Rukshila Seneviratne
Head of Human Resources

Q: What transforms a workplace from good to great?

A: A good workplace may generate acceptable shareholder returns, and popular products and services; but a great workplace offers much more than that. The transformative ingredient to go from ‘good’ to ‘great’ is a workplace culture that inspires innovation, inclusion, commitment and engagement among employees.

This kind of workplace culture creates synergies and promotes discretionary efforts from employees that translate into sustainable and great business outcomes for the organisation. In such workplaces, talent flourishes together with the organisation, as they find meaning and purpose in the day-to-day work they perform.

Q: And what are the most significant workplace trends in your sector? And how are you navigating them?

A: Workplaces in the banking and finance sector are evolving fast, and transitioning to the future of work, where traditional business models are becoming obsolete. There’s visible and rapid technological advancement in the sector, and the way banks operate and behave is becoming more digital. We at Standard Chartered embrace the digital organisation, and strive to organise ourselves and operate accordingly.

With rapid digitisation, there are shifts in workforce composition, skills, expectations and demands. As a bank, we invest heavily in reskilling and upskilling our human capital. Our People Capability Strategy focusses on the long-term employability of colleagues by keeping them engaged with external trends like AI, supporting them in building innovation skills and performance, and helping reskill and upskill to cater to the demands of future banking.

Our on-demand learning portal diSCover makes world-class knowledge available to our employees at their fingertips whenever they have time and interest in engaging in learning to shape their future careers.

Q: What are the main lessons you learnt from participating in the Great Place to Work Sri Lanka survey this year?

A: We saw our positive scores improving in aspects such as a physically and psychologically safe work environment, treating employees fairly with no discrimination, trust placed in the leadership and the ethical conduct of leaders, empowerment, work-life balance through flexible working and a focus on employee wellbeing. This is a reiteration of the results we saw in our internal employee engagement survey My Voice, which we ran in 2023.

The Great Place to Work survey has also shown us that there’s room for improvement in transparency and two-way communication during performance evaluations and connected pay decisions. The survey has given us useful insights and we are geared to take measures to address the learnings with the support of our People Leaders.

Q: How do you plan to implement Great Place to Work Sri Lanka’s recommendations following the completion of its survey?

A: We have access to a trove of employee feedback through the Great Place to Work survey, the employee survey commissioned for our Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) re-certification and our own annual 2024 My Voice Engagement Survey for which we’re currently awaiting results.

The themes and messages coming out from all these surveys should be interpreted in conjunction to gather deeper insights and meaning, and the human resources team is committed to investing time to understand and interpret the data, and convert required interventions into tangible action, to achieve positive outcomes in the second half of this year.

Credible data is power – and it is up to the team to interpret them and rally the leadership to translate data driven plans into action.

Q: In what ways can a healthy work culture be fostered?

A: Providing a physically, psychologically and emotionally safe environment for all employees is the basic foundation of a healthy workplace culture. When employees feel safe and free to express their views, operate with empowerment, and take risks within their scope and without fear of failure, a culture of innovation and growth will be instilled, enabling the organisation to attract and retain the best talent.

Organisations must not only set policies and procedures to cultivate a healthy workplace culture, but must also have methods and channels to listen to the employee voice, to gather anecdotal and quantitative data about the culture.

The reason we take part in the Great Place to Work survey in addition to our own comprehensive My Voice survey is because we believe that the more we listen to employees, the better positioned we’ll be to sustain our workplace culture that we’re proud of.

Q: How critical is workforce engagement, in your opinion?

A: Engaged employees possess a state of mind that enables them to demonstrate a high degree of vigour, commitment and concentration. They go that extra mile, and put in discretionary efforts through their actions and behaviour. And they’re far from being burnt out even during difficult and challenging times, at work and on the personal front.

As supported by much empirical research, employee engagement has a positive correlation to profitability and other critical business metrics, such as customer satisfaction, efficiency, productivity and employee retention.

An organisation cannot offer superior customer service with disengaged employees and the actual cost of employee disengagement could be far worse than the cost of lost business, or rehiring or training. The magnitude of employee engagement has never been so important than in the contemporary setting of volatility and uncertainty across economies.

Moreover, the Diversity & Inclusion Council of the bank organises myriad events throughout the year to create more engagement and unity among colleagues whilst driving our people agenda.

Q: What has been your organisation’s approach to retaining talent?

A: We believe in offering an attractive employee value proposition, fringe benefits and fair pay to make talent feel their contribution is valued. We regularly invest in benchmarking ourselves with our competitors, and have taken proactive and bold measures to adjust pay with the rising inflation.

Offering flexible working is another powerful tool we use for the retention of talent and we are one of the very few companies in Sri Lanka to have formalised flexible working arrangements.

Our uncompromised focus on work-life balance and employee wellbeing helps us keep and attract the best talent. Our wellness offerings include an industry best medical insurance cover, attractive life insurance cover, employee assistance programmes and so much more, to aid our colleagues in navigating ups and downs in life with their wellbeing intact.

Finally, our diverse and inclusive culture, which provides a level playing field for individuals from different paths of life to succeed without any barriers, makes our workplace conducive for talent.

Q: How does your bank define the connection between employee wellbeing and business performance?

A: Many studies show the positive effects of employee wellbeing on organisational performance. A culture of wellbeing is not merely a slogan to us but a business reality.

Employees experiencing high degrees of wellbeing tend to engage more at the workplace, and those suffering or struggling with wellbeing concerns could bring in negativity that could affect performance at an individual, team and even organisational level.

We believe that employee wellbeing cannot be limited to a policy or programme owned or run by the human resources department. Instead, it should be a commitment undertaken by the leadership of the bank, and leaders must walk the talk in creating a healthier, happier and productive workplace for employees.

Employees thrive when they have access to physical, financial, emotional and psychological support, both on a professional and personal level. We believe in investing in employee wellbeing and this commitment is embedded in the ethos of our organisation.

– Compiled by Yamini Sequeira

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