Veronica Inoue: What is [Federación Interamericana de Asociaciones de Gestión Humana] FIDAGH's perspective on human resources [HR] in Latin American countries?
Paul Rosillón: We have to look at it from different points of view. First, I think that Latin America is undergoing a process of change and transformation—as is the whole world— but this particular geographic region is where we are experiencing the most changes.
On the other hand, a big part of the changes that we are facing in Latin America are related to the needs of individuals and the way people are acting in the social, political, and economic spheres.
Third, and regarding the world of management and organizations, in the last 20 years, the topic of people management has changed dramatically. This has been a paradoxical change, because people have always been the most important factor. However, from a managerial science standpoint, individuals are a different subject now because they are managed differently and they are considered an economic factor. What do I mean by this? When knowledge and innovation become critical, people go from being a resource to being owners and capital. And that is somehow what is leading managerial sciences to focus more on intangibles and make leadership once again the underlying topic.
Another important change is occurring, and that is that people management is no longer part of HR functional management; it now concerns the whole management process. Therefore we, as management professionals, have had to understand that our roles are different—that we are also facilitators, internal consultants, coaches, or internal staff managers. In this sense, we can say that great changes are taking place.
Personally, I think there are two different levels: organizations understand that people are very important, but professionals in this area are not progressing at the same pace. A lack of connectivity exists within managerial education and training programs. Take, for example, an [master of business administration] MBA or similar postgraduate program; the attention to people management is minimal. Marketing and finance are still the more prestigious subjects.
To expand on this idea, we are undergoing change and transformation, but we still have a long way to go. We lack clarity, and we haven't been able to develop the connecting points [that will link managerial education and training programs together]. We could say that we know what we want to stop doing, but we still don't know how to take new steps. Even the way our federation works reflects that since 2001, we have been experiencing a restructuring process. Today, we have completed the first stage, but we must start stage two.
FIDAGH: The Lever and the Engine in the Arena of People Management
VI: How is FIDAGH searching for a way to do this?
Eladio Uribe: We at FIDAGH think of ourselves as a lever, but we also want to be the engine behind the transformation process that Latin America has to experience.
In Latin America, we all speak the same language—in general—but there are many differences in education, criteria, politics, strategic vision, and direction. The domain of HR in this region of the world is living this debate, which is also reflected in our federation. While we ask ourselves, “What does FIDAGH do for me?” others are asking, “Where should we go from here? What should we do with the HR people and people in other organizations and countries?”
I want to clarify here that the main issue is not the HR people; the main problem is our countries, our communities. The people in HR are working hard to help our communities overcome poverty.
We still have to understand that we must accept people from Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico, Uruguay, etc. as equals—as Latin Americans—instead of as Argentineans, Mexicans, etc. But overcoming inequalities is very difficult for us. We are convinced that we will be able to do it because we have a great source of motivation, and this source is that people who do not work in HR have been pushing these professionals to make a change, so there is no other option.
VI: Today, what are the key areas for HR in Latin America? Which other areas need to be reinforced?
EU: An agreement must be reached between the people of HR and employers on one side, and the state on the other, if we want to improve education systems. One of the greatest issues HR people face is the hiring process, the challenge of bringing “new blood” into the organization—people who are capable, competent, and ready to face the challenges that an organization brings. That is the biggest hurdle they have to overcome.
The other challenge is diversity. We still have to learn to accept and believe in diversity—believing that the person who comes from Asia, the US, or any other country in America can make an important contribution, can be helpful for our performance.
I think these two factors are fundamental: educational development and acceptance of diversity.
PR: There are two issues. The first one is corporate social responsibility [CSR]. While it is a common topic, we haven't started managing it and moving forward with it. Nobody expects organizations to become philanthropists, but they do have to play a role in society, and that is a paradigmatic change that is still in progress.
