Another two days to go for South Asia’s biggest HR event. ‘Redefining HR for Boosting Performance’ is the theme of the National HR Conference 2014. Today’s column will highlight its novelty with associated features not as a commercial propaganda but as a collaborative effort to promote HRM in Sri Lanka.
There is only one HR conference of this magnitude annually with myriad benefits. That’s why the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM) calls it the National HR Conference (NHRC). Having organised such conferences for more than two decades, they have competence and confidence to make it an impactful one.
"This year’s National HR Conference gives business leaders, heads of HR, HR practitioners, entrepreneurs, trainers, students, etc. a rare opportunity to update their knowledge, share best practices, explore new thinking and discover how they can redefine the HR function to boost organisational performance."
I have been associating with such conferences for the past ten years in diverse capacities. Last year, I was the chairman of the technical committee. This time that role is played by Dr. Asoka Jinadasa, together with Rohitha Amarapala, Conference Chairman, and Samitha Perera, President of IPM.
We had several brainstorming sessions in arriving at what is best this time, based on past successes and current trends. Ensuring a comprehensive knowledge sharing through a memorable experience for the participants was the aim.
With both risks and opportunities growing almost exponentially in today’s increasingly turbulent world, organisations have to deal with situations previously considered improbable or even impossible. Recent global and local studies suggest that in this fast-changing business environment, the HR function is mostly perceived to be nonessential or ineffective in demonstrating its value to the business. Studies also suggest that the competencies that served HR well in the past will not be enough to propel it into the future.
This year’s conference theme of ‘Redefining HR for Boosting Performance’ addresses the urgent need to recast HR strategy to align itself with changing organisational needs. It examines innovative HR concepts and strategies that could be deployed to improve the performance of any type of organisation in a rapidly changing business environment.
Renowned keynote speakers from six nationalities including Australia, UK, Malaysia and Sri Lanka will present new thinking on topics strategically relevant to the conference theme of Redefining HR: Aligning HR with a changing business landscape; Nurturing leaders through coaching and mentoring; A new HR Paradigm for architecting winning organisations; and Leveraging the power of culture to transform challenges into opportunities. Furthermore, panel discussions on ‘Beyond the role of HR’ and ‘Redefining HR: Promises and pitfall’ present the views and experiences of many eminent personalities from Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.
Delegates are given every opportunity to raise questions and clarify the relevance of each discussed topic to their specific career or organisational objectives. This year’s National HR Conference gives business leaders, heads of HR, HR practitioners, entrepreneurs, trainers, students, etc. a rare opportunity to update their knowledge, share best practices, explore new thinking and discover how they can redefine the HR function to boost organisational performance.
Thinking behind NHRC 2014
“Translating the conference theme of ‘Redefining HR for Boosting Performance’ into a practically actionable program, at a time of increasing uncertainty in the business landscape, was the formidable task facing the Technical Committee of the NHRC 2014,” observes Dr. Asoka Jinadasa.
Capturing diverse new trends such as splitting HR into tactical and strategic wings, abandoning HR best practices, questioning leadership development effectiveness, ending traditional performance reviews etc. posed a complex challenge and also an exciting opportunity to the Technical Committee.
As he further states, our aim was to address the complex issues embedded in the conference theme through keynote speeches from renowned thought-leaders and panel discussions with eminent personalities. After considering renowned keynote speakers from USA, UK, Italy, South Africa, India, Malaysia, Australia and Sri Lanka, we selected those who could present innovative concepts that could be integrated into HR practices in Sri Lanka for improving organisational performance.
We decided to start the technical program by addressing the need to realign HR with a changing business landscape by adopting new HR concepts and practices. Since organisational performance is driven mostly by employees, the second topic we selected was on nurturing leaders through a company-wide coaching and mentoring culture, designed for maximising individual and team performances. This was to be followed by a panel discussion on taking HR beyond its present role by broadening its scope.
