The Human Resources professional who is now Minister of Labour has suggested that the role of his former colleagues will become even more important with the expected displacement of workers during the Government’s job-cut exercise.
Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan has said that the motivational and leadership skills of the island’s human resource managers will be called upon now more than ever as the country goes about ‘displacement of workers’ and restructuring changes are introduced into Barbados’ economy.
As the Human Resource Management Association of Barbados’ (HRMAB) 20th annual conference opened, Jordan tied the theme Re-think HR to Government’s efforts at selective layoffs along with mergers and scaling down of state-owned enterprises.
“Rethinking how we conduct business and rethinking HR must therefore work in tandem. It is imperative that HR practitioners raise their credibility among senior management so it is acknowledged that they do more than support the organizations’ operations,” the labour Minister told the gathering at the Radisson Aquatica Resort last night.
Saying that for the administration, “the displacement of workers continues to be painful for us”, he spoke of the coming Retraining Enfranchising Retooling and Empowering (ReRe) programme aimed at creating employable skills for displaced workers who can offer services to Government.
Noting that among the services to be provided by those retrained workers is digitization of Government records for more efficient and effective public service, he said HR managers were pivotal to this new thinking.
“You have people’s lives and development in your hands
. . . You have the ability to mould, to counsel the people in your charge,” he said, adding, “take the responsibility seriously, use the responsibility and be fully engaged as part of the process of nation rebuilding”.
Jordan’s statements as he declared the HRMAB two-day conference open held relevance to an ensuing panel discussion among his ex-colleagues in HR.
He said that as HR practitioners, “we are part of a process where as a country we want to make Barbados a great place to live, work, visit and to play . . . we all have to lay our part in the process”.
Honoured by the HRMAB for his contribution to the industry, a veteran HR professional, Ed Bushell, said “right now we are in extremely difficult times, troubling times . . . .We’ve got to be arbitrators in the workplace. We got to be the people who are bringing people together because in this period where everything has to be done post haste mistakes are going to be made and we have to try to minimize those mistakes, hopefully before they occur”.
Managing Director of business solutions firm Tricor, and one of the evening’s panellists, Connie Smith, noted the change towards more automation and emphasized the need to focus on the employees in this transition.
“If we don’t have people who buy into that positive culture, feel that this is an environment that they are part of, who are happy to be a part of that environment, who feel valued, your company is not going to be successful.
“Regardless of where we’re at people are going to be our differentiator.”
Sagicor vice-president and Sagicor Life’s general manager, Edward Clarke, said, “there are a lot of companies that are ready for the shift in work culture, working from home. Flexi time, part-time to accommodate family situations”.
He then expressed a hope to Jordan that Government would soon introduce ‘flexi-time’ work rules allowing people to work at staggered hours because, “there would be a big change in traffic problems”.
Signia Financial CEO Paul Ashby identified millennials as foremost among the ‘bright people’ who are pushing for a change in the work culture.
“We can’t manage them the same way we used to manage us,” he said.
“We have to be able to allow them to contribute, express themselves … we have to start getting accustomed that they want to be flexible, because they want to use their time a lot more effectively and productively than we have traditionally been able to do.
“This thing about coming to work exactly at eight o’clock they can’t conceive that. So we need to rethink how we deal with that because we can probably get more productivity out of them if we manage them [better],” Ashby said.