Human resource managers have been told they need to embrace change in order to grow the island’s human capital and compete with other developing nations.
The advice came from the executive director of the Barbados Coalition of Services and Industries, Lisa Cummings, in her address to the recent annual conference of the Human Resource Management Association of Barbados at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.
Speaking on the theme Change, Challenge And Opportunity, Cummings said professionals also needed to upgrade their skills to put themselves on par with those operating in the international market.
“Historically we have marketed Barbados as that country that has gifted the world and the region with highly skilled professionals. I want to say to you that as we effect change we have to look at the composition of those highly skilled professionals.
“Are we still producing the same professionals today that we produced 20 years ago in a world that has changed substantially since then? Are we still focusing on the same types of priority sectors that we focused on 20 years ago, when so much change has taken place since then?
“And if that is the case, are we still in a position to say that we are indeed producing what the market needs?”
According to Cummings, the island’s human capital is its greatest asset, and transformation is a must in order for Barbados to take advantage of opportunities on the international market.
“Our human capital has competition from places like China which is exporting the most CEOs in the world . . . . There’s competition from countries like Malaysia that are aggressively producing finance officials, and are not just working in farms, but are developing innovative solutions to business problems.
“We cannot coast by on the things that we thought were competitive 20, 30, 40 years ago,” she said.
The BCSI head noted that another area that needed to be improved was the quality of goods and services being exported from Barbados, if they were to live up to their “world-class” label.
“We think it’s patriotic to hold up Barbadian products in certain services and processes as world-class, and being on top of the world and being able to compete with those that come from anywhere else in the world. The time has come for us to assess whether that statement in its entirety is indeed true.
“It is unpatriotic for us to hold things up that are best or average and call them world-class and think that that is patriotism. It is not.
“We’re not doing ourselves any favours, because the world in which we’re operating, the change in which we are now being made to operate, does not allow us to celebrate average. It doesn’t allow us to celebrate mediocrity.
“Not when we’re competing with the Singaporeans. Not when we’re competing with the Rwandans. Not when we’re competing with the Europeans and the Americans and the Canadians, and whoever else and wherever else they’re coming from,” she said.
Cummings also made reference to the recent loss of preferences for Caribbean products such as bananas and sugar on the European market, and the subsequent negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements with Europe, noting that these two events set the stage for change in the way of doing business in the region.
“Whereas before, historically, you were on a preferential basis, the change that came meant that you were suddenly being required to compete with them on the same terms.
“Those things led to a number of opportunities . . . led to a change in narrative, and we started talking about things like innovation, competitiveness, economic transformation, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial development. Human resource development became a huge deal because human capital formation was one of the key things that was at the core
of all of this change.
“How do you, especially in a small, open developing economy like ours, develop the human capital that becomes the underpinning of all your economic ambitions? Of all your social development ambitions, of all your human development ambitions, how do you create the human capital that we call in economics human capital formation?
“How do you create that that will in turn give rise to the notions of innovation and competitiveness and so on,” she put
to the audience.
Cummings stressed that Barbados could not afford to hold on to decades-old mindsets and practices if it was to make its mark on the global stage.