Strategic choices for HRM: Being brilliant on six Bs

Monday, 24 January 2011 00:11 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

We looked at promises and pitfalls of Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM). Also, we investigated rhetoric and reality with regard to the presence of SHRM in Sri Lanka. With the impelling and impeding forces towards effective SHRM in mind, let’s look at several interrelated components of it. I would go with Ulrich and Brockank (2005) in calling them six Bs.

These six Bs essentially refer to choices an organisation has with regard to selecting and developing employees. In fact they are strategic, as the consequences are long term, with high impact to the bottom-line.

The six Bs simply refer to buying, building, borrowing, bouncing, binding and boosting.  As Tom Peters repeatedly advocated, what will bring results is being brilliant on basics. In this context, it is none other than being brilliant on six Bs for effective SHRM. Let’s look in to each B in detail with regard to Sri Lankan context.


This covers the aspect of staffing. With the increased competition among the organisations to become the “preferred employer” or “employer of choice,” attracting the right talent to one’s organisation is the key aspect in focus. Building of relationships with key sources of talent, use of referral hiring, building a web-based hiring strategy and targeting of potential employees can be considered as some of the key initiatives.

In the Sri Lankan private sector, especially in the services, a considerable shift is seen from the traditional methods of recruitment to more innovative approaches. With stringent policy framework and centralised approach to recruitment, public sector is lagging behind in most of these initiatives.


Choices in training and development    are captured here. Identification of training and development needs is of utmost importance in this regard. Having clarity on programme participants, presenters, designers, coverage, delivery methods and expected behavioural changes are some of the vital components associated.

A growing emphasis on training effectiveness with proper mechanisms to measure is seen in the Sri Lankan private sector. Use of Kirkpatrick model to assess training effectiveness at different levels is one such approach. Return on Training Investment (ROTI) has slowly become a critical factor in the local scenario as well, in justifying the monetary allocation for training and development.


This encompasses the choices in contracting for talent. In other words, non-core jobs of an organisation can be performed by outsiders, preferably adhering to pre-determined specifications and quality parameters. Forming of joint alliances, visiting benchmarked sites, retaining consultants, outsourcing of work, and maintaining relationships with former employees can be considered as some of the key initiatives.

With the ever-increasing focus on cost management, many Sri Lankan organisations growing have already resorted to ‘borrowing”.  Pressure from trade unions and several outdated labour laws are seen as barriers in moving towards this direction.


Choices in shrinking the workforce are covered here. Rightsizing by way of involuntary downsizing has become a buzz word in this regard. Whilst the business case is clear, the humane aspect of treating the low performers not only firmly but also fairly is important.

In many volatile industries, bouncing is more becoming a business necessity. Industry pressures to stay competitive have propelled organisations to take this path. The employee-friendly nature of Sri Lankan labour laws has come to the rescue of some of the victims of bad management decisions by their respective organisations.


This refers to the range of choices in retaining talent. Having developed the knowledge and skills of high performers of any organisation, seeing them leaving is the last thing an organisation would like to see. Finding out why talented people leave and taking appropriate actions to arrest the outflow should be high in the HR agenda. Offering of a variety of financial and non-financial rewards to stay has also needs to be strengthened.

Encouraging evidence can be found in many leading organisations in Sri Lanka. Yet, the reality remains that, when overseas opportunities are galore with unmatchable financial offers, employees tend to seek better prospects. As we discussed in several earlier columns, effectively engaging the employees with a clear purpose can be a sure-cure in arresting the rot.  


Choices in promoting the employees are captured here. When a career ladder is available for them to climb, and when the organisation is genuinely providing the support and encouragement, chances of them contributing better in a more committed manner is high. Establishing criteria for new jobs, allowing volunteers to take up challenging tasks, evaluating candidates’ potential, supporting of new job holders are some of the key actions in this regard.

With rapid expansion of businesses, opportunities for promoting are on the rise, in many Sri Lankan organisations. With the increased responsibilities, the required knowledge and skills level also has to be expanded.

The above six Bs as strategic choices for HRM should be collectively handled by competent HR professionals and their colleagues in the organisation. What should the HR professionals do differently with regards to the above six Bs? The next column of Human Results will discuss it in detail.

(Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri is a Senior Faculty Member and a Management Consultant attached to the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. He also serves as an adjunct faculty in International Human Resource Management at the Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, USA. He has over two decades of both private and public sector working experience in diverse environments including Unilever and Nestlé. He has engaged in consultancies in more than 10 countries. He is a Commonwealth AMDISA Doctoral Fellow and Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow. He holds a Ph.D. and an MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura and a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Moratuwa. He is also a member of the Chartered Management Institute, UK.)

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