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Business risks : Employees

By Okechukwu Onwuka

Employees give us their best, so we need to make sure we provide benefits that give back to employees. We make sure they have the opportunity for financial security, and we also provide a lot of wellness programs-we want to make sure they live long enough to enjoy their retirement —Nancy Ayres, general manager, Clipper Belt Lacer Company
Very good people always have choices.

If you want to get the very best and keep them, you have to provide them the right balance of pay and benefits — Dr. Peter Cressy, vice president and CEO, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Inc.

IT is common knowledge that the rate of unemployment is quite high in the country. On the surface, it would appear that there are very few jobs or companies capable of absorbing a significant portion of the labour force. For those who have ventured into employee dependent entrepreneurship, the findings indicate the opposite. The average quality of today’s worker in Nigeria, graduate or not, in terms of trainability, commitment, loyalty, technical competence is quite low. It is safe to say that one of the highest risks that a start-up entrepreneur faces in the country is employees. An article in Sunday Punch of August 2, 2009 was very revealing. Mr. John Ajayi, a publisher made some very telling observations. Some text of that article, titled, “There are jobs in Nigeria, what we lack is skilled personnel” is highlighted below.

He says: It is by reading and studying hard, as well as self discipline that greatness is gained. But these days the reverse is the case as the young ones of today are not bothered. When they sit for JAMB and fail to scale through, they ask their parents to pay their way, which is silly. Even when they pay your way through such dubious means, how will you get the knowledge to go through life? I have read the history of great men and the way they made it was through learning. But today, there is no such inclination. Some of our youths today don’t have direction.

He recounts his pains as a young entrepreneur trying to recruit from the swelling stream of graduates in the employment market.People who come around looking for jobs are not looking for jobs but where they can just hang on and be earning salary because they are not fit .I had an experience of someone who came in, claiming to have read mass communications, he could not even write a news story and all attempts to groom him turned out to be successful. If they don’t know how to do it, one should be able to teach them but they are just not teachable. I always tell people that there are jobs in Nigeria, but what we are lacking is the skilled personnel. Today‘s employers of labour are in a dilemma to get the right skills to employ.

My experience as an employer of labour is in agreement with Mr. Ajayi’s observations. Many others will readily agree too. The scenario introduces a number of challenges for the entrepreneurs and potential employees. Some of these include
The enormous difficulties on the path of assessing and managing the risks associated with poor worker attitude, competence and trainability in selecting employees.

The attendant high labour risk may force many aspiring entrepreneurs to abandon their dreams projects or business
A number of otherwise good workers may suffer the consequences of the generic observations and assumptions. Not all graduates are unproductive. There is still a good number of Nigerian workers out there.
Significant decline in SME productivity, efficiency and growth.

Stunted national growth as SMEs have long been identified as major contributors to a country’s development.
Continuously increasing pool of unemployed, graduates and non-graduates.
Way out: If you employ workers with the wrong orientation or attitude, no amount or quality of remuneration or benefits will turn them around for good. Excellent working environment make sense only for those whose value system can recognize and appreciate it. From my observations, the following employee risk management tips may be of help.

Testing and interviews: If you have people/personality assessment skills, be involved in the recruitment process. Watch out for attitude. Don’t be swayed by use of fancy language. A candidate once said to me that his middle names are commitment and discipline. He turned out to be the most consistent latecomer and totally without discipline and focus. Tests and interviews must evaluate teachability and alignment skills. Watch out for a history of frequent job changes. If you have no such skills, conduct research to identify best-in-class recruitment agencies. Be careful, as many exist who simply want the commissions and have no internal process of screening and matching candidates.

Campus recruitment: You may consider sponsoring promising undergraduates at say the mid-course levels for possible employment. They’ll work part-time in your company during the industrial training programmes giving you a cost effective opportunity to evaluate their work attitudes.

Discipline: Clear policies and procedures must be in place and communicated to all staff members without sacred cows. Discipline must be firm. Without discipline and control, benefits lose their meaning.
Focus on money: Watch out for candidates with an inordinate focus of money and benefits. Don’t start out paying the highest wages. It is better to increase the salary gradually.
Proactive approach: You may appropriate a reasonable budget for training new employees. Good workers are a treasure to any organization. When you identify such, do your best to retain them.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.