Diversity and Social Businesses

Businesses are mostly set up to satisfy customers’ needs, make returns on investment, create employment and generate wealth for all stakeholders and the society. Globalization has opened up the migration space and given rise to internationalization of business. In order to further cement their business objectives, organisations are embracing diversity as a means of reaching out to the growing purchasing power of the middle class across the Asian and African continents. This has led to the evolution of diversity management as an outshoot of equal opportunity and diversity studies.

Diversity management is aimed at achieving a double target of profit making as well as reducing inequality in the workplace. The latter which is often neglected at the expense of the profit  making motive. Organisations that however are socially oriented might experience what I call ‘clash of interests’ as the main objective could be overshadowed in the struggle for survival in a murky business environment.

Social businesses for examples those created to give succour to immigrants or those to help return aged people back to work are also required to publish their books and post impressive results for their investors. Some of these organisations do rely on charities and donations; and even enjoy tax cuts. However, it is also plausible to argue that the donations and cuts might not just be enough to keep the business going which may necessitate jettisoning the social objective for a more business-like approach.

This lays credence to the seeming ‘capitulation’ of the social justice theory to the business case theoretical underpinning of diversity management in the academic circles. The real life business scenario tend to give direction of what is taught in our Business schools. If things remain as they are, social business might just be a mere nomenclature of a somewhat for-profit entity based on its mode of operations and management.

It is exemplified by the way we are fast at displaying our equal opportunity and diversity policies but slow at implementing the content from the HR perspective. Another testament to the disturbing trend is the diminishing presence of the Third Sector organisations. They are socially driven entities and different from the conventional business outfits with a focus on filling the space created by the failure of governments and alleviate the pains caused by profit-oriented organisations.

With the ever widening inequality in wealth distribution and the strain in meeting everyday needs, where do people with special needs and those that are ‘disadvantaged’ turn to for respite?

 

 

 

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Maintaining Sanity as Ebola Scare grips Nigeria

In the midst of pandemonium and confusion, it is important that there should be someone who should be able to hold his head and think straight. And I think HR people in Nigeria should wake up to their role to providing leadership and direction at this time. The outbreak of Ebola in the West African region has spread to Nigeria as seven people are confirmed to have contracted the deadly virus with one reported to have died.

For a country with an estimated population of over one hundred million, an Ebola outbreak is worrisome. It is more disturbing when one realises that Nigeria’s healthcare system is not strong enough to contain a deadly epidemic like Ebola without international help. As I write, medical doctors working in government hospitals are on strike. This is stretching the government to the limits and fear and panic have set into the minds of people.

One HR Manager told me this morning that he received about ten panic calls from his staff during the course of the night. Each one of them suddenly has one unconfirmed medication for Ebola or the other. People are scared-stiff I must say. The crux of this discourse is for HR to rise up to the occasion to calming employees.

For organisations that have medical units, they should sensitise their employees on ways to stay safe from Ebola. The creation of information desk on Ebola within the organization will also go a long way to assuage peoples’ fears. The internet is also a good source of information which can be printed and pasted on notice boards. Biometric clocking system available in some organisations should be reviewed if employees are vulnerable.

The spread of Ebola is a global health emergency as declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is not only the responsibility of governments but businesses should also be involved. Businesses have the right to protect its employees within their premises and as they commute back and forth to the workforce daily. Consequently, HR is really involved and should lead the process. As this is being done, HR people also need to stay safe.

The Future of Work

The world of work is increasingly undergoing changes and might take a whole lot of different dimension in the nearest future. Technology has been a major driver of this change and will continue to do so in time to come.

In the United Kingdom for instance, driverless car will go on the roads by 2015 which will

herald tremendous changes to the auto industry and invoke great level of expertise in traffic

Management. The space industry is also another potential income generation sector which

will welcome tourists around the world. These are unprecedented changes happening in

the world we live today. The question we should ask ourselves is ‘how are we galvanising our business for these changes?
A major influence on technological innovation is Man. World population is ballooning and is

estimated to reach 10 billion by 2063 by the United Nations. A large chunk of this number

will constitute the future workforce and they will surely define the nature of work. Working

from home will increase leaving a constricted workspace but an enhanced worklife balance.

It is also hoped that there will be a greater degree of collaboration amongst businesses and

people. This will give rise to enlarge business units backed by massively huge equity.

The current level of mergers and business takeovers will increase. A workforce comprising

of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds is envisaged. Global knowledge is

required to fit into the future workplace and ability to work with people of diverse cultures

shall be an asset. The level of cooperation at governmental levels will also affect the future

of work. If the withdrawal of UK from the European Union materialises as being championed

by some people, it will greatly impaired on movement of skilled labour.

World politics is a major defining factor to every sphere of our existence including work

itself. The current row between Russia and Ukraine on one hand and the ensuing rift

between Russia and NATO on the other is affecting businesses amongst the allied

countries. BP has already warned of the damage any sanctions will have on its business

interests with Rosneft in the kremlin-controlled region. These effects can only be best

imagined than experienced. This feud and other future unrests need to be effectively

managed and controlled to avert any disruption to peoples’ working lives.

