Bajan, Jamaican and Trini Work-Culture

An article covering the work my company (Framework Consulting) does in companies was printed in the Observer, and then picked up by blogger Dennis Jones, in Barbados.

I thought his response was interesting, and quite unexpected as it draws direct comparisons between Jamaican work culture, and the one he found in Barbados as an outsider. Some of what he says was echoed in the first CaribHRForum Conference Call held last Friday.

(A link to a full recording of the call was sent last Friday to the discussion group.)

Click here to access Dennis’ article: “Why Get All Worked Up When You Can Wuk Up?”:.

Also, the original article by Observer columnist Jean Lowrie-Chin can be found by clicking here: “Jamaicans Rebel… Trinis Crack Jokes.”

Would love to hear comments and reactions either in the discussion group, or here.


Mandatory Cost Cutting is NOT the Answer

red_ceremonial_scissorsThe first reaction of most companies is to start to cut costs during times of crisis.

This approach has short term rewards, but most of the time long term negative effects on the business.
When businesses start cost cutting drive they say things like:
o    ‘cut 20% off all our spending’
o    ‘No more overtime’
o    ‘No salary increases’
o    ‘No catering, for internal meetings’
o    ‘Hiring freeze’ etc
These approaches might all seem like the right thing to do, but they are very reactive approaches.

This approach to ‘managing’ costs can only be for a short period as it can be realistic to never hire anyone again!!

Also this approach can leave employee feeling disgruntled as they have to work with limited resources (people, products, time) and also  start to feel unappreciated. Working with limited resources and unhappy employees has a direct impact on your product /service and can lead to unhappy customers, who will eventually move on to one of your competitors.

So rather than ‘cutting costs’, look for ways to manage your costs and work to having a cost management culture.

Having a cost management culture simply means becoming a cost conscious organization. I would advise that one of the best ways of doing this is by allowing everyone to be part of the solution.

Involve your employees in the cost management of the business, rather than just being on the receiving end of ‘cost cutting orders. Monthly meetings can be held to review the operating costs of the department/business.  I would also show the profit, so they can see the fruits of their labour.  But I know for some businesses this is information they would prefer not to share.

At these monthly meetings, show the costs against budget both the month and year to date and ask questions about the data and set future agreed targets together (focusinng on the high costs areas first).
Sample questions:
o    Why do you think we over spent this month?
o    What was different this month from last month?
o    What ideas do you have to bring these costs down?
o    Is our budget realistic? If not why not?
o    What can you personally do, to reduce the costs in the coming months?
o    What are you thoughts on the quality of the materials we use?
o    How can we reduce the wastage next months?
o    What are your suggestions on how to reduce overtime?

In the following month, review the costs with the team and compare the actuals with the targets agreed the previous month. If achieved, agree how you will celebrate. If not achieved work with the team to find out why and agree what needs to be done differently in the current month.

By involving your employees, they get to understand the impact they have on the department /business expenditure, they feel more informed and more engaged in the business. Also if they are the ones to come up with the solutions, they are more likely to adhere to them and ensure that their peers also follow suit.

I would advise companies to hold this meeting every month, not just in times of crisis.
This approach can become part of how they operate the department/business. Both the management and their employees will develop long term realistic cost management solutions that can achieve huge positive gains for their department/business in the long term.

Georgina Terry

Employee Engagement and Financial Success

trinidad-rotiWhich comes first employee engagement or financial success?

Those of us who have spent many man-hours in understanding employee engagement, developing and implementing engagement programmes and measuring the results may be tempted to render the above statement a rhetorical one. It could be argued that financially successful companies have more money to spend on their employees, and also employees are more engaged because they work for an already winning team. It may be considered a virtuous cycle.

Among a few of our local CFOs, the question is completely valid and would even go so far to comment that all research that shows that engagement is a lead indicator to financial success was conducted outside of Trinidad and Tobago and hence does not apply to the local environment. What behooves me is when qualified financial professionals make comments like “Trinis are a simple people, just give them rum and roti”. I am not sure if they were present for the Human Capital module as part of their post graduate training. I am positive this myopia is among the special few of the profession and in no way reflects their perceived preoccupation with only counting the shrinking beans.

Regardless of the research on the correlation between people and share price, most companies are not yet full believers that there is a link between the two. It is easy for the CFO to approve an investment into a piece of equipment that they can see, feel, touch and they can also observe the outputs. When one spends money on employee engagement programmes, you cannot see the return in a tangible way; hence we classify that money as expenditure and not investment. Even if we “invest” in these programmes, we cannot vouch with absolute certainty the cause and effect relationship because there are so many variables in the equation.

Engaged employees are the company’s best advocates, they have a clear line of sight, they are motivated and driven to contribute their discretionary effort into their work beyond what is the norm. In a study of 50 multinational companies, Towers Perrin documented that over twelve months, the companies with high levels of engagement outperformed the companies with less engaged staff in three financial measures, operating income, net income growth and earnings per share. The high employee engagement companies posted a 19 percent increase in operating income and 28 percent rise in earnings per share.

Towers Perrin’s research also shows that as engagement levels increase so do customer satisfaction levels. A case study was done on a company called Motability Operations in the UK, where they invested in their people strategy and reaped benchmarked results in customer satisfaction.

Towers Perrin developed a linkage framework between people and performance and essentially it starts with reward investments, HR service delivery, workforce deployment and its impact on employee behaviour in terms of engagement, turnover and productivity which in turn impacts customer behaviour as evidenced by loyalty, repeat business, company advocacy and ultimately it impacts revenue growth and stock performance. World at Work association has a Total Reward Philosophy which also links HR strategies to engagement and to company performance.

WorkUSA® 2006/2007 research suggests that employee engagement has a strong impact on the bottom line. The research has noted that the frequency with which senior leadership communicates with staff is a key driver to employee engagement. Also to ensure the improved productivity, the staff must be provided with targeted training, tools and resources to contribute effectively without the red tape of bureaucracy.

We have even seen where investors review the companies on the “best companies to work for list” as a source of potential high investment earners to invest in, and the result has shown that the companies on those lists earned average annual returns of 14 per cent which was more than double the average market return according to Alex Edmans at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Craig Donaldson quotes an Accenture study where the book value of companies is now including their intangible assets as well as the tangible ones. This is indicative of the market slowly recognizing the value of a company’s people, knowledge, skills and abilities.

Craig Donaldson also reports that Alan Bardwell, the Finance Chief of ASX Limited is of the view that CFOs need to support appropriate investments in developing human capital. The widespread practice of setting short term earnings targets forces managers to forsake long term investments and this hinders the people development. Mr. Bardwell is of the view that CFOs must take the time to understand the drivers of employee engagement with a long term view.

Watson Wyatt maintains that engagement is a leading indicator of financial performance. The link between past engagement and current financial performance is stronger than the link between past financial performance and current engagement. Engagement comes first.

Denise Ali