Moving HR Beyond the Corporation

istock_000004482672xsmallOne of the many pleasures I experience when teaching, consulting, or conducting seminars in the Caribbean is meeting the large number of very knowledgeable, talented and dedicated human resources people in the region. These people are passionate professionals who love what they do and use their skills to effectively utilize the region’s human capital within their various organizational settings. The results of their efforts can easily be seen by the many well managed and successful world-class corporations that exist in the region.

However, as I move around in the broader communities of the countries I am visiting, I often experience what I consider to be a major HR disconnect. At some points it seems as though I am in a totally different time and place. The HR efficiency I witnessed in the corporate “enclaves” did not seem to get translated into the “greater” communities.

On returning to the other “side” I often share my experiences with the group I am working with to get a reality check of my observations.  Whenever my observations are confirmed I usually asked the group two questions.  What is creating this situation? What can you do about resolving this situation?

The first question usually elicits a lively debate that clearly demonstrates that the participants have a good grasp of the issues involved in creating the situation. The second question (which I view as the easier of the two) usually transforms a group of highly energetic, skilled and successful people into a more subdued group who admits that there is little they can do to change the situation in question.

Being from the region myself, I fully understand that there are political and other realities that fuel some of this sense of hopelessness. Those things aside, I believe that the HR profession in the Caribbean must play a larger role in the transformation of our various societies and countries. To do this, HR professionals must think beyond their respective organizations and search for ways to transfer and utilize their skills to impact their communities and by extension their countries.

Why do I think that HR professionals rather than some other group should take the lead in this transformation that should take place in our various societies?  This leap I believe is easier for HR to make than for any other group, some of the reasons being that:

1.    HR currently has the necessary skills set and expertise to do so.

2.    Many of the problems that currently plague our communities and countries are human-based problems.

3.    HR is already working on and successfully resolving many of these problems at a micro level in their respective organizations.

4.    The investments that HR make in their communities will eventually benefit and have a positive impact on their various organizations.

I am in no way suggesting that the HR profession acting alone can solve all of the problems in a given community or country. That’s too much of a burden or responsibility to place on any one discipline or group. What I am suggesting is that with HR’s unique set of skills it can effectively take the lead in this transformational initiative. To be successful in this process HR professional must be aware that the following is often required.

1.    Courage – Change often takes courage. Courage to do the right things when there is a great deal of opposition or lack of support.

2.    Communication – Lessons learnt (good or bad) that can assist other groups in the regions. Communicating our ideas to others can minimize or even eliminate the need for other groups to always “reinvent the wheel” and thereby waste precious time and resources.

3.    Collaboration – There is still strength to be found in numbers. When possible find like minded people with whom to associate and share your ideas. Ideally the transformational process should be a high priority of the local HR association. The visibility at this level can lend the necessary credibility and the required resources to the process. Collaboration rather than competition should become the norm. Can I suggest that a good place for you to begin or continue your collaboration is on the excellent platform provided by the CaribHRForum.

Nathan Charles
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