Secondment is transfer of a staff member from one organization or department to another organization or department on a temporary basis. Secondment may be internal or external but for this article, I am addressing secondment on an external basis specifically to another country.
The news about 200 St Vincentians coming to Turks and Caicos Islands for training has prompted me to write an article on secondment. Sandals Resorts International, one of the largest resorts in the Caribbean has purchased the former Buccament Bay Resort and Spa property on the island of St. Vincent and will transform that into a Beaches Resort. During the renovation and transformation period, Sandals will recruit 200 staff from St. Vincent and apparently the plan is to send them to Turks and Caicos for training where there has been a Beaches Resort since the mid-1990s.
Based on the press release from Minister of Immigration for the Turks and Caicos, Hon. Musgrove stated his Government was not aware of this arrangement. Personally, I think 200 persons coming to Turks and Caicos Islands for training at one time seems excessive as it represents more than 10% of Beaches current staff. Given that the majority of employees at the Beaches Resort in the Turks and Caicos are not citizens, then perhaps Beaches should do an employee drive and recruit more locals and allow them to go to some of their other properties for training while we accommodate others to the Turks and Caicos.
Overall, I support secondment but a secondment should involve an agreement and understanding between all the relevant parties. Secodment should be temporary and should not be abused by any individual or company as an opportunity to be on a long term employment.
Opportunity for training, exposure and less familiarity.
I had the privilege of being on secondment with KPMG in Ottawa Canada from October 1986 to March 1988. While I was paid less than what I was getting in the Turks and Caicos Islands, it was a great opportunity for training and if I had to do it again, I would do it.
Therefore, I would encourage all multinational companies to promote secondment of the citizens of the host country but ensure that there is reciprocity. However, we do not have to restrict secondments to multinational companies. For example, Governments can have an agreement with other Governments and allow the civil servants to go on secondment with other Governments.
One of the best ways to improve learning is on the job training. While the outcome of training may be the similar, no matter where you go, there is always something new to learn. The good news is that you can bring those new skills and experiences with you when you return home and make a difference in the workplace for you and the customers. You may also be able to obtain training in other departments that you may not have the opportunity to do at home.
The fact that you leave your country will also give you a wealth of exposure. For example in the Caribbean, tourism is our main industry so if you are doing accounting, you may be focusing on one industry but if you are on secondment in the US, UK or Canada, you will exposed to many other industries.
Another major benefit of secondment is that you will be in an environment that you are not familiar with. Sometimes we do not do our best and we take things for granted because we are familiar with everyone. In addition, due to familiarity, your supervisor may not appraised you correctly. However, if you are on secondment, you are in a different environment and your supervisor will more than likely appraised you correctly. Too many times, people are not performing well but yet we appraised them as if they are performing well. A secondment in another country or a different department will pressure you to perform effectively and efficiently.
It is always great to enhance your career path and one way to do is through secondment. If there is an opportunity in your organization for secondment, embrace it. If there is no current opportunity, then speak to management so that they can implement a secondment program.
A secondment will not only benefit the employee but also the employer and ultimately the country. An individual with a secondment experience increases his or her chances of being promoted within the organization when they return to their country. Furthermore, the individual is more marketable and may be recruited by other firms faster than an individual with no secondment experience.
Based on my experience, the experience of being on a secondment is invaluable. However, we need to be careful with multinationals trying to flood the market with hundreds of persons under the disguise of secondment. There must be a reciprocal plan in place.