CaribHRForum’s 2008 Survey

This year’s survey of HR Professionals in the region is focused on the topic of Regional Human Resource Conferences.

It’s a much larger survey than the one we conducted last year, as it’s going out to over 3000 professionals, in as many as 10 countries.  Hopefully, we’ll get a good understanding of what drives a decision to attend a conference, and what might be done to boost attendance, quality and profitability.

If you’d like to participate, simply join CaribHRForum’s email discussion list (click on the see the Join tab above or click here) and listen out for the survey which will be sent out to the group within a few days, until October 10th when it closes.

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Back to School Blues

“Sorry to be late, the traffic was crazy!” This was the employee’s greeting as she hustled through the door ten minutes late, sweating and complaining about the bad drivers, breakfast in one hand and Blackberry in the other.

This will be a familiar scenario at workplaces throughout the Caribbean as the school term has re-opened. Employers are faced with increasing challenges in managing employee punctuality and productivity, in the face of increasing gridlock at all times of the day. The problem is not peculiar to us, in a 2007 study by Career Builder and USA Today, 31% of late employees cited traffic as the cause of their tardiness. I am certain that that percentage would be much higher in our region.

The punctuality issues definitely impact productivity and the bottom line. If an employee arrived ten minutes late each day, another paid vacation week would have accumulated by the end of the year. Multiply this by the number of employees in your organization and then in the industry and then across all industries in the country and the region. Millions!!! No wonder in a recent International Labour Organisation study it was found that value added per person employed in the Caribbean is nearly three times less than in developed economies.

Productivity is impacted not only by the time lost each day by late arrivals, but by time taken to settle in and focus, time for breakfast that was missed because employees left home at 4 am to beat the traffic. Then this is repeated during the day by employees leaving to pick up the children from school and drop them off.

Solutions! Solutions!

1. Develop a culture of being on time – begin meetings on time, discuss the important issues first, do not repeat information for late comers
2. Reward employees for perfect attendance and punctuality;
3. Discipline employees for tardiness and absenteeism (we can debate about the pros and cons of solutions 1 vs 2);
4. Have a clearly documented attendance and punctuality policy;
5. Introduce flexible work arrangements, telecommuting, compressed work weeks (9-80), job sharing – these help with recruitment, retention and morale;
6. Discuss the importance of being on time at the offer stage; during Orientation Sessions
7. Train managers in dealing with these issues and encourage them to coach employees
8. Remind employees of the existence of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to help them cope with work life issues;
9. Organise sessions through the EAP on Stress Management, Work Life Balance;
10. Provide on-site catering of breakfast;
11. Introduce a shuttle service for employees and their children
12. Encourage car pooling (some people even ride bicycles around now)
13. Offer on-site child care or benefits towards child care arrangements

1 Key Indicators of the Labour Market, Fifth Edition, International Labour Office, Geneva 2007

Bianca Attong
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Front Line Managers as People Managers

According to a CIPD  report in 2003, one of the keys to managing performance through people is triggering discretionary behaviour in employees so that employees go the “extra mile” for the organisation.

People are more likely to engage in positive discretionary behaviour when they feel motivated, are satisfied with their jobs and are committed to their employer. These outcomes are usually a result of many factors. One factor relates to the Front Line Manager and if they embrace their people management role and how well they execute this function.

The People Management function is often thought to be the sole responsibility of Human Resources and any people problem a manager experienced, the employee would be quickly referred to Human Resources. This view is quickly changing to one that holds the Line Manager responsible for people management as well.

People Management comprises activities like employee relations, performance appraisals, coaching, mentoring, developing, training, recruitment, absence management, work life balance, career management, problem solving, listening, communicating, enforcing policies and the list can go on and on.

Promotion from within is an excellent motivational tool (career mobility) and organisations sought and still seek today to ensure a proper balance of internal promotion (consistency) with external recruitment (creativity). However, when an employee is promoted to a manager role because of the great job they did in the old position, hoping they will perform equally well in the new position regardless of the fact that the new position requires a different set of knowledge, skills and abilities, this leads to a misfit and the results are disastrous to all concerned. You gain a bad manager and lose a great technical expert.

