Category Archives: Cuba

Cuba and Maslow

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Last week I wrote about some of my experiences on a recent HR study delegation to Cuba. My comments were pretty tough. With another week of reflection behind me, I want to write about the people of Havana, not the systems and political infrastructure of Cuba.

As we look forward to greater cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba in the future, we should be prepared to invest more than money in business opportunities. We should be prepared to invest time, training and social support to a struggling nation of people who want, as I said last week, “to be productive, to live happy lives and provide for their families. In that way they are no different than we are and they are a potential gold mine in the challenging global talent pool.”

It seems to me that the Cuban population falls into two categories: those who are “believers” and those who are “non-believers.” Believers still feel the revolutionary zeal of Fidel, Che and Raul and they are mostly at the top of the food chain. They are the “They” to whom average Cubanos refer when talking about the 630 +/- government decisions makers – whether we talked to university professors, high ranking Ministry officials, grassroots CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) members, high ranking union leaders, grassroots community organizers, workers in state-owned restaurants or owners of paladares (privately owned/run restaurants) – each talked about “Them” as far removed and somewhat unknowable. Not so different from average citizens in our or any other country: disenfranchised, at the mercy of forces they don’t really understand (despite ongoing, artful propaganda), and yearning for a good life, for economic and social stability for themselves and their families and the ability to find meaning in their work and lives.

Think Maslow’s hierarchy:

Maslow 2

Cubanos hover between physiological and safety needs – the State tries to provide for social and esteem needs but that’s hard to accomplish when it is a nation whose people live with ration cards for the most basic food supplies, whose people live in homes that are barely standing – many with no windows or real protection from the elements, but whose leaders proclaim a 100% literacy rate, education and healthcare systems the envy of other third world nations, and an employment system where people aren’t fired, they just “become available.”

As many business leaders around the world are dealing with talent shortfalls and struggling with how to ensure their competitiveness in the global marketplace, Cuba’s government leaders are trying to feed, clothe and shelter their talent – whom they also employ. More than 95% of all workers in Cuba work for state-owned enterprises, educational or healthcare institutions, or the government itself. It’s hard for even the unions to be effective championing worker rights when the employer is the government.

Cuba isn’t the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. It makes no effort to hide the reality of its challenges.

It’s pretty clear that Cuba needs significant policy changes at the top in order to bring a chance of prosperity to its citizen workers. If Cuba ever expects to play on the global stage, as an employer it needs to create a culture that moves up Maslow’s hierarchy. Subsistence living conditions do little to build loyalty, or motivate high levels of performance, innovation or learning. The U.S. doesn’t have to be the model. Use the Czech Republic, Hungary or Poland – all of whom have entered the global economy and are making economic and social progress benefiting all of their citizens.

Cuba Street

Cuba could be at a crossroads. Raul Castro has said he will not stand for re-election in 2016. It’s hard, however, for both the believers and non-believers to envision a more free society and economy. The future is looming large and unknowable. But we saw a glimmer of hope that perhaps incremental freedoms will soon come at a faster pace and allow for the advancement of a society, economy and people that are all past ready to bloom. This would be good for Cuba and its people – and good for the global economy.

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Filed under China Gorman, Cuba, Data Point Tuesday, Human Resources, Human Resources in Cuba, Uncategorized

Cuba: Jerry-rigged To Fail

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Gerry Crispin and I led a delegation of 21 senior HR executives to Cuba last week. I’m still processing what we experienced and learned, but wanted to share some high level observations for you. First of all, read Laurie Ruettimann’s blog post from yesterday here. Her take is, as always, captivating and profound.

Second, let me set the stage for you. With recent developments in the relationship between Cuba and the U.S., it seems important to begin to understand how work happens in Cuba. It may not be long before U.S. employers can open up businesses or begin to invest in Cuba’s infrastructure. And understanding the history of work since the revolution would be a critical step. Additionally, understanding the social context of the revolution and the subsequent U.S. embargo and their impact on the people, careers and lives of Cubans would be another critical step. And finally, understanding how Cuba works (or in many cases, doesn’t work) would be the ultimate learning.

So, 21 hardy HR executives set out on the 14th of November to get those questions answered. Our delegation was made up of CHROs, heads of Talent Acquisition, consultants, bloggers, job board owners, academics and other senior HR types. Age-wise we ranged from early 30’s to early 70’s, so we were an amazingly diverse group from every angle.

