Thursday, April 15, 2021

COVID 19 - School Leavers and the Workforce

 


Every year, there's a question that rears up within the work force? Can these new school leavers do the job? Questions seem to crop up, not so much over the academic achievements, but over the competency to fulfill the requirements of the job role. Despite the presence of the pandemic, we must be aware that the next few years will surely be different as it relates to recruitment and the job market. Will job hunting be tough as always? Yes, but this time it will be on steroids. 

Academia Vs Competency

In many instances, educational institutions rarely have had the opportunity to prepare school leavers for the world of work. With the pandemic last year and a great deal of this year, coupled with volcanic eruptions affecting the region, education has been disrupted quite badly. Given these instances, they are situations where people are not coping well with remote schooling. There are still some elements of the curricula that require physical teaching methods which are not easily replicated in the virtual world; especially when students don't have the foundation experiences to draw upon for a full appreciation of the information being conveyed. 

Inabilities to communicate effectively

Have we recognized that, with all the methods of communicating, that actual communication is at an all time low. It is a skill that is actually suffering quite significantly. Even people within the same household can't seem to get along since they may be of different generations and interact differently. We have developed a displaced approach to culture, whereby we think that speaking in dialect is common place for every situation. We are now failing to recognize that there is a time and place for everything; including verbal, written and other forms of communication. 

There seems to be a lack of respect for others and it is growing. People seem to believe that since they are qualified they can interact with others as they like and the rest of the world must conform to their standards. 

There will be a requirement that organizations address their standards in the early so that those serving the company in varying capacities know how to interact. 

Employment opportunities and the job seeker

In short form, it is going to be tougher to get a job. Why? Well, everyone felt the impact of the global shut down due to the pandemic. It came in waves causing people and organizations to have to endure multiple shutdowns impacting income in a negative way in most instances. 

Currently, school leavers of all ages are not being adequately prepared for the world of work. The emphasis is on education in a very academic sense and competency is taking a blow depending on how those programs are being executed. 

Another consideration is that job seekers will now have even more limited work experience and try to embark on businesses which if they don't receive technical assistance to guide them will result in massive failures among start up enterprises and SMEs. The work ethic which usually develops from applied learning will suffer since the metrics for ensuring discipline are not able to be readily enforced due to the remoteness of the current educational environment. This results in limited checks and balances that provide feedback to the student as to how to translate their education in to practical settings required for the world of work. 



Training systems in a disoriented and displaced workforce

To become/remain competitive businesses are going to need to invest in the training of their human resources. Prior to, but especially during COVID-19 the methodologies of training have evolved. We have gone from beginning to embrace online to being predominantly online; with many not becoming used to the virtual world despite the best of efforts. 

Despite the best of preparation, we have the instability of the internet through the service providers which serve to increase levels of stress due to the uncertainty. At times there can be challenges with the competence using the technology on the part of the presenter/student (participant). 

Conference call clashes seems to be the order of the day which in many cases may also result in work/study stays being extremely long. Remote workers and students can become faced with fatigue of being in front of the computer or being sedentary for too long. Presenter skills have to be en-pointe to hold the attention of the participants to the various programs. 

Employment and employees - Who's ready?

The environment we are currently facing is one that is unprecedented. Yes, we have faced challenges before as countries within the Caribbean. However, in this instance they are not spaced out as in the past and all of these environmental challenges have a multi-pronged impact on its residents. What is meant by this? 

  1. COVID-19 Pandemic
  2. The volcanic ash flow
  3. The hurricane season
  4. The rainy season
Additionally, there is the issue of man-made challenges through the instance of disposal practices especially as it pertains to modern conveniences. 

Are we prepared? No one was/is! There is a need to innovate, to pivot, to revise and revamp. To create this system of what I'll term "neuvo-employment". 

We have to identify how we can harness the imaginations of the youth and the experiences of those who are older. 

Fine tuning competition with existing workforce

Make no mistake about it, we can decide if we are going to compete or if we are going to innovate. Attention has to be given as to how we will be sustainable in this environment. How can we ensure that the necessary resources are accessible. 

Leadership is key in this environment. Fortunately for Barbados, our government and in particular our current Prime Minister Mia Mottley has to capacity to communicate at levels that no one is left out. I would use this opportunity to say thank you to our government for their practical measures in helping us to ride these waves of uncertainty. 

It should be noted that in this current and future environment there will be a requirement for teams to work collaboratively with experience harnessing innovation. We have some insights as to how this can be done and will share more in the near future. Keep locked in to your media channels. 

You may also keep updated on our website about various business topics and discussions at www.bladesandbladesconsultancy.com 

The impact on the workforce is real, but not insurmountable. You must however have a plan. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Announcing - The Arrival of an Illness




In Barbados, West Indies, there is a lady who is known for working out to keep fit, yet she suffered a crippling illness; not from any external factors but from within her own body which she sought to keep well through a healthy lifestyle. 

