16th edition ofHR Meet concludes on a high note

the HRM
The 16th edition of HR Meet – HR Meet 2024 – concluded on a high note in Kathmandu. The two-day event organised by Growth Sellers Pvt. Ltd. – the country’s leading HR consulting firm – on March 29-30, at The Soaltee Kathmandu, brought together globally acclaimed speakers/resource persons, renowned HR leaders of Nepal along with HR professionals and line managers from banks and financial institutions, I/NGOs, government agencies, insurance firms, IT sector, automobiles, internet service providers, fintech companies, manufacturing companies and hospitality industry, among others.

According to the participants, the sessions including international speakers Jonathon Low, Stephen McIntosh and David Swanagon, and the panel discussions were very intriguing. A total of 240 delegates participated in the event.

The event was inaugurated by Chief Guest, Prof Dr. Keshar Jung Baral, Vice Chancellor, Tribhuvan University. Mohan Raj Ojha, Founder, Growth Sellers Pvt. Ltd., welcomed the guests, resource persons and participants, which was followed by remarks from the chief guest. In his remarks, Dr. Baral mentioned that the role of HR in the economy is pivotal. “HR determines the success of any organisation,” he said, adding, “Normally, we keep talking about the brain drain that is happening in the nation, but we are missing out on the labour drain in the nation.” To address this challenge, he suggested that the entire education system should play a crucial role in producing HR for the domestic as well as international labour market. He further emphasised that by updating the educational curriculum and creating a decent working environment in the nation, the country can reduce the rampant brain and labour drain.

The event witnessed delegates participating in a panel discussion on a range of HR management and corporate topics. The first session titled, ‘Roadmap for Testing Times’ was conducted by HR transformation leader, Stephen McIntosh. He highlighted the challenges that the HR faces while building a stronger organisation during testing times. Mclntosh began the session with a presentation which included the challenging time in Nepal, how HR can navigate challenging times (unemployment, significant challenging factors, underemployment, highly educated workers going abroad, highly educated people finding high-paying jobs abroad, salary stagnation). He interacted with participants regarding the topmost challenges they have been facing. Some of the challenges the participants mentioned were that highly educated people are finding high-paying jobs and going abroad, and there is huge gap in professional work. They deliberated on the challenges of maintaining balance in a 40-year-old company culture and the new mind-set in human resources, managing leadership and industrial talent.

Mclntosh underpinned that the major Employee Potential Factors are motivation, achievement, capability, relationship and others (MACRO potential). He further laid emphasis on learning agility, which is learning from challenging experiences, stretch assignments and hardships.

The second session was held under the topic of ‘Striking Balance- CEO’s vision versus HR strategy in organisational successes’, moderated by a senior HR professional, Nita Rana and comprising Jabbor Kayumov, CEO and MD of Ncell Axiata Ltd; Ajit Bikram Shah, CEO, Lotus Holdings; Shubhra Rayamajhi, Head of Operations, Dolma Advisors Pvt. Ltd.; and Diwas Karki, Chief Human Resource Officer of Nabil Bank Ltd., as panellists.

In the discussion, Kayumov opined that many people in business think that managing assets is the biggest task, but he believes managing people is the biggest task for the success of any organisation or company. “It is important to have an alignment between the CEO and HR as well as all the leadership roles,” he said, adding, “Building strategy is one of the critical elements but developing a culture is something much more important for delivering results.”

The discussion moved ahead with panellist Shah’s remarks sharing 22 years of experience. “People overlook that businesses are about people and they oversee only the finances, but business is actually concerned with people,” he remarked. “Two-way meaningful communication is necessary which includes having a meeting, offering the required help, and asking for suggestions,” he stated.

Likewise, Karki opinied that effective HR management is crucial to have a sound balance within the organisation. He shared his idea of shifting transactional work to robotics and automation so that the HR will get time off from transactional works and be able to give their inputs to strategic process. “Micromanagement of people is not possible in order to align the CEO’s vision and HR strategy. Human resources should be managed in a wider horizon,” he shared.

Similarly, Rayamajhi stressed that the culture of transparency is the most important aspect and one needs to be as subjective as possible. The Soft Key Performing Indicators (KPIs) should be set, and HR needs to be part of the solution and not the problem. Open communication plays an important role so that the CEO’s vision and HR strategy can match.

The third session of the first day discussed on ‘Retaining Talent amidst Migration Waves’. The session was moderated by Gokarna Awasthi, Director General of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry and comprised of panellists Prof. Dr. Achyut Wagle, Registrar, Kathmandu University; Dr. Bimala Rai Paudyal, Former Member of the National Assembly; and Dr. Ganesh Gurung, Former Member of the National Planning Commission.

The panel discussion focused on the reasons for the talent drain and ways to cope with that challenge. Dr. Gurung opined that over 300 people excluding people migrating to Asian countries are students going to foreign nations every day and such exodus has posed a threat of the country being empty.

