Human resource management (HRM) as a career has grown over the time in Bangladesh. Though the human resources department is widely known for conducting interviews, explaining company benefits, managing employee relations, providing career development advice and helping hiring managers with performance and productivity expectations, the profession has a much larger role in business today.
In conversation with The Business Standard, Mehboobur Rehman, an HRM consultant, shared how the HRM profession has grown over time and why it is an integral part of any company.
Mehboobur Rehman is a former international banker and a management trainer. Before retirement, he had worked in several local and international organisations. Also, he is the founder of Bangladesh society of human resources management. He is currently a freelance executive bank trainer and HRM leader.
TBS: You have had a very successful career in human resources management (HRM). Please tell us a bit about how you became interested in the field, what the state of the profession was when you joined and the changes you have experienced throughout your career.
MR: My interest in HR management developed early in my banking career, in mid-seventies, beginning with customer interaction. Listening to the customers' problems and then to devise a customised solution for them so that they are satisfied was indeed an exciting and challenging task. It was not one size fits all. The diverse nature of these interactions with various customers was an area which interested me the most.
After remaining several years in active line banking and understanding the banking and financial industry, my interest and attention shifted towards people management, which is when my interest grew towards Human Resource Management and Human Resource Development.
While performing my role in the line function, I realised, all the more that every line manager is a human resource manager. The line manager is also playing the role of a supervisor because he has a certain number of junior colleagues and subordinates working with him, and for whom the manager is responsible for their career growth. This narrative is not understood or accepted by many of the line managers.
During my early career as an HR professional, the concept of HRM and HRD was either non-existent or at the most, rudimentary in scope. What was understood by almost all the organisation, especially in the private sector, was the existence of the Personnel Administration department whose function was minimal and clerical in scope.
With the gradual integration of technology in the Personnel Administration function, the function itself was taking on a new definition, and the transformation was underway both in depth and breadth of the HRM.
Today in Bangladesh no organisation can ignore the role of the HRM and HRD. If they do ignore, it may be fatal for their survival in the rapid competitive changing national and global market.
Fortunately, many organisations have now restructured their organisation and positioned their HRM department to meet the challenges of today's business. The worrying point though is the question of the availability of good and competent HR managers in the market.
TBS: For many locally-owned businesses, the HR section is usually a place for pencil-pushers. How important is it for enterprises – be it a major conglomerate or an SME – to have an efficient HR team?
MR: One must understand that HRM is an integral part of any company or organisation be it large or small, and without it, no organisation will be able to succeed in their operations, particularly in today's Bangladesh, when employee retention has become a significant problem.
HRM function is no longer a clerical function as much of the process is automated. The role has become more strategic.
The visibility of the HR office is extremely critical not only to any visitor but also to any individual seeking potential employment. Gone are the days when the office of Personnel or the HR, used to be next to the staff canteen or close to the toilet, or the dining hall of organisations.
The owners and stakeholders of companies in the private sector in Bangladesh need to understand this importance of HR's visibility. And unfortunately, many local organisations are still in their old mindset of personnel management. They only changed the name to HR Department, but behind the name change, they are still in their clerical mindset.
For an overall efficient HR team, not only the HR workplace needs to be visible but also it must be operated by a group of competent people with knowledge of the HR operations and an ability to assist the management as well as the employees on any people issues.
TBS: Employees in Bangladesh generally suffer from a lack of motivation, and the employee turnover rate for firms is usually high. How can an efficient HR team: transform employee-employer relations, improve job satisfaction for employees, better recruit, and contribute to the skills development of the staff?
MR: Motivation is a two-way strategy. It must not be seen only from the employee's perspective as it also has an employers' perspective.
In a performance culture, an organisation gives you a platform and helps you with all the tools, to do your job properly. If they find that you are unable to deliver results despite repeated counselling and coaching as well as redeployment in other areas of the organisation, then it is fair to assume that you are no longer an asset for the organisation. Instead, you now have become a liability for the organisation.
Employees mostly get motivated through staff compensation and benefits – transfer, postings, promotions, bonuses, increment and salaries. For an employee, the salary is the most important component. The organisation will give you many perks, but they also demand something in return for their investment in human resources. If an employee fails to give anything in return, the employee becomes demotivated, which may not be fair from the employer point of view.
This is a fact, and most employees do not understand this fundamental point.
TBS: What are the skills required – academic or otherwise – to be a good HR manager?
MR: While it is true that the subject of Personnel Administration has transformed into Human Resource Management, the competence required for driving these changes in the workplace, has also changed.
From an academic perspective, I feel any social science degree is acceptable. All you need is passion, determination and perseverance. However, a BBA or MBA with a major in HRM is given preference by the potential employer, because the lucky candidate has some conceptual understanding of the fundamentals of human resource management, acquired as part of the university learning.
One of the critical competency of the HR manager is the knowledge and complete understanding of the Bangladesh Labour Code, which was formerly called the Bangladesh Labour Law. This is essential, as a vast majority of the employees working in the field, such as manufacturing sector, factory environment and large organisations in the services sector, employs people who run the operations from front desk to the level of a factory manager.
The non-academic requirements which are required are a pleasing personality and emotional stability. These two crucial personality traits when combined with your HR operational skills, propels you to a higher responsibility in HRM career. After all, you are dealing with people and not machines. Technology and devices or machines only enable you to organise and perform your job better.
In addition, as you grow up the corporate ladder, you need to have good communications skills, good presentation skills, negotiation skills, listening skills, and leadership qualities as well as the right attitude all through. All these competencies, when combined, add value to your job as well as performance.
TBS: What are the heights a person can reach while pursuing a career in HR? What would be the starting salary and how much would the highest paid people in the field get paid?
MR: The salary of a young HR professional may vary from organisation to organisation, but it could be anywhere between Tk30,000 to Tk40,000, to start with, and senior HR professional could get a maximum salary up to three to four lakhs depending on their competence and the value they can add to the organisation decision making process.
The ultimate aim is to enter the Boardroom and sit alongside other functional Directors, as well as participate in the process of decision making and exert influence on decisions, which impacts the management of people. At the Board room the Director of HR is a business leader, who not only understands the total HRM, but also participates in formulating the business strategies of the organisation. He is the most important Director in the room, dealing with people who are going to drive business and produce balance sheet results.
TBS: What other sectors in the country do you feel require a strong HR culture?
MR: HRM is an integral part of corporate governance. As such, the presence of an able and good HR manager or director is of paramount importance to any organisation.
The tourism, business houses and conglomerates, health and wellness industry, telecom and many private sector banks need to review their current HR cultures to match up with modern standards and post covid situation.
In an emerging HR culture, a minimal number of people will be on the permanent payroll, and the rest of the activity will be taken over digitally or outsourced. Employees will have to master the various devices and machines which will be the working tools, to perform their job. In this culture, while there will be a job loss, but at the same time, there will emerge new jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurship, which could be more rewarding than a fixed career job.
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