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‘Leaders must take care of their people in this pandemic’

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Excerpts from a virtual interview

By Dinesh Weerakkody

Celebrated HR Guru Prof. Dave Ulrich who has helped shape modern HR in this interview emphasizes the fact that leaders must learn to harness uncertainty to be able to help countries and organizations to prosper in the unknowable new normal.Prof. Ulrich has consulted and done research with over half of the Fortune 200 companies and worked in over 80 countries.

Dave, It’s a long time since I’ve seen and spoken to you. What has changed since we last met?

Much has changed and until January 2020 the world was moving along and then in January the corona crisis hit and the entire world went through dramatic change overnight.

The global pandemic has heightened HR’s relevance to business. In this context, what should HR be doing to help people and organizations deliver increased value and what are the new practices that will emerge post crisis?

Let me lay out HR’s value creation with three very simple insights. No. 1, we have to create and capture value for others. The goal of HR is to create value for our employees, for our organizations, for our customers, for our investors and for our communities. So HR’s number one issue is to continue to create value both inside and outside the firm. No. 2, to create value to all stakeholders, HR must deliver great people, organizations, and leadership. No. 3, HR has to continue to reinvent itself, through digital HR, through technology, through analytics. In brief, HR’s agenda is to create value outside into all stakeholders, through talent, organization and leadership and by transforming HR .

What has been the impact of the pandemic on HR skills and competencies? What new skills will HR professionals need to develop post pandemic?

We have studied HR competencies for 30 years, through 7 rounds of research and we are now starting the 8th round. As we look ahead, we envision five HR competencies that we think will have an impact. No 1- is information asymmetry, or learning how to source information in this new world even when working virtually. . Number 2- is being able to separate signal and noise. In this world there is a lot of noise, as evidenced with a lot of activity, emails, ideas, and books. How do we sift important signals that matter from this noise, particularly around emotional wellbeing. Therefore the challenges are ;No. 1 information asymmetry. No. 2 separating noise from signal and No. 3. beginning to build integrated solutions, it’s not isolated staffing, training & compensation initiatives, HR needs to integrate these specialists activities into integrated solutions. . No; 4 is social responsibility and Citizenship. HR now needs to be much more aware of and connected to social responsibility.. No; 5 is guidance. HR should access information that offers guidances. It’s not enough to just describe an organization practices- like culture. We should be specific about the “right” culture, given the situation. Those are the 5 skills we are studying and we want to find out how they deliver value to stakeholders. Information asymmetry, separating noise from signal, managing social responsibility and corporate citizenship , integrated solutions and then organisation guidance.

What has technology really done to empower engagement in this crisis?

Technology, like almost everything else, offers good news and bad news. The good news is that technology enables digital information that supports good decision making. The bad news is that technology can be used to distance people form each other. We have seen 4 phases of digital affecting HR. The first phase of digital HR, is efficiency. So technology allows us to be more efficient to do learning or staffing or compensation efficiently. The second phase is innovation. Josh Berson who is the expert in this area said there are 2,700 new digital HR apps, some of which are good and some are silly. The next (3rd) phase of HR digital that is coming is information guidance. How do we use digital to tell us more of what we do? It’s no longer enough to do a best practice. We have to do a practice that creates an impact on key results. Then, the fourth phase, is experience or connection which is where I think HR needs to focus in this pandemic. Technology should enable us, one- to be more efficient, two- to innovate, three for information management and four to have a better experience and that’s where I think we are heading with technology.

Moving on, today what would HR look like in the new economy?

When people tell you that they know the new normal. My advice to you is turn around and run. I don’t know what the new normal is? I think we live in a world full of uncertainty and our job in HR is to harness that uncertainty. Our message should be; don’t be threatened by the uncertainty, but to discover the opportunity in it.Out of the uncertainty that comes from this crisis will emerge a whole new way to behave and do things. These new behaviors must focus on creating value for all stakeholders. Number two, HR will have to add greater value to the people, organization and leadership. Number three, HR will have to reinvent HR, through transforming the HR department, offering integrated HR solutions, and upgrading HR professionals. HR leaders unlike ever before are expected to help their people and organizations navigate this crisis.

What will the new world of work look like post covid?

I think we’re going to see a new ecosystem where and how we work; I think we used to worry about where we work. When I get up in the morning, I go to work, I’m at work and I go home from work. I think that’s gone, or less likely. For example – I could be in my condominium, my office, my car, a coffee shop, or a hotel. No matter where we work we have to be connected through our shared values, and the boundaries of work are not physical, the boundaries of work are the values we share that create value for our customer. So the boundaries of work are shifting from ‘place’ to ‘values’. This means that no matter where one works there are expectations that shape the boundaries of work. These expectations are about the value created for the customer.

