By Audreyanna Thomas
IT IS important to note that being a single-crop and production business entity places the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo) in an extremely vulnerable position, since it is subject to the full impact of variations on the sugar market. Hence, in the medium and long terms, the corporation has to make smart business decisions.While GuySuCo has a relatively high asset-base, this must be viewed in the context of its sizable debt. Therefore, one aspect of its business strategy is diversification and another component focuses on converting some of its assets into cash.
As the corporation develops and articulates its business strategy, it is equally important that the mechanisms to implement the strategy be conceived and designed with equal precision and relevance. Thus pathways towards becoming a resilient business are being developed, to layout the process for achieving the stated goals and objectives. The pathways towards becoming a resilient business include developing the right strategies, making the right choices, and taking the right actions to grow GuySuCo up and out.
Growing the Corporation up, which simply means increasing the production of its current core business – sugar — and growing it out refer to engaging in activities which were not pursued before.
One of the pathways is a structured and comprehensive mobilisation component in respect of both financial and non-financial resources. It is clear that the diversification programme will require significant financial investment, and a process is already in place to mobilize such resources.
Social mobilization is another key component; as such, partnership building has been identified as one of the corporate approaches to be utilized for implementing programmes. This involves engaging more strategically, or building more structured partnerships with international, regional and local organisations at the public, private and civil society levels.
Public/private partnerships will be fostered where there are commonalities between the private sector goals and GuySuCo business strategy.
With 17,000 employees, it has been recognized that team building is critical to moving employees from a mere group scenario to establishing self-confident teams. This will allow for roles and responsibilities to be clearly understood. Consequently, team-building training sessions will be conducted throughout the corporation during the months of July and August. The aim of this programme is to develop a strategic approach for building teams within the workforce, in order to ensure a smooth transition process and implementation of the business strategy.
In addition to facilitating the operation of a business, the corporation also contributes significantly to community and national development; hence advocacy is an approach that will be utilized in an effort to find greater synergies between its business, communities and other stakeholders.
DEVELOPING APPROPRIATE SKILLS AND EXPERTISE
A pathway is being designed to give the direction to the transition process and diversification programme. An evaluation is currently being done to determine the skills and expertise which will be required for carrying out the ventures under the diversification programme. An initial assessment has indicated that while new skills will be needed in some areas, the corporation will have to expand the capacity of its current workforce. Retooling is therefore a critical part of the transition.
Much focus will be on strengthening the middle management level, since it consists of a critical set of skills, knowledge and abilities to determine the resilience of the corporation.
ENCOURAGING FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTABILITY
Further, another pathway is flexibility and adaptability. On the road towards becoming a resilient business, the transition process and the diversification programmme will place a demand on both management and employees to be flexible and adaptable. This will necessitate giving more and receiving less at times, as well as a passionate and highly motivated workforce. It would also include fostering and rewarding creativity and innovation, as well as some degree of rewiring of the sugar industry.
IMPROVING THE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS CLIMATE
The history of the industrial relations climate in GuySuCo has always been adversarial and combative. However, as the corporation transitions and progresses towards becoming a sustainable business, it is imperative that the relationship with the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and, to a lesser extent, the Guyana Labour Union (GLU) be improved to one that is seen more in the context of added value. This approach will enable the engagement between the Unions and GuySuCo to be more pro-active, and allow for the parties to make more meaningful contributions to the growth and development of the Corporation.
Additionally, the right environment is important for growth. It is also critical for the business to withstand the pressures of these difficult times and enable the entity to rebound and create value in both the very short term and the long term. The industrial relations environment has continuously been a challenge to the sugar industry, and needs to be transformed.
Discipline is a prerequisite for any business, whether it is experiencing highs and lows. It is an attitude that is required for successfully achieving business objectives and, more importantly, for surviving challenging times. The next stage of GuySuCo would demand a high level of both self and corporate discipline, hence this is another pathway that is integral to the mechanisms being developed to make GuySuCo a thriving business again.
Finally, in order for the corporation to successfully navigate these pathways and accomplish its mission, the management must be impassioned by a strong sense of leadership; a culture of purpose has to be built; empowerment, trust and accountability must be the constant; employees have to be highly motivated; systems to connect and inform throughout the corporation must be exploited; assets will have to be diffused and dispersed and new ventures created. All of these actions would together present the corporation with a good chance of being competitive, and enable it to reduce risk.
(Audreyanna Thomas is a Senior Communications Officer at GuySuCo)