Surani Amerasinghe


Radical top-down workplace transformations as we step into the post-COVID era

HR profession today

A core partner cum adviser helping organisations achieve their business strategies through an in-depth understanding of people and operations.

Barrier to the profession’s growth in Sri Lanka

A lack of understanding in the profession of its true potential and importance in the overall growth of organisations.

Impact of COVID-19 on the local HR profession

The pace of change is faster than anticipated. Therefore, we must be agile to understand and drive forward.

Post-pandemic HR policies and processes

Employee wellbeing is a priority, and policies and processes must be aligned.

Another HR aspect impacted by the current situation

Training and development will need to be radically transformed.

Initiatives to counter these negative impacts

Focus on employees’ physical and mental wellness, and ramp up training to prepare them with the new skills required for the ‘new workplace.’

An effective physical distancing measure workplaces could adopt

Encouraging remote working where possible.

Implementing physical distancing in the workplace

Requires a change in behaviour, which is the most difficult task.

Operational challenges to workplace physical distancing

Operations must be remapped – i.e. how tasks are performed – and processes reevaluated.

Structural challenges to workplace physical distancing

There are roles or jobs that cannot be changed due to market conditions.

Three pros of work from home (WFH)

Maintaining physical distancing; less time spent on travel; and the flexibility to juggle personal responsibilities such as children or aged dependents.

Three cons of WFH

Achieving the appropriate work-life balance; the need for flexible policies to enable the dual role of work and childcare; and ensuring that the necessary technology and tools are in place.

Strengths of the local HR profession

It is people oriented, emphasises compliance and possesses a strong industrial relations capability.

Weakness of the HR profession

The inability to sell its worth – i.e. demand a seat at the table.

Inability to align and support business strategies

Some may find transitioning from personnel management to HR difficult.

Main threat to the HR profession

The profession itself – by not being able to position itself as a vital component of the overall success of organisations.

Changes in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) consumption

Post-COVID-19, there will be a reduction in spending on nonessentials and a drive towards savings wherever possible.

Opportunity for Sri Lankan brands

A surge in nationalistic pride will result in an increase in consumption of local produce – mainly in the food and beverage industry.

Regional market in a nutshell

The economic impact of COVID-19 will be seen driving nationalistic sentiment across the region.

Post-pandemic brand loyalty

Given consumer behaviour, brand loyalty will play a role in India, the US, Europe, the Far East and Australia.

Changes to global consumption patterns

Global consumption habits have changed due to the impact of lockdowns and concern for personal safety.

Evolving consumer trends or behaviours

Sector wide growth in e-commerce; more attention will be paid to prices and costs; and product origins will be a decisive factor.

An example of this evolution

Consumers opting for products that are ‘Made in Sri Lanka.’

Productivity is affecting industrial and economic growth

Yes – productivity impacts cost, which is key to competing.

Corruption is affecting industrial and economic growth

Yes – it becomes expensive to do business and thereby deters investors.

Tech led HR consultancy role of the future

This includes coaching, and being responsible for nurturing a work environment that attracts and retains top talent in a highly competitive marke

Competition drives innovation

Yes – to survive and succeed, one must differentiate and therefore, innovate.

HR readiness for technology adoption

Technology has always been available to the HR profession but broader acceptance and adoption were required in most instances.

Virtual team management in a few words

Frequent, candid, consistent and personal communication.

Impact of social media and influencer marketing

A vital communication tool that isn’t utilised to its full potential but would add value in almost every aspect of HR.

Immediate outlook for the local HR profession

Great opportunities to fast track changes that were planned for two to five years down the line.

Strategy going forward

Examine company functions as they will not be the same with more digitalisation and automation.

Workforce competencies to match required work

Identify new competencies and align training to upskill or source externally.

The new workplace

More remote working (i.e. WFH) will be prevalent; therefore, rethink employee engagement, performance management and resilience building.

Mantra for success

You may not know everything so ask for help and keep learning.

– Compiled by Lashani Ramanayake
 Surani is the Head of Human Resources at Lion Brewery (Ceylon)