A new HR paradigm for architecting winning organisations was the next selected topic. It was based on novel concepts such as the Wisdom-Skill Matrix for overcoming difficult conditions, and developing the Five Dimensions of Success & Leadership in each employee. Leveraging the power of culture to transform challenges into opportunities was the next topic, for enhancing performance, sharpening competitiveness, and maximising operating margins through employee engagement. The final panel discussion was designed to examine the promises and pitfalls involved in redefining HR, from the perspective of maximising the return on investment in the HR function through improved performance.
Our aim was to present provocative new HR concepts and practical application methodologies in a highly interactive manner. We wanted to give delegates a rare opportunity to update their knowledge, explore new concepts, and examine how they could redefine the HR function to improve their organisational performance, especially during the challenging times looming ahead.
‘The evolving role of HR: Aligning HR with a changing business landscape’ is the title of much anticipated presentation by Dr. Paul Davidson, Associate Professor of Management, QUT Business School, Brisbane, Australia. He is also a management specialist with over 25 years university teaching experience and 100 academic publications including two major text books in management. For seven years he taught Project Management to engineers with Royal Dutch Shell in Holland and USA, and has been a regular speaker at international HRM conferences worldwide for 20 years. Dr. Davidson also serves as adjunct professor to several business schools in France.
His session will cover the changing business landscape internationally, and proposes responses to the need for HRM to adapt, to develop, and to lead in driving organisational and business performance.
It is argued that this does not make HRM a pre-eminent competitor in strategy formulation and implementation, but rather a critical, value-adding colleague alongside other business management disciplines. For all that, like the nation of Sri Lanka itself, its future will depend on its vision, the efficiency of its realisation, and therefore on its capability to change in response to emerging trends. It has to think internationally and strategically, and act nationally and locally.
Another prominent personality in NHRC 2014 will be Dr. Michel Heah. He will talk on ‘Nurturing leaders through coaching and mentoring’. Dr. Michael Heah is a renowned ICF – Master Certified Coach in this region and the 1st Malaysian to earn this global class credential from the International Coach Federation (ICF), the world’s largest and most established coaching body. He recently received the world class Brand Laureate Icon Leadership Award for his work on Coaching in this part of the world where he leads the coaching industry through many initiatives that are aimed at building and growing the coaching community.
Dr. Heah will cover the coveted aspects of coaching. Aspiring to be the best organisation ever, growing a strong leadership infrastructure and installing a pipeline of talents of the people can be best achieved by one singular mission; through the systematic building of a coaching culture. This presentation explains how HR can make an impactful shift in both its paradigm and direction. The focus now is on installing a ‘coach’ in the mindset and behaviour of every leader in the organisation, to boost the energy in the organisation for achieving extraordinary performance and innovation with sustainability. This is a far better method than any other used before for improving organisational performance.
Bringing the HRM definition to the forefront
NHRC 2014 will be an ideal opportunity to discuss the newly-launched HRM definition for Sri Lanka. Based on the brainstorming we had as a team and feedback obtained from professionals and professors, the following definition emerged.
A strategic and integrated approach in acquisition, development and engagement of talent, using relevant tools, with proper policies, practices and processes in creating a conducive climate towards achieving organisational excellence and societal well-being (IPM, 2014).
What we meant by strategic is working towards achieving overall goals and specific objectives of the organisation. It is essentially aligning with the broad organisational priorities. It highlights the strategic significance of HRM and the holistic role it should play. Talent refers to three Cs namely, competence, commitment and contribution. The term Conducive Climate means a supportive environment within organisation.
The end result of all HR endeavours, the way we see, is having twin aspects, organisational excellence and societal well-being. HR professionals cannot function in isolation ignoring the social realities. This is more relevant to a developing country like ours, where issues such as poverty, unemployment and ethnic tensions cannot be ignored.
The panel discussions featuring business leaders and HR professionals will dissect the HRM definition further in line with the theme, redefining HR for boosting performance.
All arrangements are being made to have yet another informative and insightful knowledge sharing through NHRC 2014. Be there to witness a unique experience of fun-filled learning with valued insights to be a better “people manager”.
(Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri works at the Postgraduate Institute of Management. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ajanthadharmasiri.info.)