Podcast of "Preparing the Trinidadian Executive for Jamaica"

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At the recent HRMATT Biennial Conference in Port-of-Spain, I presented the findings of the study “The Trinidadian Executive in Jamaica”. The podcast/audio can be downloaded from:
http://fwconsulting.podomatic.com/entry/2007-11-24T14_13_09-08_00.

The presentation that accompanies the slides can be viewed by clicking below:
http://tinyurl.com/2h94an

Francis

Framework Consulting

www.fwconsulting.com

Creating a Better Regional HR Conference

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The HR Conference season is over for 2007, and I have some observations, and some goals I have set for myself that hopefully will spur on some exciting activities in 2008.

So far I have attended and spoken at 2-3 HRMAB’s, 2 HRMATT’s and 3 HRMAJ’s. I have been to a couple of JEF conferences and also a JIM Conference. I may also have lost count of one or two here and there…

What is striking about our conferences is how limited they are to the attendees of the country. At HRMATT, there were 2 Jamaicans and a single Bajan. At HRMAJ there was one Bajan (the same one) and one Trini. At the last HRMAB conference there were 2 Jamaicans, and perhaps 3-4 Trinis.

The numbers don’t augur well for what we are all attempting to create — a regional body that unites all practitioners across the region. At the moment, the only unifying entity that exists is CaribHRForum, the regional discussion and email list.

Under the auspices of CaribHRForum, I am thinking about doing more to help regionalize our conferences. So far, I have come up with the following ideas:

  1. Find out why people aren’t attending the conferences across the region (a survey maybe?)
  2. Determine what needs to change to enable them to attend
  3. Sharing the outputs from each conference across the region
  4. Giving cross-conference awards e.g. best paper submitted to a conference
  5. Granting conference discounts for those who travel to attend
  6. Setting dates early in the planning year to allow for those who want to attend to do so
  7. Approaching cross-regional companies to sponsor several conferences at the same time

Does anyone have any other ideas about what we can do in the short term to generate greater attendance?

As budgets get created for 2008, does attending a regional conference show up on HR budgets as a priority? If not, is it because the company has no interest in CSME, or is it because the case has not been made for HR to be an important part of the changes that are coming?

I am eager to hear. Let me know your thoughts.

JaCSA Graduation Event

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This past week I had the opportunity to speak to the graduates of the first Jamaica Customer Service Association Certification Programme.

It was a wonderful event, to be sure, and I was surprised to discover that I had become known for the work I had done to define what I call the “3 Levels of Service” that I had witnessed here in Jamaica.

It was a bit startling to be told that I was “the Frien’ Service Guy” — based on one of the three levels of service. They had read and assimilated the points had I made in that blog, and apparently it had become something of a mantra for them.

This was exciting, particularly as I remember when the idea hit me, and I thought it was something of a joke for me to share with my friends. I never imagined that it would be included in a class on customer service, or that students would be using the idea in such a playful, and innovative way.

I shared this with my wife, and noted how powerful it was to give away ideas. It gave proof to the idea that I have on my website that ideas are strengthened when they are shared (a concept taken from “A Course in Miracles”). There are many who think, as I used to do, that ideas are stolen when they are shared, but in this respect “I’ve come a long way baby!”

I was encouraged by some to turn the ideas into a book, which is something that I think I would enjoy doing. In the meantime, I’ll be testing all the ideas here in this blog before fixing them up for “prime time.”

Customer Service: Comments

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In a comment on this blog, Crystal made some excellent points. Among them were:

Weeding out the wrong candidates is definitely a must because all the training in the world would not prompt an employee who is not customer service oriented to assist a potential customer. Unfortunately for a vast majority of the Caribbean this is not an option. Many businesses taking this route will be left with closed doors. It is difficult for them to attract employees much less the right employees. I have witnessed quite a few instances where customer complaints have resulted in a mere slap on the wrist or no consequence at all to the employee, all because business owners need these employees to keep their doors open. I believe that it would take an instance of outright theft for them to let an employee go.

There is some definite truth to this, as the difficulty of finding employees in Trinidad, and to a lesser extent, Barbados is well documented. Yet, the lack of service in Jamaica which has rampant unemployment, does not bode well for that theory. However, I would argue that the general service level in Jamaica is higher than it is in the other islands; this from personal experience.

Too often business owners in the Caribbean do not reflect the attitude that they want their employees to portray. Many treat their staff with disdain, mistrust and so they reap the benefits of their deeds.

I believe that this is the crux of the matter, and is reflected in the book “Why Workers Won’t Work” and other studies and reports. Incidentally, a summary of the book is available at our website.

