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HR Director: Crucial to retain workforce that adapts to challenges of 21st Century

“As one of the largest employers in American Samoa (ASG), it is crucial that we remain competitive in all aspects of recruitment and retain a workforce that adapts to its changing environment and is capable of addressing challenges of the 21st Century,” said Le’i Sonny Thompson, ASG Human Resources Director during his keynote address at the UCEDD (University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities), last week.


UCEDD was conducting training for individuals with disabilities on employment opportunities and how to make the most of them. Held at the ASCC Lecture Hall last week, with the motto “Building an Inclusive Workforce”, the HR director asked, “What is beneficial in an inclusive workplace?”


He acknowledged and commended the private sector as they continue to come up with solutions to create and promote an inclusive workplace in order to maximize productivity, attract new talent and increase employee commitment. “An organization’s actions on equality and human rights issues can have a significant impact upon their brand reputation, so inclusion makes good business sense.”


The first part of the DHR speech was in last week Wednesday’s edition of Samoa News.




Le’i noted that working teams that are diverse in their make-up are able to come up with a wider range of solutions to business problems. Inclusive workplaces that openly communicate their values and strategies on equality, diversity and inclusion are capitalizing on this, as they are able to attract a wider pool of applicants and talent.


Candidates from minority groups and individuals with developmental disabilities may be put off applying in organizations that do not make their commitment to inclusion known, he said.




Inclusive workplaces that understand the needs of their employees and make staff feel valued and respected also have greater success in retaining staff, he explained.


“In contrast, in organizations where stereotypes persist and some groups of employees face barriers to success, these employees experience negative consequences on performance, health and welfare,” said the HR Director.




Le’i explained that inequalities and stereotypes spread into the workplace from the wider society outside its doors, and societal barriers to equality, diversity and inclusion can be amplified in the workplace. But this process can also work in reverse, with cultural change within the workplace spreading outwards into the wider community, as colleagues learn more about each other and pass on this knowledge to others.


“Creating change at work can bring benefits that spread much further than the confines of one organization’s walls,” he said.  






The first stage of the process of change involves looking at your organization, its size, the type of work it does, its location, who it employs, who uses the services, and what its goals and thinking are about how it could become more inclusive.


“Considering the situation of your organization and how you would like to see it change will set the context for the next stage of the process — an inclusion review of your workplace,” he said.  






The HR director said when reviewing inclusion and equality in the organization, the following areas should be considered — the demographics of your organization and customer base, your formal policies and procedures, both informal or unwritten working practices.


Organizational demographics; all organizations are different and the first thing that needs to be examined is what the demographic make-up of your workplace is, compiling and analyzing data on your staff by age, gender, ethnic group, religion or belief, sexual orientation and disability; and noting where in the organization’s structure employees belonging to different groups work will help identify any under-represented group and areas of occupational segregation.


“It is also useful to look at retention and exit rates by these groups,” he said.


“The formal policies can enlighten about how much “you” have previously thought about inclusion, diversity and equality, and when reviewing policies, it would be helpful when looking at policies that deal with discrimination, bullying and harassment, this should stipulate the importance of treating others with dignity and respect.


“There should also be disciplinary and grievance procedures, recruitment and promotion procedures, policies of equal employment opportunities training and staff attitudes and behavior policies.”






One of the core missions of the HR is to design policy and programs to ensure the government’s learning and development efforts to support strategic human capital investments in leadership, knowledge and talent management, Le’i explained.


He said that they conduct these through the development of policy frameworks and flexibilities to establish government-wide system to support effective learning and development programs in the agencies, particularly leadership development programs for managers and agency heads.


Le’i noted that HR also provides technical advice on complex government-wide Human Resources development issues to help agencies develop and implement their management programs with desired mission result.


The primary training statute and regulations are; American Samoa Administrative Code (ASAC) Title IV, American Samoa Administrative Code Annotated (ASACA) Title IV chapter 14, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and American with Disabilities Act (ADA).