Photo credit: Depositphotos @Nicholashan 

The Haitian government has been communicating that Haiti is “open for business” for years, but is Haiti’s workforce ready? If not, how can Haiti build a dynamic workforce? Indeed, Haiti’s business landscape shows evidence of new businesses. For instance, several high-end hotels, hospitals, and non-profits are now operating. These new investments present Haiti with a unique opportunity to develop a dynamic workforce. International organizations and Haitians should consider the following factors as they begin to create a workforce and train its leaders.

The Haitian Diaspora Must Participate in Building Haiti’s Workforce

The majority of the workforce will need to be educated, re-educated, or trained. Habitat for Humanity is one of the few organizations that understand the importance of enlisting the Diaspora in building a sustainable workforce.   In 2011, Habitat for Humanity reported, “In consultation with the Haitian government, Habitat for Humanity started recruiting and placing experts from the Haitian Diaspora to provide community-focused, technical support to help the Haitian government make critical decisions.” Although the recruitment is geared to hiring managers for shelters and resettlements, the same principle applies to Haiti’s workforce and leadership development as it seeks to become an emerging market in the Caribbean. According to Habitat for Humanity’s article, “The Haitian Diaspora was a natural place to identify and recruit individuals who not only have the skill-set but also a vested interest in rebuilding Haiti.”

The Haitian Diaspora must be part of the educational and training process on a larger scale, from the introduction of basic skills to the learning and development of higher-order thinking skills. The Diaspora has more than enough human resources with the education, expertise, and experience to build its workforce. This is not to say that Haiti’s international partners cannot participate in building its workforce, but they should not be the main stakeholders.

Incorporating Cultural Intelligence as Part of Haiti’s Strategy in Developing its Workforce

The learning of any group is complicated when there is an absence of Cultural Intelligence.  One might ask, what is Cultural Intelligence? According to David C. Thomas and Kerr Inkson (2004):

Cultural Intelligence means being skilled and flexible about understanding a culture, learning more about it from one’s ongoing interactions with it, and gradually reshaping one’s thinking to be more sympathetic to the culture and one’s behavior to be more skilled and appropriate when interacting with others from the culture. (p.14)

Most of the recognized companies that are building businesses in Haiti have their headquarters in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. As they create job opportunities, they must avoid duplicating in Haiti, the outdated management practices that exist in their own countries. As Gary Hamel and Bill Breen (2007) emphasize:

Management is out of date. Like the combustion engine, it’s a technology that has largely stopped evolving, and that’s not good. Why? Because management—the capacity to marshal resources, lay out plans, program work, and spur effort—is central to the accomplishment of the human purpose. When it’s less effective than it could be (or needs to be), we all pay the price (p. x).

The international business community is already struggling to make the most of its human resources, but this is even more difficult in Haiti because of language and culture barriers.

This might explain why many international businesses and non-governmental organizations have not been successful in Haiti. Cultural Intelligence is missing. This is shown consistently through the disrespect that many Haitians have reported when working with some of their international partners. Therefore, part of the reason to include the Haitian Diaspora in the country’s workforce development is to minimize some of the cultural deficits in organizations working in Haiti. This is not to say that only the Haitian Diaspora has the Cultural Intelligence to develop Haiti’s workforce, but those who have the best understanding of the Haitian context have the best chance of ensuring the country’s success.

The challenge will be for companies to work with people who possess Cultural Intelligence, and who are comfortable promoting Haiti’s workforce at the local, national, and global levels.

Existing and Future Businesses Must Move from Paternalism to Partnership

Since the 2010 earthquake, the potential of Haiti’s human resources has been revealed to the global market. For the most part, the world has seen the resiliency, strength, and desire of the Haitian people to become economically independent. One way to accomplish this is to give the people of Haiti, and the Haitian Diaspora, a voice in the construction of Haiti’s workforce. As Jim Collins writes in Good to Great (2001), “Leading does not mean coming up with the answers and then motivating everyone to follow your messianic vision” (p.75). Workforce development in Haiti must be a shared process. Part of that process requires a genuine sense of respect for and vision of what that workforce will look like.

Businesses Must Realize that Haiti has Its Own System

In addition to changing their perception of how they view and work with Haiti, businesses must realize that Haiti has its own system.  In bringing Haiti’s workforce into the twenty-first century, businesses must understand the details of Haiti’s system beyond what transpired during and after the 2010 earthquake. A lesson on the importance of learning Haiti’s system was shared four weeks ago at the Haitian-American Business Network small business expo. Mr. Stephane Jean-Baptiste, Vice-President of Marketing at Kreyol Essence, warned, “Haitians have their own system that must be learned — even some Haitian Americans and foreigners must dispel the notion that ‘I know everything and I’m here to help you’ type of mentality.” He encourages business leaders to invite Haitians to the table. Mr. Jean-Baptise has ten employees in his factory and is hoping to add more.

So why is it important to focus on producing a quality workforce in Haiti? Haiti has a market potential of ten million people, and as the political and economic conditions continue to improve, that number will only grow as Diasporans return to their homeland. To bring Haiti’s workforce into the 21st century, the Haitian Diaspora must be included, Cultural Intelligence must play a factor in how foreign organizations develop its workforce, and Haiti’s own system must be taken into consideration.


Your turn for the post question…

What else can Haiti do, to ensure a quality workforce? Share your comment in the section below.


About the Author: Daniella Bien-Aime is a Haitian-American blogger, an adult learning and leadership development specialist, teacher, trainer and social media enthusiast. Passionate about Haiti, she is a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University with a Master’s in Adult Learning and Leadership. You can follow her blog at, and on Twitter @dbienaime.




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3 thoughts on “Haiti: Bring your Workforce into the 21st Century”

  1. Hi Daniella,

    Glad to read you. I find an echo of my ideas in your voice, and vice et versa. I am a HaitianAmerican family doctor living in Greenville SC. I just formed a non profit with some friends with the purpose of supporting sustainable enterprises in Haiti. We currently have a project in Cotes de Fer.
    We are in the process of applying for 501c3 status
    Please take a moment to view an article I wrote in the carribean Journal
    Let e know what you think.
    Would love to chat sometimes

  2. Patrice

    Thanks Danielle, great post. I like this comment: “Haiti has its own system”. We do indeed.

    Our workforce needs to access the standards that the world need for them to compete. However some of them do have some skills. Graduates from vocational schools like Canado Technique and Cetemoh have all prying their trades in countries like the DR and the US.

    the schools do not have a good system to track their graduates. One way to fix that is to provide them with a system that allows them to find out where their graduates are working and how they are being used in the company the work with.

    1. Patrice,

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. Yes, indeed, we have our own system to do business in Haiti — most of the economy is informal. There is definitely work to do before we can raise the standard of excellence to compete globally. And I must say, it’s been encouraging to see the level of business development in the marketplace. In terms of Canado Technique and Cetemoh tracking their graduates, it sounds to me like a business opportunity. If I were them, I would create a strong alumni office and offer graduates a reason to stay connected.

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