Not to say that the employees are not a fault, many refuse to utilize the training given seeing the current job as a stepping stone and so they are not required to give their all.

Let us say that they are not taught how to give it their all, especially in a customer service relationship.

My wife suffered recently at the hands of a doctor who had no problem having her patients wait for hour without apology. She also “prescribed” J$4000 of Herbalife products when she came in with a stomach ache… none of which happened to be covered by insurance, but which she made a profit as a distributor in her multi-level marketing “business.”

Where does a doctor learn customer service skills? An accountant? A lawyer? Certainly not in school. Yet, they are called upon to use their undeveloped skills each and every day with an unsuspecting public.

In our small economies, I imagine that 90% of high school graduates will have occasion to work in a customer service capacity at some point, without a single hour of customer service training whatsoever.

The problem is that we are well able to pick bad service out when we see it, but terribly poor at seeing and stopping ourselves when we are the ones delivering it.

Interviewing Douglas Orane at HRMAJ 2007

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On Friday night, at the just concluded HRMAJ conference, I had the opportunity to interview Douglas Orane — CEO of Grace Kennedy. His company, with almost US$900m in revenues, is Jamaica’s largest private sector company.

That I did so in front of some 200+ participants, with my first experience of make-up, under hot lights and for a live video recording only made it a little nerve-racking.

Once again I had the good fortune to have an expert in my corner. Elaine Wint (see elainewint.com) is an expert in the art of interviewing, and one of the very best professionals in the Caribbean in performing a skill that I now realize is much, much harder than it looks. I learned a lot from the entire experience, but the most important thing I learned is that when people are skillful, they make things look easy.

The night before the event, I sat down with Elaine and went through the list of questions I had been sent to work with. She taught me how to phrase them in a way that invited conversation rather than closed it down, using open questions rather than closed questions.

She also asked me about the goals I had for the interview, and what I wanted to accomplish.

While these might sound like simple questions, I found that the greatest value I got from the evening was in noticing who she was being as she asked the questions. She was incisive, and sharp, yet ensuring that she was not the centre of attention. I could see that the interview was all about him, and not too much about me.

Luckily, I had also gone to her a few weeks ago when I had a television interview to give. This time, I was the subject of the interview.

While her advice then was completely different — it was altogether mind-blowing — it made all the difference in how well it went. The time I spent with her in each instance was short, but her professionalism and broadcast experience, plus her ability to coach are gifts that are not combined effectively very often.

Thankfully, Douglas Orane was not only talkative, but insightful, and he said quite a few things that were simply enthralling. I was relieved, to be frank, that he made my job such an easy one, and I was sorry to have to bring the 60 minutes we spent together to a close.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be in the same position again (to be on the other side of the microphone,) but I now have an idea of how much I can improve what I do in this arena with the help of an expert like Elaine.

Help from Elaine

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The other day I found out that I was scheduled to appear on a combined TV/Radio interview and I started looking for help.

First I consulted the internet. I discovered that there was a science to the art of giving a live interview, and also that I had no clue about the basics.

I decided to go for more serious help, and called a friend – Elaine Wint – who just happens to be “the Barbara Walters of Jamaica.”

After a couple of hours I was fully reminded of the difference that a trained coach can make.

She expertly looked with me at what I wanted to accomplish. Then she gave me some basic coaching on the dynamics of an interview.

Last, she helped me to craft the messages I wanted to deliver, showing me how to ensure that every opportunity to speak was a chance to deliver a part of my message.

When I arrived in Trinidad I found that the time had been extended from 30 to 60 minutes, and that I was part of a 2-person panel rather than 3. This all meant more time – good thing.

Sure enough, the preparation paid off.

I was able to deliver each of the key messages as planned, and could focus on enjoying myself, rather than on trying to think up something good to say in the spur of the moment.

Thanks to Elaine.

Here is a link to the audio portions of the interview: Part 1 and Part 2

And here is a link to Elaine’s new website.

On Using CaribHRForum

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I recently had a conversation with a young professional who told me that she wanted to get find a job in Human Resources. I met her through CaribHRForum — the online discussion group hosted by my firm, Framework Consulting.

It struck me that there were ways in which she and others were not taking advantage of the forum, and the opportunity it affords someone like her who was resourceful enough to learn how to design her own website — (which she did quite capably.)

But I also thought of the wider membership of the forum, which at the moment numbers some 160 users. How can a Caribbean Human Resource professional, perhaps a member of HRMATT, HRMAJ, HRMAB or HRPAG use the forum to supplement their membership in these organizations?

