With 'The search for talent' as the theme, SLASSCOM HR Summit 2013; the fourth Human Resource conference facilitated by the Sri Lanka Association of Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM) was held recently at Cinnamon Grand.
The summit was designed and well-aimed at giving out an insightful awareness of many challenges faced by local and international Human Resources Management (HRM) teams, and participants had the chance to share various accomplishments and success stories of the vastly experienced panelists who were present that day.
A unique challenge
With the post war growth trajectory maintaining an upward momentum, the search for talent has become a crucial ingredient in the success of companies. And with the field outgrowing the basic human capital management solutions, the present Human Resources Management teams in Sri Lanka face a unique challenge of growing human capital to meet the ever-expanding needs of businesses or organizations.
Panelists who shared their thought at the summit stressed on a single point; to succeed towards finding the right talent for an organization requires an improvement in HR performance, leadership, learning, compensation and succession structure that not only successfully assesses and aligns a sustainable workforce for the organization but also one that augments continued productivity and profit for the business.
The panel included ACCA Global Chief Executive Officer Helen Brand; PIM Senior Faculty Member, Dr Ajantha Dharmasiri; Training Consortium Managing Director, Niroshan Silva; Award Winning Speaker, Trainer and HRD Specialist, Dananjaya Hettiarachchi; Dialog Axiata PLC Group Chief Customer Officer, Sandra de Zoysa; IPM Sri Lanka President and CBL Foods International CEO, Samitha Perera and British Council Sri Lanka Assistant Director, Harriet Gardner. They shared their experiences and successes they have had in attracting, developing and retaining talent in changing times.
Delivering the key note address, Helen Brand talked about ACCA's thinking about talent management.
"The global financial crisis and economic uncertainty in some markets have heightened the visibility of the value that professional accountants can bring into a business. With increasing attention and respect being given to the role of accountancy in a business; the profession has an opportunity to help create and sustain a long-term value for an organization to a greater degree."
A stormy cloud is looming
According to a recent survey carried out by ACCA and the US-based Institute of Management Accountants, she said a stormy cloud of risks is looming ahead for CEOs and CFOs in the next 10-15 years. All the issues that pertain to finding right talent will create a perfect storm for the CFOs who are looking to recruit, develop and retain financial expertise into an organization.
"In this stormy setting, finance teams and their leaders must show leadership qualities for the sole purpose of accountancy profession to be effective. They must demonstrate strategic wisdom and they must also champion change. One of the most important foundations of any business is people. Successful businesses and teams are those that have the right people in the right place at the right time.
They are ready to embrace and leverage the diversity of their workforce and talent management is needed to achieve this and a successful talent management strategy will help a business to attract, develop and retain finance staff. A finance team without any talent management strategy will loose and they would not be effective or efficient. A great finance function gains a strong reputation amongst colleagues and other businesses," she stressed in her speech. A KPMG survey of 500 senior finance executives found out over 50% saying that the difficulty of finding and retaining skills for financial professions was a major barrier to improve financial performances.
"Finding skillful people for financial operations have been a primary concern for senior finance executives. When you look at some of the challenges that businesses face today, it is easy to see why it is important to get the most talented people in a finance function. There are other challenges that a finance function should face with all the economic and environmental challenges in hand; tightening budgets, increasing regulations, complex requirements, risk management and so many more. These challenges raise other questions. How should exactly CFOs and business leaders' structure that finance function to maximize their resources and secure a long-term supply of talent is one of the important questions in the current scenario; and business leaders should know how to address that question," said Brand.
Talent management is tough
Following the footsteps of generations X and Y, Generation C (connected) is entering the workforce, Helen opined. "They are highly connected and digital natives. They are 24/7 hungry for information, comfortable with virtual existence and continuously work in social network platforms. Technology is a natural part of their life. Managing the aspirations of younger generations will be one of the biggest challenges for many organizations; especially regarding Generation C."
She said that it is important to remember that talent management is more than just implementing a new organizational model.
"Cultural change in the way that people do their job and changing the way that finance interacts in the organization takes a much more structured round of action. Organizations should ask the question of 'what does talent look like?' Each organization may have its own definition of talent but it needs to be defined around the creation of a set of competency frameworks."
Finding the right talent in the first place is one of the most important steps for an organizational finance team which would help a business to grow further. Brand revealed that the training and development is clearly linked with talent management.
"Talent management is all about developing skills and knowledge. It is about understanding competencies. Organizations need to think about the talent that they already have and about talent that they need. Organizations do need to have a talent pipeline. They need the right people in the top roles and right people to take them over when the time comes. Organizations and the finance function need to know the current availability of the talent they have in the workplace and its potential."
At the end of her speech, ACCA Global CEO pointed out that diversity of culture can bring great benefits for an organization. It is not a threat but an opportunity.
