The knowledge worker phenomena

largeTeamMore people than ever before earn their living by thinking. It generally considered an endorsement when a person is described as “knowledgeable”. It tends to mean that the person is well-informed about a situation or subject and worthy of trust.

Is knowledge overrated?

Research shows that Continue reading

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Training solutions. Again

technical competencyThere are many “training” solutions that have been announced during the current retrenchment exercise.  Some of these announcements seem to be “soothers” designed to comfort those who ask about the plight of those found without jobs or skills. There is a published account of a terminated worker, when told to sign up for training, said; “I don’t want training. I can’t buy bread with that”.

This is an example of why I am called to caution against falling into the “training trap”. This occurs when training is being applied for cosmetic or justification purposes. For instance, there are many funding agencies and private sector organizations that require a specific number of training hours be provided to a specific set of people, covering prescribed topics. The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) “the world’s largest professional association dedicated to the training and development field”, has a motto saying: “Telling ain’t training”. This is important because the majority of events characterized as training, feature covering the information as the primary approach. This has been proven to be a waste of time, money and morale.

In the past few years, Barbados’ TVET Council has recognized this discrepancy and introduced its Competency-based Training approach in conjunction with Barbados Community College. This is primarily because of pressure to “prove that workers are competent to do their jobs”. Forty-eight National and Regional Vocational Qualification (NVQ/CVQ) have been validated, with curricula to “demonstrate the knowledge, skills and attitudes are certified as competent.” I hold a certificate in this programme.

Clearly, this is important work and represents progress from previous approaches. It reinforces the need for demonstrable skills and the fact that working toward standards increases employability. The Inter-American Bank has founded TVET’s “Skills for the Future” programme, which can be credited with producing 15 medallists in The Barbados WorldSkills 2014 competition. TVET and its programmes have the participation of Barbados’ colleges, BIMAP and supports the Barbados Human Resources Development Strategy.

TVET also administers the Training and Employment Fund (ETF). “ETF’s primary focus is to provide grants to encourage the private sector to expand and upgrade its employee training programmes.” This funds are extracted from employer contributions to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). I also have first-hand experience working with clients who have accessed ETF and have provided training under its terms of reference.  The fund has trained 37,411 since March 1997.

With due respect for these efforts and accomplishments, there is still much needed to obtain traction and sustainability. The ASTD Competencies for Training and Development Professionals and its Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification, represent global best practice. Barbados can benefit greatly from using these as benchmarks.

For example, approved trainers for ETF programmes must be vetted by the Barbados Accreditation Council, who certainly aren’t equipped to measure according to global standards and best practice. When you look at the training approaches of government agencies, academic institutions and public purveyors of training; competency in these essential areas is not apparent. TVET’s own mandate is compromised by the fact that its criteria for employer participation preclude the training of an organization’s executives and managers to support the skills that have been taught. “You can’t take one piano lesson and play Carnegie Hall”.

If skills are not nurtured and supported, they will become extinct.

God bless.

Send in the consultants

consultants 2The government of Barbados is under tremendous pressure to make significant, sustainable changes in the country’s economic fortunes and to reform practices that obviously don’t work as they should. The object being, a country has global respect for its excellence and quality of life. Typically, this is the time when the “experts” are brought in to: analyze, strategize, do studies, write reports, advise, make plans and establish terms of reference.

Since I am a practicing Certified Management Consultant (CMC), I must declare that I have a vested interest and a biased view of how this process should unfold. I have been involved in consulting activities around the world, for more than 50 years and have been based in Barbados since 1993.

The International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI) estimates that in developed, mature markets, 1 person per 1000 population is a “consultant”. In developing countries and “immature markets”, the ratio is estimated to be 1 in every 2000. So, in Barbados, there are many people offering “consulting” services. Because of my extensive involvement in the industry and the profession, I know that many of these person are simply calling themselves “consultants” while looking for a job. It sounds nicer than “unemployed”. Others are experts or specialist in a technical area that’s in demand. That can range from IT to medicine, to the “financial advisors”; that populate the landscape.