I have been a member of discussion lists of all kinds since the mid 1990’s, when they came into vogue. I joined the ones that I was interested in, and when the technology allowed anyone to create their own group, I jumped at the chance. Since then, I have created many such lists strictly for the purposes on enabling groups to communicate via email with each other with a stroke of the return key.

What newer members to lists such as CaribHRForum don’t know is that the behaviour from list to list is more or less the same, and that the best way to take advantage of them is to decide what one wants from their membership.

Discussion lists enable an online community to discuss topics of interest in a way that is unique. The technology is simple. Email sent to a single address is immediately dispersed to everyone on the list, enabling a conversation across thousands of miles to take place in seconds.

For a dispersed group of professionals such as those in CaribHRForum, it is the only way that currently exists to pull professionals in the field together. The remarkable thing is that the cost of membership is absolutely free.

Typically, a discussion list is dominated by the talkative 10%, and CaribHRForum is no exception. These are the members who send out the most information, ask the most questions, and carry the debate on hot issues.

The majority of members “lurk” in the background — following a discussion, but not actively participating.

My recommendation to users is that they decide what their goals are, and whether or not they include objectives related to the management of their personal brand.

Most users would say that they want to keep up on recent HR trends, while other would say that they enjoy the online companionship of their colleagues across the region.

For these users, merely lurking is sufficient.

For those who have a goal like my friend’s however, more activity and planning is required. If a member is interested in using the forum for networking, it is best if they come out of the shadows and become known.

Two questions immediately come up. What should someone aim to be known as, and how can they use their membership on CaribHRForum for accomplish the goal?

The answer is simpler than the question sounds.

First, answer the question “How I’d like to be known is as …….” Possible examples are:

– an expert in recruiting

– a fan of the balanced scorecard

– a free spirit

– a practitioner with multiple interests

– a superb networker

– a great writer

– an HR professional who keeps up on current trends

– a job-seeker

– a young, hot talent

Whatever the goal might be, CaribHRForum can be used to accomplish it.

At the moment, some of the most influential HR practitioners across the region are members of the list.

My recommendation is that a member of the list who has a specific objective should think about how they can promote, initiate and engage in conversations about their topic of interest on the list.

Some simple activities include:

– asking questions to find others who share the interest

– bringing up related issues to spur on conversation

– inviting others who share the interest to join the list

– finding the latest research on the topic and sharing it with the list

These are some simple suggestions that can be implemented without major effort, but the return is tremendous, due to the kinds of people that are members of the list.

The investment might not pay off immediately, but over time, a user who invests the time and then suddenly requires assistance can turn to a group of friends, rather than strangers, for direct support. In this way, the forum can act as any member’s safety net, and the more they invest in their relationship with the members, the more they can rely on their help when the time comes.

P.S. Pardon my manners — all HR professionals are invited to join CaribHRForum by visiting www.fwconsulting.com/CaribHRForum

Podcast Interview with a Trini in Jamaica –Roger Bell

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Roger Bell is the General Manager of Confectionery & Snacks (Jamaica,) a subsidiary of Associated Brands (Trinidad). He has found success in leading a Jamaican company, in a country that he had never visited before assuming the post.

He has spent the last four years running a Jamaican company, and learning a lot about what works, vs. what doesn’t

In this podcast, I interviewed Roger in his offices in Spanish Town and he shares some of what he has learned in his personal crash programme.

To receive the report, send email to fwc-triniexec@aweber.com.

Honey, sweetheart, darling, babes

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Coming back to work in the Caribbean has meant getting used to using words of endearment that professionals in developed countries have long eschewed, including “honey”, “sweetheart”, “darling” and “babes”, and even male versions such as “boy” and “man.”

As a professional working in the U.S., I learned long ago that such words are to be completely and entirely avoided. The professional women who took me under their wings when I was a fledgling employee made sure that I learned my lesson in this regard (thank you Mary, Beverly, Kandi, Celeste, Janice…).

I also learned the importance of the firm handshake as a form of generic greeting in the workplace. The rules were dicey back then about how male to be, as I remember a colleague of mine pointing out that I needn’t hold open the door for her, as she certainly was not interested in being treated any differently from the men around me.

Working in the Caribbean is quite different. Warmth and friendship is felt in the embrace of a boss, friendship in a familiar greeting and respect in how we introduce each other to friends and colleagues.

This all takes some getting used to, as these behaviours are exactly the ones I learned to avoid in my early days working at AT&T in New Jersey.

While I do not want to offend, I don’t miss for one minute that cautious feeling I knew in the U.S. workplace, darkened by threats of sexual harassment, racial prejudice and politically incorrect behaviour. My hope is that we in the Caribbean can learn to be sensitive to others preferences, without having to become fearful and paralysed by the threat of a lawsuit.