Category: Human Resources (HR) Resources

06 Apr 2020

Good LUCK with COVID-19

It’s difficult not to talk about this mushrooming health crisis. Every week seems worse than the previous ones. However, if only for the sake of maintaining our mental health, we should seriously consider strategically managing our information intake. The positive side effects of this aren’t just personal; they can be financial and occupational as well. How so, you might ask, especially when it seems that everyone everywhere is already jobless or not far from it? If history has taught us anything, it’s that every crisis presents opportunities. In that context, luck is nothing more than ‘Labour Under Correct Knowledge’ (LUCK). It means preparing for unforeseen eventualities before they occur, to be as ready as we can be.

The New Normal

Companies and governments the world over are helping industries, firms and employees get through the crisis. In that regard Jamaica is no different. However, these support systems are intended to mitigate the devastating financial fallout, not what will follow. Yes, companies and self-employed people will have access to loans but repayment is still mandatory, for these aren’t grants.

Let’s take a step back. Many companies cannot ‘afford’ to layoff all their employees for one simple reason — staff recruitment and retention is often very costly and time-consuming. Imagine starting all over in three to six months, desperately trying to rehire your best and brightest. Human resource (HR) professionals will attest to how difficult a strategic decision this is for every firm, especially employers of choice.

Sadly, however, this new reality forces everyone to make tough decisions. In some cases, it will come down to the weighted value of each individual in the businesses’ continuity planning. If employees were rated in bands like ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’, for example, only the A-rated team members might be retained, and perhaps only on partial salary, to ensure a smoother post-pandemic transition. This is when making oneself invaluable can bring good LUCK to the select few.

Home Work

This is your new life. After three weeks of Netflix-ing and chilling, we have to get back to ‘work’. What work if I’m unemployed and most companies are closed, you ask? Well, let’s start with what you’re trained to do or are otherwise good at. You were hired because you have a certain skill set and intellect. Now, while the next few months will be very challenging, you now also have time you’ve never had before in your adult life. This is an excellent opportunity to assess and audit yourself. Do a SWOT analysis of YOU, as if you were a business, and strategise how to leverage all you have to make yourself more marketable. Don’t know Microsoft Excel? Learn it for free online. Make presentations often? Improve your PowerPoint skills or upgrade to Prezi to wow audiences.

What about starting a business? It takes months to create a business plan, establish branding, gain a presence on social media, build a website, etc. But guess what? You now have a few months. All you need is a device, Internet access and willpower. No excuses! Get started on creating your own LUCK.

Until next time, leaders, keep lookin’ up and stay safe!


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25 Mar 2020

Work from home…..

What a difference a month makes! Like other life-changing events – say the birth or death of a loved one, or a world war – the effects tend to have a profound impact on our individual and collective perspective. This is what the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to do, irrespective of public and corporate status – reflect.

As with the virus itself, no one is immune from the effects of what is already a global economic catastrophe. And yet, despite early warnings of what was to come for at least two months, many employers are just now scrambling to craft a survival strategy for business continuity. Even with recent experience with other virus strains, there seems to be no playbook as to how to handle this situation from a business perspective.


Hardware & Slumber

It’s one thing to be using the now-trending terms ‘work from home’ or ‘teleworking’ as potential solutions, for leaders and Human Resource (HR) professionals on the front lines can bear witness to the fact that most organisations are prepared to execute in theory only. Not many small-and medium-sized firms, even employers of choice, actually have the infrastructure and systems in place to allow a significant percentage of their labour force to work remotely.

Here are the stark realities:

The hospitality industry, where physical interaction is vital to product and service delivery, is all but shuttered. So, in tandem with labour laws, while simply trying to stay solvent, many companies have had to make decisions they never imagined in their worst nightmares, and tell most, if not all, their workers that they no longer have a job. For organisations that do provide virtual services via phone or online communication, they still have to make tough calls about which non-essential staff members go on rotation or go home altogether. Imagine a company without an HR department or partner to help guide them through these unchartered waters.

