CaribHRForum Survey

CaribHRForum has just opened up its new survey on the possibility of conducting virtual HR conferences across the region.

I’d like to invite you to complete the following survey to help the planners and decision-makers decide whether or not a virtual conference would be something valuable to offer in 2009.

The survey includes 6 questions, all related to a new technology that is allowing conferences and their content to be offered remotely via the internet. At the end of the survey, you’ll find a link to an interesting example of a conference that is being offered not only live, but over the internet in stored audios and video.

I believe that offering virtual conferences are the only way for us in the region to overcome the obstacle of US$500+ fares. Not only are they a way for us to stay connected, but they are also a good alternative in these recessionary times.

This survey is only about regional HR conferences – please bear that in mind.

Incidentally, there are three regional HR conferences planned for the fall of 2009 – a first.

Click here to be taken to the survey:


HR Business Partnering

trustWhen we speak of HR Business Partnering, sometimes the views and understanding
of this term are varied, yet all are undeniably related to the reasons for its adoption to begin with.

We have also adopted this term at Guardian Holdings and we would like to think
it is more than just a name change to us.  The catalyst for this change began
with senior management asking the question of how best we can re-structure HR to
ensure it delivers maximum value to the business. If HR were to answer this value,
we would have to assume we know what the business thinks “maximum value” looks like.

We embarked on engaging an external third party to conduct some
interviews with the businesses that HR supports to determine, what they want
from HR, what HR is good at and what HR can improve upon in a nutshell. The
third party was a necessary part of this process to improve the honesty of the
feedback as much as possible as compared to if HR asked the questions about

We analyzed all the feedback and proceeded to engage in a marathon of
discussions about a range of issues. We know from all our research on HR
Business partnering about having a centre of expertise (a la David Ulrich,) but we had to
ask if we really needed that high level centre of expertise based on our size
and current requirements to justify the salaries and benefits it would take to house
specialist skills internally on a day to day basis.

We decided to adopt a developmental approach to this idea of specialist
skills. We have not recruited any high level expert skill, but we are building
the skills of our current team members across functional HR areas. Our HR
Officers are on a long term rotation programme to build and assess skills across
Performance Management, Learning and Development and Employee Relations.

The organization will not be highly dependent on one person for service and
guidance, hence decreasing the company’s vulnerability should retention be less
than perfect. In effect, we are developing our HR expertise parallel to the
organization’s need for it on a continuous basis. For the spurts of expert
advice requests, we can always seek the same at critical times.

Another key area we reviewed was our Shared Service Function, we asked what
else can we hive off from the Business Unit HR team and move to the Shared
Services area. This was a critical component aimed at providing more time for
the HR Officers at the Business Unit to engage in more value adding work as
compared to spending large chunks of time on transactional routine work.

We reviewed a number of processes and moved a range of activities to the Shared
Service, ensuring all the way that the process was seamless and all involved
the same understanding.  However, having said that, this continues to be a
work in progress. It is amazing how things get confused along the way where
steps in a process take on a life of their own and don’t even resemble the steps
in the detailed documentation. The lesson here is “maintenance is critical”
while we look for improvements.

The support from the line on this “Business Partnering” concept has been crucial. The
mere fact that we started the process by asking the line for input and advice
augured well for us at the implementation stage. When it comes to the line
accepting responsibility for making people decisions that in the past rested
withHR is another matter. We constantly re-iterated our goal, which was to better
enable the line to manage their people and by extension the company. We emphasized that “HR is not the uniform police or the manager of time off, HR is about supporting the line and the business in managing and optimizing the human capital.”

A huge change is required by the line, a change that surrounds how they perceive
their job and their role in people management. In the distant past, all people
management issues were referred to HR, hence people issues were not seen as part
of the line’s role.

The integration of this role in the manager’s role now has had its challenges. In our experience, the line refers to HR or not refers to HR when it
is convenient for them to do so. It is if “bad” news for the employee, the
line may say, “HR said so!”, when really the line receives advice from HR
clearly outlining consequences of different decisions but the final decision if
for the line to make.

We have lots of work to do where this is concerned. HR needs the constant
support the senior management team on reinforcing and driving this new
accountability for people management. We have included people management metrics
on the line’s scorecard as a systematic way to hold them accountable for
these issues.

Our current challenge is having the line sign any disciplinary
correspondence to the employee. The line wants performance to improve but not in
a hurry to communicate the challenging areas and areas on poor performance to
the employee especially in writing. In conclusion, this is another area that is
considered work in progress that requires much care and attention.

We discussed:
•    deciding to let our internal potential HR specialists go through their own
metamorphosis parallel to the organization’s need for expert skills with an
emphasis on retention,
•    refining the role of the Business Unit HR team members and transferring
transactional work to our Shared Service ensuring a seamless relationship
•    the need to have support from the line on embracing their people
management role.
Consistent with all the points noted, is the importance of role clarification and
understanding of duties, deliverables and expectations from all

I trust the above simplified highlights which marks our journey along the HR
Business Partnering path was useful.