Background

Heather worked at one of the leading department stores most of her working life until just before retirement age when there was restructuring. Her job was demanding, standing for many long hours and interacting with locals and tourists alike to ensure they got the items they sought as they entered the store. 


She maintained her health through daily exercise, using total gym workouts, constantly doing step aerobics to various video workouts as well as walking various trails in the outdoors. It was a lifestyle habit she maintained coupled with eating healthy and cooking healthy dishes. Heather was active in church, being a steward, she functioned in various roles within the church for which she was entrusted and was always on time. 


Her Methodism caused her to serve in the Dorcas Society and the Women’s League as well as she’s always had an internal prompting to be of service. 


Married to her husband Watts of many years, they have been pillars of support to each other. Together they have two children and six grandchildren. 


What happened?!?

Heather was preparing for a life of healthy living especially as she aged. Then along came 2017. 


  1. She noticed that her feet began swelling by the ankles

  2. Her joint flexibility became limited

  3. Knee pain limited her walking since it became too painful to do so

  4. This developed into the inability to stand normally

  5. The degenerative illness caused her to become bow at the knee and it was increased pain

  6. Weakness stepped in depriving Heather of her independence

  7. Muscle weakness spread throughout her body

  8. She eventually became bedridden



The path that was followed

 Multiple visits with Doctors, Specialists, Physiotherapist, Neurologist was a process that came afterwards and no one was able to correctly identify what was wrong. The feedback was frustrating and expensive, yielding no results. 


The process included the following from the aforementioned:

  • Multiple X-rays

  • Diagnosis of secondary arthritis

  • Osteoporosis

  • Spinal Stenosis 

  • Spondylolisthesis 

  • Administration of Fosamax, medication which made the situation worse

  • DVD reports which were prescribed and not used 

  • Confirmations of misdiagnosis 

  • Psychological assessment suggested 

  • Nerve and Muscle Tests

  • Blood tests [revealed an Alkaline Phosphatase of >500] 

  • More X-rays 

  • Referred to therapy - got weaker 

  • Referred to pain management doctor - prescription caused severe reaction 

  • Another pain management doctor 

  • Neurosurgeon - suspected Paget's Disease

  • Referred to Rheumatologist

  • Finally the Mayo Clinic, who asked for the following:

    • Urine test

    • Blood test

    • Samples sent to them overseas

    • Confirmed disease by the Endocrinologist as a Tumour induced Osteomalacia [TIO] 


Conclusion - Tumour induced Osteomalacia [TIO] 

Here is where we are:

  • This disease is quite rare

  • The most successful treatment is surgery once the tumour is located. Which is hard to do. Full body MRIs are required and are not available in Barbados. 

  • The temporary alternative is an annual injection series which costs US$200,000 per annum. 


Action steps have been taken by her daughter Lisa who is based in the USA to assist with covering the costs of treatment via a Go Fund Me fundraiser. We hope you can help and though we understand the tough times of this pandemic, every little bit helps. We hope you can help if it means just sharing to your friends and family, especially since treatment for this condition is not readily available outside of the United States of America. 


Thank you for reading and sharing. We hope you can pledge your support. We are living, something that can happen to any of us - The Arrival of an Illness


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Meetings during COVID-19


If you are like most people, then you're at the stage of approaching burn out from all the meetings on the various platforms, accommodating people in all the time zones, or just those within your time zone who are inconsiderate of your need to shut down during the day to have personal time. 

Meetings have become intrusive - weekdays, evenings, nights, weekends; it just doesn't seem to stop. They also come in a variety of formats - meetings, webinars, huddles, and whatever other names people come up with depending on their country/culture. 

These intrusions into your household require the other members of your home to be quiet while you meet, having to put up with your discussions for which they have no interest, and after the meeting is completed; you may not be better off financially. 

Have we really identified the reason/benefits of all these meetings. Sure the topics are interesting, but what is the real benefit to participants. 




Recently, one of my colleagues showed me their calendar, and when I thought I was busy. My schedule paled in comparison and my days are packed. 

How do we get back control of our time? Do we have times allocated for when we will participate in meetings and when we won't. Though it may not be so easy for an employee, what if you are employed where you have greater flexibility. We need to implement mechanisms for coping with the plethora of meetings and become better at priority setting. 

A short while ago, I was having a conversation with another friend who has been getting request from their work place outside of working hours. Now their employer expects full compliance regarding work times from the employees. Yet, they do not honor the personal time of their employees. In short they are in boss mode rather than functioning as a leader. 

I have a friend who studied with me, got first class honors; and their approach was "the work has to be done and will be done". They never functioned on the mental commute, but was always fully engaged in the present. When they were working, that fully consumed them, and it was similar when they were playing. Never were they in one place worrying about what they should be doing in the next. The result? Success in their relatively active lifestyles - all around. 