Because this was an education-focused delegation we met with senior level government officials in the Ministry of Work and Social Security, the Foreign Ministry, the national workers union, the Ministry of Tourism, the national Jurists union, and several other senior government representatives who could interact with us about work and employment in Cuba. Additionally we met with members of a local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a sort of “neighborhood watch” group that provides social activities as well as a way for the party to watch over citizens at the most grass roots level.

Our interactions were fascinating, challenging, and disturbing. I’ve been to developing nations and seen abject poverty in places like India, China, Jamaica, Uruguay and others. And in those places I’ve been aware that the governments were working hard to lift up their economies and their people. But not Cuba. And that is kind of insane. There’s an insistence that the Revolution is working and that the hardships their citizens have endured – particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union – are all for the good of the populace in service of their communist/socialist ideals. The insistence that unemployment is 2.7% when only 4 million of their more than 11 million citizens are working seems completely out of touch. The fact that the Cuban government just raised the salaries of doctors to 1,600 Cuban Pesos a month (about $60 U.S.) is noteworthy because it was used over and over again as an example of how the government is loosening its grip on worker compensation and embracing a more market-based approach to “business.” The anticipation/fear about what will happen in the next Presidential election as Raul Castro has declared he won’t stand for reelection is palpable. In short, the world of work in Cuba is tenuous at best. Everything in Cuba is tenuous at best.

Cuba 1

It seemed to me that the people we met with – officially and unofficially – fell into two camps: those who are true believers in the revolution and those who would like to leave Cuba this very minute and never return. Unfortunately, the true believers are all in official government positions with perks and influence, and the ones who would like to leave and never return are everyone else.

The infrastructure of Cuba is decrepit. It truly is as if time stopped in 1960. The classic cars from the 1950’s are something amazing to behold (and held together with duct tape, wire and glue), but they are the perfect example of life in Cuba: sometimes things work, but mostly they don’t. And when they do work, they don’t work like they’re supposed to and only do work because they were jerry-rigged.

Cuba 2

Despite all of this adversity the Cuban people are warm, lovely and eager to be hospitable – particularly to Americans. Most Cubans have family in the U.S. who fled during the revolution or who left in the subsequent mass migration. More than one Cuban joked with us that the “real” capital of Cuba is Miami. These people want to be productive, to live happy lives and provide for their families. In that way they are no different than we are and they are a potential gold mine in the challenging global talent pool. The Cuban government declares 100% literacy in their population and if that’s true, they could add significantly to the global economy. If they can get to it.

Gerry Crispin said something really profound early in the trip when I asked him how he was doing. He replied, “Wonderful. Because that’s the only option.” I think the same is true for Cubans. How is life in Cuba? It’s wonderful, because to admit it isn’t is to cast aspersions on the revolution, Fidel and Che – and most importantly, because it makes the future far more terrifying than it already is.

Our trip to Cuba was fascinating, interesting, challenging, more than a little heart-breaking, and disturbing. Whatever is next for its economy, social and political structure, and its people – they need help. Lots and lots of help.

 

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Filed under China Gorman, Cuba, Gerry Crispin, Global HR, Global Human Capital, Uncategorized

HR Delegation to Cuba

data point tuesday_500Want to be among the first U.S. HR professionals to see how HR is practiced in Cuba? Then join me and co-leader Gerry Crispin on an 8 day study tour in November! Check it out here: http://citizens.peopletopeople.com/OurPrograms/CAP/Pages/2015-Citizens-GormanCrispin-Cuba.aspx

For 50 years, People to People Ambassador Programs has provided educational travel for professionals and students across the globe. With more than 20,000 Ambassadors traveling annually, People to People Ambassador Programs is one P2P Logoof the world’s most recognized and respected educational travel providers and plays a significant role in increasing global awareness. I became aware of People to People as the Chief Operating Officer of SHRM as I led delegations of senior HR professionals to India and China under their auspices. They provide a first class environment for significant learning and handle the travel logistics in an incredibly high quality way.

Gerry Crispin got the ball rolling in organizing a delegation of senior HR professionals to Cuba last month and asked me to join him as co-leader. Because of my previous experience, I leapt at the chance and am pleased to officially announce that a People to People Citizen Ambassador HR Program to Cuba is open for enrollment! Gerry and I are working together to lead what will be an incredible first-in experience in the senior HR community.

Human resource and talent management professionals are educated and trained to assist organizations with how they lead and support workers’ motivation, skills, knowledge and experience in the pursuit of individual and organizational goals.

