Setting up structures for employee productivity
A number of Kenyan companies have of late downsized their staff, giving various reasons to support the move. In October this year, for instance, Air Afrik sacked 200 members while Securex Agencies announced plans to axe 222 employees. The Teachers’ Service Commission, on its part, reduced its registered members (of teachers) by 72,000, leaving 115,000 others. This followed a court directive to hand over union fees to the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).
But the problem of restructuring does not just exist in Kenya alone. Last September, South African banks such as Absa and Standard Bank announced that there would be restructuring, which according to media reports, would be orchestrated by digitisation.
Reasons for such layoffs vary, from inept business environments to a shortage in operating income to run the companies. Hence leading to the question: What can be done to mitigate this trend in the future?
To answer the questions, The East African Business Times interviewed Joseph Onyango, MBS. the chairman of the Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM) as well as Dorcas Wainaina CHRP., the Executive Director at the Institute mid-October, during IHRM’s 23rd Annual conference.
IHRM is the first body to regulate the profession of Human Resource Management (HRM). There are other countries that have an Act of Parliament that are geared towards addressing the profession of HR. For instance, the United States of America (USA) has laws that govern the minimum wages that the company can pay to workers per hour.
According to Mr Onyango, retrenchment and restructuring are adjustments that other people are able to undertake in order to make people more productive since there is need to be properly positioned.
“There is no industry without an employee. Treat people as humanely as possible even in the face of technology, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI),” says the chairman, who holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Development and a diploma in HR.
He adds that restructuring is an indicator of wrong business priorities as profits tend to fall. This is what leads to HR interventions, such as the need to make staff all-rounders and given their best.
In a research done by CITE, 54 percent of employees feel that they tend to become less productive caused by their disconnect with AI at the workplace. Another research by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) finds that the productivity index is at 0.3, meaning what people are producing is just 30 percent of what they are capable of producing.
Ms Wainaina says that historically, HR has been considered as a support function, though it is a profession that has a body of knowledge and requires those who have studied it to be more analytical.
“IHRM started 33 years ago as a voluntary membership body for anyone who was practicing HR in this country. Therefore members were subscribing just as a way of coming together, to speak with a common interest.”
In December 31st 2012, Ms Wainanina says, the IHRM Bill was assented into an Act of Parliament so it became the IHRM Act No 52 of 2012. From that point to 2013, the IHRM became a legally recognized body. Mr Onyango says that the legislation has been operationalised such that anyone in the HR needs to be registered and given a license to practice.
IHRM, as a state agency, operates under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs but also acts as a regulator to regulate the profession of Human Resource.
“The Council has already established the HR professionals Examination Board and set a series of examinations to certify HR professionals in this country,” says Ms Wainaina, who is currently studying for her Doctorate degree and holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
She further says that IHRM has fully established the College of HR Management so as to fully build the capacity of practitioners.
According to Ms Wainaina, the practice of HR has grown from Personnel Management to one that includes legal frameworks, which ensures that employees are all-rounders.
She says that IHRM has a challenge because though its professionals are technically competent, they are denied by their workplaces the chance to exercise their competence. Some of the cases that we see with regard to employees in Employment and Labour Relations Courts should not really exist.
The offices of the Director of Public Prosecution and that of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) are often dealing with cases where professionals engage in unethical conduct during their practice.
Such professionals are most likely to behave like that if they do not meet their standards, Mr Onyango says. “IHRM has been in conversation with the Judiciary and that has been a concern. The view is that HR professionals should be allowed to provide guidance on employment and labour.”
By instilling professionalism, IHRM is trying to address the other challenges that are present in the sector. For instance, the Institute has a curriculum known as Analytics, which tries to maximize on the productivity of staff, an area that at times can be a challenge.
Mr Onyango says that there are doctors and engineers who may be fully qualified but have trouble in harnessing their talents to the fullest and that is where training under the IHRM syllabus becomes useful in restoring challenges such as misguided priorities and labour productivity.
Currently having over 14,000 members, Ms Wainaina says IHRM members also sit on key organisations such as the Independent Police Oversight Authority (Ipoa) and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
The Institute, she adds, has also participated in the selection of members of the Public Service Commission and sat in the taskforce of teachers that reached on a return-to-work formula last year.
“This is to show that IHRM has achieved a lot by trying to create credibility so that we are engaged with the government and stakeholders globally. We are trying to help Uganda to come up with their own Act which has already been submitted to Parliament. We also visited Zimbambwe to provide such support,” the Executive Director says.
IHRM has so far raised Kshs153.8 million from members’ subscription fees, as well as from capacity building programs. The body also gained funding from Blue Haven Initiative, an institution in the US.
Going forward, Mr Onyango says, IHRM looks to focus on future leadership in the profession.
“We are represented in International World bodies, including International Labour Organisation. We also have online certification programs and currently seeks to review our legislation so as to comply with employee expectations.”