Doing Homework

So how does a company without an information technology department begin to create the physical infrastructure and offsite workplace procedures to maintain security protocols and productivity levels? Evidently, some industries like the global outsourcing sector are inherently better equipped for this transition given that the very foundation of their business model is built on providing offshore virtual business support services at varying skill competency levels. It’s periods like these that can mirror war-time catastrophe where having external partners experienced in managing life-changing business and social upheaval are crucial to surviving what is potentially an existential event.

Whereas virtual work was once considered a nice-to-have amenity, climate change and technology will probably force us to accept the kind of radical change that took place during the first industrial revolution. Whatever the cause, a seismic change in how we live and work is inevitable. The companies that survive and thrive are those that plan for the worst while expecting the best. In the meantime, let’s hope and pray for a vaccine soon. Next article we’ll discuss ways to create opportunities from tragedies, especially for those facing unemployment in these extremely challenging times.

Until next time, leaders keep lookin’ up, and stay safe!


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27 Feb 2020

Everybody has a price by Debra Fraser

We’d all like to think that we don’t have a price, but we do. There’s your personal net worth – your total assets value after liabilities and recurring expenses and there’s public value, an organisation’s perceived contribution to society – both of which are quantifiable, one more than the other. On the other hand, your occupational net worth is not so easily determined as several factors have bearing on what levels of compensation competing job seekers can command.


Qualifications vs Experience

Job matching speaks to fitting the right person with the right job based on their qualities and qualifications. Leaders and HR professionals are constantly striving to ensure that the best suited individuals are employed in roles that complement their skillsets and the company’s strategic objectives. Ideally, the employees have some level of mastery of their subject area as well as the requisite communication and motivation traits to succeed in their assigned positions. However, how much weight is given to the age-old tug-of-war between theoretical qualification and hands-on work experience? Are there algorithms to determine how much value to place on one factor over the other? Employers of choice now more than ever are increasingly particular about ensuring they hire the right person for the right job based on metrics not personality. So, if during college an applicant also interned in their field, worked summers at a related company and generally did all they could to gain experience, then we’d expect her to be given extra brownie points. Here’s another question. How does one quantify years of experience when it comes to salary negotiations?


The Negotiation Game

For starters, location can be more important than your qualification as a garbage collector in North America on average earns a higher salary than a manager in Jamaica. Even working in Kingston versus a rural area can result in salary disparities with candidates being equally qualified. So, what gives Job Applicant A the edge over Job Applicant B in the competitive salary game? The simple answer is, you get what you negotiate for. It’s not uncommon for two similarly qualified employees to have distinctly different compensation packages. Our company has partnered with Birches Group, who provide compensation and salary surveys for the Jamaican market. While benefits and bonuses are usually standard, basic salaries negotiations are often like a poker game, especially at the management level. It’s about selling yourself, not flinching and being confident in your ask. Of course, all that means nothing if the salary is set in stone, but usually there’s a range, not a finite number.

Most importantly, a candidate could deliver an Oscar-worthy performance during the interview process, but without a proven body of work and the academic training to fully grasp the scope of the desired task, it’s usually a futile expedition. There may be cases where a candidate is hired as a short-term fix but their ability to command their ideal salary would be severely hampered by their perceived value to the organization. It really comes down to what you’ve done so far and more importantly how well you’ve done it, and your level of qualification in the specific area you’re applying for. It makes no sense applying for a senior marketing position with a PhD in bio chemistry. When all is said and done, and all things being equal, how you present yourself and back it up on the job can mean the difference between an extra $100,000 or more per month in your bank account.

Until next time, leaders, keep lookin’ up!


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27 Jan 2020

This Means War — Part II by Debra Fraser

Last article we spoke about the effects the external and internal environments can have on team members’ stress levels and how this can manifest into workplace conflict. Emphasis was placed on mitigating potential red flag issues of harassment and tension by implementing effective screening and training measures. However, no amount of pre-employment evaluation or on-the-job behavioural conditioning can compete with hardwired familial socialisation. Values and attitudes have changed dramatically from a generation ago. Employers of choice have had to adapt to a new type of worker since much of what was normal or expected as it relates to working conditions and interpersonal relations are no longer acceptable or, in some cases, even legal anymore. The rules of engagement have certainly changed.