Denise Ali

Cash in on Your Passion


As a child developing in an academic environment, you are always asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The unsuspecting child does not even realize how loaded that question is especially if asked by a parent who missed out on opportunities in their own life.

These children grow up and find themselves in professions or jobs that they believe are positively perceived by society as “respectable” with a supposed high income potential. They have been advised on their careers based on society’s idea of respectable and the expectation of significant earnings. These children have heard stories told to their families and friends, “My son, he wants to be a doctor / lawyer / accountant /engineer”. Over time, the children believe this as well without any significant thought to what they want to do.

Often time, the process to decide what we want our kids to become or what we wanted to do as adults is flawed. We start with the end in mind first and work in reverse. We shortlist jobs/professions that we think will yield the big bucks and or command an air of admiration by others. Then we convince ourselves that we always wanted to be, say an “Actuary”. When and if that day comes that we earn the right of the Actuary title, we then assess ourselves and say “this is the most boring job ever made”. No offence to Actuaries…

As adults, we find ourselves in jobs and professions that bring us stress. We feel overworked, we get easily irritated, we can’t sleep, we may suffer with migraine headaches, we feel drained and it becomes quite challenging to go to work every day.

If you feel like this, there are a number of reasons that can contribute to these feelings. One of which is that maybe you are in the wrong profession. Maybe you should explore those activities that you engage in where you don’t even realize that a whole day has passed quite opposite to the way you count down the hours in your work day. Employers also want to decrease the probability of placing square pegs in round holes.

When we find that special something that ignites our fire, the enthusiasm that flows from our core is unending. Our passion drives us to exceed expectations. Every day that passes that we don’t capitalize on our natural talents and passion, we rob ourselves of the returns that we could be enjoying.

It is never too late to consider a change but sometimes we do have constraints that may not allows us to be flexible to take risks on our sources on income. For the ones who can brave it, go strong?. To our empty nesters, you now have a second chance.

There are many stories where professionals left their jobs to do interior decorating, carpentry, designing, to become a chef, to do landscaping, floral arrangements, to be a personal physical fitness trainer, to work with abused and abandoned children, customize cars, start a daycare and the list goes on and on. Your passion, natural drive and motivation will ensure that whatever you choose to do, you will do it exceptionally well. If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life and you are never in waiting for any thing, the journey is the happiness.

Don’t be that parent who missed out on opportunities in your life to do what you really wanted to do!

Denise Ali


Warning Your CEO

In SHRM’s HR Week of January 19, 2009 the question “What do I do when the CEO will not listen to my warnings regarding legal risks or other bad decisions?” is posed to readers.  The conclusion arrived at is that once your position is clearly stated, both verbally and in writing and substantiated by impacts to the bottom line and positives from the approach put forward and your advice is ignored then that’s all you can do.  I want to put a more proactive spin on this as it relates to the HR professional’s positioning of the function to the CEO.  Eight areas come to mind that should shape the experience between the CEO and HR.  I am sure you can add more to the list.

  • Education – talk to your CEO about HR and your role and what value you can add to the organization;
  • Build Rapport – develop a cordial relationship with mutual respect;
  • Build Trust – show that you are reliable and dependable;
  • Highlight previous successes – be eager to share success stories from previous places of employment;
  • Be proactive – do not wait for problems to arise; give your input in anticipation of events/issues;
  • Know the business – understand the jargon and the challenges; know the strategy;
  • Offer support – be a confidant to the CEO; offer your perspective and be willing to publicly offer support;
  • Be assertive – be confident in your abilities; once you have analyzed the situation, put your position out there;

The use of these tactics should minimize instances of your view being disregarded, unless there are mitigating circumstances to which you are not privy.

Bianca Attong


Core HR Competencies

picIn a 2007 Human Resource Competency Study (HRCS) undertaken by University of Michigan Professor Dave Ulrich and his colleague Wayne Brockbank, six core competencies were identified for high performing Human Resource professionals.

They are as follows:

1. The Credible Activist – is respected, admired, listened to and offers a point of view, takes a position and challenges assumptions by:
•    Delivering results with integrity
•    Sharing information
•    Building relationships of trust
•    Doing HR with an attitude (taking appropriate risks, providing candid observations, influencing others)
2. The Cultural Steward recognizes, articulates and helps shape a company’s culture by:
•    Facilitating change
•    Crafting culture
•    Valuing culture
•    Personalizing culture (helping employees find meaning in their work, managing work/life balance, encouraging innovation)
3. The Talent Manager/Organizational Designer masters theory, research and practice in both talent management and organizational design by:
•    Ensuring today’s and tomorrow’s talent
•    Developing talent
•    Shaping the organization
•    Fostering communication
•    Designing reward systems
4. The Strategy Architect knows how to make the right change happen by:
•    Sustaining strategic agility
•    Engaging customers
5. The Business Ally contributes to the success of the business by:
•    Serving the value chain
•    Interpreting social context
•    Articulating the value proposition
•    Leveraging business technology
6. The Operational Executor administers the day-to-day work of managing people inside an organization by:
•    Implementing workplace policies
•    Advancing HR technology
A good way to start the New Year would be to speak with your leaders and if you do not already know, find out what traits are most important to them.  Review these against the six competencies, think about your strengths and the competencies that require more focus from you, then discuss with the team to get their ideas. Cheers to a positive 2009!

