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Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle


The Young Future Busines Leader: An Endangered Species? part 2 of 2


Are the universities taking a proactive role in identifying what the island’s companies need and grooming their students to be the answers to that need? Are they going out there and soliciting relationships and identifying opportunities within companies that perhaps have been overlooked? With all these upper-level positions to be filled, surely if a serious collaborative, detailed, and comprehensive internship program designed to TRAIN and prepare graduates for certain management roles was put in place, wouldn’t that person then upon finishing their degree be able to step into that role with at least some familiarity with the company, culture, and position requirements? This requires forward-thinking five and ten years ahead by today’s leaders, to determine what the leadership needs will be and developing talent to fulfill those forecasted needs accordingly.

Benchmarking Successful Human Resource Management

Jamaican companies want leaders, but they are not cultivating them. I will soon have an MBA, beyond the required BS/BA degree for most jobs, but the ads will usually indicate needing 5 to 10 years experience for things the U.S. requires maybe 1 to 3 years experience for. I believe in part it is because they usually only require the BS/BA degree, while the U.S. might simply require a Masters degree in place of some of the years of experience required in Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean. However requiring that amount of years for the position still excludes many people who are bright enough to learn the requirements of the position given comprehensive and supportive on the job training! Caribbean companies need to embrace in-house training and development and stop requiring or waiting on someone who can walk in the door able to take the position and run with it unsupported.

Companies throughout the region need to take a page from the recruiters swarming U.S. college campuses every semester, and off the Bible verse that says "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it!" The concept behind that is you don't wait for someone to walk in off the street groomed by some other company for some other company’s purposes...you actively develop a comprehensive yet focused relationship with known sources of talent, and invite the best you can get into a solid leadership preparation program with the goal of training them YOURSELF and developing their loyalty and drive to see the company succeed.

Activity: Survey of Your Responses

Please respond with your ideas on how Caribbean companies can halt the brain drain of young college graduates, and ideas for attracting, retaining, and DEVELOPING for leadership the 20 to 30 year olds in (and even outside) the island who want to be part of stimulating the economy if they only had the opportunity! (There are also other logistical issues with reversing the brain drain as far as those who have already left, but that is a story for another time.)

Think of all areas that need to be addressed, when submitting your suggestions. Examples (this list is not all-inclusive) include:

  • Company support for furthering education
  • Support for on the job training (internships, new hires, existing employees to be developed, etc.)
  • Development of professional skills that may otherwise be lacking (technical “hard” skills)
  • Development of professional skills such as networking, teamwork and team motivation, time management, etc. (“soft” skills)

Please email responses to michellegrahamday@yahoo.com

  • Indicate your career level and academic level (e.g. student, pursuing [insert] degree in [insert major], senior manager, BS or assistant manager, certification in [insert]). No names will be used in results.
  • Responses are due by December 30, 2007.

By Michelle Graham Day
Contributing Business Writer


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The Young Future Business Leader: An Endangered Species? part 1 of 2

This discussion was triggered by the following Facebook.com group forum question: “What do you think of the 80% of the UWI graduates that leave Jamaica???”

I think after receiving an email from an executive on the island in response to my search for a postgraduate job so that I CAN move back home, I can understand why the UWI graduates leave...he reports plenty of bachelor degree-holding intelligent young people answering phones in call centers or stuck in positions that pay US$17,000 a year, because there are just not enough positions at the post-graduate entry level for them.

Then I see another trend as I survey SplashJamaica and other Caribbean job banks, where there are a lot of higher level roles that are empty and the companies are DYING for people to fill them, to the point where they hire expatriates, foreigners who need work visas.

There is obviously a disconnect there...and I know one immediate issue that causes it: the putting down of roots in the years following graduation from college. In the 5 years between graduation from college and the accumulation of enough experience to qualify for the higher level positions, people are not going to stop living their personal lives, and the ties that develop and the roots that are planted become the ties that bind. I for one wanted to reach back ASAP after graduation, and among other reasons, it was so that I would NOT encounter Mr. Right up here, and end up attached to someone whose career and immediate ties are with the U.S.! In those 5 years, people's lives become more complex at a faster rate than at any subsequent point in their lives…between 25 and 35 is the prime time that people are meeting, marrying, and laying the groundwork for advancement up the career ladder.

It becomes so much harder to successfully move back and reintegrate once those roots are set (especially if the other person is not from Jamaica, or at least from the Caribbean), versus the relatively simple shift when you are single, and fresh out of college (read: no roots implanted yet). Even without the relationship and other attachments naturally developing, there is the concept of getting “Americanized”…becoming so comfortable with the American way of life that it becomes hard to adjust to, or even understand any longer, the Jamaican way of life. (And this concept can be generally applied to becoming “foreign-minded” in any other destination country). Think of the analogy of a tributary flowing from a pond out to an ocean: The longer Jamaican companies leave Jamaica’s pool of talent spread out in foreign oceans, the more they assimilate and the harder it becomes to remove them from the masses and return them home.