Society & the Workplace

If we are to use the evolution of our collective mentality as a barometer, then we ought to be more realistic about the dramatic shifts in expectations and our approach to handling workers’ concerns and conflicts. The ever-increasing role of HR practitioners underscores the value leaders place in trying to understand what makes employees tick, and more importantly from a business standpoint, what it takes to get maximum productivity out of them. In many organisations, managers and supervisors constantly feel like they’re chasing their tails when it comes to making progress with keeping motivation and positive worker interactions at high levels. However, if society is a reflection of our collective state, then the problem may be even larger than we are prepared to acknowledge, or even equipped to manage. It must be very frustrating for companies who are woke to the cultural and personal issues of their team members, and then invest heavily in training and engagement measures only to be continuously putting out conflict and discontentment fires among staff ranks. It begs the question, ‘what are we missing, or not doing right?’

A Vicious/Virtuous Cycle

Then there is the issue of employees we’ve invested in being headhunted by our competitors, leaving us in a treadmill-like state — putting out much effort but not really going anywhere. If we’re honest, we would concede that the war of attrition often has little to do with a better salary package offer elsewhere. As HR practitioners can attest, it is often the result of poor management. We can attest to how often managers allow good workers to leave because they didn’t lead or guide them well enough. When these team members under-perform, it is they themselves who take the hit when it’s really their superior who pulled the trigger. These kind of conflicts are common in many organisations, which can breed a culture of passive aggressive victimisation — a silent energy sapping, productivity killing disease in the war against workplace conflict. However, the mission is not impossible if leaders and workers are on the same page and are committed to a strategy of peaceful resolution and not make confrontation their first course of action.


Debra Fraser MBA, is CEO of Caribbean HR Solutions, a board member of the BPIAJ and the Global Services Sector, a member of the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica, and Society of Human Resources Management. Please direct comments to or


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14 Jan 2020

This means war!

In these tense political times, with the set-up of police/military checkpoints in several Jamaican towns and the threat of World War III on the global stage, leaders in general, and HR professionals in particular, ought to be mindful of the negative influence that local and foreign affairs can wield over their workforce. Tension, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are very real, often undetected, factors that can adversely affect team cohesion and an individual staff member’s performance. These and other unaddressed personal and work-related issues can also have significant bearing on an organisation’s overall performance. They manifest in increased irritability and disagreeableness, which tend to spark arguments and conflicts over the smallest of matters.

Local and foreign affairs aside, issues within the workplace — take sexual harassment for example — have even greater propensity to cause stress and anxiety among workers. Often, these conditions escalate when companies fail to recognise the importance of establishing meaningful off-duty relationships by creating a supportive ecosystem for team members who are experiencing challenges.

Conflict Resolution 2.0

In tandem with the increased awareness around the world in recent years of gender equality and workplace sexual harassment, many Jamaican companies have been making an effort to comply with legal and moral codes of conduct. However, many HR practitioners can attest that taming the monster of sexual harassment in the Jamaican context, in particular, is a Herculean task indeed. In a culture where displays of bravado and crassness towards females are often met with cheers from male counterparts, addressing the psychological barriers of behavioural change is difficult, in some cases impossible. Therefore, a preventive strike approach to mitigating potential conflicts — through intensive and continuous assessment at recruitment, and training during employment — is one of the best places to begin.

Win-Win Situation

The truth is, regardless of background, upbringing and socialisation, most intelligent human beings understand when another person does not want their affections. The challenge for leaders is to break down the company’s guidelines in a manner and language so all team members get the message in a way they truly understand, for the situation could arise just because someone thinks that a particular phrase or action, even when rejected, is merely a way to poke fun and is not that serious.

The light at the end of the tunnel for organisations keen on developing a winning and harmonious team dynamic is to reassess current team members, and to follow up with ongoing team-building and sensitivity training. The big opportunity lies in developing a system to detect these characteristics at the recruitment stage.