Our delegation will interact with our Cuban counterparts during a series of meetings and site visits. We plan to meet with government officials, HR and other leaders in a variety of settings to learn and discuss:

  • How individuals entering the workforce in Cuba are prepared through training and education
  • How individuals find work and how the needs of the society, their organizations and institutions find workers
  • How Cuba’s planned economy conducts its workforce planning activities
  • How Cuba is evolving in each of the above areas given their unique situation in the global economy

In addition to the professional visits, our delegation will enjoy authentic and immersive cultural activities with the aid of an expert guide. We will meet in Miami on November 13, 2015 andl depart for Cuba early the next morning to visit Havana, Regla, and Las Terrazas. We will return to Miami on November 21.

The cost per delegate is $4,899.00 USD (based on double occupancy). This includes the overnight in Miami, round-trip international airfare from Miami, transportation within Cuba, all meetings and group cultural activities, first-class hotel accommodations, most meals, professional guides and interpreters, most tips and taxes, Cuban visa, 24 hour emergency support during travel, and essentially all other costs associated with participation.

We currently have 22 colleagues registered – which means there are only 3 spots left (a deposit of $500.00 will hold your place). If you would like to secure your spot on the delegation or if you have questions, I encourage you to contact People to People Citizen Ambassador Programs at 877-787-2000. The email address is citizens@peopletopeople.com . Enrollments will be accepted on a first-come first-served basis.

Gerry and I are pleased to be involved in this exciting opportunity and hope you will strongly consider participating along with us. Please feel free to connect with me if you’d like to discuss this experience. It will be one of the most unique and meaningful professional experiences of your life!

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Filed under China Gorman, Cuba, Data Point Tuesday, Gerry Crispin, Global HR

Let’s Go to Cuba and Learn!

Want to be among the first U.S. HR professionals to see how HR is practiced in Cuba? Then join me and co-leader Gerry Crispin on an 8 day study tour in November!

P2P LogoFor 50 years, People to People Ambassador Programs has provided educational travel for professionals and students across the globe. With more than 20,000 Ambassadors traveling annually, People to People Ambassador Programs is one of the world’s most recognized and respected educational travel providers and plays a significant role in increasing global awareness. I became aware of People to People as the Chief Operating Officer of SHRM as I led delegations of senior HR professionals to India and China under their auspices. They provide a first class environment for significant learning and handle the travel logistics in an incredibly high quality way.

Gerry Crispin got the ball rolling in organizing a delegation of senior HR professionals to Cuba last month and asked me to join him as co-leader. Because of my previous experience, I leapt at the chance and am pleased to officially announce that a People to People Citizen Ambassador HR Program to Cuba is open for enrollment! Gerry and I are working together to lead what will be an incredible first-in experience in the senior HR community.

Human resource and talent management professionals are educated and trained to assist organizations with how they lead and support workers’ motivation, skills, knowledge and experience in the pursuit of individual and organizational goals.

Our delegation will interact with our Cuban counterparts during a series of meetings and site visits. We plan to meet with government officials, HR and other leaders in a variety of settings to learn and discuss:

  • How individuals entering the workforce in Cuba are prepared through training and education
  • How individuals find work and how the needs of the society, their organizations and institutions find workers
  • How Cuba’s planned economy conducts its workforce planning activities
  • How Cuba is evolving in each of the above areas given their unique situation in the global economy

In addition to the professional visits, our delegation will enjoy authentic and immersive cultural activities with the aid of an expert guide. We will meet in Miami on November 13, 2015 andl depart for Cuba early the next morning to visit Havana, Regla, and Las Terrazas. We will return to Miami on November 21.

The cost per delegate is $4,899.00 USD (based on double occupancy). This includes the overnight in Miami, round-trip international airfare from Miami, transportation within Cuba, all meetings and group cultural activities, first-class hotel accommodations, most meals, professional guides and interpreters, most tips and taxes, Cuban visa, 24 hour emergency support during travel, and essentially all other costs associated with participation.

Without any serious communication we already have 8 colleagues registered (a deposit of $500.00 will hold your place) – with several more planning to enroll. With a maximum delegation of 25, the spots will fill up quickly. If you would like to secure your spot on the delegation or if you have questions, I encourage you to contact People to People Citizen Ambassador Programs at 877-787-2000. The email address is citizens@peopletopeople.com . Enrollments will be accepted on a first-come first-served basis.

Gerry and I are pleased to be involved in this exciting opportunity and hope you will strongly consider participating along with us. Please feel free to connect with me if you’d like to discuss this experience. It will be one of the most unique and meaningful professional experiences of your life!

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Filed under China Gorman, Cuba, Gerry Crispin, Human Resources in Cuba, People to People