In the past, the Line commented that the people management activities made up the Human Resource function and “why Human Resources wanted to pass on their work to them, they have enough work as it is, no time to manage people”.

How do we move from the Line expressing the above sentiment to a complete turnaround of embracing the people management function with complete ownership and accountability?

One of the first things, I would recommend, is to refine the role of the manager with a specific emphasis on people management and decreasing their transactional role as a normal worker.  Traditionally the job details for a manager include processing duties like that of his /her employees plus the management duties. Hence, a re-definition of the job, the expectations and the requirements to fill the role with an emphasis on the behavioural competencies are needed. Keep in mind, this must be consistent with the company’s core values and people philosophy. Anything we do in Human Resource, organisational alignment is critical.

We don’t have the luxury of starting from a clean slate, what do we do with the candidates in manager’s roles who are not best suited for those jobs? Well, we systematically compare their performance and their tool kit of skills, abilities, behavioural competencies and knowledge to what is listed in the re-defined job. We may also want to solicit some feedback on the people management aspects from their staff. This can be anonymously done and it would serve as a great source of data on the actual people management skills of the manager. The results will help identify varying degrees of job fit or gaps. A decision will have to be made on which candidates can be trained to perform or maybe from the onset, a candidate maybe seen to be a clear square peg in a round hole and may perform better in a highly technical role. It is important to note that the manager who does not perform well in the people management role but was great in the technical role may be suffering great internal chaos and may welcome reverting to one’s comfort zone.

By now, we would have identified candidates that need to be trained on how to perform their people management role. In my company, we developed a “Management Development Programme” which is aimed at training our managers according to our re-defined manager profile (emphasis on people management). Our programme is staffed by an internal faculty, that means our own Executives and selected managers are intended to deliver the training. This allows for increased networking among the staff and Executives. It gives the Executives an opportunity to showcase their knowledge of the respective discipline or area of expertise and also provides a sense of satisfaction knowing that they are helping the staff develop.  The key about the training is not only about the “what” but more importantly about the “how”. The “how” speaks to the soft skills training of handling performance challenges, grievances, discipline problems, communication and the like.

Measures of success may range from turnover rates with reasons, absenteeism rates, employee feedback scores, number of employee relation issues escalated for resolution at a higher level, percentage of training gap among team, percentage of new employees confirmed on time among others that can be aligned to one’s won situation.  In my company, we have a 180 degree feedback form completed by a manager’s direct reports on the manager and we also include people measures and targets on the people perspective of their respective balanced scorecards.

Line managers should specifically pay attention to conducting frequent quality performance appraisals where performance feedback is exchanged periodically. Training, coaching, guidance, involvement and communication are key areas for the manager to invest time in. One’s direct reports must feel a sense of openness to discuss matters easily. Work life balance is becoming increasingly important and as such should be respected by the manager and finally recognition is critical, a simple “thank you, great job” does not cost much. It will be wonderful if the organisation has a reward and recognition programme that is easy to use without any bureaucracy and too many authorisations to slow down the process. Rewards should immediately or as close to the action being rewarded.

Managers are people too  and as much as they have a huge responsibility of managing their staff, the organisation must recognise that the managers also have needs. Too often, the organisation may take the middle level managers for granted, where they are expected to turn stone into cheese with little or minimal resources. Lack of resources, unrealistic deadlines, with conflicting tasks and deliverables only serve to manifest itself negatively in the way the employees are treated by the same manager is stressed.  Organisations are well-advised to listen to their managers and treat them in much the same way they would like them to treat the general staff.

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HR and Hurricane Preparedness

For many of us in the Caribbean, we dread the months of June through November that represent hurricane season.  We watch the tropical activity with bated breath, feeling guiltily relieved when the storm does not pass our way.  Unfortunately, it usually means it will directly impact one of our island neighbours.  While some seasons are thankfully uneventful, others can devastate lives, families, workplaces, and nations.

What is HR’s role in preparing for and recovering from the disaster of a hurricane?