This will require more than the usual face-to-face interview process. A complete social and psychological profile of each candidate is the new MO for getting a 360-degree analysis of who companies hire to represent their brand and core values — for, in the age of instant sharing and global reach, one posted conflict or toxic employee can make or break a company with the swipe of a finger.

Until next time, leaders, keep lookin’ up!


Debra Fraser MBA, is CEO of Caribbean HR Solutions, a board member of the BPIAJ and the Global Services Sector, a member of the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica, and Society of Human Resources Management. Please direct comments to or


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30 Dec 2019

Who you are online often matters more than who you are on your résumé

It wasn’t that long ago when, to get all the background info you required on a job candidate, one had to use some serious journalistic or detective skills. Then, a recruiter had to make several phone calls to query an applicant’s resume and interview declarations. But the digital revolution has changed the game forever. Since just about everyone is on social media and many users never think about how what they post will portray or affect them in some distant future, quite a large percentage of them prejudice their chances of landing that dream job long before they’re even ready to submit their application. The new MO is that right after perusing a resume, and BEFORE deciding to interview the applicant, the recruiter Googles the person to examine his/her digital footprint. So, depending on that digital alter ego, that call may never come. Welcome to the future… when your past follows you everywhere. (cue creepy evil villain laugh).

Follow Me

In this age of Instagram, WhatsApp (and yes, people still use Facebook) it has come to pass that the young and the restless never give two hoots about how that questionable photograph, expletive-ridden post or song will appear to the world. Despite well publicised warnings about being socially aware and responsible on digital and traditional media platforms, prospective and existing employees persist in jeopardising their occupational career with poor decision-making, all for a few more likes and follows. It’s all good and well to present a clean-cut image of oneself throughout the interview and probationary period. However, sooner or later, that offensive post will show up in someone’s timeline, and then comes the all-access pass to the HR or GM’s office to answer to the company’s employee rules & regulations violation.

Do It For The Love

Simply put, in this new world where workplace diversity and gender sensitivity are catchphrases being enshrined into company culture, employers of choice are mindful when assessing their prospects not just on the basis of their qualifications, but equally so, on their social footprint. Case in point is the recent widely circulated video of the Edna Manley College valedictorian expletive shout-out during his speech. To many socially savvy and probably younger onlookers, it may seem cool. However, for blue chip companies and any organisation keen on traditional values, this could be a major red flag. See, to be selected valedictorian for a prestigious college is akin to being promoted to manager at a reputable company. Now, how would it look to have your star manager cuss some choice Jamaican vernacular at the annual shareholder’s meeting? Privacy as we know it, is a thing of the past. Employees need to get with the times and recognise that who you are online often matters more than what you present on your résumé.


Until next time, leaders, keep lookin’ up!

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30 Dec 2019

‘Tis the Season

It’s that time of year again when we make dietary promises and resolutions that we probably won’t keep. It’s also the time when employees are hopeful, expectant even, that management will open the coffers and give a nice fat Christmas bonus for all their hard work.

But not so fast!

HR professionals have changed the game with the implementation of systems of appraisals and evaluations. In the new game, it’s metrics that primarily determine if, and how much, an employee will receive. Going are the days of equitably sharing a percentage of net profit among the troops.

But it’s Christmas, and if you can’t wish for the best, then…

Celebrate Good Times

For many employers of choice, it’s both a time for reflection and recognition. There are the customary staff awards and parties, sometimes a message from the CEO about how the company is doing and possibly a teaser about exciting developments on the horizon. It’s also a great opportunity to reinforce the message about how critical their performance has been to the overall success of the company. In short, it’s a great time for the CEO and senior management to shine while paying homage to the actual stars, their employees. Through investment in their assets, tangible and human, organisations lay the foundation to reap profits, especially as it relates to improved customer service delivery levels, which can in turn translate to sustained profitability. In the end though, especially in blue chip companies, though employees want recognition for their contributions, they also want to own a piece of the enterprise in stock options, shares or playing more critical roles via promotions and partnership. And what better way to celebrate success than to share it with those who help create it?

