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A road worth walking

Shawn Cumberbatch

A road worth  walking

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Michelle Husbands knows what success in the Barbados’ Best Employers (BBE) programme feels like.
She is also fully aware of the value of having an engaged and motivated workforce and the importance of sound human resource practices.
This Royal Bank of Canada Insurance Company Ltd (RBCICL) team member was among employees celebrating when that company won the award in the medium category of BBE 2012.
Now almost two years later, the underwriting administrator, who also serves as her organisation’s employee engagement officer, is still seeing the “so many benefits” of the BBE initiative, including “an overwhelming sense of pride among employees”, “even higher staff morale”, and “a more rejuvenated workforce that is bent on continuing best practices”.
While champions usually covet medals, trophies and other traditional rewards associated with winning contests, Husbands sees more tangible prizes.
“I would say to employers who are considering becoming involved in this programme that the aim is not to win the award (of course that would be the icing on the cake) but the most benefits are gained from the journey,” she said.
“Learning from other companies, hearing the opinions and thoughts of your employees, moving your company forward in a manner to improve its HR practices thereby creating a world class culture, is the real reward.”
Elaborating on the benefits of the BBE programme, Husbands said it “enhanced the already existing family life atmosphere within the company, team members were more cognisant of their work performance”, but she believed the “real reward” was gained during the BBE process and related preparation.
“Management kept staff informed and energised about each stage of the process. Dialogue was created in discussing the categories we were being tested on, and staff were encouraged to participate in the survey. During this process, not only was there great team effort as persons got involved where they could, but there was also a sense of greater awareness as they learnt about the many policies and programs that were already in place at RBC Insurance,” she recalled.
“They saw that we were leaps and bounds ahead of what other companies had in place. This produced an air of appreciation amongst staff. From our BBE results we also learnt that there was room for improvement. Subsequent to our win as recommended by Caribbean Catalyst, we have hosted an HIV/AIDS Discrimination in the Workplace Workshop, and all staff took the anti HIV/AIDS Discrimination Pledge.”
    Husbands said if there were any companies in Barbados wondering if the BBE programme would benefit their enterprise, her answer was a resounding yes.
    In this context, she said a “most amazing and relevant” point to note was the fact that the BBE engagement scores in 2012 mirrored those of an in-house employee opinion survey originating in Canada and in which the Barbados business participates annually.
    “To me, this proves that there is integrity in the BBE Award Programme and that it is definitely a great tool to measure your companies’ HR practices and policies,” she noted.
Husbands said it was an honour for the company to be recognised and awarded by the BBE committee “for our standard of human resource practices and policies. It’s a flag that we have flown with enormous pride for the past two years: along with the bragging rights of course!”
RBCICL is a medium-sized international business company, which is located in Chelston Park, St Michael and has been operating in Barbados for the past 27 years. It has grown from a staff of six to 37.
Husbands pointed out that one year before the first BBE in 2010, the company had started a new “transformational journey” aimed at recreating its working environment into a world class culture.
    “In doing so, we went back to our roots and focused on communicating the five pillars of RBC excellence on which we proudly stand today – service, teamwork, integrity, responsibility, and diversity. It is the umbrella which guides our key behaviours and performance within RBCICL,” she explained.
    Noting that the company believed strongly in active employee engagement, something which brought good results including financial reward, Husbands said in three years spent recreating the culture was beneficial.
    The staff-centred effort saw a number of changes, including the creation of the employee engagement officer post she now holds.
    Putting it all into context, she said participating in BBE allowed her organisation to measure its practices; “what we were doing right versus what needed enhancing”.