The future of work is at best based on conjectures drawn from current happenings in the

workplace and other extrinsic factors. However, the most important thing for businesses is

to have in place a robust talent management strategy that can accommodate future

changes in the workplace.

Please give your thoughts on what you think the future workplace might look like.

 

I can also be reached on Twitter @El_De_Bash

Happy at Work? A Way of Stemming Employee’s Attrition

People leave organisations for so many reasons. While some are changing jobs to a better paying one, others are doing so because they are unhappy at their jobs. Let me use a line of a popular R&B artist, R. Kelly, in one of his songs “when a woman is fed up, there’s nothing you can do about it” to argue that you cannot stop an unhappy employee from leaving when he’s got his mind made up. However, there is a lot HR can do to prevent a mass exodus.

Do not expect me to do a list of prescriptions on how to keep your employees as not every situation is the same. As you read along, this piece will likely raise more questions than solutions. In tackling attrition of employees, there is need to know what makes people unhappy. A tough question to answer, you would agree. Even the brightest academicians and psychologists are still unraveling the human mind.

Despite this handicap, I will make a simple attempt at understanding what makes employees unhappy in the workplace. Remuneration, work life balance, job satisfaction, poor managerial supervision, unfriendly colleagues etc. The list is endless. It would however be myopic if we attribute the source of of employees’ unhappiness to the workplace alone. Personal and social issues like relationship problems, drug abuse, gambling are all factors that can affect employee’s well-being and happiness.

Managers and other Supervisors have a major role to play at gauging the mood and temperament of their Staff. From my background as a HR person, I would argue that people are the most important asset of an organisation. Consequently, don’t just manage resources, manage people as well. A lot of Managers are only interested in getting the work done and pay little attention to the person doing the work. If given the opportunity to appraise such Managers, I will recommend a People Management development course for them.

Research have it that most people leave their jobs because of bad Managers. If someone is quitting his job because of you, then you shouldn’t keep yours. Some few cups of Coffee with your team can lighten their day and go a long way to building strong friendship. I know of supervisors who scream at their employees for making small errors. This could degenerate into hatred and withdrawal from the Staff.

While I am a huge fan of the exit interview, it is not all revealing. Out of some kind of ‘respect’, not all employees exiting a company are forthcoming with why they are actually leaving. Probably the need to get a good reference from previous employer might be the reason for the ‘respect’. Perhaps, the exit interview is only fulfilling all righteousness and a mere academic exercise. Why then does it have to get to this stage?

HR should get close to all employees by demystifying the ‘HR myth’. There are so many strategies that can be deployed to achieve this. Employees involvement and participation, work-life balance, competitive reward package, promotion and salary increment are all ways of making your employees happy. If they remain happy, they will stay. In addition, there are those intangible ways of connecting with your team; remembering birth dates, coffee time and so on.

If you’ve got other ideas, please drop them below.

Bashir can be reached on Twitter @El_De_Bash

December: The Season of Temp Jobs

The month of December is always a busy one for the HR unit of most companies. It is the period when workplace activities are reviewed yearlong and manpower planning for the coming year is drawn up. It is also the yuletide season when employees go on vacation to celebrate with families and loved ones. Consequently, vacant positions open up albeit temporarily which leaves the HR unit scrambling for people to fill up the spaces.

In the spirit of the season, companies are also involved in charity activities and other special projects. For most high retail stores, they are always a beehive of activities as shoppers swarm about in search of best deals. In order to cope with the hordes of shoppers, additional hands are always sought during December sales.

December is a month which shoppers look forward to. People have worked hard all through the year and saved up enough money for the holiday season. In order to take advantage of this great opportunity, companies normally embark on massive advertisements and marketing which sometimes take the form of roadshows and other carnival-like activities. Temporary employees are always needed to partake in these events.

It is imperative that job seekers make the best out of these opportunities. Experience acquired from temporary jobs will form part of curriculum-vitae and recruiters are ever keen to hire candidates with work experience. More so, it is a chance of making some quick bucks which could make the holiday season a memorable one. Picking up a new shirt or taking that dream lady out for a dinner won’t be a bad idea.

On several occasions, people who took up temporary jobs have been retained on those jobs. It is unthinkable that young school graduates reject temporary jobs in anticipation of permanent ones that are not forthcoming. How about starting with a temp job and proving your worth. How about putting to use those skills you acquired in school before they go out of trend. Temp jobs pave the way for more permanent ones and should be grabbed at the first opportunity.

Good luck in your job search and wishing you all a happy holiday season.

Bashir Mudi Baba can be engaged on Twitter via @El_De_Bash    

Outsourcing and Contract Jobs: Another Milking Strategy?

It does not require any rocket science to realise that the world is changing. This change has permeated through every sphere of human endeavour and the world of work is not left out. The advent of technology and the increasing demand of customers have given rise to a whole new bouquet of job portfolios. How people are recruited to fill up the new job positions has also given rise to different kinds of employment contracts and recruitment strategies.