I am not making these observations to disparage anyone. I happen to know that it is not uncommon for politicians and some corporate executives to circumvent hiring restrictions and provide income for friends and family members. The record will also show that some of these funds have found their way into the pockets of those authorizing the contracts. Today, I spoke with a person who had first-hand experience of a “consultant” being brought into a government department on a six-month contract that was extended to eighteen months. The contract ended because it was clear that no effective work was done and the problem had gotten increasingly worse.

The scandals that have been attributed to nefarious management consulting practices have made headlines all over the world. We have notorious ones right here in this region. In the wake, legislation has been enacted to appease the victims and give the appearance of minimizing risk. The influence of management consultant is so pervasive that we are often unaware that it touches us unless something goes wrong.

I am raising this now because this is clearly a time when management consulting services are needed. Not the “do a study and write a report” type but one that requires committed professionals who are experienced at “walking” the client through the changes. Management consulting is a trillion dollar a year industry. Consulting services represent a substantial foreign exchange drain on our economies because 92.5% of fees are paid to non-regional consultants.

There are now ISO standards that define best practice, essential processes and necessary competencies for management consultancy. In Barbados and the Caribbean, there are growing number of management consultants who have obtained certification to these globally-recognized standards and practices. It would be shameful waste to allow cronyism and secrecy to thwart this opportunity to adopt a more effective, transparent approach to improvement. It is also an opportunity to create a vibrant service export that can earn foreign exchange.

God bless.

 

Nation-building

barbados map flagThe purpose of nation-building is to: “inculcate a feeling of belonging and with it, accountability and responsible behaviour.” (National Planning Commission, Republic of South Africa). At the time this statement was fashioned, Nelson Mandela held the reins of government. South Africa was returning from an abyss of deadly strife and everyone had apprehensions about the future.

While none would claim a perfect outcome, there is no denying that the declaration of intent made a positive impact on South Africa and the world. A key point of emphasis is Continue reading

Counting our assets

think outside the boxLast week, I was the guest speaker at a Power Breakfast event in Newark, New Jersey. This series attracts executives, business owners, legislators, educators and other professionals in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. areas. Continue reading

The high cost of patronage

barbados map flagThis time last year there was heavy public debate around the competing promises of parties vying to be elected. This year, the discussions are even more intense around a failing economy and how to fix it; quickly.

There is an age old adage: “to the victor goes the spoils” and six years ago, there were blatant statements of dividing up the “fatted calf”. The traditional methods of patronage have been in the creation and awarding of jobs. Certainly the previous government engaged in patronage and after three terms, the electorate decided to correct the imbalance. However, it has not turned out to be a ‘correction” but Continue reading

A perception of risk

riskDue diligence and risk management are business terms that have come into popular use. Due diligence is to exercise a certain standard of care before concluding a deal. That exercise should include an examination of factors that could have an adverse effect on desired outcomes. Typically, an effort is made to minimize risk.

Everywhere in the world people are planning and seeking a path toward an ideal future. Continue reading

The Barbados Brand

Barbados brandI regularly participate in online discussions.  I prefer these to call-in programmes for the introduction of ideas and issues for fruitful discourse. I have decided to contextually integrate some of the issues that fit this column.

Senator John Watson has a Facebook group called FB Senate that I find informative and stimulating. I commend Senator Watson for this approach to public dialogue and consultation. This article flows from a suggestion that we should be working toward establishing a “made in Barbados” identity as a preference among Barbadian consumers and in the global market. Branding is a hot marketing buzzword that in many instances, is heavily skewed to a product orientation. Continue reading

A Matter of Age and Stage

assessmentRecently, I completed a psychometric assessment to review the current state of my talent and motivation in areas vital to business success. These areas are: Thought, Influence, Adaptability and Delivery. The last time I was assessed on the same instrument three years ago, my responses and scores were significantly different. As I discussed these differences during a feedback session, it became apparent that my perspective was heavily shaped by the circumstances of my life and my practice at the time of assessment. Continue reading

Bring Your A Game

Basketball shotThis phrase has such widespread use that there is at least one movie with it as the title. Typically, it is applied as a challenge or as encouragement. The implication is that you would heighten your focus and tightly manage known inhibitors of your best performance. The context is usually when things are being tightly contested, with a lot at stake. The movies: “Tap” and “Bring Your A Game”, give some exciting examples of how this concept plays out.

If you are a teammate, it means, “no foolishness”; Continue reading