Khairun Nahar Haque has been working with Standard Chartered Bank, Bangladesh for more than 22 years, and she is currently the Country Head of HR. In conversation with The Business Standard, she shared her experience working as an HR professional and what it is like to work for the Standard Chartered.
The Business Standard (TBS): You have been in the HR profession for a long time. Please tell us about your journey.
Khairun Nahar Haque (KNH): I started my career back in 1998 at ANZ Grindlays Bank as a management trainee after completing my graduation from IBA, Dhaka University. Later after the acquisition of ANZ Grindlays Bank by Standard Chartered Bank, I continued to work in Standard Chartered.
I worked in the retail business for almost 12 years before moving to HR. In between, I completed my Masters in Development Studies from BRAC University. It was one of the best experiences I have had because I got the opportunity to know a very diverse group of young talents whose mindset were different than ours and this helped me understand the changing nature of talents that would be joining the workforce.
After joining HR, I set up the learning academy for Standard Chartered Bangladesh. Later, I worked as a HR Business partner to our key businesses and functions and supported them with their strategic people agenda, transformation initiatives and talent development.
I also worked in HR of Standard Chartered, Malaysia for a short period before taking up the role of Country Head of HR, Standard Chartered Bangladesh in September, 2018.
TBS: How crucial is the role of HR for any organisation?
KNH: HR is a strategic partner in supporting business to deliver on the strategy, drive productivity and help the organisation to be future ready through innovation and transformation. How you recruit, develop, manage and retain your talents can set a very distinct culture for your organisation, which can make or break the firm. HR enables the businesses through delivery of people strategy. So it's of immense value if you place your HR department as a strategic partner to maximise on your human capital. By supporting the growth and aspirations of individuals and equipping them with future skills, HR can help create an environment where the multigenerational workforce can effectively work together.
TBS: How are HR practices evolving within local companies in Bangladesh, and how can such practices impact an organisation's overall performance?
KNH: HR function itself has been evolving for the last 50 to 60 years across the world and our country is not an exception in the journey, although the pace of change may be different here. It has moved from a basic personnel department doing administrative and transactional work to a more strategic role of enabling business to win in the market. In this evolving journey, some organisations, mostly international ones are the forerunners. But, it is encouraging to see how the local organisations are also joining the race and adapting new ways of working through innovative people practices.
The pandemic has proven that if any organisation really wants to make a change during a crisis, they can make an enormous stride within a short time with their HR on board.
For example, we used to think flexible working is only possible in select few organisations. But the pandemic has shown that most organisations could work flexibly from a home environment with the support of technology, to various degrees. It is encouraging to see that something that could have taken many years was achieved in such a short period. Instead of measuring hours worked we had to rely on the output delivered from a remote environment.
For the service industry, the measure of productivity had to be shifted from presenteeism in the workplace to actual work delivered. If we take the lessons from this crisis and how we adapted our ways of working during the crisis, it will help us to deliver the transformation we need to see in our people practices across the country.
Especially adapting to principle based standards for people practices, building business acumen within HR and making workforce future ready will be critical for our local organisations to drive overall performance in a sustainable manner.
TBS: What is it like to work in Standard Chartered?
KNH: We are a purpose led high performing, dynamic and inclusive organisation that is driven by integrity and transparency. During my career here, I had the opportunity to work in client-facing roles, product development, marketing, operational risk, service quality role and then made a move to an HR specialist area like learning, before taking up generalist and strategic role within HR. Similarly, many of our senior leaders have worked in various areas within our businesses and functions, before taking up a senior management role. We encourage our colleagues to think beyond their current skills and experiences to become better versions of themselves.
If anyone wants to have a fulfilling career with diverse experiences where they can make a difference for our clients, colleagues and communities, this is the right place to be in.
TBS: As the leading multinational bank in Bangladesh, Standard Chartered has played a key role in shaping our financial industry. What do you think sets Standard Chartered apart?
KNH: If I quote our chairman Jose Vinals, "We are a bank with a soul." Which means that we inculcate an attitude that explains our approach to everything we do, from a commitment to sustainable growth to communication with our clients, colleagues and stakeholders. Standard Chartered inculcates a culture of inclusion and we believe that through our diverse and inclusive culture we can become the best place to work.
Also, if you look at our banking sector, many of the CEOs and senior leaders in the banking industry have been a part of Standard Chartered Bank. We take pride in their accomplishments in our banking industry.
TBS: Diversity and inclusion are increasingly being recognised as important drivers of productivity and resilience for the organisation. What role does HR play in promoting these values within the organisation?
KNH: HR plays a key advisory and strategic role in delivery of Diversity and Inclusion agenda of any organisation. HR can help management teams in setting the tone from the top on the importance of having a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment, which in turn can help businesses to make better decisions, deliver strategy and unlock innovation in the workplace.
All organizations are working in an environment where increasingly we see multiple generations working together. We need to focus on promoting a work culture where these generations can come together as a cohesive whole, and be better together. At the same time, we must recognize that a diverse workforce, in terms of gender, social background, different abilities etc, is an innate source of competitive strength and resilience. We need to make room for talents like persons with disabilities, transgender, etc that are excluded from the mainstream, so that they are given an opportunity to make an impact.