“One of our core values is, unity in diversity. We embrace the richness of our diverse workforce and clientele.”

The blog features leadership insights from leading CEOs on effective leadership and how their leadership styles helped to shape the organization culture and executive performance in mitigating the ever changing challenges in the business environment. This episode features Mr. Jonathan Alles – Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Hatton National Bank PLC in conversation with Riaz Hassen – CEO of Colombo Leadership Academy

Jonathan is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Hatton National Bank PLC, one of the most prestigious private sector banks in Sri Lanka. He counts over 35 years of banking experience, having served several international banks including the National Bank of Abu-Dhabi, Saudi British Bank-Riyadh, British Bank of the Middle-East, HSBC-Dubai and Colombo. He is on several boards within the HNB Group and in the Banking Industry. In addition, he serves as a director in Sri Lanka Banks’ Association and he was the immediate past Chairman of Asian Bankers Association for the period 2018 to 2020. Jonathan is a dynamic Banker and a corporate leader; he has contributed to HNB’s macro development with the Bank now operating through 255 customer centres, using cutting edge technological platforms and enabling a new paradigm in Sri Lanka’s banking culture. Under his leadership, HNB has received recognition from numerous international and local institutions and continues to set new benchmarks in the Sri Lankan banking industry. Equipped with a First-Class MBA in Finance from the University of Stirling-UK, Jonathan is a Gold Medalist and an Associate Member of the Institute of Bankers of Sri Lanka.

Riaz –     What style of leadership will help create a high-performance organization culture? 

Jonathan – Typically, if the strategy of the organization is planned growth in a relatively stable environment, a high task and high people-oriented leadership style works best. In theory this is called team management style of leadership. To evaluate performance, models like balanced score card works best. In the event the organization is aiming for exponential growth, in a dynamic and disruptive business environment, transformative agile leadership style brings about results. In such scenarios, fail fast strategies, design thinking, agile tribes, hackathons work well for sprint deliveries. For assessing performance real time methods work well on tasks while stretch targets and KPIs deliver superior results for initiatives. 

 Riaz – What are the key learnings you have taken from the recent crisis in the area of talent management, succession planning and employee engagement? 

Jonathan – The first and most important realization is the human factor in the business. Often, posters are propped in company’s’ walls saying ‘human resource is our biggest asset’. It was an ongoing debate if this statement had any real worth. The global pandemic reinforced the importance of people, their contribution to economy and the health and wellbeing of the workforce. The role and function of HR was heightened during the pandemic, while talent management, succession planning and employee engagement have become critical imperatives. For example, when your staff are rotated in teams due to health protocols, unless they have been trained to be all-rounders, work cannot be performed smoothly without service disruptions. Long term investment in to people development has paid rich dividends to companies that had the foresight to do so.  

 Riaz – Why is diversity and inclusion important to your organization? 

Jonathan – We are a local bank with a 252 branch footprint that caters to the needs of every Sri Lankan. One of our core values is, unity in diversity. We embrace the richness of our diverse workforce and clientele. We take pride in the fact that we have created an inclusive culture where each and every person is comfortable, accepted and given equal opportunity to bring out their best and be a part of the Hatna family. 

 Riaz – What is the future of HR and where do you see the challenges and changes happening? 

Jonathan – The future of HR is entwined with technology, AI and analytics. The shift from anecdotal evidence to empirical, from sentiments to data, human intense processes to automated processes is what HR needs today. The challenge is how many leaders in HR are tech savvy? Are they actively engaged with, and on top of the digital curve? Are they sources of knowledge on the impact of digital on workforce, both positive and negative? Are we in the c-suite and boards of companies, proactively and adequately advised by our HR counterparts on the emerging trends in HR? Have trade unions understood the challenges of a digital world and adapted to make a meaningful representation of their membership? The important fact is not to change reactively, but preempt the shifts in socio economic trends, prepare the company and its leadership in time, to navigate employees through disruption smoothly. 

Riaz – What defines a Great Manager and what are the key competencies required to be one? 

Jonathan – In today’s context, leadership and managerial competencies have to be significantly adapted to suit a Covid struck world of work. Managers who saw their entire team in one floor today manage large numbers of people from dispersed geographies. So the skills set demands a change. Personal organization and self-management features over team spirit and team building skills. This is a simple example. Improved cognitive abilities are required for conducting meetings over virtual mediums. Today it calls for more holistic competencies which reach well beyond the traditional numeric, verbal and relational dimensions. 

Riaz – What are the best practices in your organization that defines your employer brand? 

Jonathan – Firstly, we promote equal opportunity and an open-door culture. We used to be a traditional tall hierarchy organization with a rigid corporate culture. We have come a long way, removing status barriers, shedding terms like, “boss” and replacing it with first names to address each other. 

‘We promote a family friendly workplace where both men and women have the same chance to give their best shot at being professional banker and move up through the ranks.’ 

We are committed to continual improvement, and we strive to learn from every experience to offer a better service to our customers. 

Finally, we embrace humility and a service mindset, reminding ourselves that we are here to serve customers who trusted our HNB brand, and chose us to be their financial custodians and advisors. 

About the interviewer – Riaz Hassen

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Riaz Hassen is the founder CEO and Managing Director of Colombo Leadership Academy and has served in board positions in diversified conglomerates and has over 30 years of experience in providing leadership and driving business growth. He is an experienced Executive & Leadership Development Coach, A Leadership Effectiveness & Culture Assessor certified by the Leadership Circle USA. Culture & Diversity Ambassador by Hofstede Insights. Riaz is equipped with vast experience in Executive, Leadership and Transformation Coaching domains. Riaz is also an advocate of crafting Employer Branding strategies developing Employer Value Propositions and Diversity & Inclusion ventures. Check Riaz Hassen www.riazhassen.com