What type of skills will disappear in the next two or three years?

I don’t think skills simply disappear, they build on each other. For example, the skill of connection is going to evolve. It is not going to be connection face to face, I think it’s going to be virtually. How do you and I connect even though we’re 12 hours apart? Your night time, my morning even though we’re in different places, but I can still begin to feel that connection, so the reskilling is building on the past. That is, we still set KPIs and goals, but virtually. We communicate, we communicate virtually. Therefore we will build on the skills that we’ve learned in the past.

What are the three things that HR can do to deliver value to a CEO in this crisis?

Take care of your people. Help them feel emotionally cared for by showing empathy. Caring for them can create a great organization that serves customers. Talent, organization and leadership can all of which serve customers. For example, many have said our people are our most important asset, and I think it needs to evolve to our people are our customers’ most important asset. Do our people do what our customers want? Our culture is the identity of our firm in the marketplace. Our leaders must have the competencies that create value for our customers. Everything we do in HR, talent, organization and leadership should create value in the marketplace.

You talked a lot about the organization guidance system (OGS). Tell us a little bit more about this and how can we make use of OGS?

We have found that organizations are spending about 1% of their annual revenue on people and organization initiatives in talent, leadership, capability, and HR, but they are not clear about how to optimize these investments to deliver results. The guidance system will provide answers to questions like: What talent, leadership, organization, and HR initiatives will have the most impact on employee, business, customer, investor, and community result? To answer this question, we can build on decades of research to guide people and organization initiatives that deliver results. Our work shows 5 outcomes -employee, business, customers, financial, and community and there are 36 initiatives, which equal 180 cells (5 outcomes * 36 intiatives). Business and HR leaders need to know which of these 180 cells they should invest in. Simply go to www.rb.ai and take the short survey for each pathway to get a free report on where to focus to deliver key results. This report offers invaluable guidance on where to priorities your people and organization initiatives.

Dave, finally what is your message to CEOs of Sri Lanka?

I’m going to give the same message to the CEOs that I would to all HR and other professionals; here’s my answer to CEOs in Sri Lanka and to others, the best year of your life is the next 12 months. The best is yet ahead. Sri Lanka has a history of resilience and success, of continually rebounding and coming back. My friends and CEOs, my friends in business, my friends in HR, the best is yet ahead, the next 12 months will be the best ever.



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Privatization option being considered for Sri Lankan Airlines – CEO Richard Nuttall

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The government is planning to restructure the national carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines, and privatization is one proposed option due to the current financial crisis, Sri Lankan Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Nuttall said.

“We are now looking at the privatization option as well because the government wants to restructure Sri Lankan Airlines, which is now preparing for the in- coming tourist season. So far we have enough bookings, Nuttall said at a press conference yesterday, which was called to announce, among other things, that Sri Lankan Airlines is the official airline partner for the Sri Lanka’s Masters Hockey World Cup 2022 in England, which will be held from August 12-21 in Nottingham. The press conference was held at the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management auditorium.

Nuttall added: ‘We have 24 aircraft in the fleet, out of which three aircraft are not functioning as those engines have been sent to the Rolls Royce Company for overhaul purposes. At present the entire air industry is facing a unique crisis due to fuel issues. The high air fares are also troubling the industry but they will likely come down in the future.

‘Over the last two years, Sri Lankan tourism and the airline sector got badly hit and we are now in the process of putting infrastructure in place to revive the business and coming forward to sponsor the Masters Hockey World Cup 2022 at this critical juncture is intended to promote and attract tourists into Sri Lanka, which would in turn benefit the airline as well.’

Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chalaka Gajabahu said that they, being the main sponsor for the Sri Lanka team, had seen an opportunity to promote Sri Lanka tourism at the World Cup to boost forex inflows at a desperate time amid an economic crisis.

“These hockey Masters could be the best ambassadors to do and their part to keep the nation’s flag flying high and to continue with their good work, Gajabahu said.

According to the chairman, this year they expect close to one million tourists to Sri Lanka and are now in the process of rolling out a 15 -16 month action plan.

‘Sports tourism can be a major way of creating unity and friendship with other nations and spreading a positive message about Sri Lanka to the world, giving a realistic image and a clear description about the island destination, he said.

“This is not a short term goal but rather a long term one because many of the foreigners who hear about Sri Lanka could visit the country in the future. We see it as a golden opportunity through this partnership, he added.

