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How a Value-Based System Can Create Value for All Stakeholders

An Exclusive Interview with Sonali Jayasinghe – Senior Vice President – Human Resources at DFCC Bank

HR Departments have grown to become more than just about recordkeeping. Modern HR is about consulting the rest of the business to support organizational objectives. Modern workers also demand and expect much more from HR Departments than their predecessors.

In this context, we sat down with Sonali Jayasinghe, Head of Human Resources at DFCC Bank, as she discussed the emerging roles and responsibilities of a modern HR department and how strong core values can create value for all stakeholders.

01. How do the Bank’s values help create value for the organization and its employees?

Values are the bedrock of creating a unique and differentiated organisational psyche and help communicate what is important to us, as a bank, to our stakeholders. We believe values help shape, sustain our corporate culture, and align employees towards a common purpose. They influence overall behaviour and inspire us towards positive action, thereby contributing to the overall success of the organization as well as creating a positive work environment for our employees.

Early this year, we revisited our values and their relevance to the present context. Our existing values are customer-centricity, professionalism, teamwork, accountability, social responsibility, ethical behaviour, and innovation, which are truly relevant to us.However, two new values, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity(DEI)and stewardship, were included as we are firm in the view that reinforcing these two values is necessary as the Bank moves forward into the future.

02. How does the Bank reinforce these values within the organization?

We create awareness about these values at the inception of the employee journey and throughout, using various means such as training programmes, e-learning, alignment of policies, processes, and day-to-day interactions.

Our leadership teams are expected to reinforce these values down the line and more importantly, consistently act in accordance with them.We alsoconstantly assess our internal policies and backend processesto mitigate inconsistencies and empower our people to live true to DFCC’s values. We believe that living our values should be a team effort, with all of us working collectively to support each other to embody our core values and stay true to our purpose. We recently launched an internal campaign to remind employees of our core values and what each of these values means to us.

03. What are some vital HR practices adopted at DFCC Bank?

Our open, multi-channel internal communication and grievance escalation mechanismsare vital. The Bank adopts an open-door policy that ensures all employees have direct access to the CEO and senior management.Periodic “Open Days” are held throughout the year to encourage staff engagement with senior management, including theChairman and CEO, thereby providing an opportunity for innovative ideas and two-way insights for staff and senior management.

Our “Listening Wall” digital channel is another unique initiative at DFCC, where staff can share opinions, ideas, suggestions or concerns they may have, openly or anonymously, for maximum reach and accessibility. Of course, this is ancillary to our formal grievance escalation mechanisms.

At DFCC, we emphasise prioritizing wellness, in all its many aspects, among our employees and their families.This motivation led to the creation of the “OMMM Project”, an all-encompassing wellness initiative launched to improve the overall wellness of staff through the formulation of sustainable wellness strategies and goals, planning, promoting, and implementing wellness programmes for the Bank.One of the flagship projects of OMMM was the initiative to promote cycling as a lifestyle. Launched in 2020, this initiative has proved to be quite successful and sustainable, with more of our staff across our regional networks increasingly opting to cycle to work. OMMM has also initiated a range of other programmes, including fitness challenges, yoga, and initiatives to promote mental wellness, to name a few.

04. What measures are you taking to promote a women-friendly workplace and help women climb the corporate ladder?

DFCC Bank has taken an intentional and systematic approach towards encouraging and developing our female employees to take up leadership roles. Our hiring, advancement, performance management, remuneration and other HR policies and practices are transparent and targeted toward providing equal opportunities for all. As part of the leadership development initiatives of the Bank, 24 female employees were identified to take up higher-level leadership roles and have been going through targeted development initiatives. In this context, we are currently focusing on increasing the representation of women in Branch Manager roles, which are stereotypically considered more male-dominated roles, within the Bank. We are also working on improving messaging within the organization to encourage our staff to question their traditional gender perspectives on professional and personal roles.

While acknowledging the existence of specific socio-cultural conditioning and restrictions, we believe that women should exert more influence over their personal choices and take more ownership of their career progression. Towards this end, we have been conducting regular empowerment programmes to encourage our female employees to take up greater responsibilities. Additionally, the Bank conducts diversity and gender sensitization training regularly to educate our staff on expected workplace behaviours, the importance of gender equity and the impact of unconscious bias.

Moreover, in addition to our open multichannel communication system and formal grievance mechanisms, we have the “Reach Out” programme, which provides them with a unique support network to seek advice on personal or professional matters.

05. How is HR helping the organisation adapt to overcome the current challenges?

HR had to step up during the pandemic, as many resource and logistics issues needed to be sorted out to get people working from where they were or to get them to work safelywhile also supporting people through wellness and other programmes during the pandemic.

In the present context, we are building on the experience we have gained during these last couple of years to launch new programmes to assist our people inadapting to the realities of life in Sri Lanka right now, as we believe that acceptance will help us adapt faster and capture emerging opportunities. This was the impetus for launching “Rise & Shine,”an initiative developed in tandem with the Bank’s overall sustainability strategy, focusing on assisting our staff and their families to navigate these interesting and challenging times.

We are also very cognizant of the financial and other life pressures our employees are experiencing, and we will continue to review our workplace practices and offerings and proactively assist in easing these burdens where possible.

06. As we further embrace our digital future, how is HR adapting and supporting the Bank?

As a result of the pandemic and its resultant restrictions, an incredibly positive development over the past few years has been the much faster progression made by the Bank in the digital sphere. At HR, we have also transitioned to a new cloud based HRMS providing more features, flexibilities, and a more interactive user experience. The Bank’s intranet, WeConnect, was upgraded using internal expertise, while the increased use of digital platforms for meetings and training has brought about more conveniences. The Bank’s e-learning, through our E-Academy, has also proved invaluable in facilitating staff to access knowledge at their convenience.