1.    Assist with the preparation of a hurricane preparedness manual that should include what-to-do checklists, securing company facilities, property and information, damage assessments, emergency contact persons, addresses and phone numbers, and evacuation plans.
2.    Form a safety committee that would lead the preparation activities as outlined in the manual.  The committee should facilitate drills and evaluation of the safety and preparedness processes, create implementation teams and execute a communication strategy to the organization.
3.    Ensure that there are current phone records and emergency contact information for all employees so that they may be contacted after the emergency.
4.    Create emergency leave and assistance policies to help employees and their families who may have been injured or suffered material loss as a result of the hurricane.
5.    Provide counseling and support for employees and managers who may have been adversely affected by the hurricane.
6.    Recognize and celebrate the efforts of all to secure the workplace and celebrate the strength and commitment of the team.

Hurricanes are not the only disasters our Caribbean nations experience and HR should have contingency plans for all eventualities, especially as they relate to leave, pay, and support to the employees and managers of their organizations.  As the heart of any organization, HR must be ready, available and proactive in the event of any emergency.

Simmone Bowe

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Olympic Lessons for Caribbean HR

Well, the Beijing Olympics have come and gone.  The lessons and stories, however will last for a long time.  From the mind-boggling opening ceremony, to the pride Caribbean people felt and continue to feel at the tremendous success of our athletes.  Congratulations to all!!!! Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis – everyone.  The world was forced to take notice of this beautiful region for reasons other than sun, sea and sand.

Of course we the people of the Caribbean have always known that we excel in all spheres of endeavour.  I think the time has come and the opportunity is ripe for us in the Human Resource profession to really harness this excitement and sustain the momentum for positive results.  We have been talking for a long time; the time has come to act.

The games of the 29th Olympiad have really provided a plethora of analogies for us to draw from and move forward.  A few things that stood out for me in terms of relevance to Human Resources included, the limitless potential that collectivism can achieve, the ability of good coaches to recognize and develop raw talent, the use of benchmarks and performance measures in a systematic way to manage performance, awareness of the competition and best practices, the attributes of successful athletes, the importance of teamwork and proper technique and the value of recognition and reward.

Much has been written and discussed about the individual versus the team and collective.  I think it has been proven time and time again, that there is strength in unity.  The politicians of the region seem to be shaking things up again in terms of integration, so why not us as Human Resource Professionals.  This forum is a start and the challenge is for us all to do our part, so that we can chart a way forward in earnest.

Richard Thompson, Trinidad and Tobago’s double silver medalist at the games, credits his secondary school coach, as identifying his raw potential and putting him on the path to success.  Every organization is full of “high potentials”, it is our job as HR to work with management to identify these employees and put programmes in place for them to achieve their full potential while meeting the organisational vision.

These programmes can include training, stretch targets, assignment to challenging projects and often international exposure.  HR needs to be careful however; to ensure that there is a sound plan in place for these employees future in the workplace.  A great deal of time and money is spent and sometimes employees leave organizations as the great opportunities and positions promised to them to utilize this development does not materialize.

The athletes’ performances were all incredible, but certainly the performance was relative to all past performances in the history of these and other games.  Usian Bolt’s record-breaking times are awe inspiring because we are able to compare them to times of other athletes.  This emphasizes the need for performance targets and measures in relation to benchmarks.  Human Resource professionals need to embrace the use of metrics and targets and encourage the organizations for which they work to do the same.  Employee and organizational performance should be measured continuously.  While most appraisal processes capture employee and organizational performance in terms of standards and metrics, HR can do better for itself.

How many HR professionals can say that they track organizational metrics on a regular basis and use the results to inform decision making or influence strategy?  I recently started capturing some simple information, absenteeism in terms of time and cost as well as time to fill key vacancies.  This has enabled the organization to take notice of how absenteeism affects the bottom line.  This has also meant support for initiatives that HR needs to put in place to reduce these figures.  The time to fill metric has assisted me in streamlining the recruitment and selection process.

