Monday, November 20, 2017

HR Officials Face Numerous Challenges in Workplace

By on August 6, 2017

Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the August 3 print edition of Caribbean Business.

SAN JUAN — As it celebrates its 50 years of existence, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) predicts employers will soon face challenging situations in the workplace that will put their leadership skills to the test and require them to find innovative ways to transform.

A new labor reform law in Puerto Rico that has changed employee benefits; conflicts in the workplace brought on by religion; the leadership gaps caused by the retirement of baby boomers; difficulties in retaining millennials; and a host of other trends such as “remote working” are demanding more from HR specialists.

SHRM Puerto Rico Chapter President Jennifer Zapata said that is why the organization is using the theme “Ignite, Leading Differentiation” in this year’s 44th conference at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan on Sept. 21.

From left, actor Tom Hanks , Capt. Richard Phillips and Paul Greenglass, director of 2013 film Captain Phillips.

“We seek to reignite our passion for the profession…. We want each organization to find its strengths and ways to lead to a transformation,” she said. The annual conference is expected to attract more than 800 professionals from around the island.

The private sector has not been immune to the effects of Puerto Rico sailing through the dangerous waters of economic crisis, as many businesses have suffered cutbacks and bankruptcies. The conference will feature Capt. Richard Phillips, who will talk about his harrowing experience when his cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 and what that event taught him about leadership in a time of crisis.

Phillips, a merchant marine whose story inspired the 2013 Oscar-nominated thriller “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks, will share his compelling story and draw lessons from those dramatic events that can help organizations survive and thrive.

“We can reflect about ourselves through him [and his experience],” Zapata said.

The conference, whose workshops are divided by competencies, will also feature a discussion on the impact of the new labor reform law, dubbed, “Transformation & Flexibility Act in Human Resources,” eight months after its passage, while a separate discussion will be held on its exempt categories. P.R. Labor Secretary Carlos Saavedra is scheduled to be one of the speakers.

“There will be 41 conferences in total, covering all issues in labor,” she said.

Another one of the conferences will deal with how to fill in leadership gaps as baby boomers retire. Certified coach & trainer Guillermo Mendoza will give a lecture titled, “Rehire Don’t Retire: How to Keep the Wisdom of Your Baby Boomer to Reduce the Leadership Gap.”

“As the younger population leaves the island, much more than retiring, how can we keep baby boomers so they continue to collaborate?” she asked rhetorically.

Another conference, meanwhile, will deal with the manner in which HR officials can help retain millennials, typically defined as those born between the 1980s and early 2000s.

While Zapata says each generation has its own set of challenges, by 2020, 75% of the workforce will be “millennial,” a generation that is highly familiar with technology, communications, social media and the digital age.

“This is a generation that has brought challenges in the manner in which they communicate. They are fascinated with technology. They also search for jobs that can bring meaning to their lives and not just for the money,” she said.

Another challenge faced by human resources in the workplace is religion. For example, labor reform and other laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to different religions. In fact, the number of religious discrimination complaints keeps climbing, Zapata indicated. “We have to understand the law,” she said.

In response to a question by Caribbean Business, she said that in general, employers need to be more flexible with upcoming trends that appear to be taking hold in other jurisdictions. For instance, it is already standard that many employers are allowing workers to work from home. Another trend that appears to be gaining popularity is the idea of bringing pets to the workplace, in the same way that many parents often bring their children to the office.

“In Puerto Rico, we have to learn to be creative,” she said.

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