Successful businesses have HR professionals occupying boardroom seats and higher echelons of management.
Dilrukshi Kurukulasuriya, Executive Director and CHRO of DIMO, shares insights into the growing importance of the HR profession as a catalyst for success where intense volatility, rapid disruptions and technological overhauls keep markets in constant flux that is the new normal of the business world.
What are your thoughts on DIMO and how it has evolved through time?
Over the last eight decades, DIMO has evolved into one of the leading diversified conglomerates in the nation, with interest across ten industry segments from agriculture to building services, construction, digital technology, education, healthcare, home and garden, industrial, mobility and power, energy and water. We are also expanding our export segments and overseas ventures in infrastructure development. As part of our corporate strategy, the acquisition of pharmaceutical companies was our most recent expansion project. We also acquired two companies that produce organic coconut and fruit-related products targeting international markets, a significant step towards further expanding our agriculture business.
Strengthening our local value addition, we ventured into vehicle assembly and expanded our footprint in digital enterprises through a strategic partnership with an industry leader. In addition to these business expansions, DIMO’s philosophy of building sustainable businesses continues to grow from strength to strength. The company is ardently committed to integrating our activities and achieving our sustainability goals while fuelling the dreams and aspirations of all stakeholders.
Can you share your thoughts and observations on the evolution of the HR field and its relevance in modern corporations?
The HR profession has become more complex than ever. The profession continued to contend with matters unaddressed for centuries, trying to fix them within a few years while new challenges have also emerged, such as generation gaps, artificial intelligence, the new normal, and new competencies enterprises require to succeed in this age.
The changes in demographics, increasing opportunities for people with virtual boundaries, the rise of the gig economy and changing attitudes towards work have irrevocably altered the business landscape. In these circumstances, the HR profession must constantly learn and unlearn to drive organizations towards success. As opposed to the supporting role that HR was traditionally required to play, today, the profession occupies the driving seat, navigating enterprises safely through turbulence towards growth. As a result, many CHROs today have earned boardroom seats, contributing to decision-making at the high table.
How important is it for profiles from the HR field to take up seats on the board of directors, especially in PLCs?
Having diverse views on the board is consequential for a sharper focus on all areas that matter to the business. Though every leader thinks they are expert people managers, it is very likely to receive less attention, succumbing to other competing priorities. There is hardly any business that operates without human intervention, so it is crucial to have an expert who aligns business with people that brings value to the table.
What can an HR professional bring to the boardroom table?
HR has gone through many cycles with the transformation of the business landscape from the rapid disruptions in the last two decades. Therefore, HR has evolved into a more strategic, forward-thinking, commercially focused, and aligned function within successful businesses. Many qualitative and quantitative aspects apply to the workforce, and HR professionals have the training and expertise to deal with them; these critical attributes would go waste if businesses do not include HR professionals in the decision-making process.
How do you envision the profession and role of HR will evolve in the future?
I believe many organizations are yet to give HR its due recognition. It may be due to many reasons. One main reason would be that many senior executives are unaware of the transformative impact that HR can have. Therefore, they also do not know what to demand from HR professionals. They assume that the role of HR confines its focus to administrative and back-office functions. However, organizations that have recognised the true potential of HR have successfully translated that into advantages aptly reflected in their top line and bottomline.
As aspiring business leaders, as you progress in your careers, you will discover that compared to your technical competencies, professional prowess or functional skills, people management skills make the real difference and lead to indelible impacts on the business and people. CEOs are managing people to manage the business. Therefore, they must possess some of the skills and competencies of a CHRO to be successful as leaders. However, CHROs are underrepresented on boards and at the top layer of companies. I believe this will change, and we are seeing demand growing for competent CHROs who can manage and drive business growth.