Top on the list of available strategies to recruiters is how to get the best hands at a minimum cost to the company. This is sometimes done by analysing various job roles and how important they are to the core business. Jobs requiring highly skilled personnel and which are germane to the actualisation of business goals are prioritised by most companies. Even when the selection process is contracted out to a recruiting firm, the successful candidates are employed as core staffs. In this instance, the employment contract will include salaries, allowances and other benefits.

However, jobs requiring minimal skills are often outsourced to other companies. The outsourcing contract works in a kind of round-about way. An outsourcing company sources for workers for a company that needs some positions filled. Workers’ salaries are not paid directly by the company they work for. They are paid by their employers, the outsourcing company which in turn would have been paid by the parent organisation.

On paper, outsourcing appears to be a simple business arrangement between companies that supply and require workers for its operations.  Dynamics of this arrangement is often shrouded in mystery as workers are left at the receiving end of the transaction. Salaries are sometimes shared equally between an outsourcing company and its employees. As far as the sharing formula is not tampered with, working conditions of the employees at their assigned posts are overlooked.

Last Saturday, I was contracted to conduct a training session to a group of outsourced workers. During the course of the session, I discovered none of the trainees got a dime for transportation, accommodation and feeding to attend the training. Some of the participants travelled a distance of over 300 miles by road to get to the venue of the training. That is like travelling from London to Edinburgh and all at their own expense!

Another revelation was that there is disconnect between the outsourced and core employees. The outsourced staffs were often reminded of their status within the organisation by the core staffs. Not minding that their role is as well important to the overall success of the organisation, the outsourced employees were always scorned at. Of course, I stated all these in my report but whether they will be addressed is a question I have no answer to.

While it is too simplistic to use this singular incident as a basis to criticise outsourcing, it is enough to have a re-evaluation of the concept. I quite understand that the harsh business conditions have necessitated businesses to redefine their recruitment strategies. In order to stay afloat, companies are seeking ways of reducing personnel costs and one of such is to outsource or give contract employment. However, it should be done in the most ethical ways.

Let me also point out that companies do adopt outsourcing strategy for other reasons and not necessarily for cost-cutting measures.  A company may secure a business deal in a country far away from its operational base and may be exorbitantly prohibitive to move workers. In this scenario, it makes a lot of business sense to seek outsourced workers. It is also wise to give out contract jobs when working on projects with short or fixed terms. Whichever recruitment strategy a company decides to adopt, it should be people-focused and every other thing will fall into place.

Bashir Mudi Baba can be engaged on Twitter via handle @El_De_Bash              

Human Resources and Buzzwords

May be the Software industry but other than this, I don’t know of any profession that keeps on evolving like the field of Human Resources. In an attempt to keep up with the development and changes of the workplace, HR has reacted by churning out different approaches to managing people at work which in the process has led to the emergence of new terminologies.

Let us take a look at the concept of Human Resource Management (HRM) in itself. Without any intention to rekindle old debate, there is only a thin line of distinction between Personnel and Human Resource Management. HRM is said to be more people integrating than Personnel Management which adopts a management-led approach. While the debate on name-change had hardly died down, the issue of HRM as being strategic was further introduced.

Every organisation which is worth its salt has a set of goals and objectives. The realisation of these goals is dependent on the strategy put in place by the management. It is important that policies and processes emanating from the HR department are aligned with organisational strategy. From this, the concept of strategic HR was derived. However, being strategic cannot be limited to HR as other departments within an organisation will also develop similar strategic approaches in their activities.

A company which sells PlayStation and other video games will target young adults rather than the elderly to market its products. In this instance, what the marketing department has just done is strategic marketing. And of course, HR will need to employ people in similar age bracket to market these products at numerous youth events. The ‘strategic’ pre-fix is consequently not limited to the HR profession.

Talking about employing people, it is now a fad to see organisations branding themselves as ‘equal opportunity employer’. This could be attributed to the need to attract talents irrespective of social barriers like race, ethnicity, class, age and other forms of social classifications. Having a pool of skilled employees from different geographical backgrounds has been argued to be good for business. In workplaces however, the ‘equal opportunity employer’ tag has not achieved a great deal of success as there exists subtle forms of discriminations. More importantly, the label is just a mere way of conforming to employment regulations and a means to avoiding litigations and sanctions.

Still on labels, there are also what is called learning organisations. This is just a harder way of saying companies give emphasis to learning and development of their employees with a view of meeting the increasing change of customers’ needs. If there is no gainsaying the importance of learning in any organisation, then a distinction should not be made as which is a learning one and which is not. However, it can be argued that the structure and processes of an organisation are distinguishing factors. Even at that, the concept of a learning organisation is still very much open to debates.

The buzzwords I have provided above are just a few in the HR compendium and I am not under illusion to relay all of them (It’s even not possible) in this blog post. It is just to re-awaken our consciousness to the meaning of these words and evaluate if they have impacted the practice of HR as intended when they were coined.

Bashir Mudi Baba can be reached on Twitter via @El_De_Bash