Unemployment is on the rise in most African countries. In the case of Zimbabwe, the country experienced some unprecedented economic challenges in the 2000’s which resulted in a massive external brain drain i.e qualified and experienced employees emigrating to countries with more stable economies. Another aspect of the brain drain was an internal one i.e. many qualified professionals leaving formal employment to become self employed taking advantage of foreign currency shortage, basic commodities shortages and foreign currency parallel markets in the informal sector. However, things have not been rosy in the informal sector and many of the qualified professionals are now seeking to re-enter the formal job market.
Research and evidence have shown that informal employment thrives in a context of high unemployment, under-employment and poverty. This precisely explains why the informal sector has grown significantly in the past years in Zimbabwe.
In view of the recent work deficits in the formal economy breaking out of the informal sector is increasingly seen as a principal development challenge. While decent work is at the heart of global discussion as Economists discuss the global development framework, the chances of getting decent work in the formal sector are next to none. Experience suggest that, while globally trends are indicating a need for integrated, coherent policies aimed at moving economic units into formal economy , transitioning from the informal to formal employment is a huge challenge as the affected people are facing a number of obstacles.
The key questions asked by those professionals eagerly wanting to join the formal sector have remained unanswered. Rhetoric questions related to competency deficiencies, Employer biases and other factors continue bothering them. Have employers developed perceptions that have stereotyped the unemployed professionals? On the other hand, the unemployed, competent professionals are also wondering whether the preconception in Employers has to do with their behaviour and conduct in the past. One does not really know the reason why reintegration is such a challenge. The puzzle gets more complex when one sees those in employment changing jobs. Where one is fortunate to compete for an opening, preference is given to someone who is wanting to change a job and the unemployed professional perpetually remains in their situation and neither are they offered the left vacant job. It’s a catch-22 situation for them.
There are a myriad of lens to this hula baloo. At times these unemployed feel employers have a perception that the unemployed are so accustomed to doing things in their time and in their way hence competencies like reliability, punctuality and general social behaviour may be difficult to manage in such a person. Why is getting back into a job that you did for years so taxing now? Jobs are scarce yes, but the continual failure when attempting to get a job becomes more of a mystery than anything. Consequently, the unemployed suffers poor levels of self-image and self-esteem which have also affected further their chances of finding employment. Lack of confidence/ self-esteem and a long period of unemployment has made the professionals struggle to go back into the job environment as a result of their long absence in the job market. Our experience and observations suggest that the longer one has been out of employment, the lower their confidence. Being unemployed has created that perception that the workplace is an unfamiliar environment and makes them lose the confidence to meet other people and such a psychological barrier has had negative repercussions.
Another big contributing factor to the reintegration challenges may have to do with previous bosses who give adverse reference checking reports. An employee would have worked for an organisation for a period of ten plus years and because of other circumstances they are forced to leave the organisation. We have come across cases where some unprofessional Managers have been known to swear in Boardrooms that once an employee messes up with them, they would have messed up with the whole sector.
Our articles on Bullying and Victimisation have raised some of these challenges as real in the job market. The unfortunate thing is, the reference checking process does not get a weighted view of the issue but only considers the boss’s view as divine. Knells have been sounded for people despite them being alive and because of the limited jobs a missed opportunity makes a living impact on a person.
When some people come in an employees’ way to integration, the psychological consequences are far reaching. Situational barriers like the current economic climate or just not being shortlisted have a role to play also: the damage is of a lesser magnitude than that based on individual perceptions. Employer’s negative perceptions have contributed immensely to the uphill struggle of reintegration. While others might argue that lack of links to a network of Employers also contributes to reintegration, the challenge heightens when one’s chances of rejoining the sector are blocked.
According to the HR Dictionary, in simple terms, job evaluation is the method of relative valuation of jobs to determine the appropriate value or worth of a job and preparing an appropriate pay structure in the organization. It is a concept in HR that encompasses a wide variety of activities in order to achieve the ultimate goal of HR in an organization which is to produce an organization that achieves competitive advantage in front of competitors in a certain industry. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) job evaluation may be defined as an attempt to determine and compare the demands which the normal performance of a particular job makes on normal workers without taking account of the individual abilities or performance of the workers concerned.
