Teaching Time Management - A Case Study


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While doing business internationally, many cultural challenges are faced. In my experience opening a call center in Jamaica, time management was one such challenge. The lack of urgency on their part was not due to disrespect or inability, but rather built into who they were as a people. This quick case study demonstrates how we overcame the issue of lacking time management skills.

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Teaching Time Management - A Case Study

  1. 1. Case Study – Time Management By Sabrina Baker, PHR Human Resource Consultant and Recruiter FAST FACTS: Project: Teaching time management to employees in a brand new call center. Challenges: New call center was in Jamaica where employees are naturally more relaxed with time management. In addition, the fear of a US corporation trying to change culture held Jamaican employees back from embracing key elements of their job. Solution: Training. Patience. Ongoing development. Business Summary: A call center company expanded operations into Kingston, Jamaica. Everything in a call center is driven by time. Associates are expected to adhere to a strict schedule of clocking in, taking breaks and clocking out so that proper phone coverage can be maintained. In addition, associates are expected to monitor the length of calls to ensure the best solution in the shortest amount of time possible. This not only increases customer satisfaction, but allows the call center to take more calls throughout the day. Leaders from the US operation spent a significant amount of time in Jamaica building the call center. From site construction to hiring and training, the entire startup project was maintained by leaders from the US. Business Challenge: The very culture of Jamaica is known to be very laid back. While it is not as relaxed as some of the siesta cultures of South America, the pace at which people move is generally slower than what the US population is used to. In both cultures, people work hard, come home and enjoy their family. In Jamaican culture however, the pace of how each of those items are accomplished can be much slower than in the US. Results: Jamaican employees were able to develop and master time management as a skill while US employees learned valuable lessons in doing international business. Immediately upon working with newly hired Jamaican staff, the US leaders realized that time management was going to be an issue. Meetings would be called for 9am and typically only the participants from the US would actually be there at 9am. If participants from Jamaica showed up at 9:15 or 9:30 that was considered very normal in the culture. Acacia HR Solutions www.acaciahrsolutions.com
  2. 2. Case Study – Teaching Time Management 2 In a time driven organization, this was a big problem. The biggest part of this challenge was that this behavior was ingrained in their culture. They were not doing it to be disrespectful; it was a part of who they were. In addition to time management being an issue, Jamaican employees felt that rather than adapting to American culture, since this was an American company coming into Jamaica, the company should have to adapt to them. Business Solution: At the time, Sabrina Baker held the position of Director of Human Resources. Along with the General Manager, she set out to make time management a priority. Realizing that employees in Jamaica were hesitant about adapting to the American way verified her belief that using discipline to force time management would not be the answer. The answer was training; granular, in-depth training about both time management and its importance. Starting with the leadership team, Sabrina talked about time management from a business perspective. Tackling the cultural adaptation first, Sabrina removed the idea that Jamaicans needed to adapt because the company was American, but because the customers were. Since the center was handling calls from the US, the customers' expectations were most important. This training eased the fear that a US corporation was just trying to make the Jamaican team "just like them" but were actually focused on the customer. Acacia HR Solutions is a Human Resource Consulting and Recruiting firm located in the Chicago suburbs. Founder, Sabrina Baker, PHR draws on her experience in corporate human resource leadership positions, like the one described here, to provide full cycle HR solutions to clients. In addition, leaders from the US were trained on cultural cues that would help the team in Jamaica focus on time management. For example, saying "let's meet at 10" was very different than "the meeting will start at 10". The former leaves room for a more relaxed arrival while the later clearly states when the meeting will start. Acacia HR Solutions www.acaciahrsolutions.com
  3. 3. Case Study – Teaching Time Management 3 When both leaders and front line employees were trained on important aspects of the job and the overall performance management process, time management was introduced as a concept they would need to learn and master. It was a skill that was taught and given time to develop. It was never forced or disciplined until appropriate time was given to acclimate. Business Results: Treating time management as a newly introduced skill set that may be hard for some individuals to master gave both the Jamaican and US employees time to adjust to a different way of doing things. US leaders had to learn to be patient and realize that the culture of urgency is not engrained everywhere. It was a great lesson in international business. At the same time, training to time management gave the Jamaican team the ability to adapt to a new skill, one they had not needed before. It allowed them to master time management not because it was forced upon them and therefore was something they did begrudgingly, but something they learned and then were able to use. sabrina@acaciahrsolutions.com 847.893.9756 Acacia HR Solutions www.acaciahrsolutions.com