Monday, 8 December 2014 00:00
The first-ever HR Quiz in Sri Lanka will be held tomorrow. It is organised by the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM Sri Lanka). I am looking forward to this novel experience involving 50 teams of leading corporates in Sri Lanka. As the head of the panel of judges, my task is quite comprehensive. Today’s column is a reflection of this HR Quiz in the broader context of the Human Resource Management (HRM) in Sri Lanka.
There is a growing awareness and enthusiasm on people management in Sri Lankan organisations. This is evident by the increasing number of activities related to Human Resource Management (HRM) in many fronts taking place in the island.
Yet, we have a long way to go in unleashing the true potential of our productive workforce, in the wake of a post-war economic expansion and development drive. One key element in such an endeavour is to have clarity of what really HRM is all about. The HR Quiz will further enrich us on this aspect.
HRM for Sri Lanka
We can see hundreds of different ways of describing HRM. Some are over simplistic whilst some others are highly scholastic. What could be the best way to approach HRM in defining it related to local needs? A think tank from the Institute of Personnel Management (IPM) took the initiative of developing a suitable definition of HRM for Sri Lanka. This move is very significant as IPM being the pioneering and premier HR institute in Sri Lanka, moving towards a Charter status.
Our approach was specific and straightforward. We looked at what is available in terms of HRM definitions, identified key salient points in those and listed them and brainstormed their relevance to Sri Lanka. That was one aspect. On the other hand, we also brainstormed how to accommodate the socio-cultural and religio-political dimensions influencing management practices in Sri Lanka. Our aim was to find the best fit.
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 going in line with Ulrich (2009), namely, competence, commitment and contribution. He in fact puts it as an equation: Talent = Competence X Commitment X Contribution.
The multiplication sign in the above equation symbolises the collaborator and combine nature of the three vital aspects. Competence essentially refers to the knowledge (head), commitment refers to action (hands) and contribution is related values (heart).
What we do with talent occupy a significant segment of our definition. Acquisition refers to hiring (recruitment, selection and placement). Engagement means a range of aspects such as involvement, attachment and extra effort.
There is a reference to the term, relevant tools in our definition. What we meant was to incorporate testing methods, assessment techniques etc. which should be linked to the organisational requirements.
We consciously included the term conducive climate in our HRM definition. This means a supportive environment within organisation. HR has a critical role to play in creating such a climate. Climate refers to those aspects of the environment that are consciously perceived by organisational members. Perception is essentially an understanding based on the information obtained by senses such as eyes and ears. Hence, climate is something people see, hear and feel. That is why we see a difference when we enter a hospital, police station or a restaurant. In summary, climate is what we see and feel when we enter an organisation, whereas, culture is something much deeper as bedrock.
The end result of all HR endeavours, the way we see, is having twin aspects, organisational excellence and societal wellbeing. What we mean by organisational excellence is its overall performance with continuous improvement. It, obviously, include financial results, customer satisfaction, process efficiency and people development, the four perspectives of a typical balanced scorecard.
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. That’s why we included Societal Well-being as a key outcome of HRM. It highlights the need to support people outside the organisation and protecting the environment as well.
Defining HRM clearly was one step towards delivering sustained results. Now we need to put the acts together, in ensuring the awareness, appreciation and application among Sri Lankan HR professionals.
HR Quiz to the forefront
IPM announced the launch of the Great HR Quiz, yet another first in Sri Lanka’s HR calendar. The Great HR Quiz will be an exciting and stimulating corporate quiz competition engaging Sri Lanka’s HR professionals in a battle of minds. It is also expected to help to enhance awareness of HRM and related matters amongst the HR fraternity, engender an abiding interest on current HR issues, generate a buzz while presenting an excellent platform and opportunity for team building and networking.
To be held from 3 p.m. onwards on Tuesday 9 December at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo, the Great HR Quiz will take the form of a ‘Live’ table quiz program and will comprise of 50 teams with five members each vying for the coveted grand title. Participants will be demonstrating their knowledge and prowess on the subject of HR in the current business environment. The quiz will comprise of multiple choice questions. Each team will discuss the answer to a question collectively, and the correct answer should be given using the electronic response device.
The quiz will be followed by cocktails which would be an excellent opportunity for networking amongst the HR fraternity. “We are confident that the Great HR Quiz will be another immensely successful event in our annual calendar,” said Institute of Personnel Management President Rohitha Amarapala.
“The Great HR Quiz will be an excellent platform for our HR practitioners to display their prowess on HR as well as other related subject matter which are considered as vital for a successful career in Human Resources Management. We invite all corporates to participate in this one-of-a-kind event,” he continued.
From awareness to awesome results
We are witnessing a growing awareness among the corporate fraternity on the aspects of HRM. This welcome sign should be well nurtured to ensure the rich harvest of human potential. People are being increasingly recognised as a factor that gives competitive advantage.
As it has always been the case, the private sector, with much influence from the multinational corporations has spearheaded best HR practices. Public sector is sadly lagging behind with overly emphasised domain of administration, neglecting the learning and development aspects. It appears as an interesting case where the engine of growth (private sector) has better people practices than the so called driver of the engine (public sector).
People development cannot take the back seat if we are to grow as a nation. Sound practices of strategic HRM will be one sure way forward in ensuring the balance between organizational goal attainment and employee development.
The first-ever Great HR Quiz with 50 teams will spearhead new vistas of HRM in Sri Lanka. In the context of political flux that we are witnessing in the country with placing people at pedestals, the much-required people development with required breadth and depth should not be sidelined.
(Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri is the Acting Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Management. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Division of Management and Entrepreneurship, Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, USA.)