Taking steps to make Sri Lanka a great place to work – Kshanika Ratnayaka, Chief Executive Officer of Great Place to Work

Kshanika Ratnayaka is the founding Director/ Chief Executive Officer and Co-Owner of Great Place to Work – Sri Lanka. She embarked on her career in the Technology field in 1989 at IBM World Trade Corporation in Sri Lanka. In her 30 years of experience working in the arenas of corporate, consultancy and entrepreneurship, she has demonstrated superior leadership and project management skills, and was responsible for successfully executing numerous projects in multicultural, multinational environments. Progressing rapidly through her illustrious career, in cultures that encouraged disrupting the norm – she proved that a woman could succeed above and beyond in a man’s world by outperforming them.

The youngest in a family of four, Kshanika was always born to challenge the status quo and chase her dreams. Headstrong, independent and confident – nobody dared tell her that she couldn’t do something because was a girl. She considers her mother to be her role model – A woman who embodied resilience, compassion, hard work, and perseverance and taught Kshanika the importance of having a strong work ethic.  In her career, she had no doubt made some enemies, but always had the support of the leadership team who valued her commitment and relentless desire to succeed. Kshanika dealt with life’s challenges and pleasures courageously. She persevered through her career working full-time while dealing with losing both parents at a very young age, getting married to the love of her life who always supported and encouraged her in her endeavours, and going on becoming a mother to two adorable sons.

A proud alumnus of Ladies College Colombo, she excelled in both academics and sports. After finishing school, she decided to study and build a career in the field of IT, despite it being a male-dominated profession. She obtained her professional qualification in the field of Information technology and is a Fellow of both the British Computer Society and Australian Computer Societies. Kshanika went on to obtain her MBA at the Australian Institute of Business Management.

Before setting up Great Place to Work – Sri Lanka, Kshanika was the Founding Executive Director of SLASSCOM, the industry body of the IT/BPO industry in Sri Lanka, and prior to that, she was the Director/CEO of Computer Systems Limited (CSL), a fully owned subsidiary of Capital Maharaja Organisation. At CSL she progressed from Systems Analyst to a Product Specialist to Project Manager to Business Unit head, to General Manager, and finally CEO, while learning and developing personally and growing the business exponentially. In 2005 Kshanika took a step away from corporate Sri Lanka and ventured out as an entrepreneur. She became the founding CEO/Executive Director of C-level LLC and a Principal at Washington Technology Partners – USA. Using her knowledge and familiarity with global IT/BPO business trends Kshanika advised companies across the world on business linkages and investment opportunities in Asia.

Great Place to Work ® is a global research and consulting firm that conducts the world’s largest annual research studies aimed at identifying, and recognizing organizations that achieve business objectives by becoming Great Workplaces. Built on over 30+ years of research, Great Place to Work® has advanced the knowledge of what makes a Great Workplace; and helped numerous organizations transform, create & sustain a High-Trust, High-Performance TM  workplace culture and this has enabled them to be recognised as ‘the global authority on workplace culture’. 

While Great Place to Work ® Sri Lanka, was set up onlyin July 2013 prior to this it was managed out of India. In 2012 Mr. Prasenjit Bhattacharya – Director/CEO of GPTW India had the foresight that Sri Lanka was ready to build Great Workplaces and his search for a Partner/CEO thus began. After deliberation and study, Kshanika decided to bring Great Place to Work Sri Lanka, because she saw the opportunity to create an impact and make a positive difference to workplace and the community. She strongly resonated with its global mission of “build a better world by helping organizations become great workplaces”

When asked about the challenges Kshanika has faced with starting Great Place to Work Sri Lanka, she said that initially, it was that the company/brand was not heard of, and also measuring employee experience was a novel concept so getting leadership buy-in was a challenge. The other challenge was that while most leaders accepted that the human capital was their most valuable asset, few saw the connection to their culture. Further they believed that culture was soft and couldn’t be measured – they did not see it as a strategic priority for the organization and therefore they were not willing to invest in building a great workplaceculture.

The team at Great Place to Work Sri Lanka takes strategic planning seriously, with short, medium, and long-term plans up to their 10th year in 2023 titled ‘Road to Decca”. Part of their strategy was to leverage their existing relationship to build credibility around the work they do, and they put together a value proposition that showcased the benefits of building a High-Trust High-Performance culture TM. Starting off they were fortunate to have already established clients in two corporate giants – The John Keells Group and Brandix when they entered the market locally.

Harnessing the credibility backed by established corporate giants, along with the network Kshanika built over her many years leading in corporate Sri Lanka, they focused on building their customer base by providing a global offering at a very competitive price, an exceptional value proposition and superior customer experience. This enabled them to add nearly 300 clients on their journey of building great workplaces over the past 8 years and their growth trajectory is fuelled by strategic data-driven decision-making. Kshanika is focused on building a skilled team to address clients’ needs and ensures that every member is certified internally on their model methodology, framework, and the philosophy of building a Great Place to Work® FOR ALL. With a team predominately made up of millennials who are driven by purpose, they have invested in a truly diverse and inclusive workforce which has resulted in business success over the years.

In Kshanika’s view, to become a successful entrepreneur, you need passion fuelled by the determination to work hard and succeed against all odds. You also need the resourcefulness, energy, and motivation to keep going regardless of failure.  She believes her biggest strength is her team and their customer relationships. “Our People are our most valuable asset. As a nation, a business, or at school, we have to nurture and harness the talent, the energy, and the desire to make a difference, to achieve the true potential of our human capital. Then we can truly make an impact.”

Looking to the future, Kshanika envisions making Sri Lanka a “Great place to work”. She knows that they have built a solid foundation that will enable them to launch plans to grow exponentially over the next couple of years, doubling their client base by the ‘Decca Year’. The pandemic has set a lot of context around employee experience and workplace culture and the relevance of building a high trust and resilient culture, as ‘culture is the new currency’ and increasingly seen as a strategic imperative, Great Place to Work ® as ‘the global authority on workplace culture’, is well-positioned to help organizations on this journey making our work and lives more meaningful. 

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