Anji Ratwatte – Director of Human Resources at The Kingsbury.
An internship in HR at a top apparel company helped Anji realize her true calling. Ever since then, she has worked in leading conglomerates, hotels and apparel companies, building a name for herself as one of the youngest top HR professionals in the Sri Lankan Hospitality Industry. Today, her leading roles are as the Director – Human Resources at The Kingsbury Hotel and as the mother of two children.
Describing her entry into the world of HR, Anji explained, “After my A/Ls, my initial intention was to practice law, but when I started my internship in HR at one of the top companies in the apparel field, I began to understand that this was the perfect career for me. What I found fascinating was that the Human Resources department regularly took on many different roles in answer to diverse circumstances. We’re required to be a friend, a listener, a partner, a mediator and on occasion even a policeman.”
Speaking about the most significant moments in her career, Anji said, “I would say right now! I am thankful to my Father in Heaven for opening the doors of The Kingsbury to me. It is well on its way to becoming the best five-star hotel in Colombo, and I am truly honored to be a part of this journey as its Director of Human Resources. Additionally, being attached to a world-renowned group, and having an awesome team to work with, while being answerable to a great set of leaders, is an experience that most professionals dream of.”
To those who say that HR is a woman’s job, Anji says, “Firstly, I believe that HR is not a job. Neither is it only for women. If there is passion to make a difference, to serve, and to create the right and safe environment in order to keep employees happy, then that’s your call to be in HR.”
When questioned about the truth behind the claim that the HR profession is dominated by women, Anji responded, “I have heard this before, and I do not feel it is true. I have worked under many excellent male HR professionals, who taught me most of what I know about the industry today. However, I believe that most people feel that a female would always be more suitable as an HR professional, because we are good listeners, patient and convincing. We also can’t forget that we are also blessed with a motherly touch as well as the ability to approach the employee in just the right way.”
Discussing some of the most common complaints faced by HR departments in relation to female professionals, Anji said, “Having worked in the apparel industry where women are the key stakeholders, one of the biggest challenges we face is to ensure that females receive due respect and that their rights are protected. This is not only with regards to the work they do, but also in acknowledgement of the important role they play in society as well as in a family.”
“Practicing HR in the Hospitality industry is not easy. However, on the other hand it is a pleasure, because the work we do is reflected in how well the staff serve our customers. Satisfaction comes to us, HR professionals, when we also have a management that shares the same passion to take care of people. This makes our role much easier, and it also gives us the opportunity to enjoy what we do”, replied the HR expert, when asked about the difference between HR in the Hospitality industry and that of any other.
On the topic of challenges faced by HR professionals, Anji expressed her views – “I believe challenges help you grow as a person as well as a professional. However, since we are dealing with people, the challenges faced by the HR department are diverse, hence listing them out would be a challenge itself.”
She went on to add, “What drives me as an employee is my boss and my team. Since HR plays a diverse role, while serving the people of the organization, we also need to maintain discipline within the company as well. Hence, there are many instances where we need to make tough decisions. Therefore, my boss plays a critical role in terms of my motivation, as I need him to stand by me when making the “right” decision, be it a pleasant one or not. As I mentioned above, I’m thankful to the Lord for bringing me here to The Kingsbury, because I have a great boss, whom I look up to and who pushes HR to the next level. Currently, I report to the Managing Director of the Hayleys Leisure Sector and Executive Director of Hayleys PLC, Mr. Rohan Karr. Working with him is a learning experience for me. The level of effort that he puts in to ensure the welfare of his people is something that I find most inspiring. Mr. Mohan Pandithage, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Hayleys PLC is a figure we all look up to. He’s supportive leadership and concern with regards to the well-being of his employees are characteristics that I try to emulate with my team. As I mentioned before, our job as HR professionals is made easier and more motivational, when we have great leaders to work with, which is why I cannot fail to mention them. I truly believe that HR should be practiced by all departments, if we take care of the people, we would not have to worry about the business. Also, it is important that companies realize that today, compensation and benefits are secondary in terms of motivation. It is the right work environment, including having great leaders to report to as well as a strong team to work with, that is primary, and with confidence, I can tell you that I am blessed with both.” Expressing her opinion on the current status of the Sri Lankan Hospitality industry, especially following the tragic Easter Sunday attacks, “The Hospitality industry will have its ups and downs like any other industry, but there is no other place like Sri Lanka when it comes to hospitality. We are blessed with the right weather and beautiful people with welcoming smiles. I’m truly blessed to be a part of an industry that makes people happy and gives them good memories to take home. The unique thing about the Hospitality industry is that you can never be bored and there is always excitement, no matter what department one belongs to. What happened on the 21st April 2019, was tragic and a shock to all of us as employees, and as a nation. But as a family, we at The Kingsbury, made a decision that we will all come out of this situation together and stronger than before, and that is what we did and will continue to do as we go higher and higher towards becoming the best in the industry.”