The world saw radical changes at just the beginning of the 21st century compared to what it saw during the whole of the 20th century. Evolving at an unprecedented rate is the global economic landscape and with it the working environment.
With the future proving to be a roller coaster ride, it can be said that a good proportion of companies are failing to see what is coming their way. As experts have pointed out time and again, a company needs resilience and strategic agility to succeed and it will need to keep its eye firmly on the advancing horizon. As they say nobody has a crystal ball.
Keeping an eye on the advancing horizon is Fonterra— a business organisation that has realised what brought it to its status today will not necessarily take it to its destination tomorrow. In that context, Fonterra is already building a future-ready organisation by giving due emphasis to its present and potential employees.
Fonterra Brands Lanka Director HR Dinusha Jayamanne recently sat down with Mirror Business for a discussion on the employment outlook for Sri Lanka, where it stands and determination of Fonterra to remain relevant.
Jayamanne leads the execution of Fonterra’s human resources strategy. Having joined Fonterra in 2012, her experience spans 14 years of overall human resource management, talent and organisational development and process improvement.
At present, she is also an Executive Committee Member of the Association of Human Resource Professionals.
Jayamanne graduated from the Sri Lanka Law College and is a Member of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, with experience working as a junior legal counsel. She holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is a Belbin Accredited Consultant and trained on SHL Talent Measurement Training and Lean Implementation.
What is the global and local scenario with regards to employment? What is the outlook?
When you look at the world today, it’s a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world. It is ambiguous. People have to anticipate what the changes are. There are also certain events in the world that are impacting the employment outlook. Also, if you observe what is happening in Sri Lanka, it was predicted the nation would be at 21 million population by 2020, but we achieved it in 2013, so more jobs need to be provided.
The density of people, in the urban areas is increasing; the infrastructural development space is changing. When looking at the workforce in Asia, it is ageing, and Sri Lanka is getting there.
There are lots of implications because we, Asia, are a manufacturing hub. There are lots of environmental implications. Companies need to be more and more careful on sustainability, environment and safety implications and also include into the equation the impacts due to terrorism.
Then there are the generation differences. Generation Y is entering the workforce and there are more millennials coming in. The online presence is getting more pronounced.
All these factors need to be taken into account and companies need to build distinct capabilities. Research shows that today’s skills that are relevant will become non-existent by 2020. Therefore, today’s stable jobs will soon become unstable. It is not easy to recruit people for certain positions since those jobs will become even harder.
You imply a talent scarcity. What can companies do in this regard?
Given the talent scarcity, there certainly are few things companies can do. The companies have to be able to develop a diverse talent pool by taking into account the rate at which the working environment is changing.
Secondly, with the millennials coming in with the expectation of becoming different, there is a need to redefine the work equation just so they are kept motivated. People now want flexibility.
The third is to get out of this complexity. All talent processes need to be simplified.
And fourthly, they should focus on architecting careers. There is a need to create a simple yet robust career path which are fulfilling for people. Those are essentially four things companies need to do, obviously while keeping to the company strategy.
How is Sri Lanka faring in adhering to the four points you just mentioned?
I think some Sri Lankan companies are being proactive about it. They are exploring and looking at forecasts and trends and also getting people’s insights and creating the agendas accordingly. These are companies that have good corporate governance and are looking to progress. I would say a good majority is faring well in these areas.
Talk to me about how Fonterra manages its human resources?
At Fonterra, we acknowledge that we have to change. For us the ‘why?’ is what matters the most. The ‘why’ for us is our purpose, which is to make Sri Lanka a healthier and happier nation. This has two components, one is the healthier part and the other is the happier part.
The healthier would mean how do we provide our people with the right nutrition? How do we grow the dairy category? Currently people only intake one glass of milk a day but the Health Ministry recommends at least two glasses. How do we grow that?
How do we make our people happier? We obviously can’t make the entire nation happy, so we are focusing on the dairy community. Through dairy development we plan on achieving this. With dairy being at the core, we feel that there is a big task ahead of us.
We acknowledge and strive to build a future-ready organisation. Together with those macroeconomic changes I mentioned earlier and with the growth strategy of Fonterra, we have planned for a future-ready organisation.
Here we believe the people agenda has to be absolutely aligned with our purpose as well as the organisational strategy. It is not human resources (HR) who drives this, it is merely an enabler. It is the people manager who drives the agenda.
How would you describe Fonterra’s work environment?
We are a purpose-led, value-driven performance-based organisation. We like to dream big and we also drive our teams to deliver to the fullest potential, ensuring our values are at the core. We are a cooperative owned by farmers, therefore, a humble company. It is different to other MNCs as we report to farmers, including our chairman, who is a farmer. We aim to do what’s right, make it happen and challenge boundaries.
On the culture, it is important for Fonterra to focus on the ‘how’ of doing things. We integrate value into all. If you take the performance management system, we give 50 percent for the ‘what’ and 50 percent for the ‘how’. We look at if they (employees) have lived by the values and with the right approach.
In terms of our recognition programme, we look at the people who live up to those values and we recognize that through a programme called ‘Everyday Heroes’.
When looking at our environment, we are an extremely passionate and synergistic team. We work as a family. It’s an intimate relationship. You can feel it on the factory floor. We don’t only do this for our own people but we also do it for our communities. It is part of one of our values – cooperative spirit, where we make a difference in the community we work, live and operate.