Put another way, the absence of metrics and measures does not optimize the efficiency of operations.  There is no way to hide from the figures, so capturing them forces me to be more resourceful.  Several HR professionals I have encountered have never tracked metrics and some admit they do not know where to start.  SHRM’s website is a starting point, there is a list of several metrics and their related formulae.  Also contacting a colleague who already does this is extremely useful.  You can recommend this as a topic at your local HR Association.

Awareness of the competition and best practices were also a lesson to be learnt.  Know your competition and what makes them successful.  Who are the industry leaders?  Who is known for innovation, training and development or other things?  As HR practitioners, we need to be in community with each other, through any means.  Be active, network.  Libby Sartain and Martha Finney make this point in their book HR from the Heart.  We can learn from one another and therefore strengthen the collective HR function and organizations as a whole.  The Harvard Business Review of June 2008, has an interesting case study, that addresses losing staff and in particular to the competition.  The need for HR to take an active role in managing these situations is highlighted and knowing the competition is a start.

Successful athletes share certain traits in common.  These include talent, discipline, desire, good support system and motivation.  HR can play a part in enhancing similar attributes in employees.  The systems and processes in the organization must support these.  Whether identifying talent, effective leadership, counseling and coaching, motivation through intrinsic and intangible compensation philosophy.  Peter Senge, in his book, the Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation, speaks about building a shared vision.  The employees and organisations’ vision must be in congruence, so that employees as he puts it can continually enhance their capacity to realize their highest aspirations.

Teamwork and proper technique were quite evident in the relays especially.  The Americans were devastated when their women’s and men’s 4×100 were disqualified after dropping the baton.  The point is that you can be talented or have great employees, team work is necessary on some occasions and ensuring that employees approach their work in a systematic manner is critical.  Often times, there is no Orientation and Induction in place and employees complain of having to figure things out as they go along.  No job description is provided or if it is, no targets and standards are outlined.  This is not the ideal situation.  Proper documentation of procedures, where applicable can lessen the time taken for employees to reach their optimal performance levels.  Consistency in approaching tasks can also assist with the internal branding of operations.  The intangible results displayed following teambuilding activities, whether structured or unstructured as in social activities go a long way in improving morale and strengthening the team.

Lastly, the recognition and reward of individual and collective achievements, is imperative to sustaining success.  The expressions on the faces of those athletes, as they received their medals, the tears of joy and pride seeing their flags being raised, and the anthems of their countries played were touching.

Organisations must ensure that they have Recognition and Reward Policies in place.  Again, this does not always have to be monetary, an e-mail, a thank you note, public recognition at a staff meeting, a picture on the notice board are all simple but effective ways to send out a positive message.  Of course monetary rewards are great, but do not let a budget dampen your efforts.  The Corporate Leadership Council in a four year survey of more than 100 000 employees around the world found that employees join organizations for rational motives such as better career opportunities or benefits, but stay and give their all for emotional reasons.  These emotional reasons include connection to the mission and how they perceive their contribution is valued or recognized.

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P.S.
Congratulations to the Empolyers’ Consultative Association of Trinidad and Tobago for implementing the Champion Employer of the Year Award.  Congratulations to all the winners.  This public recognition of organizations with good HR practices will motivate all organizations to be the best they can be, perhaps a Champion Regional Employer might be a useful idea to assist with integration.

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How HR Needs to Improve Networking Skills

Caribbean HR professionals are no different from other professionals in the region in their need to expand their networks.

While the needs are similar, the results I have observed are quite different.  Executives and salespeople need no convincing that they need to always be improving their networking skills.  HR professionals, however, are often reluctant as they can’t clearly see how building a network is important to them in their jobs.

The argument I often hear is that salespeople have an external focus, which takes them outside the company, while HR professionals have a focus on the inside.

Yet, HR professionals across the region that don’t develop wide and deep networks often find themselves becoming stale, and increasingly irrelevant to their companies.  The fact is, many HR professionals fall behind on key issues in their companies, and don’t provide the kind of leadership that only they can.  They end up responding to problems and firefighting when they should be anticipating and creating awareness.