Many Happy Returns

Feel-good factor aside, the realities of a rapidly evolving local and global economy dictates that leaders are always in planning mode. ‘Adapt or die’ is more than just a popular cliche; it’s a rallying cry that when worked into the DNA of the company’s culture, challenges team members at every level to bring their ‘A’ game all day, everyday.

This all sounds great in a general or department meeting. However, unless employees also inform new innovations and strategic decisions via an open-door policy environment that encourages asking difficult questions and positively disrupting the status quo, companies won’t realise their full potential and likely end up losing some of their stars to their competitors. In addition to having a system to funnel ideas and suggestions to improve the company, some firms take it to another level by hosting full-on inspiration conventions to fuel friendly competition and discover the next big thing or star. So even though Christmas is the time to celebrate everything family, a culture of year-round recognition and engagement is possibly the most sustainable way to generate happy returns for the bottom line and team morale.

Until next time, leaders keep lookin’ up!

02 Dec 2019

Evaluation versus adulation

Slowly but surely, we’re progressing from the days when years of service or tenure in a position served as proof of an employee’s value to an organisation. Those were the days when clocking your hours, coming in early and leaving late proved you were the ultimate team player, willing to sacrifice for the cause. Fast forward to the present when proficiency is measured by analytics that show an individual’s actual contribution to the company’s bottom line. To be able to effectively gauge a team member’s net worth means creating objective measurement tools, essentially a system of evaluation or appraisal. This is where the human resources (HR) professional leads the transition from promotions and recognition going to the boss’ pet or office favourite, to the most deserving employee.

Danger! Don’t exclude formal assessment

The practice of using subjective and personal metrics to promote team members does continue in many smaller organisations, as the CEOs may not have the benefit of a human resource manager to support the formal alternative. However, they are realising that they exclude formal evaluation procedures at their own peril. Impulsive or personal decisions often have a way of backfiring when the person is not the right fit for an elevated position. Much like the succession planning paradigm we discussed in the previous article, managing up (or out) requires careful planning and execution over a period of time. The principle of hiring slow and firing fast also applies here, in the sense that we deliberate and assess carefully before selecting the next leader in the organisation value chain. Note though, that the opposite applies to managing out team members who no longer add value to the company. To be clear, that could simply be due to them having aspirations that your firm no longer satisfies. So a mutually beneficial separation may just be ideal.

Manager or Leader

Many senior management personnel still don’t fully appreciate the difference between managing and leading. Some confuse passive aggressive behaviour for being firm or decisive. The unfortunate reality is that often these managers mean well but can’t differentiate between telling and showing; giving someone a fish or teaching them how to snag those elusive water dwellers. Ok, enough with the analogies. The point is this: for any blue chip organisation intent on hiring and keeping the best and brightest in their ranks, they must develop systems to track and train not just the obvious leadership candidates, but everyone in the company must be able to see a path to upward mobility to create a truly level playing field. To do this, leaders must start in the mirror by assessing their management and interpersonal relationship styles and critically gauge if they, themselves, are part of the problem. Thereafter, by taking responsibility for their role in the process, they can more authentically engage their peers and charges in meaningful conversation towards determining the best prospects for leadership positions, and quite honestly, which employees have run their course in the new and improved version of the company. Failure to have this ‘Kum ba yah’ moment may eventually lead to managers themselves being managed out of the organisation.

Until next time, leaders keep lookin’ up!

06 Nov 2019

Show me the money by Debra Fraser

The legacy of the garment manufacturing industry which was buoyant in Jamaica in the 1980s and 1990s is that it created the perception that all outsourced business process services are created equal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is a fact that the core purpose of the outsourcing industry is to find more affordable labour markets to perform critical business functions remotely. This is done because it is usually more costly to provide those services in the company’s domicile country. However, a lot has changed with the evolution of global services, the style in which the industry is now being re-branded.

