Muna Al Balooshi: Thoughtful & Empathetic HR Leader

Muna Al Balooshi: Thoughtful & Empathetic HR Leader

Muna Al Balooshi
Head - Human Resources & Administration

Envision a workplace where employees enter with genuine smiles, propelled not solely by a paycheck but also by a deep appreciation for the organizational culture and avenues for professional development. Al Salam Bank has meticulously crafted and nurtured such a thriving ecosystem, recognizing the fundamental truth that ‘People are the Pillars of Success’. Muna Al Balooshi spearheads the company’s mission to redefine the employee experience, thereby reshaping the landscape of human resources. Reflecting on her journey to becoming an HR leader, Muna traces her roots to a firm foundation laid in her formative years. Growing up in a family that advocates for gender equality and the significance of education, Muna's values were profoundly influenced by her father. Bolstered by her parents’ unwavering support, she ascended professionally.

In the words of her colleagues, Muna has been instrumental in shaping Al Salam Bank's internal brand positioning. Her impact resonates across the organization, embodying three core principles deeply embedded in Al Salam Bank’s brand DNA: inspiring its people, doing the right thing, and acting with empathy. Her dedication to continuous personal development and compassionate leadership extends beyond the confines of the workplace to encompass broader societal contributions. Additionally, her active involvement in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives underscores her steadfast commitment to giving back, both within and beyond the organizational borders. The Global Women Leader (GWL) is happy to hear more insights from Muna herself.

Shall we delve into the formative years of your life that has moulded you into an inspiring leader?

I am privileged to have been raised in a family that champions gender equality and emphasizes the value of education. My father, in particular, played a pivotal role in instilling in me principles of trust and equality, which have guided my professional journey. His support and encouragement inspired me to pursue education diligently. This significantly shaped my character, leadership style and the person I am today. One pivotal moment in my career occurred in 2003 when I was entrusted with leading a comprehensive development program for youth in the Kingdom of Bahrain, in collaboration with an esteemed international organization. Collaborating with individuals who had spearheaded successful initiatives left an inedible mark on my leadership trajectory.

What influenced you to pursue a career in the field of Human Resources?

Embarking on an HR course during the final semester of my bachelor’s degree proved to be fortunate. Driven by its emphasis on interpersonal dynamics and human interaction, I was drawn to explore its offerings further. To my surprise, the experience surpassed my expectations, with the instructor presenting the concept of human resources in a novel light. Subsequently, an unexpected opportunity arose following my graduation, when I received an offer call from one of the Big Five firms, KPMG, recognizing my potential in the field. This unexpected turn marked the inception of my HR journey, with my dedication and natural aptitude for the field quickly helped me rise to a leadership role.

"Muna’s emphasis on continuous development & acting with empathy goes beyond the workplace to the community"

Share about your long-associated experience with Al Salam Bank, and some highlighting points of the journey.

Over my 17-year journey with Al Salam Bank, I have honed my HR leadership acumen through a dynamic landscape shaped primarily by the bank's strategic acquisitions. Commencing in 2006, the bank embarked on a transformative journey, transitioning from catering to high-net-worth individuals to retail banking, marked by strategic acquisitions including Bahraini Saudi Bank in 2009, BMI Bank in 2014, and Ithmaar Bank’s consumer banking business in 2022.

Managing the cultural aspects accompanying these acquisitions emerged as a focal point, particularly during the integration of teams from well-established banks into our organization. Through these transitions which were characterized by diverse backgrounds, integrating new team members, and fostering a sense of unity posed a considerable challenge. Navigating these challenges helped me understand and foster organizational culture, create harmonious environments, and effectively deal with diverse groups of people.

Our journey began with approximately 200 employees and has since expanded to over 500 employees, with 93 percent Bahrainis, including a notable 31 percent representation of females. Contribution to the bank's transformation into the leading Islamic bank in the Kingdom is a source of immense pride in my role as an HR leader.

What are your responsibilities at Al Salam Bank, and could you please elaborate on key components of the HR strategy you have formulated?

My responsibilities include fostering a cohesive and inclusive organizational culture, alongside attracting and nurturing top talent. A crucial aspect of our HR strategy is the seamless integration of diverse cultures following strategic acquisitions. This helps us cultivate an environment where individuals from varied backgrounds feel valued and engaged. Furthermore, we prioritize talent acquisition and development, with a keen focus on enhancing gender diversity across our workforce. Initiatives such as Retail Academy program underscore our commitment to this objective, designed to unify teams, equip them with essential skills, and elevate customer service standards.

These strategic endeavors have propelled the growth and prosperity of our organization, while also creating a favorable work environment conducive to the employee well-being and satisfaction.

What was a vital turning points of your professional journey?

One pivotal moment in my career occurred in 2003 when I was entrusted with an international project, a developmental program for youth in the Kingdom of Bahrain, aligning with an esteemed international organization. This opportunity allowed me to develop a comprehensive program for the youth in the Kingdom of Bahrain. It was an impactful experience, contributing significantly to my growth as a leader.

Another notable milestone was the launch of 'Qaedat Al Salam' in 2023, a leadership program designed specifically for our female employees.

Driven by a firm commitment to gender equality, this initiative aimed to empower our female colleagues with specialized workshops and projects. The unwavering trust and support from my superiors allowed me to develop a unique twelve-week program featuring comprehensive workshops and projects, which exceeded expectations in terms of engagement and quality of proposals from our female employees. Witnessing the successful realization of an idea I had harboured for some time has been a source of immense pride for me.

Could you please elaborate on some of the critical challenges you've faced and how you've effectively addressed them?

One significant and rewarding challenge entailed transitioning into the banking sector without prior experience, an endeavor I perceived as an opportunity for personal growth and professional development. Through dedication and a willingness to learn, I navigated this change; leveraging every opportunity to gain new insights.

Additionally, managing cultural integration and aligning diverse teams post-acquisition presented its own set of hurdles. By prioritizing open communication, fostering a culture of collaboration, and emphasizing the importance of cultural sensitivity, we successfully bridged differences and cultivated a unified organizational culture that fuels our collective success.

What has been your success mantra as a leader? What would be your advice for young aspiring leaders?

My guiding mantra centers on a steadfast commitment to personal and professional growth through continuous education. Pursuing certifications from esteemed institutions such as the London Business School and DePaul University has been instrumental in my ongoing development.

My advice to aspiring leaders is rooted in self-belief, resilience, and confidence. Recognize that your people are your most valuable assets. Leading with empathy and inspiring them with purpose will propel you toward the success you aspire to achieve.

Muna Al Balooshi, Head of Human Resources & Administration, Al Salam Bank

Muna’s contribution to volunteer programs highlights her commitment to giving back, both within the organization and to the broader community. Notably, her success as an HR leader has been recognized through bank awards, including the Hero Award, Integration Excellence Award and the High Impact Award.


Al Salam Bank