Given the importance of human capital to our companies in the region, the cost is tremendous to companies.  They end up floundering because their HR executives and managers aren’t using the latest information, don’t create ideas of value and employ tools that are more about limiting perceived damage, than they are about spurring on creativity and risk-taking at all levels.

They typically don’t have the time or inclination to return to school, and the paucity of practical  research in HR  means that the best ideas often don’t come from academics — instead, they come from fellow practitioners.  Without a deep and rich network, the best ideas that are available remain shared among a small group of people in Bridgetown, Montego Bay and Castries.

Reaching and learning from fellow professional in the region takes an investment.  Very few companies can even afford to send their professionals to more than a single conference per year, and rarely are they allowed to do more than attend something local. The response of too many professionals is, sadly, that they stop trying to expand their network beyond their current, comfortable set of friends and colleagues.

There is an answer, however, as most young professionals and IT-types will tell you.  Instead of getting on a plane, get on the internet, because new technology is providing amazing ways to connect, collaborate and co-create.

Unfortunately, too many HR professionals are not technically savvy enough to take advantage of the most recent tools.

The fact that most of these tools are either free or very cheap only heightens the urgency of the need to learn them from those who have some inkling of how to employ common tools such as VOIP and YouTube.

When HR professionals don’t use the internet and other technology enablers to network, their companies a disservice.  Other professionals in their companies simply don’t learn the key skills that are critical to their success.

To put it another way, the techies in the  IT department should never know more about the latest networking skills than HR professionals, because underneath the technology lies all the same issues with communication that are best understood by those with soft-skill training. While the techies know a lot about installing software, they know nothing about creating a software-driven culture change.

Email is a simple example.

It is an indisputable fact that the ubiquity of email in the professional workplace has changed the culture of every single company that uses it.  It altered communication, relationships, teamwork, conflict resolution and created new issues of trust, privacy and privilege.

As this culture change was underway, I fear that the HR professionals were caught unawares, and were probably among the last to attend the “Intro to Email” class offered in the company.  The poor email and time management skills shared by many HR executives stands testimony to this fact.

A culture change was undertaken without HR’s guidance, knowledge or leadership.

Today, in 2008, that’s just water under the bridge, but it’s not too late for Caribbean HR professionals to grasp the significance of technology and how it can be used to drive a culture change, to improve communication and to network.

P.S. Recently I wrote a book outlining the ways in which Caribbean professionals need to enhance their networking skills. It’s 37 pages long, contains several multimedia links, and it’s currently free to download. Click here to be taken to the download page — as of today, it’s been downloaded or referred at least 400 times.  It’s titled — The New Networking – Caribbean Professionals 2008.

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Part Two: Can’t You See I’m Working!

SERIES ONE:   PRODUCTIVITY & THE BAHAMIAN WORKFORCE

At 10:00 a.m., Jennifer Williams, Account Manager, asked Jerry and Glenda to report to the conference room for a meeting.  The unit had a deadline to compile a report for the Managing Director the following day for the client account on which they were working.  Jerry and Glenda dash toward the conference room, complaining all the way.

“These people always put so much pressure on you with these deadlines, man,” grumbled Jerry.  “They don’t give you a chance to get in the door!”

“That’s the truth.  I barely got a chance to put my bag down and now there’s a meeting.  I didn’t even get a chance to finish my portion yet.  How can you finish anything when you’re in meetings all the time?”  Glenda commiserated.

As they entered the conference room, they each raised their defenses in preparation for the tongue lashing they were sure to get from Jennifer.  Sure enough, Jennifer was very annoyed that they had not made much progress in their work and said that she wanted to see each of them individually to assist them with meeting the required deadline.  Her conversation was quite the same for both.

“I know you are working toward the deadline, but I also notice that you spend a lot of time either on the phone, in idle conversations and on breaks.  While I don’t want the kind of work atmosphere that is always about work, it’s important that we recognize the importance of meeting these deadlines.  If I’ve set one, it means that someone has set one for me, and it’s because of a commitment made to our clients.  What can I do to help you meet the deadlines?  Are you having a challenge with your assignments?”  Jennifer queried.

