A decade ago Rebecca Vieira Cox found that Human Resource (HR) infrastructure was rudimentary to non-existent in small companies in Guyana. Today, armed with international experience, the expert wants to take local HR infrastructure to another level.
For her, the HR department is the nucleus of any organisation as even though it is relegated to a purely administrative function in some companies, in progressive businesses, it is seen as a true strategic partner.
“The health of the organisation is a reflection of HR’s performance. People are dynamic, and thus, HR, in collaboration with the organisation’s leaders, must continuously evolve practices to meet the needs and keep abreast of current workforce trends,” she told Stabroek Weekend in an interview.
On the local front, she wants to conduct virtual consulting and make periodic visits for special projects, including workshops. She noted that the global pandemic has supplanted the mode of operations for many businesses and therefore the post-pandemic trend of a virtual environment has been amplified by the plethora of services now accessible online or remotely.
Cox holds a bachelor’s in public management from the University of Guyana and is also the holder of a SHRMCP certificate (Society of Human Resources, Certified Professional) and a Certified Myers Briggs practitioner who is currently pursuing a Juris Masters in Employment Law with Florida State University.
She is a Senior Corporate HR Executive for a retail chain in the United States where she oversees HR functions in 11 countries (the Caribbean and the US). Cox has also led wide-ranging talent acquisition initiatives; consulted and coached senior leadership teams; trained management staff on performance management, interviewing and industrial relations; and supports a diverse international workforce of over 150 employees.
While professionally she does have a lot on her plate, Cox is still keen on bringing her service home as she believes managing her time effectively has afforded her the opportunity to accomplish many ventures.
As to her career path, Cox explained that her entry into HR in 2011 was by default and not design. She explained that her initiation into the field was to focus on the transactional functions.
But her true desire to grow in the field was driven by a passion for “matching the right talent to the right roles and being a catalyst for change”.
It was in 2015 that the CEO of the company she worked for entrusted her with leading the HR department, an appointment she took seriously.
“Today, whenever I speak with colleagues about the HR profession, I’m often told that HR has a reputation for being the villain, and it’s a thankless job,” she said.However, she said, the truth is HR’s dichotomous challenge of being the employee advocate, and a compliance buffer for the company can perceptually seed mistrust.
Consequently, according to Cox, employees question whether or not they can really trust HR. But she said the perception does not deter her from seeing the value that well-trained and passionate HR professionals can bring to the department and organisation as ultimately her goal is to become a well-respected “HR luminary and be an agent of change”.
Apart from HR, Cox also has experience in operations management and leadership coaching and development and is currently working on a special project with an instructional designer to design and implement a comprehensive training programme and learning management system (LMS). Speaking directly to young people, especially those who are yet to find their career path, Cox tells them to follow their passions as she believes inherent in each person is a purpose and a desire to pursue something greater than oneself.
“Your profession should provide a platform for actualizing that calling,” she said.
She acknowledged that post-high school plans can be intimidating and her advice to the youth who may be struggling to decide on a career path that aligns with his/her passion or calling is: “Success is not linear. Try different things. Don’t feel obligated to live someone else’s dream. Do what makes you feel fulfilled. Develop a healthy appetite for stepping out of your comfort zone because that’s where growth lies. Your professional network should always be evolving and most importantly, never stop learning.”
She explained that as part of the services she provides she uses psychometric testing to measure personality traits that bring awareness to the ideal career path. She said many colleges in the US use psychometric testing to offer career counselling to freshmen students and she believes this is a huge opportunity for Guyana and would be happy to work with the stakeholders in furtherance of this initiative.
Cox also serves as a member of the local chapter of the Inclusion and Diversity committee for the Society of Human Resources Management in Florida to promote inclusivity, diversity and equity in the workplace.
Asked about the issues of diversity in the workplace, Cox said this has been a prominent focus for years in the US, but the 2020 social uprisings made it a strategic priority and a moral imperative for organisations and stakeholders.
“Diversity and inclusion have multiple dimensions at the personality level: adopting an inclusive approach to the various personalities we encounter in the workplace and the different ways they show up. An example would be someone who is timid (the introvert) or someone who is gregarious and loud (the extrovert) — appreciating the nuances and individual idiosyncrasies,” she explained.
The internal dimensions of diversity also focus on age, race, ethnicity, gender expression, sexual orientation and disability. There is also the question of whether the policies and practices of the organisation are inclusive and representative of all the groups.
For her, diversity is any dimension that can be used to distinguish groups and people from each other, as it is about creating a sense of belonging and inclusivity by appreciating what makes them different. Creating an inclusive work environment extends beyond being tolerant of these different groups; it is to ensure that we value and respect their differences. She said diversity and inclusion are close to her as she comes from a multiracial family and she is also an immigrant in the United States supporting a diverse workforce where over 13 nationalities are represented.
She believes that she is adept with the employment laws and practices in several Caribbean countries and can serve as a great resource for anyone looking to do business in those islands.
Cox grew up in Plaisance, East Coast Demerara and is the eldest of her siblings. Her parents are staunch Christians and have been instrumental in shaping her work ethic and values.
“It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge other family members who have also played a pivotal role in my achievements. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I owe a debt of gratitude to my strong support system,” she said. Cox can be contacted [email protected].
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