#23: Meena Amand, former Managing Director and Head HR, Global Business Services at Standard Chartered Bank. Now experienced NED and Board Advisor
As a HR leader whose influence creates social change, what do you feel has been your most impactful action to date?When I was working at Standard Chartered Bank in Malaysia we represented one of the top employers in Kuala Lumpur. We therefore had an obligation to the local and national community to "build" Malaysia. As context, the country had a shortage of ten thousand employees in cyber security. This meant participation in a number of the government trade and industry, and labour ministry, schemes, such as building cyber security skill sets, supporting the long term unemployed and reaching out to the Malaysian diaspora overseas to attract and develop this skill set in partnership. A further example of the impact we achieved was on gender equality and supporting those wanting to return to work. We worked with government, charitable organisations and LeanIn; in one day we had the Malaysian Minster for Women and Children, the country LeanIn Lead launching 30 LeanIn circles across Malaysia and India, and a 50 person session for women looking to return to work in partnership with the Government’s talent hub. That was one impactful day!
At the moment, in your industry, what do you think is the most exciting opportunity for HR to change the world?
Given COVID and impact on the future of work, and the impact of technology, there is such a big role for HR professionals to play in the impact these changes have on the world’s workforce. Most importantly it’s the HR profession’s role, and opportunity, to ensure that no one ‘falls behind’. This could mean re-skilling, supporting the transition to a hybrid way of working, creating diverse paths to finding employment or indeed just ensuring everyone stays healthy! The most challenging element is that all of these changes are happening at once - there is an unprecedented level of change.
Which particular areas of social and environmental injustice are you most passionate about, and see that your role gives you the chance to create change?
Wow there is just so much. I feel passionately about the regional levelling up agenda in the UK. For example, one element of this is supporting children to leave school with appropriate skills – we must ensure schools have strategic and well-resourced careers advice programmes. In Malaysia, a lot of graduates became long term unemployed – we worked with government to re-skill and recruited about 30 young adults each year, who became highly engaged, high performing colleagues. In this programme it was simple to train in systems and processes, the hardest part of the work was supporting colleagues that had been long term unemployed to adjust to working life - behavioural skills learning was the largest part of the training.
How have you best used your position to create a more equitable and inclusive environment in ways that deliver your business goals?
I have moved from a corporate role to a portfolio role, which creates many opportunities for me to help create impact. I sit on several boards as a non-executive and am providing support on people strategy from a broader perspective. I support and coach the executive teams to deliver on issues that impact levelling up, careers for school leavers and mental health. The executive teams have invited me to bring an external perspective. In HR, we are often immersed in our industry and don’t always have opportunities to work with peers in other industries or countries. There is so much to be gained from sharing knowledge across markets and having someone in an advisory position who can both challenge and support at the same time.
What is the one specific action you would like to see all HR Leaders take to make a positive change for the world?
Create partnerships with lots of different interest groups, don’t be in an ivory tower, across clients, shareholders, employees, peers in other industries and other impacted groups. We mustn’t underestimate the connection we need to truly listen, and thereby design and implement the most successful and impactful strategies. HR professionals have such busy jobs, it can be hard not to be isolated from the external world. Carving out time to create partnerships leads to diverse opinions, thoughts, and solutions to the challenges the business is facing.