So that 80% that leaves, leave because they have no job waiting on them in Jamaica, and end up staying where they have gone because by the time they are qualified for the decent-paying positions, they have set down roots and become less flexible than they were as new graduates...in the U.S. companies are recruiting on my campus NOW for graduates in December 2007, April 2008, August 2008, and some are even recruiting now for as far out as December 2008! They jump on talent from EARLY. Success for a college program here is measured by what percent of each year’s graduates, on average, are placed in a job relevant to their academic level within six months of graduation. What is the measure of success for the University of the West Indies and other Caribbean institutions of higher learning? Are these institutions being drawn into a commitment to do their part to keep the majority of the brains of the Caribbean IN the Caribbean?

Are Jamaican companies providing relevant, detailed internships for college students with progressive levels of responsibility that give them exposure to the business, the normal duties of the position, and to the executives? Are companies in Jamaica, and across the Caribbean, developing leadership programs to develop talent from early in the way they want that talent to go? One of the places I am interviewing with has a 2 year rotational leadership development program that gives you 6 months in each major facet of the business, which is crucial knowledge that would take way too much time (years-wise) to accumulate by working up and laterally through the ranks! Is anything like that happening in Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, or anywhere in the Caribbean?

To Be Continued…

By Michelle Graham Day
Contributing Business Writer

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New Contributing Business Writer: Michelle Graham Day

Recently I posted a request for volunteer Contributing Writers to assist in providing content for this blog.

Michelle Graham Day, a Jamaican living in Tallahasee, Florida is an MBA student at FAMU, and is job hunting, working, studying and now blogging all at the same time.

A big welcome to her as our first Contributing Business Writer.

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Service from Untrained Professionals

In a comment on a prior post, 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, perhaps due to the greater difficulty in finding one in the first place.

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? Or an accountant? Or 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 all able to pick out bad service when we see it, but terribly poor at seeing and stopping ourselves when we are the ones delivering it. We just don't have the right capacity.

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HRMATT Conference Slides and Audio

The outputs from the HRMATT conference from my speech on "The Trinidadian Executive in Jamaica" can be received by sending email to hrmatt2007@aweber.com.

Both the PowerPoint presentation and the audio from the speech can be accessed through the email.


1. Send email to hrmatt2007@aweber.com and wait a few minutes
2. Follow the instructions and click on the confirmation email
3. The email with the information should be received within a few minutes

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Email is Easy to Write (and Mis-Read)

Here's an interesting article that all Caribbean professionals should read, because there is a lot to learn from professionals in other countries who have spent more time using and abusing email.

Here is an excerpt:

[...]e-mail generally increases the likelihood of conflict and miscommunication.

One reason for this is that we tend to misinterpret positive e-mail messages as more neutral, and neutral ones as more negative, than the sender intended. Even jokes are rated as less funny by recipients than by senders.

We fail to realize this largely because of egocentricity, according to a 2005 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Sitting alone in a cubicle or basement writing e-mail, the sender internally “hears” emotional overtones, though none of these cues will be sensed by the recipient.

Read carefully!


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Customer Relationship Value vs Customer Lifetime Value

An interesting article in this month's Harvard Business Review describes the difference between Customer Referral Value (CRV) and Customer Lifetime Value.
CLV is more well known -- it is the lifetime value of a customer to a particular company. The value is computed by taking a sum of their purchases from the company over time.
CRV is more tricky -- it is defined as the value of the customer's referrals over time. In other words, it is the degree to which other people do business with the company as a result of being referred by that individual.
What is interesting is that the two are not necessarily related.
Miss Mattie, who rarely frequents the store and hardly buys anything when she does, could turn out to have very high CRV if she happens to be the helper of the richest family in the district, and her sister also happens to be the helper of someone else in the same family.
In an earlier post, I made the point that traditional CRM is too shallow an instrument to measure the value of a customer in Caribbean economies. I argued that the person's network was just as important, and to ignore the Miss Mattie's of the district is to do oneself grievous harm.
This new measure is, I think, an important one in understanding retail behaviour in the region, marked as it is by vast disparities in income and education. The societies are small, and CRV is critical to understanding the importance of customers by beginning to understand the quality of their networks, and the likelihood of them giving a positive referral.
When the CRV is known, companies can make intelligent decisions about how to market and advertise to each customer. Such an analysis is sure to produce some surprises.

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Almost the Last Day to Vote for My Proposal

In a prior post on Sep 20th, I mentioned that I had entered my proposal to write a new, hopefully revolutionary, manifesto on the skill of time management.

