Hot HR topics covered at conference

The University of Portsmouth has a history dating back 12 years in helping human resources specialists in the Cayman Islands advance their knowledge, skills and careers. Last month, it not only recognised seven local adult students for attaining professional certificates, it had three of its facility members give talks on hot topics in the HR field.  

 

Money is no longer the main motivator in getting skilled employees to work to their maximum potential. This and other topics in the field of human resources management were discussed at a free conference presented by the well-regarded University of Portsmouth Business School at the offices of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce on 10 September.  

Charlotte Rayner, a professor of human resources management and Portsmouth’s head of HR and organisational studies, said the University was one of only 10 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Centres of Excellence in the UK. 

“The CIPD is quite demanding,” she said, adding that it not only required thorough academics, but also the teaching of knowledge that can be applied in practical skills as well. 

Senior lecturer Liza Howe-Walsh came to the university after a career in the business sector and she said one of the attractions for her was the ability to do research projects. 

“Research isn’t for academic purposes only,” she said. “It also has practical uses. You have the ability to shape policy and practice going forward.” 

 

Meaning at work  

Rayner’s presentation dealt with a new area of study and research concerning employees finding meaning in their jobs and a new approach to workplace motivation.  

She noted that people go to work for a variety of reasons, including to gain the means of buying a certain lifestyle or to support their families; to do what they love to do; to have fun, excitement and social interaction; or to do something that can make a societal contribution or difference.  

Although money is an important factor, for skilled workers who aren’t at the bottom of the pay scale, more money doesn’t always result in more motivation or production. 

“The connection between money and effort is very wobbly after the bottom rung [of the pay scale],” she said. 

The Self-Determination Theory of human motivation and personality suggests that three things – competence, autonomy and relatedness – foster the best motivation, she said, adding that ultimately, people want their lives – and their work – to matter, regardless of what their job is. 

Beyond having what they do matter, increasingly people are also looking for relatedness with others in the workplace. She referred to sociologist Randall Collins’ book Interaction Ritual Chains, which suggests that workplace colleagues create certain rituals that provide emotional energy – what Collins calls a “collective effervescence” – that also affects thinking in various social settings, including the workplace.  

 

Women’s career progression  

In her presentation, Howe-Walsh discussed research into global female leadership development.  

Howe-Walsh and a colleague at the University of Portsmouth Business School just this summer were awarded funding for a project to run workshops to help further women’s career paths in the Middle East. She will use a psychometric tool called the Global Competencies Index to help identify the women’s competence on a global scale and to examine their personal qualities associated with effectiveness in intercultural situations. 

Howe-Walsh thinks the timing for the project is right, with the Arab Spring having begun and a change already starting to take place with regard to the role of women in the workplace in the Middle East. 

Although this particular project will deal with women in the Middle East, Howe-Walsh’s research has looked at the roles of women in the global workplace. She noted that in the UK as recently as 1992 there were only two women professors in physics and that even now there are only 60. 

The disparity between men and women in leadership roles is not caused by lack of ability. 

“Research says women have the skill set to be good leaders,” she said.  

However, women face a number of challenges in furthering their career paths, including a lack of career development; a lack of support within their own organisations; isolation; inflexible work hours; low self-confidence; lack of recognition; bullying behaviours; and issues of self awareness. 

Howe-Walsh said the Global Competencies Index helps identify some of the issues particular women are having so that they can be addressed.  

 

Employee engagement  

Gary Rees, the principle lecturer in human resources management at the Portsmouth Business School, spoke about research concerning employee engagement and wellbeing in the workplace.  

He said recent research indicated that many company CEOs simply don’t care about their employees. 

“They have a lack of concern over high levels of organisational stress, employee wellbeing and engagement,” he said.  

Instead of the CEO or even the HR head or department, oftentimes the line managers are the people in an organisation who take responsibility for employee engagement and wellbeing, Rees said. This approach, however, doesn’t support a cohesive company culture.  

Research has shown that one result of this method of employee engagement is the idea that HR is becoming more administrative in function and less caring about employees.  

 

Dissertations  

Three former Cayman-based University of Portsmouth students who obtained Master’s of Science in Human Resources Management at the university, gave presentations of their dissertations.  

Tamara Ebanks, who works for the Cayman Islands Government, explored career management and succession planing in the Cayman Islands Civil Service. 

Juliet Osbourne, who works for Seaboard Marine Cayman, looked at organisational learning and the facilitating and inhibiting factors in doing business in the Cayman Islands financial services industry.  

Factors her research – which was done two years ago – found that facilitate business in the financial services industry in the Cayman Islands included its tax neutrality; the quality of its financial organisations, infrastructure and talent; its legislation, its regulator and being a British Overseas Territory; and the high standard of living on the Island.  

Some of the inhibiting factors her research found included the seven-year term limit on foreign nationals; the changing international regulations and the surrounding misconceptions of Cayman as a tax haven that engages in tax evasion; and the high costs of doing business in the country.  

Ceili Fitzgerald, who works at RBC Wealth Management, explored self-initiated female expatriates – those who came to Cayman on their own initiative rather than being transferred by an existing employer. 

Fitzgerald noted that there is a lack of very much research on her topic and that after her paper was published in the International Journal of Business and Management in October 2008, it has been cited by others doing research on the same or similar topics.  

One of the more surprising findings of her research was that although some of the women participants in her study experienced discrimination in the workplace, they did not perceive it to be gender-based, but instead due to their identity as expatriates.  

 

Certificates  

Before closing the conference and enjoying a social cocktail event, the Portsmouth faculty conveyed Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development certificates to seven Cayman residents who had successfully completed their study in 2011. 

The seven included Miriam Berry; Nikita Jackson; Evalee McField; Sherelle Clarke; Natasja Levy; Cindy Reid; and Christina Smith. 

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University of Portsmouth Professor Charlotte Rayner, right, along with Master’s of Science in Human Resources Management graduates, from left, Juliet Osbourne, Tamara Ebanks and Ceili Fitzgerald.

Hot HR topics 1

At the ceremony to award Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development certificates were, from left, University of Portsmouth Professor Charlotte Rayner, certificate recipients Nikita Jackson; Miriam Berry; Evalee McField; Christina Smith; Cindy Reid; Natasja Levy; and Sherelle Clarke; along with Portsmouth Business School senior lecturer Liza Howe–Walsh.

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