Jacqueline Mugo, the Executive Director of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), speaks on what organisations need to do to attract and retain talent.
By KAGENI MUSE
“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace,” is a quote by Doug Conant of American firm Campbell Soup, which points to the importance of getting right the employee factor for any organisation. Chinese billionaire Jack Ma in his recent visit to Kenya too spoke of the importance of taking care of people – customers and employees – because they take care of the shareholder.
Jacqueline Mugo, the Executive Director of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), agrees with these sentiments, underscoring the reason the employer body launched the Employer of the Year Awards (EYA).
“A good employer is one who puts people at the core of what they do. The best policies and systems are implemented by people. People are the heart of any organisation,” Jacqueline asserts.
The Employer of the Year Awards launched in 2017 seek to promote and encourage best practices in corporate performance, people management and industrial relations practices among employers in Kenya.
“We felt that employers have largely been unrecognised and that they are often under pressure to improve this, improve that, invest more, create more employment, improve terms and conditions of service of employees and there was no award that was comprehensively recognising the contribution of the corporate world to our national development and the economy,” says Mugo.
The 2017 EYA awards looked at eight parameters, among them leadership and governance, corporate performance, innovation and productivity, responsible business conduct, inclusiveness and diversity, workplace environment, learning and development as well as human resource practice and industrial relations.
“We felt that these eight key areas were key determinants of a corporate becoming the best in class as an employer. There are other areas that can be looked at like talent management, mentorship and employee engagement and we will be adding these over time,” Mugo says.
She points ou that the awards resonate with staff and keep them on their toes while pushing the employer to put in place policies and procedures to become a good employer.
The director says Kenyan firms have invested a lot in improving corporate performance, leadership and governance but many are still struggling in innovation and productivity, responsible business conduct, inclusiveness and diversity and industrial relations.
One big challenge facing the national and county governments has been strikes by employees. Kenya is currently going through a prolonged nurses’ strike on the heels of a doctor’s strike that lasted over 100 days. The FKE boss feels provisions in the current laws give unions powers to call for strikes any time while taking away powers of the Ministry of Labour to declare strikes illegal, leading to court injunctions that are often ignored.
“Industrial relations have been a challenge the last three years or so. We should invest in structures and systems of engagement and employee inclusiveness to avert these challenges. what systems can we have in place to be able to have conversations at the workplace to avoid people going to the streets? We also need to address the root causes of issues for a win-win situation,” Mugo says.
The world of work has changed tremendously in the last 20 years, but there is still a talent mismatch where employers are struggling to find the right talent in some areas while people are out there struggling to get jobs. Jacqueline says employers need to identify the skills and talents needed to drive the economy forward and come up with ways to capture the experience of the older generation to help young people joining the workforce learn the soft skills and attitudes needed.
“Young people may resonate more with IT stuff but the work attitude and the commitment to deliver – the stayability on the job – is something the older people have and there is need to blend this. Employers need to look at a mix of old and new skills. It’s not old versus the new,” she says.
To attract talent, Mugo says organisations must position and brand themselves through corporate performance and people management.
“Every brilliant talent would like to be associated with the best organisation that is known to value its people,” she says.
While organisations can and do attract good talent, keeping them on the job is another issue. Mugo says firms need to embrace the dynamism of HR management by having different strategies of attracting, motivating and managing various talents like millennials.
FKE has been equipping employers through information forums to help them wake up to the reality of the changing world and especially where technology tools have given everyone a voice outside the corporate walls.
“Organisations must understand that this century is about collaboration and co-creation,” she asserts
Despite being an employer body, Mugo says FKE strives to give a position that is balanced and good for workers and the nation too. “Our position in the long run is often proven to be right even by our fiercest critics,” she says, citing its opposition to the recent increment on minimum wage.
“We have been proven right. Even after increasing wages by 18 per cent, the outcry continued and workers only got reprieve when measures were suggested to reduce the price of basic food stuff. Why don’t we address the issue of the cost of living to reduce the pressure to increase salaries?” she poses.
Going forward, FKE says employers need to focus on creating an environment that will boost productivity, create employment, pay higher wages and pay improved dividends to shareholders.
“The pressure to keep people in employment is there. Unemployed youth remain an existential challenge to business and Kenya. Workers will continue to agitate for higher wages even if the business economic condition does not support that. And of course investors are not in charity.”