What I have neglected to mention is that since my last update on Sep 23rd, the proposal has garnered 435 votes. So far, it's the most popular proposal of the 11 being offered up this month.

I have no idea what the threshold is to be asked to take the next step and "write a manifesto" but... if you haven't voted, please do so.

The final date is Friday Oct 19th.

The title is "On Time Management: Toss Away the Tips, Focus on the Fundamentals"

Click here to be taken to the proposal.


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Rough Resistance

Here is a link to an article I wrote for Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday, on the topic of Trinidadian Executives in Jamaica.


This is actually part 1 in the 2 part series.


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Culture Change Gone Bad

While a culture change is very hard to do well, it is very easy to do badly.

In this article from CNN, entitled "No storybook ending after tycoon dolls up vilage," a millionaire adopted a US town, and attempted to give it a makeover.

As could be predicted, she ran into resistance, as the towns-people gradually developed a hostile resistance to her ideas and interventions.

I think she misunderstood her challenge -- it was not to change the physical environment, but instead to cause a shift in the culture of the people in the town.

This is a mistake that CEOs often make - believing that money can buy just about anything.
Sometimes it can buy hearts and minds, but when it does the kind of people who end up being bought are usually not the strongest characters, and they are not likely to stay bought for long.

This approach just does not work, as this tale amply demonstrates.

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Heedless Self-Interest

In an article from the New York Times, I found the following quote:

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said F.D.R. “We know now that it is bad economics.” These words apply perfectly to climate change. It’s in the interest of most people (and especially their descendants) that somebody do something to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but each individual would like that somebody to be somebody else. Leave it up to the free market, and in a few generations Florida will be underwater.

In a prior post, I wrote about the importance of appealing to people's self-interest as a way to change the culture of a company. With more information, I argued, people naturally do what's best for them and others, once they can see the apparent interconnection of all that is.

The Course in Miracles says that the fact that we are all connected means that attack is impossible, as it rests on the idea that we are somehow separate.

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Audio Recording of TV/Radio Interview

My interview this week was recorded and is now available for your listening pleasure in two parts at http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=hrmatt.

I was being interviewed in relation to the speech I gave on "The Trinidadian Executive in Jamaica" at the recently concluded HRMATT 2007 Biennial Conference in Port of Spain.


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A TV Appearance

I had the privilege of appearing on Tuesday (Oct 9th) on a Trinidadian television programme as one of the speaker's at the recently concluded HRMATT conference.

It was a lot of fun, and there was a lot of playful conversation between the two hosts, Jessie Ventour and Fazeer Muhammed.

I, like many West Indians, remember the voice of Fazeer Muhammed from region-wide cricket coverage. His voice is quite recognizable, and so very easy to listen to.

Jessie, for her part, is an ultra-capable radio/TV jockey who controls everything happening in the studio with what looks to me to be the latest equipment. She is the radio show host and the control room at the same time, which is something I was not prepared for -- I was thinking of studios from the past (apparently the distant past.)

In a few days, I'll be finished fixing up the sound on the recording and will load the entire interview up on my website.

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Updating The One Page Digest

The One Page Digest is almost a year old, in terms of issues.

It has been a useful addition to the Framework Info products, and a good way to share useful links quickly and efficiently with the over 288 subscribers it currently enjoys.

I am wondering whether or not it should be changed or upgraded in any way. If anyone has any useful ideas, please either share them here or send your feedback to me personally.

Most of the back issues can be viewed at http://urlcut.com/digesthome


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Cost of Problem Analysis, Solution Benefit and Solution Cost

I have recently learned a new approach to thinking about the cost of a client's problem.

It's called Cost of Problem Analysis (CoPA), and in this technique a salesperson guides a client through an honest assessment of the cost of not having the solution in place.

For example, a CoPA based on the installation of a new soda machine, might take into account such costs as:
  • the added maintenance of the old machine
  • the cost of having the janitor open the machine to retrieve lost change
  • the lost sales from not being able to sell crackers and cookies as well as sodas
  • the additional cost of electricity
  • any other costs that might be traced to the old soda machine that would not be incurred by the new
This is broken down to a single dollar figure.

On the other hand, the solution benefit outlines what gains will be made from having the solution put in place. In the case of the new soda machine,
  • it may carry more drinks, while also carrying a larger selection of drinks
  • it may help to sell more drinks by suffering less stock-outs.
  • crackers and cookies may offer a higher price margin,
  • it would create opportunities for people to make more than one purchase at a time
The Solution Cost is merely the selling price of the new machine.

From these numbers, it is easy to determine whether or not the investment is worthwhile.

It may not be, and the good salesperson can help the customer to diagnose the numbers with some honest assistance.


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Take It Or Leave It Selling

By and large the retail shopping experience that I have experienced across the region can be characterized as "take it or leave it".

