Human resources departments were not seen as part of the core group in most companies in the past.
The HR department's role has evolved over the years as companies are demanding more from HR managers so they hire the best, mould them in line with the companies' objectives and put the right skill sets in the right place.
“In the past, HR role was primarily administrative in nature, dealing mostly with employees' salaries and overtime bills,” said Rahmat Roslan Hashim, head of human resources at Standard Chartered Bangladesh.
“But today, HR has evolved as a business partner of an organisation. We sit down and discuss strategy of human resources, particularly on their capabilities and capacities, for them to run the organisation effectively,” he told The Daily Star in an interview in Dhaka recently.
He joined the Asia-focused British bank in 2004. He has worked as country head of human resources for the bank in markets including Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Indonesia.
He has also held senior positions within the HR function at Permata Bank, Citibank, Dumex Malaysia and Matsushita Industrial Corporation. He joined Standard Chartered's Bangladesh operations in September last year.
Hashim said HR plays an important role in the growth of business. The HR department of the bank is fully engaged with the entire strategy of the business and adds value to it, to ensure that employees are trained in line with the organisation's goals.
“We must ensure that employees are equipped with skills needed to adapt to business change. We closely work with other departments to position our right people and right skill sets in the right place.”
HR has evolved over the years, and in the coming years it will transform further with technology playing an important role, he said.
Hashim said apart from branding and products, people are important for any organisation.
About the HR practices, he said the bank hires the best -- it can be mid-career hiring or fresh from schools. “We train them. We develop our people and we make sure that they know our vision and mission.”
The brand name makes Standard Chartered an employer of choice, he said.
Hashim said although the bank works to develop talents by providing on the job training and creating opportunities to grow, it depends mostly on the aspiration of employees on how far they want to go.
About the career growth opportunity at the bank, he said the opportunity is there. It is up to individuals to use it.
An employee from the bank's HR department is now the head of its Europe and American markets. “We can see people who started from teller or private secretary levels are now leading some business segments globally.”
Currently, 78 Bangladeshis are working for the bank in different countries.
Standard Chartered has an international graduate programme. Under the scheme, it offers graduates opportunities across its footprint in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as Europe and the Americas.
The international graduates are selected through a very rigorous assessment process. Once selected, the international graduates enter the bank's global network by participating in a one-year programme.
“These graduates are seen as the future leaders of the company. They are exposed to other markets in order to help them understand working conditions in other countries, practices and technologies,” said Hashim.
He said the programme is purposefully rigorous as the bank seeks “the best from the best”. A significant number of international graduates are holding key positions regionally and globally.
He said the pass rate from graduates who apply from Bangladesh is very high compared to graduates in other countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, and to some extent Singapore.
“This is something we should be proud of. This means there is a supply of quality human resources in Bangladesh.”
Hashim said the most important challenge confronting HR managers today is to retain talents. “Secondly, if there is attrition, we make sure that it is not our talents or future talents that exit from the organisation.”
He said other banks, particularly in Bangladesh, are also growing, which is a challenge in retaining employees.
“When companies grow and decide to hire they tend to look at organisations which are doing well. As a consequence, we can be a victim of our own success.”
At present, more than two dozens of managing directors, and deputy and additional managing directors in Bangladesh's banking sector have experience of working at Standard Chartered.
He said the Bangladesh franchisee of the British bank does not have to cut jobs despite the group's efforts to reduce costs to improve profitability. “We are growing and we are hiring.”
Hashim said the bank's HR practices in Bangladesh are the best in the industry. “But it is a journey too, not static as every time there is a new thing and new challenge and there is a lot of room to improve.”