Further, Dr. Wagle remarked that remittance inflow is high, however, the country has failed in productive utilisation of remittances. “High remittance inflow could be a boon for creating better economic condition, skilling people and infrastructure development, however, policy makers are not able to tap the opportunity,” he said, adding, “In case of Nepal, legal profit-making most be promoted and there must be a law which ensures the right to private property. We should be able to create a demand in the nation so that youths who are migrating feel like returning to the homeland.”

Similarly, Dr. Paudyal commented that migration is a global trend. “Some people don’t get any opportunity and decide to migrate, while some do not see any future prospect and migrate to better places despite being in a good financial position in Nepal itself,” Dr. Paudyal remarked, adding, “There is a culture in the Nepali society whereby people are out to pull you down if you are a success, which leads to an unpleasant working environment and people leave the country. We should not restrict any sector from creating more attractive opportunities to retain people in the country.”

The fourth and last session of the first day was ‘HR Analytics Best Practices’. Dr. David Swanagon, HR and technology executive, delivered a keynote speech on HR analytics and best practices, the people analytics value chain, data governance and facilitated experience.

He shared some insights on the future of world equals to People Plus machines. The chief human resource officer’s role is more significant as there will be an AI driven hiring and performance management process. He further mentioned that we need to build data governance into every process in such a way that it aligns with how decisions are made. “The people analytics value chain starts with the strategic workforce planning, organisation culture, talent acquisition, learning and development and ends with talent management,” he said, adding, “HR analytics are used in three stages namely, describe (what is happening), infer (why is it happening?) and predict (What will happen?)”

The participants were given a situation where an organisation is conducting Succession Planning process and the CEO has asked for a metric that calculates the strength of their talent pool in that situation. The participants were asked to create a metric entitled ‘Succession Planning Strength Score’. There was an open platform for this question where a number of participants shared their thoughts and plans. He further mentioned that potential, performance and readiness are key factors for succession planning strength. A group discussion among the participants and the facilitator was also held, which was followed by opinion sharing among the participants at the end.

The first session of the second day began with ‘Reimagine Leadership for Breakthrough Success’ by Jonathan Low, Global Speaking Fellow CSP, ICF MCC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He started by sharing some pictures and asked the participants where the pictures were taken. He shared about the roller-coaster ride of the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world.

He further shared two types of mindsets namely, growth mindset and fixed mindset. The elements of growth mindset include the ability to embrace challenge and endure despite obstacles. He advised participants to see effort as a path to mastery, learn from feedback and be inspired by other’s success. Referring to a World Economic Forum’s study, he said that the core skills for workers in 2023/24 are analytical thinking, creative thinking, resilience, flexibility and agility, motivation and self-awareness, curiosity and lifelong learning, technological literacy, empathy and active listening, leadership and social influence, and quality control. He shared the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence that includes know yourself, choose yourself and give yourself. He asked participants to be in pairs and asked them to discuss regarding how one can embrace changes, recognise patters and navigate the motions. At the end of the session, he redefined a new VUCA that stands for vision, understanding, clarity and agility.

The second session of the day was a panel discussion on the topic ‘Beyond Burnout: HR’s Toolkit for Mitigating Job Stress’. The session was moderated by Dr. Bishal Dhakal, Founder and CEO, Health at Home and comprised of panellists Dr. Lonim Prasai Dixit, NPO of World Health Organisation; Dr. Pravin Nepal, Senior Consultant Orthopedics at Norvic International Hospital; and Dr. Arun Kunwar, Head of Psychiatry at Kanti Hospital. The session revolved around how employee burnout can be reduced with the help of change in organisational system and culture as well as how an organisation can help and contribute in improving employees’ mental health and reducing job stress.

In the discussion, Dr. Kunwar opined if someone is physically and mentally tired of their work it will have a physical, mental and emotional impact on the work. “We just talk about mental health, but we don’t actually understand about it,” he said, adding, “We don’t accept this situation of anxiety and stress that we all go through in our lifetime. When you think about stress at the workplace one should look into interpersonal aspects, social aspects and environmental aspects and ask each individual to drop their suggestions in order to work on it.” He further stated that physical and mental health are interconnected and organisations need to be flexible and people centric, because at the end if employees are happy, the company/organisation will foster.

Likewise, Dr. Dixit opined that being healthy does not mean just the absence of disease, however, it covers the dimension of physical, social, emotional and mental fitness. “Individual as well as organisational motivation are required the most in order to reduce the individual’s job stress. We need to change our system so that we don’t lose employees and we can create a feasible environment,” she said, adding, “Health and safety related policies need to be drafted and implemented in all organisations so that employees’ job stress can be mitigated.”

Similarly, Dr. Nepal opined that when employees face burnout, they tend to take sick leaves frequently which leads to high rate of absenteeism. He suggested that HR needs to sit down with the concerned employees and ask whether they really are sick or facing some other problem related to mental health. Through this approach, the mental health of employees can be taken care of with some fair and practical suggestions, according to him.

