In this ever-changing world, the realm of people management has changed drastically over the last couple of decades. In a developing economy like Nepal, the fraternity of human resources management (HRM) has also seen changes with organizations giving more emphasis on people management than before. Bhuban Raj Joshi, the newly elected President of the Human Resources Society Nepal (HRSN), observes that people management is still in the emergence stage in Nepal. A veteran in the Nepali HR fraternity, Joshi has over two decades of experience working for organizations in Nepal and abroad in a diverse range of sectors including healthcare, humanitarian/development, education, hospitality and FMCG. In an interview with the HRM, he talked about the changing HR landscape, challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has brought and other topics in people management. Excerpts:
Having worked in organizations of different sectors in Nepal, how have you observed the evolution of human resources management (HRM) in the country?
As we have witnessed HR in our context from a very conventional perspective till recent past and currently, we are at its daily acceptance stage mainly because of the realization among business leaders on its importance for organizational sustainability and growth. If we see this from an evolutionary aspect, I believe human resources management (HRM) is still at its emergence stage in Nepal but is growing at a very fast pace.
How much priority do you think organizations in Nepal give to HRM now than some two decades ago?
Earlier, people management was limited to personnel administration where the HR department was considered more of a social event organizer and kind of hiring agency for a company. More of day-to-day firefighting in terms of handling day-to-day people incidents on ad-hoc and that too applying a shortcut approach. Now, people have been considered as a strategic resource that helps in determining organizational present and future altogether.
Now business owners know people not only meet but can exceed the company’s expectations if they are well managed and taken care of, so the priority is obviously there. Those who fail to realize this struggle for small issues which are not required in the first place.
What areas in people management organizations here are still lagging? What do they need to do in this regard?
Organizations that are lagging in one area of HR management can hardly do any justice to other areas of it. HRM is not a piece, it’s a holistic perspective. Getting people through the right hiring approach, preparing them through need-based training/development, activating them through a right fit of motivational tools, and keeping them for the long-term applying retention techniques require equal focus and deliberation. One can’t be compromised on the cost of another. So, equal focus is something that is lagging in most of the organizations here.
You’ve also worked in a few foreign organizations over the years. What Nepali organizations can learn from foreign organizations in adopting best practices in people management?
We are at the emerging stage when it comes to people management where MNCs are already more mature and systematic in dealing with people stuff. They know people are the key to organizational success, so they always focus on exploring the human potential to the fullest by applying various means and methods. They work for a win-win situation so that both the organizational and individual interests have the right cohesion. They believe in a participatory management approach and inclusion is pervasive in every aspect of managerial initiatives which is lacking in our context.
What changes the Covid-19 pandemic has brought in people management?
The pandemic has made people think of managing organizations from a sustainability perspective for which most of the institutions are forced to apply some unwanted measures like organizational restructuring, layoffs, pay cuts, deploying a limited number of people, and multitasking. Similarly, it has made people think of career hoping than our usual job-hoping mental state. People are left with no choice but to accept what comes next in such unpredictable circumstances which have really boosted vital human skills like adaptability and flexibility at the same time. The stereotypical thought process in career planning has been broken and people are fine to see things from different aspects now.
Needless to say, pandemic has too many adverse effects on both organizational and human life, but it has made people think from a different level. There is no point to remain distressed recalling all bad consequences caused by such unavoidable circumstances. So, we can take it as a lesson learned in moving forward. This experience has given us a scope to rethink and strategize HRM from a holistic perspective for a win-win situation again.
What challenges have come across in the past two years? How efficient organizations in the country have been in facing these challenges?
Layoffs or pay cuts can never be a good experience to share with but it was required for institutional survival too. Challenges were there in terms of synchronizing available resources, uncertainties, and individual needs at the same time. I have found most of the organizations becoming more empathetic during the pandemic and they were trying to address hand-mouth issues than spending on luxuries but again exceptions are always there so some tried to make it an excuse in not paying to people. Somehow, they failed to see things from a long run and believed in a shortcut to take advantage of the situation but I believe this approach can hardly take those to any longer with the same reputation and employer branding aspects.
What factors do HR leaders need to be mindful of in the changed context?
I think they should be mindful in designing a manning guide for the organization, a right sized type and all the times. Organizations should focus on the right hiring in terms of skills set for multitasking and attitude to cope with any unexpected changes that might happen in the coming days.
Office or any other infra/physical layout or arrangement should be hygiene and safety based. Establishing tech-based smart working culture can be one of the main focuses to liberalize people and make them performance-focused or result-oriented than just counting hours spent in the office.
What changes the use of technology has brought in HRM in organizations in Nepal? How satisfactory the adoption of technology in people management has been in organizations here?
Need is the mother of invention and accordingly, technological advancement was obvious and much expected during the pandemic. I think along with the world we also got the opportunity to experience new tech, especially in communications. This helps people to learn digital skills too. There is no rocket science as such in the use of new technology when there is a need and we practice it regularly.