CFA Society Sri Lanka Hosts HR Forum on 'Navigating Through a Brain Drain Crisis'

Sunday, 26 November 2023 15:57

CFA Society Sri Lanka Hosts HR Forum on Navigating Through a Brain Drain Crisis

Businesscafe - An HR Forum organised by the CFA Society Sri Lanka (CFASSL) was held recently at the Oak Room, Cinnamon Grand, Colombo with a focus on ‘Navigating Through a Brain Drain Crisis’.

The event was attended by HR leaders across a number of industries.

The forum aimed to cultivate discourse among leading industry figures to address the pressing issue of brain drain in Sri Lanka.

Moving beyond mere identification of challenges in talent acquisition and retention, the forum sought insights to shape the future of talent retention in Sri Lanka and drive impactful change.

Delivering the welcome address, President of CFASSL Mr. Aruna Perera, CFA astutely drew parallels between the COVID-19 pandemic and the brain drain crisis.

The analogy revolved around the central message of ‘flattening the curve’.

He noted: “Similar to COVID-19, a certain percentage of professionals would inevitably migrate.

Yet, by proactively implementing measures to decrease the overall migration volume and extend the migration wave over a longer timeframe, the strain on local industries and organisations could be better managed.”

Ms. Arati Porwal reaffirms CFA Institute’s commitment to creating an industry supporting economic growth and talent retention

Ms. Arati Porwal, Country Head, India, CFA Institute in her opening remarks spoke of steps that need to be taken to reverse the brain drain scenario into a ‘brain pool’ scenario.

She highlighted the pivotal role played by CFA Institute and its flagship charter programme in supporting this cause.

Homing in on the investment management and financial services industry, she identified three areas causing disruption in workplace competencies: artificial intelligence and machine learning, increasing focus on sustainability and changing regulatory demands.

She further detailed how the flagship CFA programme continuously evolves to inculcate the required competencies in these areas as well as other technical and soft skill elements in its study material via a continuous review process.

Remarking on what needs to be done to stem the tide of brain drain, Porwal noted:

“What they (the younger population) desire to stay back in this country is a stable and growing economy, an attractive industry to work for and one that supports entrepreneurship - most importantly, inclusive investment and growth opportunities where their hard-earned money will remain safe and can be invested in stable and reasonable return (generating) investment tools.”

Prof. Prasadini Gamage offers in-depth insights on Sri Lanka’s recent migration wave

The keynote address was delivered by Prof. Prasadini Gamage, Professor in Human Resource Management at the Department of Human Resource Management, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, who shared findings from her recent research study ‘Brain Drain in Developing Countries: Evidence from Sri Lanka’.

The core objectives of the study were to identify reasons for migration, reasons for not migrating and assessing the happiness of Sri Lankan expatriates living overseas.

Elaborating on the study’s findings on the intent to migrate, she noted that younger professionals in junior and middle-level managerial roles had the strongest intent to migrate.

In terms of industries, human resources, information technology and engineering showed strong partiality in intent, while the banking, finance and accountancy, marketing, medical and several other fields were divided.

The study also found the economic crisis to be the most proximate reason for many to consider migration as an option.

On a hopeful note, she highlighted that thirty-eight percent of survey respondents expressed willingness to return to Sri Lanka if/when the country becomes prosperous.

Training and development, compensation packages and organisational culture critical for talent retention, assert industry leaders

The keynote speech was followed by a panel discussion featuring industry leaders including Prof. Gamage, Mr. Mano Sekaram (Founder and CEO of 99x and Founder of StartupX Foundry), Mr. Ishan Dantanarayana (Director HR, Group & Country Head – Sri Lanka, Goodhope Asia Holdings Ltd.), Mr. Jehan Jeyaretnam (Global Head of Compliance and Country Head – Sri Lanka, Acuity Knowledge Partners) and Mr. Isuru Tillakawardana (Deputy General Manager – HRM, Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC), and moderated by Mr. Leo Fernando, CFA (Member of Employer Outreach Committee, CFASSL and Founder, Travel Lanka Compass).

The discussion encompassed several critical themes, spanning the necessary adaptation of recruitment and training and development programmes amidst substantial turnover within the middle management tiers, the need to redesign compensation packages in line with the aspirations of a younger workforce and the importance of organisational culture in retaining talent.

Mindful of the brain drain issue, they asserted:

“It’s imperative for companies to have risk mitigation strategies.

Organisations should clearly communicate the real situation of the country and draw upon history to help employees understand that time and again, Sri Lanka has gone through similar issues only to bounce back in a resilient manner.”

Speaking on the modern competitive landscape, the panellists agreed that talent remains the biggest differentiator for organisations.

They reflected on how several IT and apparel industry leaders were cognisant of this during previous migration waves in the mid-1990s and made strategic decisions to attract and retain the right talent, on occasion offering above-industry compensation.

Noting the lack of a large captive talent pool in the country, unlike in neighbouring India, several panellists spoke of measures taken to build and recruit prospective young talent.

This included engaging in close partnerships with local universities and academic institutions to better curate curriculums and study materials to the prevailing needs of the labour market, and establishing training academies and internship pathways for fresh graduates and school-leavers.

Speaking of the value of training and development in talent retention, the panel contended that organisations need to provide clarity to employees on the path to progress up the corporate ladder.

Additionally, they noted that traditional training and development patterns must be re-evaluated for their relevance and prevailing labour market challengers.

Select panellists also offered anecdotes on how the share of investment and emphasis of their internal training and development programmes have changed amid higher turnover rates across the middle management layer.

The panellists emphasised the importance of compensation going hand in hand with training and development, stating that “companies should not lose sight of the fact that talent has a global price.”

They added: “Take the example of CFA.

Whether it is Sri Lanka, the US or somewhere else, the qualification can earn a certain amount of compensation, so we cannot pay less and retain a person.

We need to find a way of paying what that person can earn anywhere in the world within our affordability criteria.”

Several panellists remarked on internal efforts within their organisation such as re-alignment exercises of remuneration packages for existing and prospective employees, and initiatives to ensure top performers are very clearly and significantly recognised with the organisation for their contributions.

Shifting gears to the significance of organisation culture in attracting and retaining talent, the panellists noted several key facets.

They observed that organisational culture is something that can be identified immediately upon entering through the doors and is directly linked to how far employees would go in contributing towards organisational growth.

In addition, they remarked that organisations with growth opportunities, fairness in compensation and great team alignment are viewed favourably by employees and incentivise them to stay on.

In their closing remarks, the panellists noted that the focus should be on those who intend to stay back, believing in the future of the country and working with them.

They also surmised that it was important to recognise the aspirations of the younger workforce and augment the value proposition to rebalance the scale between people and organisation.

CFA Institute is the global association of investment professionals that sets the standard for professional excellence and credentials.

Founded in 2001, CFA Society Sri Lanka is a not-for-profit organisation supporting the professional development and advancement of CFA Charterholders and candidates in Sri Lanka.

Its membership of over 275 members consists of CEOs, CFOs, portfolio managers, equity analysts, banking professionals, investment advisors and other senior-ranking financial practitioners, and over 300 candidates, mainly in the financial sector.

Last modified on Sunday, 26 November 2023 16:14