Queen's University IRC

Research Briefs – October 2014

Queen's University IRC - Research Briefs

   Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners

Oct. 2014   

 

 
 

In This Issue…

  1. An Inquiry into the State of HR in the Caribbean
  2. Learning the Art of Painting the HR Landscape
  3. Designing for Collaboration
 Ivy Leaves on Queen's University Campus 
 

An Inquiry into the State of HR in the Caribbean
Paul Juniper and Brendan Sweeney, Queen's IRC

Queen's IRC has begun to develop a strong working relationship with the HR community in the Caribbean. Partnerships with the Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados and the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business in Trinidad and Tobago have allowed the IRC to bring its unique brand of programming to practitioners from almost a dozen Caribbean nations. Building partnerships such as these are critical to understanding the innovations and challenges in the global HR community. They have also allowed Queen's IRC to extend our research beyond Canadian borders.

This report summarizes and analyzes the results of a survey of HR practitioners from the Caribbean conducted in 2012. The survey is a key component of the IRC's commitment to engaging with international practitioner communities. More specifically, the results of the survey provide insight into several key aspects of Caribbean HR practitioners' working lives. These include the demographic characteristics of practitioners, their roles and responsibilities, the nature of the organizations for which they work, their education and career development, the knowledge and skills required to thrive in the Caribbean, and of course, their perspectives on important issues, innovations and challenges in the HR profession today. The information in this report provides an important foundation to track ongoing trends and innovations in the Caribbean HR community and serves as a useful comparator when combined with recent (and forthcoming) surveys of Canadian HR practitioners.

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Learning the Art of Painting the HR Landscape
What Aunt Sally and Others Can Teach HR Professionals About Communicating "Up"

Sandi Cardillo, Queen's IRC Advanced HR Facilitator

It's Saturday morning in cottage country. You're hugging a cup of coffee on the porch. The mist is just clearing from the lake. The view from the deck is stunning. The geese are feeding at the shoreline. A hawk circles above the pines in the distance. Waves lap the deck, reminding you that you promised your cousin a kayaking lesson later this morning. He's coming with your Aunt Sally on the train as part of the adventure. Aunt Sally recently discovered plein art painting. "Bring the SUV to the station," she said. "I have the easel."

Your mind is on the meeting you were invited to in ten days with the Director of Really Big Stuff. Your assignment: present your thoughts on the two-year view of the strategic people project that became your task when you accepted your new role as business unit support human resources leader for your division. It's big and you're just getting your head around it.

"Keep it simple," her executive assistant said. "She doesn't want to know about the trees, just the forest. I've seen her chew others up when they start talking about the trees. She doesn't have time for the trees. She takes care of the forest and lets those taking care of the trees do their job. Sorry about the metaphor, but I wanted to give you a head's up."

"Wow," you think. "The forest. Not the trees. Every presentation I made in my last role was all about the trees. My manager wanted the details. He wanted to know that I had a firm grasp of everything and had tied it all up in a nice, neat package. My team members wanted the same thing – to know that I had their back and they could see it in the spreadsheets I'd prepared."

"How the heck do I approach this?" you think. "I've got twenty minutes to cover my thoughts on a two-year seriously strategic project?" Then you remember the Queen's IRC Advanced HR course your new manager had asked you to attend when you accepted the role in the business unit. At the time it was still pretty new, and frankly, slightly overwhelming to make the transition from subject matter expert to business unit support leader. You remember something from that session about turning the curve on the way to the next level and how things at the next level require a different kind of thinking.

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Designing for Collaboration
Brenda Barker Scott, Queen's IRC Organizational Design Facilitator

Collaboration is emerging as a core organizational competence, and indeed an imperative, in today's interconnected work context. Despite the need, collaborative results often fall short of the intended ideals. A large body of research suggests that while collaboration may be necessary, it is not easy (Bryson, Crosby & Stone, Rhoten, 2003; 2006; Suddaby, Hardy, & Huy, 2011). Failed collaborative efforts have led academics to point to the many sources of collaborative inertia; organizational elements that act as barriers to collaboration. What if, instead of attempting to overcome elements of inertia, we shift our efforts to designing holistic systems that enable collaboration? Below, I argue that collaboration is a design challenge. To enable more fruitful collaboration in our organizations, we need to design for it.

If we are going to design our organizations to support collaboration, we need to know what it is. The term 'collaboration' has been adopted widely and used ubiquitously to describe multiple types of interactive forms, from simple communication, to cooperation, to full-fledged co-creation (Aboelela, Larson, Bakken, Carrasquillo, Formicola, Glied, Haas & Gebbie, 2007). Today, most academics agree that collaboration is more than communication or cooperation; it requires mutuality amongst the players, as well as joint engagement in a dynamic and evolving process, directed toward the achievement of a shared goal (Bedwell, Wildman, DiazGranados, Salzar, Kramer, and Salas, 2012). Often, deep learning exchanges amongst the players are required to facilitate the sharing and leveraging of expertise required to create novel insights (Pennington, 2008). Collaborative efforts can focus around a wide variety of outcomes including problem solving, innovation, process improvement, or enhanced quality. Those participating can take many forms including teams, networks, communities, alliances, and partnerships. Whatever the focus, collaborative efforts aim to achieve outcomes that cannot be achieved by the parties working on their own; an outcome referred to as collaborative advantage (Huxham & Vangen, 2005; Moss Kanter, 1994).

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