A good Job Evaluation system should be flexible and contribute to organisational effectiveness, competitive advantage and shareholder value.
According to our recent survey over 85% of organisations in the SME category in Zimbabwe have some form of job evaluation system or another in place. In view of this finding one is tempted to ask what it is that makes organisations see some value in carrying out a job evaluation exercise? Some of the key benefits associated with job evaluation can be summarised as follows:
Firstly, the concept of job evaluation is perceived as crucial in helping employees to take responsibility for their work in their respective work situations. Because job evaluation helps with the clarification of employees’ roles and responsibilities experience shows that employees are likely to demonstrate ownership of their job requirements and be motivated to find solutions to work problems
Furthermore, job evaluation in a workplace creates an environment which enables the organisation to reward hard workers or rather which is talent and hard work based. This has a positive impact as hard working employees know that their outstanding performance leads to rewards and recognition.
Thirdly, by engaging in job evaluation, an organization has an edge in that it will have clarified and specified roles and duties of an employee so that when they get to work they know where exactly to focus on instead of wasting time working on unclear roles and duties which can be costly on the part of the organization. This clarification of roles and duties is also in line with the psychological principle of the magical number seven which states that for effectiveness to be achieved in any tasks, they should be clear so that an individual can focus on the desired key result areas.
Fourthly, job evaluation aids in providing a basis for the establishment or abolition of certain posts in an organization as well as a basis for standardizing remuneration systems. This implies that after a successful process of job evaluation in an organization, the results can better determine the worth of a job and the need as well as be in a position to determine what amount of work is done by employees and at what level in the organization. The results of the Job Evaluation enable the organisation to implement a standardised remuneration structure. It has also been established that Job Evaluation help to develop a comprehensive understanding of the organisation structure with regard to levels of authority and accountability, lines of communication spans of control and key areas of responsibility in an organisation.
Finally, it also goes without saying that job evaluation provides critical input in the following HR processes; Recruitment and Selection, Training needs analysis, Performance Management, Career Development and Manpower Planning. All high performing organisations throughout the world are known to have in place robust Job Evaluation systems which help to determine the relative importance of jobs in a systematic, consistent and objective way.
As leaders we are often pondering on our team performance and relationships. While it is factual that team performance outweighs individual performance, most organisations have tried to foster it in workplaces without necessarily achieving the desired results. However, it is important for leadership to know that building effective teams require more than just an abstract commitment to teamwork.
Creating a team that you can count on and that can work together effectively is an important element of a successful business. Such performing teams are an imperative for all businesses today, but achieving it is hard though. Effective teams mean bringing all the different ideas, perceptions, ways of doing business and judgement to a collision.
The question most leaders are asking is how do we or how do others successfully do this? What are prerequisites, the do’s and don’ts of this strategic imperative?
Clearly the need to know one’s leadership style stands out. If as a Manager you dislike conflict and only value your approach, building an effective team may prove a mammoth task for you. The tendency on your part might have been to hire and reward people of a particular stripe who maintain your nurtured comfortable zone syndrome. Such a leadership approach will not build an effective team simply because the leader has trained colleagues to pass all the ideas through similar cognitive screening and in such environments only familiar ones survive.
In order to create an effective team, there is need on your part to demonstrate that you can manage people with a variety of thinking styles. Such people don’t often understand or respect one another and such disagreements can fuel personal disagreements. There is therefore need to foster and figure out how these different approaches can grate against one another in a productive process commonly known as creative abrasion which is a key element to building an effective team . Appreciating and understanding that different people have different thinking styles, analytical skills and values is paramount. These need to be respected and allow them to set ground rules for working together. As a leader you have a role to constantly self examine yourself and see what you need to do to promote teambuilding. It’s not an easy task as a lot of self-introspection and candidness is required on your part.
Some of the building blocks to effective team development are: creating a conducive environment. Get rid of the notion of Leader as boss, it does not work in producing an effective team. Allow team members to make decisions and remain that smart Leader who offers encouragement and allow the team to have access and authority to whatever they need to expand their horizons. Work on verifying progress and regularly monitor whether they are on the right path. This improves their confidence making them stronger and more responsible.
Gratitude is always a key element to building effective teams. Thank team members as it motivates new responses with an ongoing effort to do things better. Let communication be free so as to build the trust and cooperation needed.
