An Urgent Call to Action

As a Human Resources (HR) professional who was born in the Caribbean, I have taken a keen interest in the evolution of the profession in the region.  Over the years there have been some very positive changes, but there is still much to be done in making the profession’s impact felt not only in the corporate settings, but also on a regional scale.

As you might have discerned from reading my previous blogs, I strongly believe that in the Caribbean HR professionals can’t afford to only use their skills to improve their respective corporations. Due to the region’s small geographic size and population, HR professionals must utilize their skills to benefit and elevate their various societies. The two sectors are intricately tied together and success in one area can’t be achieved without success in the other.

I usually begin each day by reading (online) a variety of newspapers from throughout the region. This gives me a perspective (biased perhaps) of some of the major events taking place in the region. From my review I am struck by how many of the problems taking place on the national levels can be attributed to an inadequate knowledge and/or implementation of HR practices. This is the case whether we are addressing, the selection of top public officials such as a Commissioner of Police, a less than adequate work ethic, failing educational and social systems, poor customer service, and a variety of other issues.

Political realities and considerations aside, these are essentially all human problems that can and should be addressed by HR professionals. Though there are times when special “foreign” know-how is needed to help solve some problems, we must be careful of becoming overly dependent on “outside” expertise in resolving all of our problems.

We must realize that some problems that occur in the region, regardless of how perplexing they might appear, can only be resolved by professionals in the region. This is the case because there are times when the “most appropriate” solution(s) can only be derived by those who are most familiar with the problems, and who understand the full context in which they occur. A sole reliance on outside help can lead to the region’s HR professionals doing the following:

•    Shifting the blame for problems and their solutions. This can lead to the relinquishing of ownership of the problem(s) and therefore the responsibility for the results.
•    Fostering a “dependency” model and thus failing to develop adequate skills for solving future problems.
•    Perpetuating the foreign is better than local mentality and relying on foreign “technologies” rather than developing and implementing their own solutions.

This brings us back to the subject of this blog. In the space remaining I would like to discuss a few ways in which HR professionals in the region can begin to meet some of the challenges that face them. What I am about to present will not be easy, but will take some degree of our time, our persistence and, of course, our commitment.

We have had the discussions, read the numerous blogs and articles, attended the seminars and workshops and now it is time for us to do something. We need to begin to act on what we already know. Discussions are useful, even necessary, but without the appropriate actions, they are useless. I believe it is time for HR professionals in the Caribbean to take action.

Where do we begin? What problem(s) should we work on? What are our priorities? What will be the vehicle(s) used to get us to our destination? What’s our final destination? These are some of the many important questions that need to be addressed. I believe that the HR profession in the region is mature and sufficiently knowledgeable to sort these issues out.  One thing is certain; no single person or entity among us has the wherewithal to resolve all of the various problems singlehandedly. Our problems and solutions require a united approach. Through such an approach we can learn from each other and compliment each other’s knowledge, strengths and practices.

To arrive at the point where we can come and work together for the greater good of all, we must overcome the following barriers:

•    The tendency to think that we know it all. Taken to the extreme this tendency can lead to an unwillingness to learn from others, which can result in isolated thinking and action. You might be doing well on your own, but think about how much better you can be doing with the help of others.

•    Thinking that we don’t have the time for such “extras”. We usually tend to make time for what we consider important and valuable. Making the time to improve the performance of our corporate entities and the well-being of our communities should already be high on our list. If they are not, we need to seriously reexamine our priorities.

•    We are too small to make a valuable contribution. The value and impact of our contribution should be the determining factors rather than the size.

•    Sharing of our ‘successes’ with others will allow them to become as successful as us. Fortunately, this belief is absolutely correct. A good reminder is that the universe is big enough to have more than one excellent entity at the same time.

•    Revealing our “weaknesses” to others will give them an advantage over us. Since we don’t live in a perfect or fair world some might choose to do this very thing. However, by discussing and coming to grips with our weaker areas will give us a better understanding of them and help us to correct them.

What vehicle should we use to foster our collaboration and sharing of ideas? This is an easy question to answer because of the labor of love undertaken some time ago by our colleague and friend Francis Wade. He had the vision and foresight to create the CaribHRForum, CaribHRNews and soon to be CaribHR.Radio, which are excellent platforms for us to use. Through these media and a monthly one (1) hour long teleconference (which is currently in the works and will be announced) we can begin to meet and exchange ideas that can be of value to the profession as well as the region.

My challenge to my Caribbean HR colleagues is to give these ideas a fair chance. We need each other to make this amazing project work. There will be lots of opportunities for your contributions as well as participation. I believe that together we can develop and enhance HR models that will be of tremendous benefit to the region and the world as a whole.

H. Nathan Charles, Ph.D.

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