Sri Lanka’s premier paint company, Nippon Paint Lanka (Pvt) Limited, is a co-sponsor of the team.

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Heed people’s call for new political model

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The people of Sri Lanka in the past few months have declared that there can be no reliance on old politicians and political models any longer, and there should be innovative thinking, while paying prompt attention to global changes.

The Sri Lankan people have made these demands for the past few months in non-violent, peaceful means, but were provoked into violence by the state and the discredited politicians who engineered and provoked violence, to brutally quash the legitimate demands for change in the political culture in the country.

As such, the people should not pay any heed to calls by a President, who does not have the people’s mandate to make any requests, demands or pleas on the people.

The current president may be president in the eyes of the Constitution or law – but he will never be the president of the people in spirit.

Furthermore, the political circumstances which culminated in the current President’s ‘selection cum election’ to office, by the vote of 134 members of parliament, necessitates an urgent and immediate change in the Political Model practices in Sri Lanka.

As such, we the people call on the President to recognise the root cause of the current economic crisis in the country, as indeed a political crisis, and call upon him to play his role in solving both the economic and political problems by resigning immediately, and making way for a new political model. Therefore, his call for a new economic model does NOT make any economic or political sense in the absence of introduction of a new political model as demanded by the people.

Would appreciate it if you would bring this to the notice of your readers.

Dr RUVAIZ HANIFFA

(For and on behalf of people who want genuine change in the political culture of Sri Lanka)

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CSE’s bullish momentum continues; turnover hits Rs. 3 billion for fourth day running

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By Hrian H.Senewiratne

The CSE began on a mixed note due to witnessing profit- takings in certain companies but later the bullish momentum resumed and the turnover reached more than Rs 3 billion for the fourth straight day yesterday. The market was mainly driven by blue chip companies, especially Lanka- IOC, which became the most sought after of stocks due to high profits, stock market analysts said.

It is said that the Lanka IOC and CPC are making heavy profits because the global oil market has come down to US $ 102 per barrel (Singapore Plates price formula) . Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Power & Energy has authorized the establishment of 50 new filling stations by Lanka IOC, the local unit of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

LIOC Managing Director Manoj Gupta toldy the media that advertisements on the filling stations will appear in a week or so. “Sheds cannot be opened overnight. We will put out the advertisements and open them in fifty locations. The Ministry of Power and Energy has given approval. We will put out advertisements in a week or so, he said.

Sri Lanka is in the midst of a fuel crisis triggered by forex shortages. This has resulted in LIOC increasing its share price by 16 per cent or Rs 18.25. Its share price stepped up to Rs 131.25 from Rs 113 yesterday after concluding share-trading on the floor, stock market analysts said.

AgStar and Lanka Lubricants’ share prices appreciated by more than 16 per cent. AgStar is engaged in the business of importing, blending and marketing of fertilizer products. The company’s segments consist of Trading and Processing and there was a share price gain by 16.5 per cent or Rs 1.50. Its share price moved to Rs 10.60 from Rs 9.10 due to the government’s decision to lift the import ban on certain fertilizers, such as, Glyphosate, market analysts said. Lanka Lubricants’ share price appreciated by 16 per cent or Rs 13.50. Its share price moved to Rs 94.70 from Rs 81.20.

Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index went up by 89.6 points and S and P SL20 rose by 86 points. Turnover stood at Rs 3.3 billion, with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Melstacorp, which crossed 667,000 shares to the tune of Rs 30 million; its shares traded at Rs 30 million.

In the retail market, top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Lanka IOC Rs 1.5 million (12.1 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 319 million (1.5 million shares traded), JKH Rs 199 million (1.6 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 132 million (235,000 shares traded), Melstacorp Rs 111 million (2.4 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 85.5 million (11 million shares traded) and LOLC Finance Rs 75.4 million (8.7 million shares traded). During the day 85.6 million share volumes changed hands in 28000 transactions.

However, foreign selling intensified last week with a net outflow of Rs. 475 million, thereby increasing the year date figure to Rs. 859 million. July saw net foreign inflow of around Rs. 784 million. According to stock brokers, the biggest foreign selling during last week was in Melstacorp (Rs. 415 million), followed by Expolanka (Rs. 62.2 million) and Windforce (Rs. 16 million), while net buying was seen in Richard Pieris (Rs. 25 million), JKH (Rs. 21 million) and Hayleys (Rs. 14 million).

Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 357.14 and the selling rate as Rs 368.40. The rupee has begun to stabilize against the US dollar due to the prudential monetary policies adopted by the Central Bank, financial analysts said.

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