Moving On

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Part of my job in HR is to fill in vacancies by hiring people and see them through the onboarding process. A sharp contrast to this function which my HR job also avail me is to manage an exit process. Regularly, employees change jobs and move on in their careers. I honestly do not like to see people leave the organisation even though I know it is inevitable.

When I receive resignation letter from an employee, I see it like I have failed in my role as a HR person. For businesses to achieve sustainable growth and performance, a high employee retention level is required. Consequently, one of my performance indicators is labour turnover rate which demands I need to come up with robust retention strategies.

However attributing reasons to why people leave an organisation only to a failure of say your wellness programme or compensation package might be too simplistic. The fact is people will have to change jobs or move on to other things in their lives or even set up their own companies. So many possible reasons are abound and fixating it only to HR policies may sound rather too weak an argument.

If it worries me to see our employees leave, what then would be my reaction when I am the the one leaving. I mentioned above that I do not like to see people exit the company but the same me has just handed in my resignation letter. I would agree it is a fact of life for people to move on which best explains the reason for my leaving. Agreed, I have been a key player towards charting a new course for the company at a strategic level yet I wont be around to guide the change direction.

All I would say is that the inevitability of ‘moving-on’ has caught up with me. The high point for me is being part of the team who laid a new foundation for the company. I have no doubt in my mind if the laid out plans are followed,a rejuvenated company shall herald.Most importantly also is my colleagues and the camaraderie that exists amongst us. I’ll try to stay in touch.

Bashir Mudi Baba is joining eHealth Africa and can be reached on Twitter @El_De_Bash_HR

Revisiting Employee Engagement

“Employee Engagement” A buzzword that wont just go away. I am forced to reblog this piece I did sometime in August. Please read and enjoy!

Simplyhrmatters

If anyone thinks the term ‘employee engagement’ is a fad and could soon become extinct, its nothing but wishful thinking. The term has dominated discussions and research in the HR world in recent times. Reason for harping on employee engagement is the need to get the best from employees which ultimately contributes to organisational growth. Organisations are faced with the challenges of retaining their best staff and promoting good work ethics amongst their workforce. It can be argued that part of the solution to this recurring dilemma is to engage your employees. This article revisits ways and benefits of engaging talent; invoking good attitudes and behaviour that are desirable in an organisational setting; and a critical analysis of employee engagement.

An attempt to define the term often leaves one frustrated because of its ambiguity. Employee engagement could mean satisfying your employees so that they can happily carry out their job…

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HRD as a Tool for Nigeria’s Development

Human Resource Development (HRD) has been identified by practitioners and academics to be central to economic development of nations. National Human Resource Development (NHRD) is an emerging area of study which has stirred up debates among academics as to its ‘newness’ and theoretical framework. NHRD as this area of HRD is called extends beyond the confines of work processes in an organisational setting to include effect of human capacity development on the socioeconomic conditions of countries. This area of study has been identified to be a source of community and nation building. The need for countries to stay abreast with the fast changing world has made it expedient for national governments to give support to skills acquisition and development. It is stressed that NHRD is of more importance to transitioning economies and developing countries. Nigeria adequately fits into the category of developing countries.

According to the last census conducted in 2009, Nigeria has a population of One hundred and fifty four million seven hundred and twenty nine people. This translates to forty seven per cent (47%) of West Africa’s population. It is also an indication that the country is blessed with enormous human resources required to transform its economy. Alas, Nigeria is plagued with endemic poverty where human development indices are far from encouraging. The World Bank also raises concerns on the country’s ability to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It is argued that investment in HRD can help alleviate poverty and unemployment. This is a wakeup call for the Nigerian government to chart a course for efficient and effective NHRD policies.
While it is important to acknowledge a pocket of interventions by the government to develop her human capacity, these efforts are less than adequate. The Oil and Gas industry which is the livewire of the Nigerian economy still relies on expatriates for its offshore and onshore operations. The Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), a government office which part of its responsibilities is to build the capacity needed in the petroleum sector through provision of scholarships to Nigerians to pursue Masters and Doctorate degrees in foreign and local universities, barely has enough funds to pursue its mandate. It is worth pointing out that the standards in our local universities are on a downward slope as evident in the over three- months-old strike by lecturers.
Universities are the bedrock for building human capital of every nation. This simple assertion cannot be said of our dear country. This will be a topic of discussion for another day. However, it is important to ‘remind’ the authorities that our universities are in dire straits and something urgent needs to be done. The state of our universities is reflected in the millions of unemployable youths roaming our streets. Our graduates are of the copy-and-paste generation that lack critical thinking and cognitive skills. It is not surprising that our economy is now import-driven so much so that items as mundane as toothpick are imported into the country. This reminds me of the Ajaokuta Steel and Rolling Mill that has ‘defied’ solution and now lies in a sorry state, taken over by weeds and reptiles. The company was aimed at meeting all our needs as far as aluminium and steel are concerned but the Billion-dollar plant is now a complete scrap as its design was based on obsolete Russian technology.