Bianca Attong

Networking for HR Professionals

At last week’s HRMAJ conference in Ocho Rios, I had the pleasure of giving a speech on the topic of New Relationships, New Possibilities for Tough Times.

I spoke about the ways in which Human Resource Professionals are forced to do more, with the same or smaller budget, due to the economic times.  They need to find the latest technologies to get things done that allow them to secure their own futures, find the best talent wherever it may reside and take the lead in transforming their companies.

The entire presentation and the audio recording is available for viewing here:  New Relationships, New Possibilities for Tough Times

Francis Wade

Developing a Training Plan

Human Resource Development is critical to the success of organizations today.  Development can be approached from many angles, but one of the key approaches used is that of training and development.

In many organizations, training and development occurs on an ad hoc basis, in that there is no structured approach.  Employees may see something advertised in the newspaper, express interest in attending and that is it.  While this may be fine once in a while, it is certainly not the ideal way to approach such a necessary component of employees’ development.

The development of a company-wide training and development plan seeks to streamline efforts and align training initiatives with the short, medium and long term needs of the organization.  Training and Development can be used in a strategic manner for enhancing skills in anticipation of new technology, to cater for succession planning or to optimize workforce efficiency and reduce costs due to wastage or errors.

There are four basic steps involved in creating a plan; these include analysis of the business environment, identification of training needs, planning of the training and evaluation of the effectiveness of the plan.

Analysis of the business environment includes both internal and external factors.  Internally the vision, mission, organizational culture, core values, human resource development philosophies, executive management buy-in, budgetary constraints should be considered.  On the external side, the national, regional and international climate (PESTLE – political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental) would impact on the development of the plan.

As we see in our world today, changes are taking place at a rapid pace and it is difficult to predict what will be next, so all the more reason for taking the time to think of the impact of these factors on your organizations.

Training Needs Identification can be informed by corporate strategies, short, medium and long-term divisional, departmental or unit goals, career paths, development as outlined through the performance management process and by analyzing jobs, competencies required and associated tasks.  The gaps in current performance whether these be financial, quantitative, qualitative should be noted in the development of specific programmes.  The Human Resource Information System can also be used in determining who needs training and in what areas.  The Succession Plan for the organization would also highlight those individuals targeted for promotion and any gaps that can be closed by training.

In finalizing the actual plan, all the information gathered from steps on and two needs to be reviewed and considered carefully in determining priorities and in recognizing any economies of scale that can be achieved across the organization.  The learning objectives or desired outcomes from the training should be the starting point as these would dictate the content and delivery that would be most appropriate.  In some instances classroom training would be ideal in others e-learning including Computer Based Training might be more appropriate and at other times a blended approach to learning would yield maximum results.  The outcomes required should be specified in terms of cost, quality, quantity, specific behaviours and time so that tangible measurement of improvements would be possible.

The resources available in terms of availability, suitability and cost must be balanced against the desired outcomes.  Evaluation of facilitators and final selection would occur once the plan is approved.  In working with the facilitators selected, Human Resources should ensure that employees’ various learning styles are taken into consideration in the development of the actual presentation of the material.  Groups can be formed to tackle similar training needs such as Computer training at a basic level.  Formal and informal methods of training should be incorporated.  Customised training can have a great impact as the organisation’s specific situations can be taken into account.  Generic programmes can have benefits as well, as employees may participate more and get more out of the experience.  In all instances it is beneficial to ensure that resources are optimized.

What is the use of having wonderful training programmes, designed to meet the needs of the organization and not measuring the effectiveness or determining the impact of the training on the bottom line.  This is where Human Resource Professionals need to step up their game and ensure that they can justify the implementation of these programmes.  If you can tell management that they will save a specific amount of money by the reduction in wastage, you are more likely to have your training budget approved, than if you say the employees will learn a lot.  Some organizations set a target of their Human Resource budget for training eg. 3 – 5%.  This is a good idea.

We all know of Donald Kirkpatrick’s Model for evaluating training effectiveness which consists of the measurement of four levels, reactions, learning, transfer and results.  We need to move from the smiley sheet at the end of each training session to more meaningful results oriented evaluations.  Metrics that can be tracked and included in monthly or quarterly reports include the Training Investment Factor (total training cost/headcount) and ROTI (Return on Training Investment) which is the total benefit derived less the cost to develop and deliver times 100.

Bianca Attong