“No,” is the abrupt response.

“Can I help you with anything?”  Jennifer persists.

“No,” is yet again the curt reply.

In short, both employees are angry about being confronted about their productivity issues and feel that they are being picked on and are unappreciated.  In Part One, we were introduced to Jerry and Glenda, who reported to work but clearly demonstrated that they were not working.  What follows is what many managers in The Bahamas experience:  the challenge of managing productivity.

The Challenges
1.    Anger and Resentment
Employees may feel angry or resentful about being confronted about productivity issues. Like Jerry and Glenda, employees feel if they are ‘at work’, then they are working and do not understand the difference.  They may express this anger in various ways:
•    Passive Aggressive Behavior
Defined as a learned behavior from childhood borne of controlling parents or authority figures, persons that exhibit passive aggressive behavior do not openly express dissatisfaction because they feel they will lose approval; however, they hide their negative emotions in behaviors that indicate that something is wrong.  Passive aggressive behavior is expressed through sarcasm, procrastination, poor performance, missing deadlines, losing documents, absenteeism and lateness at critical times or other forms of sabotage like damaging equipment, computer systems, and even the personal assets of managers.  Their attitude quietly says, “I’ll show you!”
•    Aggression, Abuse, and Violence
The other extreme of passive aggressive behavior is aggression.  This person is not afraid to push back with open, hostile confrontation, criticism, name calling, shouting, cursing, and even physical violence.  This behavior still indicates feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem and this learned behavior is a defense mechanism used to have people keep their distance and in essence, not inflict hurt or pain on the abuser.
•    Withdrawal and Low Morale
Another way of dealing with confrontation and constructive criticism is to withdraw completely, losing interest in their work and in the company on the whole.  They will withdraw their support and commitment to the manager and team, feeling unappreciated and targeted.
•    Decreased Productivity
The one result of challenging the lack of productivity can yield the same result: reduced productivity.  Again, a form of withdrawal and passive aggressive behavior, the worker may feel if the manager has a problem with his or her work, so by working even less, in his or her mind, means why do any more if what is done does not satisfy?
•    Feelings of Inadequacy
At the root of many of these feelings and behaviors can be inadequacy and low self esteem.  Criticism is taken as a personal attack, an expression of disapproval and lack of acceptance.  At the core, these feelings translate the manager-employee conversation about performance and productivity as, “You don’t appreciate what I do.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t please you so why do I even try?  You don’t understand me.  I can tell that you don’t care about me at all and what I’m going through.  I’m doing my best.”  You will note that this language is all inwardly focused, more about the self and the relationship with the manager rather than the work and the performance levels – the real issue at hand.

How can managers deal with these challenges effectively?
The Strategies
1.    Open Communication
Try as much as possible to cultivate a working relationship of open, honest communication that is based on a relationship of mutual trust.  Good communication on both parts will help both manager and employee to understand each other, share feelings, and clarify and confront issues.
2.    Clear Goals and Expectations
Knowing why the work and deadline are necessary and what the performance expectations are help employees to perform at required levels.  Making sure that there is real understanding about tasks and standards is critical and often both managers and employees have a different perspective of what is expected.
3.    Clearly Communicated Consequences
Discipline is almost as dirty a word as work, and one of the hardest things for some managers to enforce.  Consequences for lack of productivity need to be understood by all.  Not only does it mean not meeting targets, affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire team or department, but it can even mean lost time, customers, and profits.  What does all that loss translate to over time?  Lost benefits and lost jobs.  Persistent offenders must begin to feel the consequences of these impacts, even up to the point of termination.
4.    Training, Coaching, and Mentorship
Poor productivity can mean low skills or confidence in completing certain tasks.  If the employee does not feel comfortable enough to admit that he or she really isn’t sure about what to do, it will be hidden in a lack of productivity.  Probing conversations, observation, and analysis can determine if this is the case.  Watch for signs like excuses, blaming, getting others to complete the work, lots of errors, and waste.  Managers will then have to determine whether employees need to be trained, coached one on one or mentored by the manager or another high-performing employee to increase skill and confidence levels.
5.    Praise and Recognition
As simple as this may sound, some people stop performing when their efforts are not recognized, appreciated, or rewarded.  In this age of Generation Y or Millenials especially, they are motivated by the WIFM rule:  What’s In It For Me?  Many are motivated by money and recognition.  Others do not need public acclaim or monetary rewards, but just knowing that their work is noted and appreciated is enough.  Even though some managers feel that salary is reward enough, employees – even managers – want to know that what they do has added value and meaning not only to themselves as professionals, but also for the department and manager, and the organization as a whole.

