HRM Awards: Who are the real winners

The Association of HR Professionals have set the stage again for yet another roll out of the HRM Awards,
a national level corporate event which aims to portray the industry best practices in relation to the human resource function.

In the backdrop of three successfully concluded HRM Awards, it is pertinent to explore in detail what tangible and intangible benefits are yielded by participants and stakeholders of this exercise. In the corporate circuits of Sri Lanka, one sees many a national level competition and awards distribution, held with various noble initiatives. If one pauses for a moment to inquire as to why these events are held, what makes them a quintessential feature of the corporate calendar, many plausible answers can be discovered.

The beginnings of human resource related professional services within an organized framework in a business environment in Sri Lanka would take us to the era of personnel administration. From the humble beginnings of an administration or personnel department, today, the discipline of Human Resource Management has evolved into a fully-fledged and widely accepted professional status and earned Board level presence and recognition. The gradual elevation to this standard has been realized through the zealous work of human resource practitioners who had the vision and foresight to envisage the importance the HR function would have in an Organisation during an era where HR was not considered to be of strategic influence.

With widespread awareness about the necessity of having a professional human resource function, many Sri Lankan Organisations were quick to equip their management team with a human resource manager. The presence of the HR manager in the organisation made a good start, but more often that not, these HR professionals were working in isolation within the framework of their individual companies with little or no empowerment to make changes and infuse new thinking in to the existing people management practices, had limited upward mobility and rarely got any recognition of their contribution to the Organisation. To make matters worse, the human resource function was often subordinated to the finance or legal function within the average medium sized Sri Lankan Company. Thus, despite the evolved branding the status quo remained stagnant in many an industry with HR being limited to personnel services.

With the advent of HRM Awards as a national level competition to portray human resource best practices of Sri Lankan companies whether they are large multinationals or medium sized business entities, human resource practitioners who had designed and developed exemplary systems and processes in people management got a unique and equal opportunity to share their expertise and experience with a wider audience among the HR fraternity. The employees within these HR departments broke away from their usual routines to review their existing HR systems and procedures and analyse them in a systematic manner in order to project it to the rest of the business community. There has been many an instance where the rest of the employees of the Organisation have realized the importance of the role and function of HR as a result of their “HR Department” winning an HRM Award. This peer level recognition is no doubt a morale booster and intensifies the determination of HR professionals to strive to achieve greater standards, which in turn benefits the entire workforce. The participating Companies, being the primary stakeholders of HRM Awards stand to yield bountiful results by simply taking part in the evaluation process, even if they do not win an award. The strategic and operational leverage clearly adds visible results to any employee value added statement.

What does this level of benchmarking amongst organizations entail to the profession, business and the society at large? Within the HR profession it creates a positive and healthy competition to develop and improve and embark on a continuous learning and renewal process of work methods and processes. The prerogative of being a first among equals sets the stage for good governance and greater accountability; accountability to employees, accountability to shareholders, accountability to the profession and accountability to the society.

In companies within different industrial and business sectors, participation and emerging champions in a national level award, after a stringent and rigorous evaluation process adds value to brand equity and creates competitive advantage. To members of the society at large, events of this magnitude, especially designed with robust monitoring and evaluating mechanisms and eminent local and international academic and professional expertise, herald only one strong message. To build a nation of people, men and women of Sri Lankan soil who resonate the dignity of honest labour with character, integrity and achievement.