"Diversity is not an issue of morals, ethics, gender or culture but an opportunity to drive innovation and give different experiences for different mindsets. Diversity really matters in business. It is about finding the right mix of talent to represent different experiences that will help bring a range of different insights and opinions into the decision-making process of an organization." "Ultimately, tomorrow's finance leaders will need to bring deep change management capabilities, because the finance teams need to re-engineer their selves to ensure that they are well-aligned with the business. Future CFOs need managerial leadership experiences to build strong teams," she said in a concluding note. Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri, one of the most sought-after HRM experts in the country talked under the theme 'Positioning the value of human resources.'
What should HR professionals do?
"I would like to ponder some pertinent questions regarding HR. Is the HR function really adding value to the organization? It has been a fundamental question in the industry. When talking about value addition, you cannot forget the people involvement. Are HR professionals taken seriously? It was Prof. Uditha Liyanage who raised this question at the beginning of the National HR Conference few months ago. In order to address those two questions, we must raise the most important question of 'What should HR professionals do?' All the HR professionals in this room should do a 'soul search' to redefine what you are delivering, in order to ensure that we create value,"
Dr. Dharmasiri said.
Quoting Jack Trauss,
Dr. Dharmasiri said positioning in an organization is all about creating and impacting the mind of your customers.
"Positioning is a battle of the mind. Every HR professional in Sri Lanka has this daunting challenge in front of them; I would say twin challenges. How to manage perceptions and how to ensure performance; perception management and performance management? Based on my experiences, perception management is the critical one. There is a big gap in HR when it comes to perception management. HR professionals might think that they are delivering the best whereas the CEO and other executives might think in a different way."
He talked about strategic orientation, where he revealed, "It is all about looking at the long-term horizon; thinking and acting in the long run for the benefit of the organization; in other words, having the game plan properly identified and aligning and integrating with the organizational strategy. The link is there, the integration is there and the vibrant involvement is also there.
He said that local HR professionals has a long way to go, in order to ensure that they manage perceptions better, after analyzing data of one of his own researches.
"It is sad to say that perception gap has not been sufficiently addressed by HR professionals. According to a recent MTI research, 90% of CEOs in Sri Lanka believe that their HRM counterparts are not worthy of holding their posts because they lack business acumen, financial sense and strategic involvement. This is the reality in front of us. But this is one side of the story. What about the version of HR professionals? What they would say is that 40% of the HRMs on the other hand believe that they cannot make into the director board because of misplaced negative perceptions. So we are in a jungle of managing perceptions; how others perceive HR and how HR perceives HR."
He highlighted two fundamental aspects which came out from his South Asian Regional Study.
"First one is when personal factors contribute into strategic orientation are high and organizational factors contribute into strategic orientation are low, I would identify a thing called 'opportunity deficit'. In simple words, when the HR person is ready to play a strategic role, he or she may not receive an invitation or an opportunity from the organization. That is one scenario which I see very clearly where some young, upcoming HR professionals get really frustrated. Secondly, many CEOs in Sri Lanka lament over the very fact that they have many opportunities for HR professionals to come forward to add value but they are not ready. That is what I call a 'competency deficit'. How do we manage these two? HR person has to take an individual responsibility over competency deficit and the organization must address opportunity deficits. Both can be address in a parallel way together in order to have a holistic solution."
Every single HR person has to play the core role of 'Credible Activist' which critically focus on committed results, opined Dr. Dharmasiri.
Delivering true results
"It is not just talking about people; it is about delivering true results. You need to be a credible activist or otherwise you cannot justify your existence to the others of the organization. This has been spoken a lot but we need to act promptly and proactively; willing to demonstrate our performance. That is he sad part which I do not see when I go to local organizations."
He stressed moreover that a company simply cannot have an economic value without the 'values' and he argued that it is a case of producing value by practicing values.
"You need to practice values. You need to have the right behaviours in your company. You need to ensure that people behave accordingly, in order to achieve expected results; so value through values," said Dr. Dharmasiri.
A HR person should ensure that he is into the value creation process of a company, according to
"Remember that value is not what you give but it is what others get. Value is determined by customers. So HR should have that reality in their minds where it is an outside approach, where the value generated by HR is measured and appreciated by both internal and external customers. How can we do that? It is a matter of 7Gs; goal, get talent, give right remuneration, grow your talent, groom your talent, glue the potential and performance of your talent and guard your talent."
Thrive towards best
"If strategic HRM is taken seriously and when HR professionals manage their perceptions and start performing, people-averse organizations will become people-aware organizations. Then they become people-aligned and finally people-centric organizations. In order to get the best out of right talent, every company in Sri Lanka should be people-centric. Then only HR will be taken seriously. Having said that, you need to thrive in turbulence. When you have turbulent times, HR professionals can thrive and that is an opportunity for them to draft and deliver value," said Dr. Dharmasiri.
In a concluding note he said that the future of Sri Lankan HR professionals depends on their interest of moving out from being a narrow-focused administrator towards a strategic contributor for organizational success.
"There are certain impelling forces. I would recognize committed HR professionalism, competitive pressures and visionary leadership as few of the major impelling forces. Sadly there are impeding forces as well. I would say impelling forces should overcome impeding forces and then the future will be very bright. Let's move out from being narrow personnel to broader, strategic, value-adding HR personnel."
By : Hiyal Biyagamage