As Barbados continues to develop and mature as an International Business Centre, global organisations utilising the jurisdiction are gradually understanding the importance of getting the “offshore” HR functional areas right and being very purposeful about it.
Traditional practice seemed to advocate that whatever is done “onshore” i.e. at the parent company should also be done “offshore” i.e. in the Barbados location.
It is becoming more evident to many that the “offshore” Human Resource Strategy has to differ, often considerably, from the parent for various reasons.
As an HR professional with over thirty years’ experience who has worked proactively in the international business sector from as far back as 1984, I have been well positioned to observe many different approaches by clients to this critical functional area both in setting up and maintaining entities in the Barbados environment.
The areas I believe that have been most impactful and are worth discussing are highlighted in the diagram below:
Parent Company Objectives
Often when a company sets up an entity “offshore”, understanding the cultural differences and striving for better cultural integration may take a “back seat” to process and technological implementations. This stance can be costly since it is the people who use the technology to implement the various business processes. If your people feel misunderstood or ignored by the parent company, this will often result in poor knowledge sharing and ineffective process implementation and information flow. This in turn will tend to result in the need for frequent travel by senior staff from the parent company to “fix” things offshore and may create disengagement of local staff as they do not feel real ownership of their work.
Most large companies have highly centralised decision-making and the head of the “off shore” unit may only have responsibility for operational matters. This may lead to a lack of empowerment and slow down that unit’s ability to acquire needed systems etc. This tendency not to push decision-making as low down the chain of command as is practical often stifles top performers who are very capable of being more strategic and want more than just a good pay cheque.
When recruiting in the local market it is important to seek professional advice not only on the employment legislation but also to better understand the educational and psychological realities of prospective candidate groups which may differ significantly from the pool for a similar position in the home country.
Often locals are classified by parent companies as over qualified when this may not be the true reality. Local HR professionals can usually give guidance not only on the knowledge and skills match of candidates but also advice on issues of attitude, culture, practices and expectations in the recruitment and selection process to help improve the overall “fit”.
Training and Development
Often companies use only the training provided by head office which does not necessarily take into account the differences in culture or operations. These factors may limit the effectiveness of group training.
As a provider of various leadership and management development training workshops, our experience is that some of the local managers want the opportunities and avenues to better equip themselves for a larger role but their development may be restricted to managing operations.
They may feel the “ceiling” and look for other professional growth opportunities if they do not experience continuous professional development.
Compensation and Benefits
It is clear that competitive compensation and benefits vary from country to country. Parent companies are most effective if they articulate their group compensation and benefits philosophy and then seek local professional advice on what the mechanics of that philosophy will look like in the local Barbadian market. Unlike the larger markets, compensation and benefits information is not readily available. In the Barbados market the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), since 2007, has periodically canvassed its members to participate in an industry Compensation and Benefits survey. The survey results are available for purchase from Caribbean Catalyst Inc. in a comprehensive report. In 2016 this report is projected to be available in June/July 2016.
In conclusion, global organisations who pay attention to these HR strategies and work to ensure effective integration are seen as market leaders who can attract onshore talent capable of being mobile and valuable in the international arena.
Barbados has a cadre of well-educated, experienced professionals who can hold their own in the global market place but parent companies need to hire them, develop them at both the local and international group levels and then let them contribute on the international stage. Companies who do this rapidly gain a reputation which attracts great local talent.