CaribHRForum Survey Enters Its Last Week

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Sponsors of this year’s annual CaribHRForum’s electronic survey expect to reach over 3000 Human Resource Professionals across the CARICOM region this year, easily becoming the most wide-spread effort to gather information from a single profession.

The 2008 survey which was released on Monday September 15th, 2008, focuses on the single topic of regional HR conferences and the role they play in bringing together HR professionals.

It is being conducted by a volunteer team at CaribHRForum, the online forum that was formed in 2003 by Francis Wade, a management consultant who recently moved home to the Caribbean.

According to Wade, “the survey has grown in leaps and bounds since it was inaugurated last year, and the team now comprises a Jamaican, a Trinidadian, a Kittician and a Bahamian who have only met in cyber-space. We got to know each other through CaribHRForum and have worked together for months to put this together, mostly using Facebook, an online social networking service.”

CaribHRForum, with over 200 members, is the largest professional networking group of its kind that is built on cyber-services such as a discussion list, a blog on CaribHRForum.com and a news ezine – CaribHRNews.

In fact, the idea of a large, all-encompassing regional conference was first discussed at length within CaribHRForum’s list, which sometimes sees up to 20 emails per day in a region-wide
discussion.

“Sometimes the conversation gets heated, and there is a great deal of participation from many members who share their perspective, while learn from each other.” A recent group
conversation on the industrial relations climate in the region is still generating some sparks after more than a week,” said Wade.

It was another hot conversation on CaribHRForum that provided the theme for this year’s survey. While Jamaica has the largest conference each year, with some 500 participants, there are other territories in the region that don’t even have an organization formed. Many are unaware that conferences and organizations like CaribHRForum exist and end up practicing in isolation from their colleagues.

“Hopefully,” Wade says “the results of the survey will do much to help us bring the professionals of the region together. We should learn a lot about what people are looking for in attending a
conference, and help make our own conferences compelling.”

Launching CaribHRForum’s website

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As I mentioned in a post 2 days ago, I have been working on upgrading CaribHRForum (original page) — the networking service for Caribbean HR Professionals.

The website has been launched and can be seen at http://caribhrforum.com/wordpress.

Feedback on the site can be shared on the page itself, or here on this blog.

I believe that CaribHRForum is a first in the region in many ways — if not, do let me know!

FYI — CaribHRForum is sponsored by Framework Consulting.

Upgrading CaribHRForum

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The first quarter of this year is going to see quite a few upgrades to one of my long-term social networking projects — CaribHRForum.

Here is where we are today. The forum has 180 members, and has been around since 2003. All the interactions today take place around a single discussion list in which all members participate.

Unfortunately, a discussion list is a difficult thing to describe to someone who has never participated. It’s virtual nature makes it tough to comprehend. A newcomer would have a hard time joining if they were an infrequent and unskilled user of internet technology.

This reality led me to think that the Forum needed a visual presence, and that a blog would fit the bill perfectly.

Perhaps the blog could be staffed by a rotating board of writers who all come from the Caribbean. They would write for 3-4 months stints, once per week.

Also, there could be other information that would be available including links to other sites, information on conferences, downloads of different kinds, message boards and other ways to assist in social networking.

Also, to fund all of this, CaribHRForum would need to start generating revenue of some kind, including paid advertising and information products sold for a price. While membership would continue to be free, the other activities that people use to reach members would not be.

Those are the ideas to date — any others out there?

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.

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

CaribHRNews changes

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I have done some work on CaribHRNews that I think may make it more user-friendly:

  • it is more readable, as I have moved some of the non-essential information to the bottom of the page
  • I am changing the frequency of release from once per week, to once every two weeks. I think this helps to keep the information fresh, as there were too few changes from week to week, although this may change in the future
  • I have added a new link to a blog called “Evil HR Lady” that is quite funny!

The latest issue can be viewed at: http://www.squidoo.com/caribhrnews/

Also, CaribHRNews is sent out to all members of CaribHRForum.

HR Trend #2 — Social Networking

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CEO: “We need a social networking site in this company to enhance our CRM efforts and to enable knowledge sharing.”

