In the world of corporate leadership, some individuals stand out not only for their exceptional skills but also for their ability to bring about transformative change. Nimali Senevirathne, the Deputy General Manager of Legal & HR at Abans Environmental Services (Pvt) Ltd, has not only balanced the complex roles of legal and human resources but has also initiated significant changes within the Abans Group Service Sector Companies.
The Abans Group Service Sector Companies, known as the “Abans Kirula Companies,” constitute a massive conglomerate with over 12,000 employees. These companies, which include Abans Environmental Services (Pvt) Ltd, Cleantech (Pvt) Ltd, Facilities Management Integrated (Pvt) Ltd, AB Securitas (Pvt) Ltd, ABS Courier (Pvt) Ltd, DOK Solutions Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, ABS Bangladesh Limited, and Abans Facility Management India (Pvt) Limited, span multiple countries and sectors.
Nimali has orchestrated a remarkable transformation within the Human Resources Department, turning it into a dynamic and human-centric entity at the heart of the Abans Conglomerate. Her innovative strategies have revitalized HR, shifting its role from mere administrative support to a strategic business partner. Central to this transformation has been the creation of a robust policy framework that underpins a thriving workplace culture. Her commitment to inclusivity and growth is evident in policies such as “Policy Against Workplace Harassments,” “Anti-bribery and corruptions Policy,” and “Policy on Sexual Harassment,” which have paved the way for every individual to reach their true potential, free from discrimination or negativity. Notably, the introduction of fair and performance-based pay has transitioned the organization from a traditional family culture to one driven by transparent and equitable performance evaluations. The implementation of an open-door communication policy has fostered trust and ensured that employee grievances are promptly addressed.
Furthermore, her focus on employee well-being, encompassing mental, physical, and financial aspects, has become a cornerstone of the company’s culture. She has championed a learning culture through a dedicated Learning & Development (L&D) Centre, offering continuous training and engagement opportunities that enhance collaboration among teams. In a nod to environmental responsibility, Green HRM was introduced within Cleantech (Pvt) Ltd, further demonstrating Nimali’s commitment to sustainable practices. Her dedication to team-building extends to monthly employee engagement activities, including festive celebrations like Halloween and breakfast parties, fostering strong relationships that drive the company’s success.
Navigating the intricate intersection of corporate law and human resources is no small feat, yet Nimali has seamlessly embraced the challenge. With a background in law, she initially hails from a realm esteemed for its commitment to rules and regulations. However, her transition into the domain of HR posed an entirely different set of hurdles. HR, she realised, requires a distinct blend of empathy and understanding, starkly contrasting the rigidity often associated with legal practice. Yet, Nimali’s journey from lawyer to HR expert has been marked by her determination to bridge this gap. Having previously overseen industrial relations matters, she leveraged her interactions with individuals from diverse backgrounds to inform her approach to HR. It’s a role where legal considerations are never far from reach, whether in recruitment, compensation, terminations, or retirement. In this dual capacity as a legal expert and an HR enthusiast, Nimali takes pride in her unique ability to perceive situations from two distinct dimensions, a skill that undoubtedly enhances her value in both spheres.
Overseeing operations across multiple countries has been a multifaceted journey for Nimali, rife with both challenges and opportunities. She acknowledges that litigation in each country is a distinct puzzle, governed by its unique set of laws and statutes. However, her background in international law, acquired during her university years, has proven invaluable in navigating this intricate landscape. Her approach follows the mantra of “Think Global – Act Local,” recognizing that Abans Service Sector companies operate under a shared umbrella. To tackle the complexities of international HR and legal matters, she has devised a strategy of developing overarching policies and procedures for the group while customizing them to align with the specific cultural nuances of each country, particularly in India and Bangladesh. Nimali’s commitment to maintaining close relationships with country officials and expatriates further enhances the organization’s global footprint. This approach fosters a culture of mutual learning and sharing, where best practices are exchanged not only within local teams but also across borders, ultimately enriching the organization’s global operations.
Amidst the array of impactful CSR projects undertaken by Abans Environmental Services, one initiative holds a special place in Nimali’s heart—the awareness sessions conducted for youngsters. In an era where the younger generation is deeply immersed in technology, these sessions have addressed pressing issues related to cyber security. For Nimali, this CSR project is significant due to its potential to effect real change in the lives of young individuals. It’s not merely about teaching them to navigate the digital realm safely; it’s about instilling self-awareness to prevent cyberbullying and providing vital support to victims of gender-based cyber violence. This initiative empowers young users to take legal action when needed, reporting incidents to relevant authorities such as the Sri Lanka Police, The Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), CID Cyber Crimes Division, and Women In Need (WIN). Through this project, Nimali has not only educated the youth about the legal framework but also kindled the flame of justice, encouraging them to stand up against cyberbullying—a cause that resonates deeply with her commitment to a safer digital world.
Empowering women in the workforce has been a paramount endeavour for Nimali within Abans Kirula Companies. Recognizing the need for targeted support, she spearheaded a program dedicated to enhancing the leadership competencies of female employees. In a domain historically dominated by men, such as the Cleantech solid waste management operation, Nimali’s efforts have borne fruit with the appointment of female supervisors working seamlessly alongside their male counterparts. The commitment to gender equality is further underscored by an annual tradition of identifying emerging female leaders within the organization and duly recognizing their contributions. Continuous learning opportunities, such as “SLIM Leading Liyo”, enable female staff to shine in various forums. Crucially, a robust policy framework has been established to eliminate gender discrimination at all levels, ensuring an inclusive workplace. Beyond professional development, mentoring and counselling programs are in place to help female employees strike a harmonious work-life balance. As part of a special project focused on cultivating a service culture, particular attention has been given to janitorial sector employees, nurturing their skills and potential. In a male-dominated industry, Nimali’s dedication to the empowerment of women is not only commendable but serves as a testament to the organization’s commitment to diversity and equality.
Nimali’s leadership exemplifies how a balanced approach to HR and legal expertise, along with a commitment to fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment, can drive transformative change within a large, diverse conglomerate. Her story serves as an inspiration for those seeking to make a meaningful impact in the corporate world.