Tech We Take for Granted – HR Lessons Learned in Pakistan

An HR pro recounts lessons learned during her recent assignment in Pakistan

By Clare Novak, President
Novak and Associates

Clare NovakNortheasterners faced a wrathful Old Man Winter this year who conspired with Mother Nature to send severe storms. Most likely you or someone you know lost electricity. If your workplace did, then folks were asked to work from home if they could. Here in the US, without electricity, things shut down. Now imagine a world in which businesses can’t count on the electricity supply. During peak demand times, a business may have one hour on, one hour off—or worse. Electricity supply is a technology we, in the US, take for granted, when large parts of the world cannot. In Pakistan, although our clients were the nine government-owned electrical distribution companies, their own offices suffered from the same load shedding (planned and unplanned service disruption) as the rest of Pakistan. I will never take 24/7 electricity for granted again.

Once you are genuinely appreciative of continuous electricity, imagine yourself back in the 1950s while the rest of the world has tablets and smart phones.  You have all the same employee lifecycle records to keep but with no computer, no printer, no email and no internet access. Needless to say there is no intranet either. Hanging files are non-existent so the paper records are piled on shelves. By law, only paper documents are legal records. Faxes are the order of the day. Think about it. Do you even remember the last time you faxed? If you haven’t hugged your HRIS system today you might want to consider giving it some love. Or are you truly nostalgic for your IBM Selectric and a land line?

Employee development is equally challenging when our underappreciated laptop, projector, teleconferencing equipment and internet access disappear.  Blended learning and computer based training disappear as do the lights, fan and air conditioning. Boomers reading this may think, “Ok, been there done that and lived to tell the tale.” True, but remember, your boss in DC has the latest and greatest technology and is wondering “Why can’t you just….”

Lest you are feeling the pioneer spirit too strongly, give up your photocopier/scanner. It’s not that there isn’t one; it’s just that there is no budget for paper and toner. You could send the employee manual and training manuals out to a commercial printer but there is no budget for that either. Copiers are underappreciated work horses. Clearly, a few of the client companies were somewhat better off however, none had corporate email, few employees had computers and internet access. Few if any of the rank and file had ever seen the HR policies.

Work does get done without the technologies we in the West have come to rely on so heavily. It just takes longer and more effort. The next time you are tempted to cuss technology or rant when the helpdesk fix isn’t instantaneous, take a breath and give thanks you have technology to rant about. The next time you go to the printer or pass a copier, give it a little pat of thanks.

Now imagine you are the ONLY woman in eight of the nine training centers and there are a commensurate number of women’s rest rooms…..

By Clare Novak, President
Novak and Associates

Clare Novak has over 25 years’ experience serving clients with innovative staff development and change initiatives. Most recently she successfully completed two years in Pakistan. Her role was Sr. HR and Change Management Advisor to nine Pakistani electric distribution companies. In 2013, she was honored by the Leadership Excellence Award conferred by the World HRD Congress, Mumbai, India.


About Ward Christman (HR Tech Advisor)

Ward Christman has 25+ years experience in HR technology and services with special expertise in employee referral, ATS solutions and job marketing (via job boards and social media). Ward has helped create dozens of successful partnerships between HR Tech companies. Career Summary: - Launched one of the first online job boards in 1992 (9 years) - Key member of HRsmart (ATS and TM) growth team (8 years) - Contributor to Lawson’s new HCM team (1 year) - First hire for Bullhorn’s corporate social recruiting platform (1 year) - Turnaround artist (Product Owner) for Kenexa’s 2xRecruit ATS (1 year) - Launchpad boosters for RolePoint’s entry into the Social Referral market - Founder, Chief Advisor and Publisher for HR Tech Advisor (2014) - Co-Founder of (2015) More details at

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