The Cayman Islands civil service was already three years into a five-year plan to become a world-class organisation when 2020 hit. In January of that year, the Caribbean island – a self-governing British Overseas Territory – was hit by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake and the threat of a tsunami. While the earthquake left the country shaken, but largely unharmed, it was a sign of the year to come.
From February, the HR team started to curate awareness training around the threat of the coronavirus, which it made available to all managers and employees through its online learning portal. When it was clear how much of a danger the virus posed, they began re-prioritising HR tasks and aligning with the country’s National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), which had just been activated to respond to the crisis.
The first mission was to bring home citizens from abroad in a controlled way to prevent the virus from being spread through the local population, in which the HR team took a leading role. This involved over the management of local hotels and coordinated 250 inbound flights over a three-week period. The 25-person HR team was also responsible for supporting hundreds of returning students and citizens through their isolation period, ensuring they had good-quality accommodation, meals, entertainment and welfare support.
As the majority of the civil service moved to remote working, the HR team was also responsible for rolling out video calling capacity and more generally helping the civil service adapt to the new way of working. The team implemented a means of identifying talent that could be rapidly deployed across government to wherever they were needed and, among other things, help to redeploy the country’s many of our customs officers – who were being underutilised because of the border closures – to support the police service.
The judges said the team told the story of “an HR team running a small country”. “We loved the fact that the HR team were rolling up their sleeves: evidence of ownership and accountability,” they said. “Hearing stories of, for example, an HR manager running a hotel through the pandemic. These examples of operational excellence really did blow us away.
“Overall, we felt that this truly showed an example of an HR team rising to and succeeding above all expectations.
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