Dropping valued talent in at the deep end is counter-productive

Dear Editor,

Since 2015 certain interventions at the national level have brought to the local environment a climate which one wit claimed (or declaimed) as ‘veteranism’. The other wit rejoined that from her perspective it could well be called the blossoming of a ‘remigeneration’; explaining that the expression actually shaded the barest embarrassment in the word ‘retirees’, which one reads and hears about tirelessly, if at all.

But there is another perspective – one that is more fundamental and invites serious examination of the implications of this apparent resurgence of a ‘remigeneration’, particularly in the public service and, intentionally, in the public interest.

Be certain, there are variations to this theme – whether from within the local market, or emerging from various overseas ‘communities’. So that in the latter instance (perhaps more than the local sampling) it is worth evaluating the ‘distances’ between expectations. The question is, but by whom? Obviously, some preliminary examination would have taken place by those who sought overseas skills and experiences perceived to be needed here.

But that raises the further question of what relevant experience these explorers themselves would have had to determine in objective terms what were the specific organisational deficits; and therefore by what capability was the perceived need on the one hand and enquiring interest on the other, reconciled.

To the best of the understanding of some, it was not as if an informed task force was dedicated to the diasporean exploration in a concerted manner, utilising a consistent set of principles as criteria for selection, and subsequent appointment to a position of ‘best fit’.

But the issue of ‘fitness’ is by no means a one-sided one; for if the initial reasoning was that a particular institution was not in good shape, it obviously could not be reshaped significantly by the insertion of one or two pegs, however rounded.

From a certain distance it is hardly difficult to observe how highly qualified appointees have been rushed into unbalanced organisational structures, not necessarily advantageous to either the welcoming party or the newcomer.

In fact the story is told that there is minimal welcoming of the perceived intruder.

In more appropriate organisational terms the communication faultlines are not adequately addressed by any appropriately designed induction programme.

The latter of course should not be undertaken as a routine effort. On the contrary, consideration has to be given of the ‘distances’ from Guyana – in terms of time, space and strangeness, to a revisited organisational and cultural environment.

Intelligent account also has to be taken of the mores, values, systems, procedures, organisational and personal attributes that would have been developed in varying overseas environments.

There is little evidence, but much more complaint, of any coordinated effort to reconcile the inherent differentials in organisational practices and human relationships that have been encountered by remigrants. So that the exercise of dropping valued talent literally in at the deep end is not only counter-productive, but indeed substantively undermines the original objective of sponsoring this ‘remigeneration’ – allegedly for the good of all.

All that the above long-windedness is intended to say is: that some agency (preferably not the Ministry of Social Cohesion) should be assigned responsibility for organising one or a series of interventions (retreats) aimed at exposing, explaining, contextualising the unaccustomed playing field in general, and respective work-fields in particular – in other words, the public sector in general (its relationships with the counterpart private sector organisations); and the construct of accountability relationships in specific agencies.

There must be a structured exchange of evaluations, recommendations by both receivers and received, leading to the adoption of new ideas, the adaption (even updating) of systems and procedures; and hopefully as important (if not moreso) the forging of a spirit of genuine team-manship aimed at achieving the same level of professionalism in a reconciliation between ‘generations’ that would, sooner rather than too late, result in greater efficiency, productivity, and in the end, the desired growth.

(What appears to be a fundamental contradiction within the context of ‘veteranism’, is the total indifference to raising the age of retirement from 55 years in the public service – as distinct from those public sector agencies such as the Audit Office of Guyana, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Revenue Authority – all 60 years; and Guyana Power and Light (65 years); and inconsistent with public servant counterparts in the CSME.

Interestingly enough, a number of beginners in the experience of governance and management to whom these early retirees report, can legitimately claim seniority.)

Yours faithfully,

E B John