VP-HR: “A what?”

Last year, a friend of mine shared with me the fact that he was joining a new company that specialized in social networking in companies.

I had an idea of what he meant in theory. I thought I knew what Facebook, MySpace and the all the rest of these sites were all about.

That is, until I joined Facebook — and I was amazed. Not only did was it interesting, and addictive, it actually fills an important business need that I have always had to stay in touch with a large number of people.

I discovered that it makes the effort easy, efficient and that it saves ALL sorts of time. It has not only come, it is bound to stay.

Now, what my friend said to me makes perfect sense. Facebook, and social networking sites are coming to companies near you. And the larger the company, the more it is needed, especially for those companies in the region that are geographically dispersed. Here is a link to the company he works for: SmallWorldlabs.com

For the HR professional, it is a good idea to get into the swing of things NOW, before the conversation listed above happens. In fact, it would be a good idea for HR professionals across the region to pioneer the idea and demonstrate some leadership in implementing a tool that will be taken as a requirement (I think) in just a few years time.

To folks on CaribHRForum — this is a great application that we could use to deepen our current level of networking. People have often asked me for a list of contact information for people on CaribHRForum and it just does not exist. Their idea was that if they visited another country it would be great to arrange to have lunch with a member here and there.

Great idea! A tool like Facebook would be quite helpful to all of us, even if only a half were to use it.

HR Trends #1a — Diversity

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(Also posted on the CaribHRForum discussion list)

Imagine the setting of a corporate meeting room, and a critical point in the meeting when a CEO turns to the VP HR, looks them dead in the eye and says:

CEO Question:
We need a diverse corporate culture. How do we go about building one?

VP HR: I’ll have a plan to discuss with you in a couple of days.

In the plan presented, the VP HR (who hopefully has been thinking about this for some time,) has laid out the following:

  1. Based on the strategy we are following, what are our 10-20 year goals?
    If we don’t have any, then diversity is a moot point because it’s a capability that cannot be built today, but only years in the future.
  2. In what way does it need to be diverse?
    Does it need to be more diverse than our society at large? If so, in what ways? Here are some examples: ethnicity, age, gender, education, sexual orientation, religious background, native language, class, etc.

    If we are looking to sell religious icons to people from different faiths, we had better hire people who understand those faiths.

    If we are looking to have a very creative workforce, we had better pay attention to those studies that say that tolerance and creativity go hand in hand. Our hiring must be flexible enough to attract people of all backgrounds.

    We will need to define the new target population that we want to have in our workforce, and compare it to what we have today.

  3. How do we get there?
    There are a few levers that we have to play with.
    • One is that we change the way that we hire. We can specifically tune our outreach efforts to bring in more people with different backgrounds. This is relatively easy to do.
    • The second lever to use is a change in the corporate culture. This is particularly hard to do.
    • There are several angles to take at the same time when creating a cultural intervention:
    • — authentic leadership by example
    • — performance management
    • — public events
    • — large group seminars
    • — personal coaching

We can design a culture that will help us to attract the right kinds of people, giving us whatever kind of diversity we want.

HR Trends #1

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Recently, Framework Consulting did a survey of the participants in CaribHRForum, an online discussion group that we sponsor.

(The results can be obtained by sending email to hrsurvey2007@aweber.com, and then following the instructions in the confirmation email.)

One of the results that came out clearly was an interest in following the most recent HR Trends.

I imagine that this has something to do with wanting to stay current and up to date with what is happening in the field. At times, this is not too difficult to do — just watch what is happening in a Developed Country in the HR field.

Yet, on another level we know that most HR products and services just cannot be imported into Jamaica wholesale. Instead, they require customization. Some can’t work at all.

Perhaps the way to think about this issue of emerging trends is to not focus on the foreign trend, but instead to think about the kinds of questions that CEO’s and MD’s might put to HR professionals in the future. How would an HR professional respond if asked for example, to build a diverse workforce?

I am going to try to ask and answer some of these questions on this blog, and see where the answers lead.