Vocational and technical studies should also be given adequate attention. Sometime last year, I was out on a fact-finding mission at a government Centre, National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI) to be precise, and I marvelled at the share ingenuity of some of the fabrication works displayed at the Centre. I sought to find out why the final products are not as smooth as those imported and one of the entrepreneurs retorted: “tell the government to complete Ajaokuta”. His reply hit me below the belt and it quickly got me thinking. If the Ajaokuta Steel and Rolling Mill were to be functional, our locally made aluminium and steel products can compete with any other across the globe. It means importation of aluminium roofing sheets, cutleries, grinding and block making machines etc. from China will end. Nigeria will then be an exporter of aluminium products to other African and beyond. Imagine what this will mean in terms of income and employment!

The way out of the rot we have found ourselves as a nation is to develop the potential and capacity of our human resource. A step towards this direction is by developing robust HRD policies at the national level with every stakeholder giving it the very seriousness it deserves. Implementation of the policies is as well important while I will also emphasise that this area has always been a ‘knotty’ one for other laudable policies of the government. Enough of the foot-dragging and semantics; for Nigeria to compete with other countries across the world, we need to embrace HRD in its entirety.

Connect with Bashir Mudi Baba on Twitter via handle @El_De_Bash

Revisiting Employee Engagement

If anyone thinks the term ‘employee engagement’ is a fad and could soon become extinct, its nothing but wishful thinking. The term has dominated discussions and research in the HR world in recent times. Reason for harping on employee engagement is the need to get the best from employees which ultimately contributes to organisational growth. Organisations are faced with the challenges of retaining their best staff and promoting good work ethics amongst their workforce. It can be argued that part of the solution to this recurring dilemma is to engage your employees. This article revisits ways and benefits of engaging talent; invoking good attitudes and behaviour that are desirable in an organisational setting; and a critical analysis of employee engagement.

An attempt to define the term often leaves one frustrated because of its ambiguity. Employee engagement could mean satisfying your employees so that they can happily carry out their job functions. To some, it is simply getting the commitment of their workers while others see employees as engaged when they perform tasks well beyond what is required. As distinct as these three interpretations may appear, three elements can be deduced from them. Employee engagement has an organisational purpose by eliciting good attitude and behaviour from employees. These elements are explained further by the CIPD in its definition of engagement:

“A combination of commitment to the organisation and its values plus a willingness to help out colleagues. It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation. Engagement is something the employee has to offer; it cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment contract” (CIPD, 2009).

It is important we identify the kind of commitment required in the above definition. The concept of commitment here connotes loyalty and emotional attachment. It means employees giving their all for the organisation; believing in its values and going extra length. A scenario where an employee stays to help an organisation out of the woods by ignoring job offers from well performing competitors is a semblance of affective commitment. There are employees who will also promote their companies at any given opportunity; these people ‘breathe’ their organisation and could be said to be emotionally attached with their workplace.

There is however a thin line of distinction between engagement and organisational commitment. Beardwell and Claydon (2010) describe commitment as being developed through daily work activities while engagement is sustained through interaction amongst colleagues and managers. In simple terms, engaged employees are fully committed to the organisation but not every committed employee is fully engaged. Take a look at an employee who chooses to remain in an organisation for a long period, say ten years, for the simple reason of being paid huge pay-off benefits and not for believing in what the organisation represents or its values. This individual is said to be committed but not engaged to the organisation.

It is necessary to stress that behaviours which accentuate employee engagement are voluntary and are not within the remit of job roles.  Some of these behaviours include helping out colleagues when they are struggling with their work; willingly scanning the environment to identify threats and opportunities to the organisation; employees to voluntarily take up self-development activities; display absolute loyalty during good and bad times, being ready to promote the organisation at every given opportunity and superlatively carrying out duties beyond expected level.

For employees to show this desirable behaviour, something needs to give in from the side of the management. Organisations need to look out for their employees by paying them fairly; issues like health and safety are given prominence; well laid out HR policies on equal opportunities and commitment to appraisals; a two-way communication mechanism needs to be instituted where employees can voice out their grievances and offer suggestions; provision of conducive working environment and a commitment to employees career development.

With these prescriptions in place, one could make a case for employee engagement in the workplace. Employees won’t be keen on leaving which lays the foundation for talent development. It allows for employee development making the availability of capable hands to fill up job positions. As laudable as employee engagement is, some practitioners see it as mere rhetoric. They argue that its benefits are too descriptive while its proponents have failed to critically analyse these benefits.

