s leading luxury hospitality brands, Corinthia is really challenging and exciting to work for. I’m confident that my talent acquisition and management background will help us put in place a structure that can support our ambitious sales plans and the General Manager’s inspiring vision toward impacting and uplifting the hospitality industry in Malta.’
I asked Rizan about his origin. ‘My life has been an exciting journey with its ups and downs and dark and bright sides. I was born in the Maldives and also worked in the Virgin Islands. When I was quite young, I lost both parents and had to take care of my siblings and see to their future. That was not easy. But I grew in the process and discovered that I had a natural tendency and talent to take care of the development of others. This led me to my present job. I learned how to be compassionate, understand people and develop emotional intelligence. This is a kernel of my career: understanding people and assisting them in their growth within the vision and spirit of Corinthia. I make it a point to see that it is well embedded in the souls of my colleagues.
‘The hard-won life experience has proved to be my development. The street experience I gathered was not lost.’
My guess was that Rizan was endowed with deep empathy. Was it so? ‘Certainly,’ he answered. ‘By finding the positive in others and sowing the seeds of a passionate commitment, we are given an opportunity every day to create inspiring and lasting relationships, learn new things, live our passions, and solve complex problems that can impact the lives of people. Businesses don’t make products – people make products. And the concept that the workplace is a very ‘human’ place to be doesn’t change, despite all the advancements in technology. It’s a chance to be more human and stand out from the crowd. I always try to understand and appreciate.’
And what about the negative side of people? ‘It is important to get to grips with all sides of a story before acting, deciding, judging, assessing and assisting an individual. A negative outlook shouldn’t simply be waived away. We all have the occasional bad day at work, but prolonged negative behaviour needs to be investigated. There can be valid reasons why certain colleagues are negative. They may not clearly understand the tasks they are working on or feel their skills are inadequate to accomplish a high output standard. This makes it essential to take the time to speak with negative colleagues and listen to their concerns. We may be able to remedy issues with a few simple changes in their workplace.’
Uplifting lives must be a guiding force within your mission. You must be really in tune with the philosophy of Corinthia. “Uplifting lives is a winning philosophy. It is such an essential part of the spirit of Corinthia. It joins my colleagues and me spiritually and psychologically within the Corinthia family. Living a meaningful life, making a positive impact on people whose lives we become part of through the wonderful journey of life. Even if it is a fleeting interaction at work, the ability to impact a person positively and instil fond and meaningful memories in their minds is my definition of UPLIFTING LIVES.’
He spoke with a particular emphasis, so I wondered how long ago he had joined Corinthia. I was astonished by the answer. ‘Only six months. I was in the British Virgin Islands before I came here. I was exploring a potential island where I could emigrate with my family. Malta had all the right ingredients. The island ticked all the right boxes. Geographical location, modernisation, good education, community and Malta won on all counts.’
Emigration? Did I hear well? Was this a long-term commitment? He did not bat an eyelid. ‘I have a five-year-old son and need to establish a home for him. I would not like to see him skip and uproot himself from one country to another. I am so happy with my choice. I believe that even though I have experienced my dark and sad moments, I have now turned a new page because I am thinking more positively about the future, which seems to be changing my life. Malta and Corinthia.’
What about his son? ‘His name is Lucas. He is energetic and completely in love with animals, especially marine life. When he was about two years, we both followed the documentary ‘Blue Planet’ by David Attenborough. We saw it repeatedly, and it now runs in his blood. He is very knowledgeable about nature and appreciative of this divine gift. I am delighted to have enriched him with this passion.’
And his wife? ‘My wife’s name is Shiyaza Ibrahim, but I call her Shiya in short. She works at home for the moment, but she too will be soon looking for a job, as soon as little Lucas commences school!
I was about to conclude when he said, ‘Grazzi ħafna!’ That’s ‘thank you very much’ in Maltese. I was stunned that he spoke in Maltese after having been here for just a few months. ‘I am learning the Maltese language. I want to know it well because I believe it is important to get the feeling of a country which I hope will be my home. Knowing and appreciating its language is an act of love and respect.’
So was Malta a long-term destination? ‘Most certainly. Saħħa.’