Why ‘people’ is the new strategy buzzword

By: TOM MOGUSU

Profits have traditionally been driven by the three Ps of product, place and promotion. However, in this new era, an extra P has been added as companies in private and public corporations drive towards maintaining higher productivity levels.

They now place a huge premium in the way their treat their ‘People’. Increasingly, companies are realising that human resource is the glue that will keep the first three ‘Ps’ in mobile condition.

According to the Institute of Human Resource Management, a state agency under the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, companies are not taking chances when it comes to rewarding talented staff, and Mr Samson Osero, the executive director at the institute, believes that workers have never had it better.

“The days when firms would seek to maximise on their profits by offering the lowest salaries are long gone. Firms are now willing to invest in their staff in a number of areas because they realise it pays off at the end of the day,” he says.

He explains that head hunting of talent has increased over the last few years as companies in private and public service seek specialised and highly skilled staff to fend off competition.

“We have realised, for instance, that actuarial scientists are on demand and as such, their talents are highly coveted by employers. Thus companies go beyond the usual to maintain them,” Mr Osero says, adding that over the years, the institute has monitored trends which point towards a change in the ways companies view staff.

“We can positively report that things are looking up and specialisation is more accepted now more than before.”

Industry players agree that it takes more than the usual tactics to keep employees in their payroll, and Lucy Evara, the area head of Talent & Organisational effectiveness at BAT Kenya, should know.

“We have a guiding principle that encourages staff to take risks, be open minded and be ready to embrace change,” Ms Evara says. She adds thast the company has engaged several strategies aimed at retaining talent.

These include partnering with universities to mentor young talent, offer internship and employment opportunities for graduates; and a robust recruitment process. Right from the global careers web page, applicants are taken through a series of online tests, including a culture match.

“We also have an employee referral scheme named ‘Likeminds’, where an employee is rewarded for encouraging more talented people to bring their skills to BAT,” says Ms Evara.

The firm has also sought to introduce a Winning Culture in a market where competition for skilled staff is a daily affair. “We provide our employees with the opportunity for learning through programmes such as Virtual Technical Training for Technicians/Machine Operators.” says Ms Evara.

Such is the competition for talent that has seen devolved governments also recruit talent to execute projects. Mr Osero says that the counties are the new frontier for talent in Kenya.

The Institute of Human Resource Management advises the private and public sectors to employ qualified HR practitioners if they want to attract and retain talented staff. This, it says, can be done through the following:

Strengthening the HR function by employing qualified HR professionals who have the ability to implement progressive HR practices

Obtaining feedback from employees regularly so as to address HR matters. This can be affected by conducting employee satisfaction and engagement surveys.

Organisations proactively identifying future jobs and preparing current employees accordingly.

Incorporating soft skills such as self-confidence as they boost performance and productivity of the staff by unleashing their potential.

Mr Samson Osera, an HR specialist, lists the following as ways companies can retain top talent.

Regularly reviewing staff salaries

Training staff and sponsoring their education and external training.

Long service recognition by way of awards and acknowledgements

Carrying out employee satisfaction surveys to identify areas of complaints among the staff.

Unilever top employer in Kenya: survey

The Top Employer Institute, an international certification institute, has ranked Unilever as the number one employer in Kenya in 2015/16 for the third year in a row.

Based in Netherlands, the institute benchmarks companies against global human resource best practices and its certification is recognised internationally. It certifies excellence in the conditions that employers create to ensure that employees develop themselves fully, both personally and professionally.

“The ‘Winning with People’ agenda is fundamental to the success of our business strategy,” said Marc Engel, Unilever CEO for East Africa. “This is why there is unwavering focus on co-creating a culture and organisation that enables our people to grow and develop as leaders with purpose.”

Unilever achieved top scores after going through stringent validation and external audit processes which involved a research procedure commissioned to critically assess HR management and employee welfare in the organisation.

Ms Salome Nderitu, the HR Director for Unilever East Africa said: “This is the payoff on the focus the company has given to staff and their wellbeing; it’s also a recognition of our efforts in building a strong Employer Brand and a culture of excellence in HR policy and practice.”