How can HR help?  Two ways are by providing management development initiatives to help managers cope with these workplace challenges and create forums where both managers and employees can openly (and anonymously) express why they may not be performing optimally and address them appropriately.  And finally, one that I hear most often: support the efforts of the managers to discipline and correct negative behaviors while providing mechanisms to recognize and reward improvements and achieved targets.

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Summer Madness

Does it seem as if all your employees go nuts during the summer? It’s almost as if the desire to work and common sense all go on vacation during the summer months. How can you maintain productivity during a period when no one really feels like working?

Revisit Performance Goals
What’s a better shake up than a mid-year check-up? This is a perfect time to discuss the performance goals that may have been set at the beginning at the year. The best of us can tend to get a bit lax unless we are reminded of the performance expectations. This is also a great opportunity to set new goals based on past successes and to train or coach through those areas that still require some focused effort.

Training
Training exercises and short seminars can be great boosters for performance and motivation during sluggish periods. Well executed, relevant, and timely training programs can revitalize employee’s desire to perform well and help them to continue to develop skills, knowledge and attitudes prior to the end of year performance reviews.

Social Activities
And if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, as the saying goes. Sometimes none of us feels very productive. As Caribbean people, we need no real excuse to have a party; just invite a few folks, have a little food, drinks, and music, and it’s over! Social activities can promote unity, can reinforce concepts that have been trained, and can enhance the corporate culture.

The key to battling those times when your organization may not be meeting the required targets is not to address it by excessive discipline if that is not appropriate, but rather to identify performance trends, peak periods and critical needs of the employees and managers in order to effectively address them. Great HR means having your finger on the pulse of your organization while finding ways to pump life through its veins.

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Harvard Executive HR Summit

Recently, an executive member of CISRHP attended a program that sounds quite interesting.  I am glad that someone from our region could attend, and maybe others should also.

Here is a clip from the newspaper clipping, followed by a link to the article.

Cayman Islands – Cay Compass News Online – Mr. Jackson attends Harvard seminar

Phil Jackson, vice–president of the Cayman Islands HR Society, recently attended an Executive HR Network Summit at Harvard Business School held 10–11 July, which was co–sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and Harvard Business School Publishing.The seminar was titled ‘Managing Human Capital in the High Performance Organization’ and was taught by Thomas Delong, professor of Management Practice in the Organizational Behaviour area at the Harvard Business School, and Boris Groysberg, assistant professor at Harvard Business School.

Acceptance into the programme was based on merit, explains Lillian McFadden, education analyst at SHRM. “Mr. Jackson, along with 39 other participants, was selected from among 75 applications to this specific programme.

The Executive HR Network Summit is an exclusive programme for senior HR professionals, developed to bring together forward–looking HR leaders from top organisations to address critical issues, exchange ideas and solutions, and interact with renowned experts in leadership, strategy, and management”.

The original article can be found by clicking here.

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Women in the Caribbean Workplace

Globally, 76.3% of women age 25 to 34 worked in 1998 versus 34% in 1950[1]. This increase continues into 2008 and we as employers and HR Professionals in the Caribbean region need to address this gender skew in our employee population.

At Guardian Holdings we have 78% females and only 22% males. At Scotia Bank Trinidad[2], 73% of their workforce is females. These statistics provide the employer with key information to craft a variety of work options to accommodate the increasing number of women in the workplace. One may even look at the age demographic to determine how many women are at the child bearing age.

