The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Taking HR to greater heights through timely change –The International HR Conference 2012


The International HR Conference 2012 was held at the Water’s Edge, Colombo on the 26 & 27 June, with more than 650 delegates taking part. This year’s conference introduced a new concept to HR management with its theme ‘The Evolving New HR Agenda’, and included several technical sessions and forums to explore how HR policies and methods should change to meet the industry and business needs of the globalized world. The HR Service Providers’ Exhibition was also held in parallel to the Conference, at the same venue, for the 11th consecutive year.

The Finale of the Great HR Debate between NDB vs. NTB

The chief guest at the event was Mr. Horacio Eduardo Quiros, President of the World Federation of People Management Association. He was also the keynote speaker for the event and took the audience through a very interesting session of how essential it is to evolve in order to keep up with the current world.

The technical sessions held at the Conference also emphasised on this year’s theme with intriguing and motivating subjects:’Changing Mental Models – HR’s Most Important Task’ by Mr.AdilMalia,Group President HR – Essar Group India; ‘Does Human Capital make the Biggest Difference to Organizational Sustainability?’ by Mr H.N. Shrinivas, Senior Vice President & Global Head HR for Taj Group of Hotels; and ‘Why a Global Mindset for HR?’ by Ms. Margaret W. Chang, Head of Human Resources, Hong Kong and Global Business ASP of HSBC, with each speaker making a significant impact on the audience with their hands-on experience in the industry.

This year, for the first time, the IPM hosted a Global HR Forum where leading professionals from around the world took part,under the theme ‘HR Leadership in Moving to the Next Global Economy’, again another aspect of the ‘Evolving New HR Agenda’, the emphasis was on the important part HR plays in the success of a business by linking HR management strategy with business strategyand re-defining the of role of HR to drive business: no longer a part of the business but as a business partner. The six panellists of the forum were, Mr.Horacio Quiros; Mr.AdilMalia; Ms. Margaret W. Cheng; Mr. H.N. Shrinivas; Mr. Andrew Cox, Past President, Arabian Society of HR Management and Mr. U.A.C. Obeyesekere, Past President, IPM. The session was moderated by Mr. Y.P.S. Kanwar, Hon. General Secretary of the National Institute of Personnel Management.

The Business Leader’s Forum saw a great exchange of ideas, knowledge and concepts amongst four of Sri Lanka’s well recognised entrepreneurs and leaders in their own respective industries. The main focus here was the importance of recognizing the ‘people’ factor in a business, through trust, appreciation, acknowledgment, responsibility and training. The panellists at this year’s Business Leader’s Forum were Mr.Rohan Pallewatte, Managing Director/ CEO, Lanka Harness Company (Pvt.) Limited; Mr.Dilhan C. Fernando, Director Marketing, MJF Group – Dilmah; Ramesh Schaffter, Director, Janashakthi Insurance PLC; and Mr.Dilith Jayaweera, Joint Managing Director and Brand Strategist of Triad, withMr. Neil Bogahalanda, Head of Human Resources, Royal Ceramics PLC, as the moderator.

Another first for this year’s conference was ‘Tripartite Forum’; a unique concept where the three parties represented the Trade Unions, the State and the Employer to discuss ‘Moving beyond traditional boundaries’ – a focus on achieving equilibrium between labour and capital. The concluding factor here too was the importance of the ‘human factor’ in terms of national interest rather than an agenda focusing on Trade Union, Employer or the State. Here again the need for change was emphasised.

The panel consisted of experts in each area, and together brought years of experience. Representing the employees were, Mr. Leslie Devendra, General Secretary, Sri Lanka NidahasSevakaSangamaya; Mr. K. Marimuttu, Vice President, Ceylon Workers’ Congress; Mr.SurangaNaullage, Chief Organizer, JathikaSevakaSangamaya; Mr.WasanthaSamarasinghe, President, Inter Company Employee Union; representing State was Mrs. Pearl KanthieWeersinghe, Commissioner General of Labour, Department of Labour; and representing the employers were, Mr Dhammika Fernando, Chairman, Free Trade Zone Manufacturers Association; Mr. Ravi Peiris, Director, General Employers’ Federation, Ceylon.The moderator for the event was the IPM Past President Mr.JayanthaJayaratna.

The event also saw the commendation of excellence amongst HR practitioners. This year’s National HR Excellence Awardees were, under the Special Category Awards, Mr.P.A.J.T. Perera for Performance Management; Mr.Shanaka Fernando for Reward Management; Mr.K.W.Jayasekara for Employee Relations; and Wing Commander ManoajKeppetipol for Training and Development;and under the PQHRM Category, Merit Award Winner –Mr.HasanthaSooriyarachchi; and Winner –Mr.MadhushanRaigamage.The most prestigious award in the industry which focuses on exceptional contribution made by HR professionals during their careers, the IPM Lifetime Gold Medal, was awarded to DrD.V. Seevaratnam, Chief Exective Officer, Watawala Plantations PLC.

The final, and the most enthralling,event of the conference was the ‘Great HR Debate’, where the finalists, Nations Trust Bank, the proposing team as well as the defending champions, and National Development Bank, the opposing team, met to debate on: ‘the current retirement age impedes organizational performance’. Both teams held a good argument with strong statements and punches left, right and centre. It was a clean and tough fight with both teams boasting winning qualities, but the very convincing opposing team, the NDB, came out as the winner of the Great HR Debate 2012.

Overall the conference was a great success with delegates, both local and foreign, participating, with valuable knowledge and information sharing, and covering all different aspects of HR management. Each event of the Conference made significant contribution towards introducing the concept of a ‘New Agenda for HR’ in businesses competing in a global economy.

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