By Chitral Amarasiri – Founder President HRP/ Group HR Director Hemas Group

The inaugural meeting of the Association of Human Resource Personnel was held at the Postgraduate Institute of Management on October 4, 2000. The Chief Guest was Mr. Mark Reade McKenna, The Asia Foundation Residential Representative for Sri Lanka. The keynote speaker was Dr. Gerald D. Sentell, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Tennessee Associates International, a world leader in high performance management and change management headquartered in Alcoa, Tennessee with 15 offices world-wide. His theme was "HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: JUST ANOTHER FAD OR DOES IT ADD VALUE TO YOUR ORGANIZATION?". Over 40 Managing Directors/Chief Executive Officers and over 70 Human Resource Professionals participated.

For a few of us, this occasion was the realisation of a dream that was conceived incidentally at the same auditorium two years, before 2000. It makes me nostalgic to go down memory lane, reminiscing about the batch of PIM students that I used to belong to in the late 1990's. Our mentor Professor Gunapala Nanayakkara, who was at that time our Course Director, inspired us in this direction. As usual, he challenged all HRM professionals who were his students at PIM. In mid 1999, Dian Gunathilake then the Director HR of John Keells, came forward to assist me as a fellow HR colleague, when I was confronted a politically driven IR issue. We faced those challenges with tremendous success. Thus, we experienced the importance being netted together and sharing our experience/ knowledge with each other. Thereafter, that batch of students and a handful of Human Resource professionals from leading organisations met informally to discuss issues of mutual interest. Dian Gunathilaka John Keells, Rohan Pandithakoralage - Aitken Spence, Widanepathirane - Sampath, Lasantha Salgado - NDB, Prasanna Obadage and Romesh Ranasinghe - Hayleys, Dr. Travis Perera - PIM, Wasantha Senanayake - BPL, Chathura Wijesuriya - Bodyline, Ranjeewa Kultunga - Carsons, Isuru Thilakawardene - Union Assurance, Carrine Anderson- FTZ and Chitral Perera- Singer are a few HR professionals who got involved at the inception. This proved to be both learning and a mutually rewarding experience for all of us. The news of these informal meetings spread among the HR community and as a result our group began receiving numerous enquiries from potential members. Sensing the need, it was decided to formalise this organisation.

The fundamental rationale for the birth of an association of this nature stems from the gap between Human Resources Management within its status quo and the realisation of its importance within the growing context of the business environment. That was the challenge Professor Nanayakkara posed to us as students. While this position could be defined and articulated in many forms, restricting it to a few numerical dot points would create confusion between the very philosophies which this movement has been built upon. As such, we envisage that this position would change so as to address the needs of the time and the environment as a whole. However, one paramount factor that needs to be mentioned is the advantage to its members and member organisation would enjoy by the dissemination of knowledge. This would ultimately result in creating a synergistic effect in conducting human resources activities. HRP would provide a forum and platform at which these valuable networking processes could take place.

We toil to instill the virtue that "a nation's wealth is vested in its people". As such, whilst enhancing the traits of an individual at a micro level, we anticipate that the synergy would enhance the performance and profitability and add value to its member organisations. The mission statement outlined the manner in which we have all agreed to operationalize these wonderful ideologies. In order to support this cause, we were very fortunate from the inception to have with us many professionals and academics from numerous industries, sectors, and organisations to create a web of knowledge and information to work towards a desirable matrix to achieve our ends. The think tank of our organisation is aware of the turbulence created within organisations as a result of rapid changes that take place in the environment and we are compelled to stretch our horizons towards meeting these challenges.

At the end of the day we must remember that the most volatile resource 'Human Resources' is also the most important change agent that we need to face the future with confidence. Being able to modify not only their capabilities but also their thinking caps would make the people proactive towards these changes. In order to create macro economic benefits and to instill these ideals within the largest employer of the country - "the Government' - is yet another uphill task which we have taken on board In doing so, we envisage influencing our policy makers to formulate a national apex body to spread the Human Resources Development activities far and wide to the four corners of the nation. We are compelled to stretch our horizons towards meeting these challenges. We will strive to bring HR to the forefront, where we believe it will become the "nation's key catalyst in the development of work-related competencies in people, so that they achieve competitive advantage as individuals, organisations or nations through the dissemination of knowledge and the creation of learning organisations". Our vision is to bring HR to the forefront. The impact of HRP has made during the last four years of its existence is remarkable. One such project launched by HRP towards enhancing the level of HRM practices in Sri Lanka is the National HRM Awards of Sri Lanka organized together with the Institute of Personnel Management and Postgraduate of Institute of Management.

I take this opportunity thank to all our members from the inception to now for their support, assistance and guidance during the last four years and hope we would be able to create a better mother Lanka tomorrow. I would like to conclude my journey down the memory lane and wish to repeat which I stated in my inaugural address as the founder President of HRP in year 2000. ‘I have outlined many ideal positions that could be achieved through this association. But Ladies and Gentleman, today is the start of an endless relay for operationalising our vision of Bringing HR to the forefront”.