What does Fonterra do differently to other entities of your calibre?
I would say the proactive approach in making our people future ready. When we started thinking about this future-ready element of our organisation, we thought of a few key areas. We started with asking ourselves what would be the right structure if we are to achieve that purpose. Usually companies come up with a random structure and we just implement it.
We came up with a scientific approach on what is required and the types of roles necessary. And most importantly very key defined organisational design principles so that any time that you change, you could always revisit these design principles and see if we are on the right path.
Secondly we thought of the type of people we require. We want to achieve a magnanimous purpose, so you need to have distinct capabilities, that are critical and leadership capabilities.
To link to the future, you need the right system, the right processes to enable people to work better and proper governance. At Fonterra, we don’t go on the regular measurement system, even for the people indications; we look at the output KPIs.
How about talent management?
This is another area we do differently. We, at Fonterra, believe that everyone has a talent and potential. Usually many companies box people up and depending on that, their career would be limited. At Fonterra, we look at a future potential model. We look at each individual and his or her career aspirations and where they want to go. Therefore, depending on the type of potential they have, we look at the different experience we provide.
When I say experience, we, at Fonterra, believe it is not just through training that we develop our people. We think that 70 percent of the time people learn on the job. Therefore, how do you provide the right experiences for people to stretch themselves? We need to look at the potential.
We have strategic business project teams that are driven by cross functional teams. This allows our employees to have a wide-ranging experience. This created a good think tank that is helping us to take our strategy forward. It’s a rich experience that we provide.
It is not just for our own people, but for those who will join Fonterra in the future as well. So for that we are working with some institutions and universities. There are some well-talented people out there who will be the think tank of Sri Lanka. However, sometimes these students are not fully versed on what corporates would require. So, it is important for us and other companies to really help these people to understand the expectation from corporates.
Talk to me more about that, because there is a gap between what is being produced and what the employer wants. What is your experience with that?
First, let me talk about what we do. We have two programmes, the internship programme for undergrads and the management trainee programme.
For people who are in universities, in most instances there are career guidance units that help these students, to groom them, but corporates also need to take responsibility in partnering with them.
A very mature stage would be involving corporates in defining the curricular for students. I don’t think Sri Lanka has got there yet.
There have been talks about it.
The Human Capital Summit held last year did explore as to how the private sector can support in this regard. That must happen for our workforce to become future ready.
Getting back to initiatives for students, what is the dialogue like?
We speak about establishing them as a brand. When we get the CVs of individuals who have followed multiple educational programmes, they look great on paper. We are eager to see them in person, but when we talk, sure they have lots of thoughts and ideas inside, but how it is articulated and how they come across are sometimes not what the CV represents.
We encourage them to establish them as a brand. We talk about how they can position themselves, the aspirations needed to build the brand. We tell them to pitch high so that they fall at an accepted level. It is great to see there are good materials in Sri Lanka, not just because of our work, but due to similar work of similar entities as well. We just have to keep at it.
What skills do these graduates lack?
The ability to communicate. I am not talking about the language but the presentation skills, the ability to present one. It is about showing who you are and what you are capable of. It is really about articulation. It’s about communicating how you can add value to an organisation. End of the day, it’s about that.
Fonterra is coming up with new strategies and models. How have you evolved as an employer?
Fonterra has been a successful company throughout and has been growing year-on-year since establishment. Instead of looking at incremental growth and doing things in small steps that is required for the time being, we are now looking at the future. We believe that what got us here will not get us there.
It is important to think of greater things. Keeping these factors in mind and how we can lead in all fronts in the future, that is the difference. We are trying to structure all our programmes based on that anticipated future.
Also we are positioning people programmes in such a way that people would be able to embrace and integrate with the company. Through employment people want to feel happy; they want to engage and want to contribute. We look at an area called organisational health. This is a unique area that has leadership at the core and looks at nine dimensions. It’s much broader than engagement and we get people insights.
Fonterra has started to offer flexible working hours. Share as to how that was incorporated into the system, given the costs that follow?
That came through people insights where our team went a step further into data mining. We tested this and we realized that was an option. Nowadays there is nothing called work-life balance. You have one life and you have to figure out how to work around that. If we provide people the flexibility to do that and trust our people to do so in a manner that would not bring about negative implications, then it works. That was the whole basis, trust.
The moment they are given flexibility, there is accountability on their shoulders to deliver. We went to the extent of providing paternity breaks as well.
Companies have to come up with new-age benefits. Requirements change and you must hear people out.
What are the skills the upcoming workforce needs to focus on? Also the field of work?
The skill prioritization is also changing. Needed now more is the ability to be more cognitive. Analytics will be a key skill workplaces will need to have. Furthermore, problem-solving skills will be required more, as a lot of the mundane work will be done for you through technology. It is the manager’s ability to take all of that and make sense of it and solve the problem for your company. Innovation and creativity across all functions will also be paramount.
What is the message you have for your present and future employees?
It is imperative for individuals to be cognizant of the changes that are happening; else we will unknowingly become redundant. It is important to be aware so you can adapt to the changing environment and be ready for the future.
We are a purpose-led, value-driven performance-based organisation. We like to dream big and we also drive our teams to deliver to the fullest potential, ensuring our values are at the core. We are a cooperative spirit owned by farmers, therefore, a humble company. It is different to other MNCs as we report to farmers, including our chairman, who is a farmer