We all speak about a war for talent and how important it is to retain our human capital. Our work conditions, benefits and work options maybe tailored to this large group of women in our workforce and thus prove to be a significant retention strategy.

Child care is a major concern for mothers in the workplace especially with the increasing difficulty to find trustworthy care givers. The mother either depends on her extended family or a nursery to provide the care when she is at work and or the school depending on the age of the child. However, when these options are not available, the mother may have to miss work and stay home.

This is an opportunity for an employer, especially one with a two thirds women majority in the population, to provide the needed assistance. In Trinidad and Tobago, the 2007 budget clearly identified child care solutions as essential for the development of the domestic social sector and improved national productivity. The Income Tax Act (as amended by the Finance (No.2) Act of 2007) allows for deduction for expenditure actually incurred for the construction or setting up a child care / homework facility for the employees’ dependants (minors) up to a maximum of $500,000 TT for each facility, not exceeding 3 million TT in the aggregate in the year on income.

The employer may structure the arrangement in a variety of ways that may range from absorbing the full cost to partial subsidy to outsourcing to an already set up facility. This may depend on the cost of facility, availability of space, cost to maintain and operate the facility while considering the benefits, both tangible and intangible.

A tangible benefit maybe decreased absenteeism rates. This can calculated using the current absenteeism rate[3] for the women[4] in the organisation as a baseline with the proposed decrease in absenteeism post facility.

Usually a parent has to leave work to pick up their child/children from school or nursery and drop off somewhere else then return to work. This delay in time may also be avoided with the provision of this facility. Even if the facility is not on-site but off site, because the facility is operated by the employer, the time to pick up the children may coincide with the end of a workday. The employee may continue to be productive without the interruption after lunch. This can also be monetised[5].

Retention rates may increase especially among the specific group of employees this benefit will assist.

The intangible benefit of a parent feeling at ease knowing that his / her children are close by and or well taken care of. This will allow for improved productivity per employee[6].

The increase of single parent homes is also significant in Trinidad and Tobago, where the mother must function in many roles to raise their children to become productive young adults. As a result, there are competing demands for her time.

An employer may consider offering the options of flexitime, telework for specific jobs or re-locating the employee to a location closer to home[7]. For example, a job like an Underwriter may be able to work from home. We have been doing a pilot with this work option and it has been working well for us thus far. The candidates who are involved in the pilot are so appreciative and very thankful. They have increased their output because they are no longer bogged down to answer operational queries and are able to work when they want at home. It is important to have definite parameters for this work arrangement with clear guidelines on reporting with periodic visits to the office.

Mothers of young babies are encouraged to breast feed their babies. However, after three months, the mother has to return to work, which makes breastfeeding challenging. The mother has the option of expressing milk and storing it, however, at the workplace, there may not be a dedicated private space to facilitate this activity or a refrigerator to store the milk or even the employee may not be permitted the time needed ( 20 minutes) to express the milk.

An employer may take the opportunity to provide a space, time, and a place to store the milk to assist the mother and the child to continue reaping the benefits of breast milk.

Breast fed children are less ill and as such the mothers will take less time off to care for their infants. The improved health of the children also decreases the claims made against the company’s health insurance resulting is lower health care costs. The employee maybe more productive, have greater loyalty and increased morale.

The employer may boast about all the family friendly policies to gain brand equity and be positioned as a employer of choice. Thereby, improving the organisation’s ability to attract and retain the shrinking talent pool.

[1] According to the U.S Department of Labour: Changes in Women’s Work Participation

[2] Revealed by Martin De Gannes at AFETT Child Care Symposium on 14th July 2008

[3] Absenteeism can be monetized by using an average salary for target group multiplied by the number of days plus cost of any replacements for the periods of absence.

[4] Mothers with minor dependants

[5] One can find the average hourly rate of pay multiplied by the number of times this occurs for the month

[6] This is challenging to track but not impossible. One can look at the number of objectives, deliverables or targets achieved before and after this service. If the organization uses the balanced scorecard, it will be easier to track.

[7] This will be applicable to employers with branches spread geographically through out the island

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