As the debate rages on, it will be of academic and practical importance to shed some lights. While it is desirable for employees to go the extra length for their employers and the employers looking out for their employees, it remained to be seen how this relationship directly improves the bottom-line. This provokes the question of measuring employee engagement. How can it be quantified? If something really increases productivity, there should be a test of measure.

An interpretivist will however argue to the contrary. It is a natural disposition to go all out for someone who does the same for you. There is no gainsaying that this kind of relationship will flourish and blossom. This can also be argued for the work setting; employees will go the extra mile if employers treat them fairly. In today’s economic squeeze, employees could devise ways of cost cutting by pruning down on wastages. They could also put a call through to a potential client that will improve sales. There are lots of so many ways organisations can benefit by engaging their employees.

In trying to convince sceptics, more research is needed on employee engagement. Empirical cases need to be presented where engagement has brought about increased productivity. Academics and practitioners alike need to collaborate and do more on employee engagement.

 Bashir Mudi Baba can be reached on Twitter handle @El_De_Bash          

“I need to go on vacation”

Getting away from the demands of your work can be relieving and exciting. Think about not having to set the alarm each night you go to sleep and picking up your shirts from laundry every weekend. These two and many more routines have straitjacketed your life and now you deserve a rest. You need to go on vacation.

At the beginning of every year, HR departments of most companies usually direct employees to complete a Vacation Roaster. This indicates when every employee intends to go on vacation and the duration of the leave. The snag here is that most employees see this exercise as mere academic and they just end up with dates without putting any thought to it. Now its Easter or Christmas, the Bank (public) holidays wont be enough as parents are either visiting or I’ll be travelling to visit my fiance. I need more days off!

Before you walk up to the HR desk, please could you remember what date you indicated on the roaster? Its now time to grunt and accuse the HR people of rejecting your application! The essence of a roaster is to allow time for adequate workforce planning. The HR dept. needs to get people who will relieve you while you are on vacation and those people also need to be informed well ahead.

Work-life balance is an important requisite to getting the best from employees. People need to plan their lives and ensure that both their work and social life do not suffer. This brings me to the issue of everybody wanting to go on vacation during festive periods. What then happens to the work? Common! This is not feasible! We should love our jobsand  have empathy for our colleagues. The vacation roaster should be evenly spread. I have seen a case where an employee wanted to spend ten days during the Eid festival and the remaining ten days of his annual twenty earmarked for Christmas! Meanwhile there are some of his colleagues who have not been allowed to go on vacation.

The workplace is our second home and an atmosphere of camaraderie should permeate the air. Honestly, some employees are good on their jobs but could be a bit of nerdy. They are excellent on what they do but do not bother to share their knowledge with colleagues. It gets so bad that when such people need to go on vacation there is nobody to sit-in for them. I am not denying the fact that nothing sticks in the heads of some colleagues even after showing them for the upteenth time how things are done . Even in this scenario, I still advise you learn how to be a good teacher because it might come in handy when vacation beckons. Having said that, some companies or their HR departments cannot be absolved of blame in this regard.

There are some companies out there that do not care a hoot about work-life balance of their employees. People are used like machines and are expected to work twentyfour-seven. Some years back I lost a friend who slumped and died in his bedroom minutes after returning home from work at 10pm. Of course he had left since 7am and that had been his routine all year round until that fateful day. Although I am not a medical practitioner but I can guess my friend died of heart attack which was triggered by stress resulting from his workload.

Employers do adopt this style of rigid human management with a false sense of maximising employees’ potentials. It is a wrong workforce management style and injurious to the wellbeing of your workers. Even if it does not result into death like the tragic case I gave above, rejecting leave requests of employees does result to displeasure and resentment. Consequently degenerating into low morale and loss of productivity.

I used to have a boss who detests when issue of vacation comes up. It was like a tug of war back then. “I will not sign this your leave form unless you look for who will relieve you”, he used to say. The task of searching for who will sit-in for me every time I needed to go on vacation became mine. This is a semblance of poor workforce planning and a disregard for employees’ rights.

 Vacation should not be seen as a privilege but a right. Every employee should be allowed to proceed on leave annually or bi-annually. If for anything, it refereshes the mind and makes employees more productive. It also prevents that aura of indispensability creeping into the minds of your workforce. It could also serve as a means of measuring performance. Someone once told me that an employee was stealing from their company but it was not discovered until that person went on vacation. Who says companies do not benefit from employees going on leave?

Employees on the other hand need to hand in their leave requests early enough for processing. Your leave allowance needs to be paid and a temporary replacement also needs to be sought. It is often reported that sometimes when employees return from vacation their productivity dips. This negates the main aim of  the vacation in the first place. Work-life balance is required in whatever we do and neither one should outweigh the other. More importantly, we need the job to earn a living.

Please give your thoughts and share your experiences at the comment section.

Connect with Bashir Mudi Baba on Twitter @el_de_bash92x120_385558