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What Are the Differences Between HR Practices in the U.S. and in the Caribbean?

I will be transitioning soon from the Caribbean to the U.S. What must I do to prepare to quickly gain employment in the human resources field? Are there special regulations, systems and methodology on which I need to focus? —On the Move, HR professional, Aruba
October 17, 2012
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Dear On the Move:

 

There are a number of things a potential employer will consider when deciding whether to hire someone who has not been a human resources practitioner in the U.S. The most important are:

  • Familiarity with workplace laws.
  • Knowledge of the general culture and the business culture.
  • Industry familiarity.
  • Ability to develop and execute HR strategies and practices.
  • Facility with organizational-design solutions.

Laws: I did a bit of research on Caribbean employment law in preparation to answer your question. I found that the laws do differ from U.S. law. That means that you will need to come up to speed pretty quickly on U.S. employment statutes. The areas for focus are: protected leaves, wage and hour, employee privacy, discrimination and termination requirements. I would suggest that you reach out to the Society for Human Resource Management for suggestions, reading material or classes to help you get up to speed.

Culture: As I am sure you are aware, the culture in every country is different. Understanding "what makes people tick" is very important in our field. For instance, if you are trying to help a manager motivate his employees or keep them engaged, you need to be able to offer suggestions that will resonate with the population. U.S. employees enjoy personal recognition and so public rewards are often used to motivate. In other countries, calling attention to individual performance has the opposite effect. Learn about the U.S. culture at work by searching the Web and you will find the names of many resources.

Industry familiarity: Just as country culture can differ, so can the culture from industry to industry. The high-tech field, for instance, is fast-paced and data-driven, values risk-taking, has a pretty flat hierarchy and empowers employees. Retail is much more rules-focused, hierarchical and moves much more slowly. Although an HR person can learn to operate in a new industry, looking for a job in a company where your expertise lies might give you a bit of an advantage. Years ago, I helped a bank client interview for new HR talent. The client hired a woman from London for her first HR job in the States because she had HR experience in banking. The client believed the business-culture fit was the most important skill and the rest could be learned.

HR strategies/organizational-design tools: Any employer in the U.S. is going to be interested in your basic HR skills. These are the same all over the world. You need to be able to understand the business objectives and the HR levers to help the business achieve its strategy in the most efficient way. These include leadership development, goal-setting and talent management.

Good luck with your transition—it sounds like an exciting move.

SOURCE: Ellen Raim, vice president of human resources, Cascade Microtech, Beaverton, Oregon

LEARN MORE: To learn how to break into different areas of HR, please check out this previously published Dear Workforce article.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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