The third session of the day themed, ‘Culture of Fostering Effective Team Collaboration for Project Success’, included a presentation of Dr. Tikajit Rai, Sr. Project Manager of Adtalem Global Education. The highlight of the session was connecting individuality and culture in an organisation. The session started with the story, primarily, know thyself; secondly, be thyself and finally fostering a culture of collaboration for project success (confidence of organisation on imported, acquired, empirical knowledge and elements of default local culture as a lever).

Further, the fourth session contained a keynote speech by Grzegorz Szalajko, Project and Strategic Management Advisor, on ‘Turning Elephants Agile: How to Effectively Transform Organisation?’ which highlighted the meaning of organisational agility, which is the ability to adapt to changing conditions, faster delivery of benefits and eagerness to explore the new in the organisation. He further explained about gaining organisational agility. “We must grasp the advantages and risks we choose; heighten awareness and urgency; ensure committed leadership engagement; and establish a unified vision for the transformation,” according to Szalajko.

He further highlighted that the leader in the organisation needs to be consistent when it comes to values and employees. “One of the key elements of change is to enable people to take risk, face the failure and make corrections from their failure,” Szalajko stated. He wrapped up the presentation with a succinct message: “Let’s formalise the proven solutions and seek permission to experiment, reflect, and evolve our approach during the implementation of change.”

Moreover, the concluding session comprised a keynote speech on ‘Why Good Changes Fail? The Role of Change Portfolio Management in Improving Project Outcomes’ by Wioleta Kicman, Organisational Change and Transformation Management Advisor. The session started with a question on why good changes fail? “Despite making the best efforts, we are all dissatisfied with the result. When we talk about the result, we need to value the returns on investment of the newly developed product or service,” as per Kicman.

“Organisational change management (OCM) is about preparing people for a new process, structure, system, solution and way of working through structured action and competency. OCM is about focusing on people,” she said. Kicman further highlighted the difference between project management (which means preparing a solution for an organisation) and change management (preparing an organisation for a solution).

She explained the elements of change management as building the desire to participate in the change, creating a sense of urgency, communicating why change is needed, building a compelling vision of the future, solidifying change with short-term wins, ensuring line managers’ support, creating an effective action plan and building a change management team. “There will be people who will resist change and resistance to change is something that an organisation should accept,” she shared, adding, “Resistance to changes does not always lead to negative changes.”

She highlighted why people resist change and where the resistance comes from. “People resist to change due to the fear of losing their authority, previous experiences when new changes were introduced, beliefs, and an individual difference. One of the key reasons of resistance to change is change saturation, too much of change happening in the organisation at the same time,” according to her.

She further explained about change portfolio management, which means looking at a range of landscape and the level of change saturation in an organisation. “Through Change Impact Assessment (CIA) we can measure the level of change saturation considering the effort required to adopt new behaviours,” she stated, adding, “CIA includes those impacted by this change, areas in which the impact will occur, current state, future state, need and successful shift from the current state to the future state and the time/period of the occurring change.”

The HR Meet 2024 concluded following the keynote speech of Kicman. Growth Sellers has been organising HR Meet, an international level conference annually to nurture, strengthen and empower human capital since 2008. HR Meet is a patented annual programme which has been able to set a benchmark in the HR sector.

Six companies felicitated

During the HR Meet, Growth Sellers awarded six companies in different categories for their excellent contribution to human resource management with the ‘HR Excellence Award 2024’. The three-member jury comprising of Prof. Dr. Bijay KC, Dean of KU School of Management, Bina Rana and Reetu Nyachhyon selected the winners.

On the occasion, Ncell Axiata Ltd was awarded the ‘National HR Excellence Award 2024’. Save the Children was awarded ‘Excellence in HR Innovation and Technology Award 2024’. In addition, F1 Soft International Pvt. Ltd. was honoured with ‘Excellence in Employee Experience Award 2024’. Ncell Axiata Ltd. bagged the ‘Excellence in Learning and Development Award 2024’, whereas, Dabur Nepal Pvt, Ltd. was felicitated with ‘Excellence in Industrial Relations Award 2024’. Finally, Standard Chartered Bank Nepal Ltd bagged the ‘Excellence in Employer Branding Award 2024’.

‘Influential HR Leaders of Nepal’ launched

The second day of the HR Meet also witnessed the launching of the book ‘Influential HR Leaders of Nepal’. The book is an acknowledgement to the remarkable personalities who have devoted their careers to the field of human resource. Through their dedication, innovation and leadership they have contributed to the incredible leap made by many Nepali organisations. The book comprises the profile of 30 influential HR leaders of the Nepali industry. The influential HR leaders were nominated by a three-member jury comprising of Prof. Dr. Bijay KC, Dean of KU School of Management, Reetu Nyachhyon and Dr. Bharat Singh Thapa.

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