To people who have read Dale Carnegie's well-acclaimed book How to Win Friends and Influence People, it is evident how important effective communication and relationship building are. Forming relationships do not only seal a tag name to the connection but also puts a price on it. This means the state of two or more persons' correspondence does not simply influence what exists now but also impacts what kind of fruitful outcomes would consequent from such an association.
That is exactly what organisations worldwide are striving to achieve-- building a cohesive team of diverse employees, and this can only be accomplished with the aid of a well-functioning human resource (HR) department. Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world and guiding, moulding and delivering the most efficient and effective employees out of this vastness are no easy tasks. How should companies of Bangladesh prepare its human capital in the best possible way to match the global pace?
This article presents opinions of two HR professionals of the country explaining how HR has evolved in Bangladesh and what its future prospects are.
In order to shed light on the first portion of the topic 'How has HR evolved in the organisations of Bangladesh?', Adrita Datta, senior HR business partner in Operations and Talent at British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB), has provided her experiences and insights in the following points.
Working for HR in the past: When I was in the university, only a handful of undergraduate programme in Bangladesh provided HR as a major. This goes on to reflect that HR wasn't given much academic acknowledgment during those days let alone from a professional standpoint. Back then, the scope of HR was mostly focused on the hardcore elements related to admin and personnel management. Throughout the years, the scope of HR expanded beyond hiring, firing and paying.
Extent of improvement in HR departments and jobs over the years: I've been working in HR for 13 years. I started my career in a local company and shortly afterwards, I moved to BATB where my HR capabilities got shaped and sharpened. In my organisation, the HR leaders are at the forefront of the business, sitting at the same table as the leadership team.
We are creating a leaner and a more agile HR team that can directly contribute to the bottom line and play a pivotal role to improve the business. Aligning with that goal and leveraging emerging technology, my organisation is continuously consolidating the repetitive and transactional aspects of the job to a shared service modality of operations. High performing global companies too are resorting to shared services for HR, integrating business operations and centralising back-office operations to increase economies of scale by eliminating redundancies. This is comparable to the modus operandi of call centres in terms of giving employee services. This is enabling HR to formulate effective strategies in business partnering, talent and culture, and other aspects that can give tangible returns to organisational productivity. We are currently working on creating a simpler, faster and stronger organisation in line with our business strategy.
Perception of HR as just a clerical job: With the scope of HR widening, it is the responsibility of HR leaders to carry forward that flag and continue being connected with the commercial aspects of the business. By having an in-depth understanding regarding the business and its competition and being up-to-date with the organisation-wide growth and sustainability plans, HR leaders can uphold HR as an enabling function, instead of a supporting function. In that way, HR would link the talent and culture strategy with the business and its functional components to adopt unique strategies based on unique business priorities. With the changing business dynamic and the emergence of newer segments, HR needs to facilitate future-fit people capabilities to carry the business forward. HR leaders need to play a central role in championing company culture. For increased value addition and positive perception, the function needs to stop operating in silos and take a collaborative approach to transcend to a commercially savvy HR team.
MNCs vs local Bangladeshi companies: It is in the good interest of organisations to create a more commercially integrated HR. Good companies are therefore taking the lead in establishing new HR practices. With a thriving local industry scene, leading local companies are also adapting the same strategies to reshape their HR practices. With the current momentum bringing about real palpable results, we will hopefully see more HR leaders as forerunners of businesses in the near future.
To put perspective on the second half of the topic 'What are the future prospects of HR in Bangladeshi organisations?', Tasmia Tasbih Nova, HR business partner in Supply Chain & Corporate Functions at Unilever Bangladesh Limited, has delivered insights on the sub-topics below.
Significance of HR in the current scenario of Bangladeshi organisations: HR plays a vital role in contributing to the business growth of an organisation by ensuring the right people in the right jobs, by building individual and organisational capabilities that are key to the success of a business and by ensuring a conducive environment that enables employees to perform and be their best selves. People are an organisation's biggest assets so needless to reiterate the importance HR as a function plays.
Anticipation of major threats/challenges in the upcoming era of HR in Bangladesh: I would say all functions/divisions of an organisation would surely face the challenges of rapidly shifting consumer and market trends and the digital revolution at large if they do not re-skill and future proof themselves to stay ahead of the curve and not become obsolete to their consumers. The key to ensuring that any organisation remains relevant is to adapt fast and to continually learn, unlearn and relearn.
Future prospects of HR in Bangladesh: In this fast paced, ever evolving external environment with an uprise in digital transformations across various industries and functions, and an increasing number of Gen Z entry to the workforce, HR as a function is also radically transforming. A lot of the operational and manual interventions we used to do are already getting replaced by AI based solutions, while human interactions continue and will continue to be key in leadership and talent development and building the workplace culture. HR will also remain crucial in future proofing their employees by building their capabilities and skills.
Outlook of a Bangladeshi employee joining HR department today: Typically they gain lateral experiences across various pillars of HR such as Functional Business Partnering, Expertise roles like Reward, Employer Brand, Learning, Talent and organisation, and Service Delivery roles like Payroll, Employee Service and Experience, etc. Lateral exposures and experiences eventually pave the path for an HR resource to take up a leadership role in the function.
The writer is a third year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. She can be reached at email@example.com
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