The other issue is the way companies are organized—the division of work according to tasks and descriptions of positions and roles within the organization. This is a model that is in crisis, and though it is becoming less and less common, we still are not certain of what the new trend will be. It's not easy to change a paradigm that has been the standard for almost 100 years, and that is taught in universities and reinforced everywhere. I think this is a golden opportunity for us, as HR professionals, to contribute and make a change. The problem is that we have been educated with the same old paradigms, so abandoning those notions is like getting undressed—
EU: It also means breaking another important paradigm: believing that only our organization can solve its internal problems with staff, management, or processes, without taking into account what is happening around the world.
Furthermore, my actions as HR have to be collective actions. Instead of aiming solely at my company, these actions must generate change in the community and in my daily environment. This will allow me to have capable individuals in my organization that will help realize strategic, sales, and other goals.
VI: How are the 15 member associations of FIDAGH participating in and committing to these objectives?
PR: As I said before, since 2001, we have been questioning ourselves and acknowledging that we have to change the way we think and see things.
We are halfway through the process. We—both the federation and the associations—have been going through this process since 2001. Next week [referring to May 14, 2007] we will have our 20th conference, our board meeting, and our management meeting, where we will change our approach. We are convinced that our current approach is not working, so we have to take a different direction. We don't know exactly what that direction will be, but we will say, “Gentlemen, we must admit that we have to change. We need to find ways to evaluate the changes that we will implement, and how we will work together in the future.”
Now, as Eladio said, we have diversity, and we feel pressure from each association and each country. But each one of them is different. Therefore, this diversity forces us to modify our ideas of the need for change. During this process, we have had to admit that we are not the same and that we don't experience the same pressures. We understand that the subject of people is important and that we must do something about it, but we have different driving forces. FIDAGH is responsible for harmonizing all these approaches.
EU: Besides, our goal is a collective one that involves management and integration. Therefore, from this standpoint, we do not want to exclude anyone—on the contrary; we have to insist that people come and learn. But we are aware that there are different levels of learning and that we have to work to unify them. It's a difficult task, but we are working on it.
Information Technology: Driving Innovation
VI: Do you think that the new information technologies are driving innovation and changes in organizations?
PR: We have learned a lot from this subject. We have learned that IT is not a source of innovation, but that it does facilitate and dramatically increase the potential for innovation.
We have learned to assign a place to the role that technology plays in innovation. But what Horacio Cortese and Ricardo Perret said at the [Human Management Conference] is crucial: if I don't have a working environment in which I build trust or create the emotional conditions that will allow people to think differently, take risks, do their best, defy models, etc., then regardless of how much IT I can have, it won't be enough. Although IT and the human factor come together, there is no question that the latter will always be the more important one.
EU: Let me use an analogy: comfort is important, but it's also important to strike a balance between work and recreation. Nobody questions that. However, Latin Americans in general and HR people must try to put comfort aside at this time, [and focus on the work at hand].
This is a time for study, energy, commitment, and strength—definitely not for comfort. We have to work hard now to get the desired results; then we will be able to rest. What I mean is that this is a transcendental moment for those involved in human management; we are approaching an extraordinary challenge, and if we don't grasp this opportunity, we will stay behind. And those who stay behind in human management might disappear.
About the Interviewees
Paul Rosillón is president of the Federación Interamericana de Asociaciones de Gestión Humana (FIDAGH). He is also chairman of the advisory board of the Asociación de los Recursos Humanos de Venezuela (ANRI). Rosillón acted as president of ANRI from 2000 to 2005, and as vice president of FIDAGH from 2001 to 2005.
Eladio Uribe is chairman of the advisory board of the Federación Interamericana de Asociaciones de Gestión Humana (FIDAGH). He is member of the consulting board of the Asociación Dominicana de Administradores de la Gestión Humana (ADOARH). In addition, Uribe was president of FIDAGH from 2001 to 2003, and president of ADOARH from 1995 to 1997.
Source: Learning Review Magazine (http://www.learningreview.com), Issue number 19, pages 4 to 6.