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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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Business

INSEE Cement continues investment in mason development across Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka’s leading cement manufacturer INSEE Cement is driving transformation across the local construction industry with significant investments in empowering one of the sector’s key stakeholder groups; the mason.

‘INSEE Sathkara’, a multifaceted initiative to develop local masons powered by INSEE Cement is shaping the mason of the future – a professionally, socially and financially empowered individual contributing significantly to the advancement of both the local construction industry and Sri Lanka’s economy.

“The INSEE Sathkara initiative facilitates empowerment and development through up-skilling, social recognition and financial stability, an all-round approach that has successfully nurtured a new generation of masons that are fast adaptable to industry demands through newly developed skillsets, knowledge and capacities,” says Jan Kunigk, Executive Vice President, INSEE Cement.

INSEE Cement’s approach is to build a certified and skilled workforce with recognized credentials to bridge a gaping skill gap in the construction industry. The program ensures sustainable capacity development for masons backed by National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) in collaboration with the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) of Sri Lanka.

INSEE Cement also launched a Mason Apprenticeship Program to provide 120-day training opportunities for masons to learn on the job, preparing them to enter the workforce with specialized skillsets.

For Ajith Kumara Dissanayaka from Ambathenna, a mason for nearly 16 years, receiving all-round advancement through INSEE Sathkara has been truly life changing. “Five years ago, I was able to complete a course conducted by INSEE Cement and NAITA and received a Level 3 NVQ certification – my first professional credentials as a mason. This training gave me knowledge and insight that I had not received in over a decade of working as a mason, and it made me look at my profession differently. I improved my tile work skills, which also increased my income,” Dissanayaka stated.

This professional up-skilling has enabled INSEE Cement to create much needed social recognition and acceptance for Masons across Sri Lanka as a crucial link in the construction industry value chain. Mason Chats, Mason Meets and exclusive membership to the INSEE Concrete Society (ICS) has provided local masons industry inclusivity as well as recognition and rewards to encourage new avenues of income and entrepreneurship. Long-established ICS-member masons are also rewarded for their contribution to the local construction industry through ‘INSEE Garu Sara’.

To secure a stronger financial future for masons, INSEE Cement has introduced a comprehensive life insurance policy with disability, medical and accidental cover. This comes in addition to the pension scheme introduced to masons in partnership with the Employee Trust Fund Board (ETFB) of Sri Lanka.

“I joined the INSEE programme five years ago, and have benefited in ways I never imagined. The knowledge I gained about the industry, Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLS) standards and safety requirements have made me a better professional, and my clients respect me more because of it,” stated Ratna Ravindara, a mason based in Kandy with over two decades of industry experience.

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European ride-hail Bolt enters Sri Lanka

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Bolt, the leading European transportation platform committed to making urban travel easier, quicker and more reliable; announced its entry to the Sri Lankan market, with a pilot launch of its service in Colombo, on November 25, 2020 with over 2000 drivers ready to start accepting rides. Bolt pilots its services in South Asia for the first time with the launch of operations in Sri Lanka.

Committed to affordable trips and happy drivers, the company has announced that it will be charging drivers no commission for using the platform and offer fares 20% lower than other competitors, for a minimum of six months. It builds on being smart about how to grow the company, and focusing operations on efficiency, allowing Bolt to pass the savings on to customers, passengers and drivers.

Bolt has chosen to enter Sri Lanka during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis with the firm belief that people still need to move around in the city and doing its best to fulfil the mission to help them do so. Currently available only within Colombo, Bolt services can be accessed by passengers by downloading the secure and free Bolt app from Apple App Store or Google Play Store and setting up a user profile. Any person with their own Car who wishes to join Bolt as a driver, can easily register with the company through https://partners.bolt.eu/driver-signup by completing the relevant formalities or through the Bolt Driver App available on Apple App store or Google Play Store.

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Mobisec marks 6th anniversary as its future outlook remains strong

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International footprint with branch office in Melbourne

Mobisec (Pvt) Ltd, an innovator in the mobile application sector in Sri Lanka is celebrating its 6thanniversary since its inception in November 2014.

Over the years it has served hundreds of thousands of customers across Sri Lanka through its telco and mobile applications. Starting with humble beginnings as a start-up, Ashen Gomez, Founder & Managing Director of Mobisec has worked diligently over the years alongside his wife Sumudu, the Co-founder of Mobisec to build the company and expand its services in different verticals.

The company marked its first international expansion in the beginning of this year by establishing a new branch office in Melbourne, Australia. Today, the company is home to a dynamic team of over 30 software development experts.

Founder & Managing Director of Mobisec Ashen Gomez said; “since inception, we have continued to create applications that revolutionize the way people connect with the technology. Our prime focus is to provide smart and reliable solutions for modern problems our customers are facing and help them improve the quality of their lifestyle.”

Company’s product portfolio expanded further during this year along with the three brand new products that were launched into the Market. “Baby’s Diary” is one of the Android Apps that was added to Mobisec’s product portfolio in the mid of this year and currently the App has crossed over 10,000 downloads. It’s an all-in-one parenting solution, which contains a variety of options to keep track on the baby’s activities while shopping for all the baby essentials. Since its launch, the App has gained widespread attention and it’s shaping to be a game changer for all new parents in Sri Lanka.

“We are pleased to say that the Baby’s Diary App is the first and only Parenting App developed in Sri Lanka exclusively for parents of new-borns.The challenges and struggles for a new parent have never been addressed through out the past and that’s where we strongly believed that the concept of Smart Parenting needs be introduced to the Sri Lankan market”, said PrasannaDahanayake, Product Manager/ Business Analyst of Mobisec.

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