To keep things on track here are some recommendations:

  • Have an agenda for meetings before they are set. 
  • Allocate enough time to each area and have a timekeeper. 
  • Avoid distractions where possible. 
  • Respect everyone's time; be on time. Cute stories of getting stuck in traffic don't cut it in a virtual environment. 
  • Ensure the minutes of the meeting are completed and distributed within 48 hours after the meeting so that decisions can be acted upon prior to the next meeting. Reading minutes at the next meeting for the first time since the last one is totally useless. Nothing is ever accomplished and participants quickly become disinterested in actually meeting. 
  • Keep records accessible to everyone, as necessary, in a central location. 
  • Don't micromanage. If you have to do so, then you need a different team member who doesn't require this "disservice". 
  • I function with dynamic teams who follow the aforementioned practices and these suggestions come from a true and tested environment. They are NOT theory. 
A tip for workers/trade unions, ensure that the rights of workers are protected in a virtual environment but be fair to ensure that the employees function from a standpoint of fairness and commitment rather than entitlement. 



Friday, January 29, 2021

Professional services - a little insight

 




Professional services have long been the but of many jokes, particularly when it comes to the realm of consultancy. Everyone needs them, fewer want to acknowledge they have the need, and still fewer want to even pay them for their services. 

It has been observed that many don't know the difference between investment and expense. This carries forward into the way they treat their employees in the tone that they set for their organizational culture.

Too often, for those who have been willing to serve various governments, the lament often revolves around the length of time it takes to be paid. This is after being asked for in many cases rock bottom discounts in the name of nationalism and "patriotism" along with all the other glowing teams that people trump up at the time. 

Civil servants look at the sums charged and think that the money invoiced is more than their pay and, wow...that's a lot of money for one person to be making. 

Confessions, one person, especially those worth their salt doesn't make nor keep the invoiced sum. The person that you see isn't the only one working on your project. One has to employ others [yes, teams], even if they are independent contractors to assist in expediting the work quickly and efficiently. It isn't advisable to try to keep all the work for one's self when you can draw on the experiences of others who may have even more insights because they are specialists in their respective areas. 


Information is expensive to access, and unless you want free information that may be decades old and no longer relevant, it takes money to access documents which can begin with fees of US$500 and pushing north to just gain access. Sometimes after paying these fees, you may have to pay additional fees to get supporting information for what you're researching on the behalf of the client. 

Cash flow is key, and when people make glib remarks about having money to pay your commitments. Do they expect someone elses project to pay for their expenses. YES, THEY DO! Would they want it to happen to them? NO! 

When work is done for government, certain departments are quick to ask you to serve, but loathe when it comes to payment. At payment times they play the I-N-O [ I ain't know] card, and it's always with another department until you trace it and find out whose desk it is on in the processing phase. It has gotten to the stage that good, solid people who work in the realm of professional services have vowed not to do any work for government ever again, and they remain resolute to that decision. 

Government is not alone in this, private sector also has its share of skeletal disorders when it comes to paying for professional services. To draw on a personal experience, a west coast client needed services that we provided, and the conversation went well up to a point. They then said that their payment policy was 90 days after the service is completed. It's important to have standards as a small business, I responded that we were more like Chefette [a really successful local fast food chain] in our business model - you can look at the menu all you want, but until you pay for what you require, it would not be served for you to consume. We then understood each other and I never did that assignment and prevented both parties from encountering a potentially unpleasant experience. 

Professional services if employed correctly can enable your business to experience significant growth and stability. However, you have to be fair and pay properly and on time; that way everyone wins. 


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Call Centres - do they help or harm business?


 

If you live in the developing world then you've probably encountered them; the impersonal, annoying, inefficient, ineffective and yet seemingly heavily used services of Call Centres. We know them so well, it does not even need a definition. 

People in other countries answering local phone calls, who are unable to offer tangible help, especially when they have no local knowledge. However, many companies turn to them since they offer a form of cheaper labour that where their official domicile is located. The service that comes from them though makes one wonder if they, the companies, really count the costs. 

Looking at the situation from a standpoint of observation, it seems these call centres activities don't reinforce the activities of the marketing department and promotions. It many instances, it seems to go completely against what the company says in its marketing material. So why are they used so much? How do they adequately fit into the profile of what a company defines as offering good service? 

Certainly within our Caribbean region various people have vented their frustration of having to deal with call centres and automated answering systems; where many companies violate their own promises since they rarely return calls to left messages. It leaves customers who are unable to get the information they require to form their own conclusions including thinking that their business is not valued by the entity. They feel inclined to take their business elsewhere. 