The Call Centre Stigma

With the enduring reputation of call centres in the minds of jobseekers, even blue chip employers of choice in the global services sector have to work on positioning their brands as premium service providers. Multinational corporations like Xerox, for example, have to continuously market themselves as innovation leaders, not mere cheap labour managers. This is where recruiters and human resource professionals have their work cut out for them, because a big part of that effort is engaging tertiary-level graduates at job fairs and pre-qualification information sessions. For, when attorneys-at-law, engineers and medical professionals are full-time employees for Fortune 500 companies operating in the business process outsourcing space, it is a clear indicator that high-level skills, as much as flexi-hours and virtual offices, are the new normal in this New Work Order.

Speaking of virtual offices, on Thursday this week — November 7 — the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ) will be facilitating the Global Leadership Summit in Montego Bay with a combination of virtual and live presenters. This type of innovation is proof positive that perspectives in how and where we work are evolving with our needs to be active and productive participants in a truly global community.

Perception vs Reality

Nearshore Americas, one of the region’s leading information sources for the process outsourcing sector, recently conducted work environment and salaries-based surveys in several companies based in Jamaica. Generally, the information revealed that a large percentage of the employees surveyed expressed comparative or high levels of satisfaction where working conditions, benefits and the overall compensation package is concerned. Some referenced the opportunity to make extra money by meeting quotas and qualitative targets and that they benefitted from savings made via lunch subsidies and health care benefits.

The reality is that average global services workers have higher starting salaries than their peers in similar positions. Additionally, the rate of ascension through the ranks via promotions and performance-related bonuses is even higher. Companies that perform analytics and provide trend insights affirm that the probability of promotion to supervisory and management levels in the outsourcing industry far outpaces the rate in traditional sectors. It’s no wonder workers employed to firms keen on keeping them happy and fully engaged in a holistic work culture tend to stay and grow their résumés and net worth faster with a proportionally rewarding working environment.

So, while it’s not all about the money, statistics prove that if it were, as a career path to upward mobility and financial independence, the average worker has much better odds in the global services sector than most other industries.

Until next time, leaders, keep lookin’ up

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07 Oct 2019

Here comes the boom!

All indications are that Jamaica is trending upwards economically — from being ranked 7th in the world on the most entrepreneurial country index in 2015; being awarded a second time by Bloomberg as the world’s number one performing stock exchange, in 2018; and being rated as the 6th best place to start a business globally in 2019 by the World Bank’s Doing Business Report. It’s little wonder investors are eager to plant financial roots in Jamaica. But macro-economic optics aside, is all this foreign exchange and economic activity trickling down to the factory floor and into office cubicles?

Rising Tide Raises All Boats

It’s natural for employees at all levels to expect a salary increase when the company they work for flourishes. So when all factors point to a growing industry and sustained company profitability, human resource personnel get frequent nudges about opportunities for promotion and increases in basic salaries. It’s important for leaders to recognize that frank and frequent conversations must take place with their team members to prevent alienating them, and to be in control of the narrative. Simply put, perception is often reality, especially for the so-called average worker at the bottom of the corporate totem pole. Quite often, as HR professionals we do more mediation than team-building because organisations allow the communication gap to create an ‘US vs them’ internal stand-off, which is never good for manager-employee relations, or for business. Employers of choice ought to make it a priority to have an open playbook in place that clearly outlines paths to professional development, upward mobility, and succession planning if they intend to keep their employees fully engaged and committed.

The sad reality is that inflation always seems to win. The true value of money erodes faster than the rate of increase in average salary levels and the cost of living, so to the majority of workers it can often feel like being on a treadmill where running as hard as you can still doesn’t get you closer to your financial goal. More and more companies internationally are awakening to the new mindset of the modern worker. Today’s tech savvy, free-spirited employee understands their personal value more so than the traditional punch-clock worker. They understand that technology makes work easier and hours spent doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity. Consequently, headhunters now find more and more that job seekers want to be in working environments that allow them flexible work hours and/or the opportunity to work from home. This means that they still expect to get paid well but also have freedom to explore other non-conflicting sources of income simultaneously. To acquire and keep employees’ full attention, leaders must recognise that a new day has come where a more knowledgeable workforce expects more for their valuable time, in dollars, and appeal to their sense of overall job satisfaction.

Until next time, leaders keep lookin’ up!

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