August 2011

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An explanation of self: New HR reader brings local perspectives

By Asha Chasteau

Dr Roland Baptiste considers the dismantling of the Central Training Unit (CTU), which was primarily responsible for training and developing staff of government ministries, an indelible loss to Trinidad and Tobago’s Public Service. Under the mantle of Public Service Reform, ministries began training their own staff; however, it lacked the scope and width provided by the CTU. For those like Dr Baptiste who were intimately involved with the workings of the CTU, the closing of the Unit left a void in the Public Service that is yet to be filled.

His extensive career in the Public Service began in 1975 with the post of Training Officer of the CTU, progressed to Assistant Director of the Unit (1981-1987) and then to the Chief Personnel Officer of the Personnel Department, a position he held for five years before moving on to become the Deputy Director of the then UWI Institute of Business, before transferring to the St. Augustine Campus.

A senior lecturer in the Management Studies Department since 1997, Dr Baptiste lectures in Human Resource Management, Organization Behaviour, Organization Development and Human Resource Development. He will be launching his first published book for which he is also the editor, “Human Resource Management: A Reader for Students and Practitioners,” in time for the new academic year.

So what prompted him to conceive and produce a text on Human Resource Management when so many others already exist? Well, according to Dr Baptiste who has been assisting with the theses of postgraduate students in the Management programme, a lot of research and work on Human Resource Management in Trinidad and Tobago was being developed, and he thinks the publication of the accumulation of this work is a good way to bring it to the attention of those interested in the subject. In addition, Dr Baptiste also views the text as an opportunity to showcase the quality of work produced by postgraduate students of the Management Studies Department, of which he is evidently pleased.

“Human Resource Management (HRM) may be considered a cycle of interdependent processes that begins with the entry of employees into a firm and end with their exit,” writes Dr Baptiste. In fact, there are different kinds of Human Resource Management practices; a major insurance company that does business on an international scale will have a more sophisticated HR method than a micro enterprise run by a family. This is but one of the topics discussed in the text.

The first two articles are authored by Dr Baptiste himself. The first, ‘What is Human Resource Management (HRM)?’ is a comprehensive discussion on the field and provides valuable information to those not familiar with the subject. “I am of the view that we should look at the full context of how this area of management has been established and how it has evolved in the Trinidad and Tobago context as opposed to the British context,” he said during our interview. The second article, “Labour Disturbances in Trinidad, 1937: The Views of Two Influential Observers,” deals with employment relationships and seems to reflect the influence of his first degree in History and Political Science and a Master’s in History both of which he attained at Howard University. In this article, Dr Baptiste gives a fascinating history, from the perspectives of the then Governor and American Consul, of the social and political change which led to a shift in employment relations and the effects upon the labour situation in Trinidad and Tobago which can still be seen.

The subsequent chapters consist of essays by former postgraduate students of the Management Studies Department and are abridged versions of their MSc theses. They cover a range of topics, providing information employee relations, management practices and other issues relating to the national labour environment. One contribution I found particularly interesting pertains to the perception of the “glass ceiling” and its effect on female career advancement in Trinidad. Submitted by Shonda Moore, ‘The Glass Ceiling Effect: Sex Differences in Explanations for Career Progress in Trinidad’, found that there is little indication of a sex-based barrier which prevents women from progressing to senior management positions in Trinidadian companies. This finding may be of great national interest in light of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s focus on the importance of gender equality to national development.

And as the person who has brought all this work to fruition, what does Dr Baptiste hope readers take away from his book?

“Two things. The concept that we as people are the most reliable contributors to competitive advantage … if you do right by the people you have, you can develop a staff with a culture that is very difficult to imitate. It is sustainable. The second thing is that the general public should know about work that is being done by UWI students … to generate knowledge about ourselves as a society. We have to explain ourselves to ourselves.”

Human Resource Management: A Reader for Students and Practitioners will be officially launched on September 7, 2011 at the Office of the Campus Principal, The University of the West Indies St. Augustine Campus. It will be available at the UWI Bookshop.