Then they are those that are answered, but the representative has no idea what the rules of the country are and sometimes make promises that are not honoured by the company they represent. This happened as recently as last week with someone. The elderly in particular are left dumbfounded by all the use of technology that doesn't deliver on the basic promises of the business. Agreements as we know them are constantly dishonoured; therefore we must ask are call centres helping or harming businesses? 

Please share your experiences and feedback. I'm sure that by doing so, some of these companies should take note of the feedback once they are smart and adjust their operations delivery methods to suit. 


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

What does the future hold? Hope or Hardship?

 


If there's one thing that can be said, 2020 has been a year that made everyone pause and take stock. It wasn't because we were curious nor good planners, but simply we were forced into a state of reckoning. 

There were severe losses, where in many cases it, arguably, needed not happen. Many paid the ultimate price with their lives, and those who are remaining are in awe and wondering, Why?!?

Despite the hardships faced by everyone, the different attitudes of people shone through. People relied on their default values for survival. Not necessarily because they are/were uncaring, but simply because their hand was forced by the circumstances they faced and could not explain. 

Did these situations begin in 2020? A pause for reflection would reveal - NO! They began before this particular year. What happened in 2020 was that the harvest of all that we were sowing came in, and in many cases it was not what anyone would have hoped to have to deal with. 

The value systems of many may have caused their demise because of the choices they made. Some were reckless others were caring, the result however were the heavy costs that impacted - life, the economies, jobs, homes, coping mechanisms like disaster recovery, having to pivot to maintain a livelihood, and the list goes on. 

We saw many politicians and many leaders in their true light. Their behaviors make their followers bold to express their various opinions, even if they seemed far-fetched to other population segments. 

Many prayed and developed relationships with their God that was unprecedented. Why did it have to take a pandemic and other disasters/mishaps for us to make use of what was available to us all along - grace and favor. 


As we stand on the precipice of the unknown future, are we ready for 2021 or are we resigned to 2020 won? As we tend to say here in Barbados, you plan for the best and prepare for the worst. One thing is certain, where we face hope or hardship, we do so knowing that we are resilient as we were made that way. Let's expect that we will come out on the other end of the new year - capital, conquering our environment in which we are the ones who were given dominion from the Genesis of time. 

Wishing you an abundance of blessings in your future. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

The private/professional connection

 


In life, we see people living and working daily almost with the expectation that they can comfortably compartmentalize their lives. It seems like almost an expectation of the employer and fellow employees. Yet, on close examination, is it really realistic?

Do we take the opportunity to learn/understand what may be happening with the lives of people? They have fears, concerns, uncertainties, and challenges beyond measure that come in various forms. Many of these situations may be high with emotional content, yet the individuals are expected to conceal/downplay their personalities in order to be considered amenable by those around them. 

How can we create/is there a way to create an environment that caters to both the workers and the customers being served; where they are allowed to be human and yet cope within a professional environment?

So where does private stop and where does professional begin? There have been talks about drawing imaginary halfway lines between home and work. It doesn't work all the time. What can we do realistically that won't trivialize the entire process? 

Do you realize that privacy pertains to your profession life as much as it pertains to your personal life? Are you confidential? 

When I was growing up, there was an older person who used to call me "Secret Order", reason being they realized that I was the type of individual that I would not repeat everything I saw nor heard, especially if I wasn't told to relay a message. If I learned aspects of someone's business, it remained just that, their business. 

To this day, people seem to feel inclined to share elements of their lives they are never shared elsewhere. They never seem to think I would tell another, because I don't share experiences of others with them. Sure you would edify someone, but seldom if ever discuss anything negative. It does no one any good. 

Nowadays, it seems that with a mobile phone that has cameras and recording software has generated a movement of un-certified news hounds. People who seem willing to share for no reason other than to gossip. The information conveyed is seldom to help everyone improve, and often can seem damaging; adding stressors to already volatile situations. 

In certain work roles, you would have to manage information that people entrust to your care. It may be your role to handle that kind of information. Be careful and be CONFIDENTIAL. Do not share your work information at home and do not share your home information at work. You are an individual with many components, treat yourselves as such. As I would say while growing up, "Be a Samsonite not a cheap valise that scatters ones contents out in public". 

This is not to say I've been perfect, none of us are. We all make mistakes. As we grow from school to the world of work, we learn the differences about privacy along the way, and hopefully how to apply it in a professional setting. 

We generally tend to think of the best responses to what we should have done, after we have already taken action. Let's use the power of the pause, since it can save a lot of misunderstanding and mishaps. 

When we have moments to reflect on elements of our lives in its completeness, what would we remember? How do we think we will be remembered? Would we be able to say we are satisfied or would we have regrets? Let's look at our private/professional connections and see if we are making a positive difference in the lives of those around us. 


COVID 19 - School Leavers and the Workforce

  Every year, there's a question that rears up within the work force? Can these new school leavers do the job? Questions seem to crop up...