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Monday, 17 December 2012

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Need for diversity declarations emphasized

Top corporate executives acknowledged the need for Sri Lankan firms to embark on diversity declarations at the 44th LBR LBO CEO Forum. However they said as a policy there is no room for discrimination in their firms. With regard to diversity declarations they said they were making a start.

Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, Managing Drector, Transportation Sector, Hemas Holdings addressing the LBR LBO CEO on the topic “Business Case for Workplace Diversity & Inclusion emphasized the need to listen to others’ views. She cited an instance where a new member when enlisted to the board expressed contrasting ideas and views.

The others could not come to terms with the new ideas initially. However subsequently those new ideas were recognized and that individual became a prominent member in the decision making process of the firm. It was apparently realized that members were unwilling to grasp new ideas. Hence the new member and his unorthodox views were an eye opener and welcomed.

Sunil Dissanayake, head of human resources Hayleys group said most firms adopted non-discriminatory HR practices although they do not have diversity declarations unlike in developed countries such as USA. Dissanayake, recalling his experiences in international firms like Citibank and his span in SriLankan Airlines, said Citibank Dubai, was a typical example for non-discriminatory HR practices. The firm had no concern for age, marital status, gender and there was no discrimination on salaries paid to expatriates, whether Asian or Western.

Dissanayake said when he joined SriLankan Airlines, the overseas offices were full of Sri Lankan nationals. They could not speak the home language. He then had to take measures to recruit local staff who were fluent with their native languages. This intern benefited the company’s sales, he said.

He said a ombudsmen was appointed in one of the firms he worked to look into alleged sexual harassment. It was found that harassed employees were not complaining fearing repercussions.

Dilani Alagaratnam President, group head of HR and Legal at John Keells Holdings said in Sri Lanka women were reluctant to enter the leisure sector due to moral obligations and fear that they could not find a partner for marriage. The group had taken measures therefore to build safe quarters for them to overcome this, she said. Surani Amarasinghe Director, Human Resources, Ceylon Tobacco Company said it was important to post employment advertisements which reaches different social groups with different backgrounds. She emphasized the need to advertise in all three languages.

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