Companies seem to be staffed up to the hilt with people who just could not care less whether or not the customer makes a purchase. In fact, their lives are easier when the customer walks out and doesn't bother them.

This attitude, which pervades non-tourist Caribbean countries, costs company owners a LOT of money each year, as they wonder why it is that their sales are falling and their traffic is dwindling.

I believe that the way to impact this attitude on a large scale is to:
  1. use psychometric testing to weed out the wrong people
  2. train them extensively
  3. role model the level of service desired
  4. continue to reinforce, coach and train
  5. consolidate jobs, and pay the better staff more
Part of the training I would provide is what I call "face and body management". I would use video-taped feedback to help employees see what they look like when they are serving customers. They might need to learn how to project an air of commitment and attentiveness -- something that contrasts with the air of boredom and "I don't care" that they might have learned in school.

I get the distinct impression that our front-line service personnel just do not know what they look like when they are attempting to provide service to others, and many would be appalled if they were to receive objective feedback in the form of a taped interaction.

Many of them seem to bring juvenile, teenage behaviours to the workplace, and in the absence of role models, it becomes the norm. Perhaps was fashionable when they re 15, but in the workplace it is ineffective and leads to customers feeling that the employees don't care before the first words are exchanged.

I compare it to body odour.

Someone has to tell a teen to wear deodorant for the first time, because the chances are good that they are unable to smell themselves. In like manner, unless they are helped to see what they are doing physically, they are unable to change what their bodies and faces are doing.


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CaribHRNews changes

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.


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HR Trend #3 -- Bringing in Expats

CEO: "We need to hire someone from the outside into this position, as there is no expertise in this area in the region. Do we have a programme in place to help them to assimilate once they get here?"
VP-HR: "Huh?"
CEO: "How about their family?"
VP-HR: "Hmmm...."
CEO: "Does it make a difference if they are coming from another Caribbean island?"
VP-HR: "To be honest, I have no idea...."
It's a good idea for human resource professionals across the region to ensure that when the above conversation takes place they are ready. What are some of the things that they should be ready to tell the CEO? How can they prepare themselves to address what is quickly becoming the norm for most progressive companies? What are the essentials they need to address?
Here are some facts that the VP-HR needs to know at the onset:
  • They will probably underestimate the difficulty of the expat's adjustment (especially if they have not lived abroad recently).
  • The emotional issues are intense, and come in all flavours.
  • The main success factor will surround the experience of the "trailing spouse" (usually a woman). 67% of failures can be traced to the trailing spouse.
  • The non-working spouse will probably be a professional who has had to give up their own career.
  • A simple set of policies created from the beginning will make things much easier.
  • The move will cost up to US$1million for an executive and family.
  • Of all age groups, teenage children have the most difficult time adjusting.
  • The pre-transfer trip and negotiations will be critical to the success of the transfer, and must include the non-working spouse.
  • Preparing the company for the arrival of the expat will be important (especially in terms of understanding, and expectations).
  • There will be varying degrees of culture shock experienced as the family makes the transition.
  • Few companies offer assistance to either spouse in making the cultural adjustment (and end up paying for it in the long term) .
  • At times a professional mentor, a trained counsellor or a psychologist are needed.
  • Expats who build their network of friends around other expats, rather than locals, will not be as successful.
  • The couple needs a way to escalate their issues and concerns outside the regular company hierarchy.
  • A transition from one Caribbean island to another is no easier than any other transition, IMHO.
  • Some expats have mastered the art of adapting to local conditions, and of working in developing countries
These are just some of the issues that a VP-HR can prepare the company to deal with. The better prepared they are, the greater the chance of success from everyone's point of view.
In the worst cases, when there is a failure and early termination, the couple and the company end up at loggerheads, blaming each other for things going badly.

The job of HR is to make sure that the company's investment is not wasted, and sometimes it may require them to say no to someone who they think will just not make it. Saying "No" is not easy to do, but it could be the very best thing for the working spouse and their family.


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Top 100 HR bloggers

This link is a good one -- the top 100 HR bloggers in the world.

The information is extremely useful,and covers all aspects of Human Resource Management.  Perhaps one day there will be a Caribbean equivalent.

I am going through each one to see which one(s) I could add to CaribHRNews.

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HRPS Conference 2007 and HRTrends

I thought this blog was particularly interesting, as it was a blog created specifically for a conference, as a way to share information about the HRPS Conference 2007.

I thought that this was one very quick way to connect to what's happening, especially for those who could not attend. It could be updated from session to session throughout the conference days, and allow those who are at their desks in their offices to feel like they are a part of the happenings.

This is one of those solutions that could be particularly effective for our regional conferences, given the high cost of travel from one country to another.

Also of interest on that page are the results of a survey done on HR Trends.

Hopefully, there will be a conference next year, as it seems to cover some useful information.

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