Building team relationships is also another imperative. It is interesting to see how effective teams have been put together in the development sector where people are assigned to work on a specific project. They have a Team leader overally in charge of a thematic area and has several other projects to manage. The project team working at a particular site develop themselves into effective teams. They are left to plan their activities, and periodically the Team leader just pays monitoring visits. Such small teams have developed strong bonds which have evolved into a family. They perfectly understand each other and they know who has what skills as well as their likes and dislikes. Assignments on the project are based on one’s expertise and competencies. They make their decisions there in the forests where they determine the best solutions as they work with communities. This approach has allowed them to cooperate with each other as well as develop problem solving skills. They openly share information and at times disagree only to agree and out of such structures a lot has been achieved for this sector. Information sharing with the wider group is also done at specified times.
In the development sector not only has it been about the team bondage, but a lot of return has been realised as evidenced by the repeated donors funding to certain organisations which have demonstrated their credit worthiness through the use of these teams. Such bondages however can also have down sides, especially in those cases where team members have connived.
In conclusion, if as a leader you endeavour to stretch outside the borders of your preferences and enjoy the fruits of creative abrasion where new ideas, methods and products are generated, then, creating effective teams will be a rewarding experience.
“You can have all the right strategies in the world but if you don’t have the right competencies you surely are doomed” adapted from Patrick Whitesell
Organizational core competencies can be defined as the aggregate unique capabilities that an organization possesses that drive the business in the delivery of distinct customer value in the form of products and/or services. These unique capabilities can be in the form of skills, culture, business approach, customer relationship management and technology among others. An organization can have more than one core competency. The ability to coordinate and stream these capabilities drive the business through creating sustainable competitive advantage. It is not just a strength or an attribute that an organization has, but the ability to effectively and efficiently synthesize those capabilities to deliver value. These organizational core competencies are not static but can deliberately be changed over time and space as organizations adapt to the dictates of their operating environments. An entity can also deliberately acquire and/or develop organizational core competencies in line with its vision and mission.
Business strategy represents an enterprise’s plan of action to achieve predetermined goals or objectives. It focuses the enterprise on those critical factors that bring success to the organization. Ability to deliver on a strategy is heavily dependent on the organization’s core competencies. According to the Harvard Business Review (1990/05) a good business strategy should be firmly rooted in an organization’s core competencies. The business operating environment presents numerous opportunities that can be exploited by enterprises. Organizations should not find themselves chasing every opportunity that exists in the environment – their strategies should be informed by their unique capabilities. This enables the organization to focus on what it is good at, thereby setting itself up for excellence. Should an organization want to pursue opportunities outside its core competencies, the organization should also invest in and make deliberate efforts to develop such core competencies. If business strategy is not informed by the organization’s core competencies, failure is guaranteed.
Our experience is that having facilitated strategy sessions for many organizations in Zimbabwe and beyond, the key challenge observed is that organizations are not conscious about their core competencies. This automatically means that in many organizations there are no deliberate strategies to develop organizational core competencies. This dilemma haunts many organizations as they find themselves adopting strategies which they fail to execute simply because they lack the appropriate organizational core competencies. In today’s ever complex environment, it is important for organizations to focus on those areas they have the greatest impact. According to the Core Competency theory of strategy, organizations should always play to their strengths in terms of core competencies. The starting point therefore is to know and define the company’s core competencies. Once that has been done successfully, business strategy can thus be developed around these.
To guarantee long term business growth and success, it is mandatory that organizations identify and develop their core competencies upon which business strategy relies. Investments in core competencies should be made so that they remain unique to the organization thereby securing competitive advantage. Different models can be used to identifying and developing organizational core competencies. However according to C.K. Prahalad and G. Hamel (Harvard Business Review, 1990), for an attribute to be regarded as a core competency, it should satisfy the following:
ü It must provide superior value/benefit to the customer
ü It should not be easily replicated by competitors
ü It should provide potential access to a wide variety of markets
Once the core competencies have been identified, the business is in a better position to make smarter decisions. The adoption of the outsourcing model in organizations is driven by the core competency approach to business. Companies divest from non-core competency areas to focus their resources in those core competency areas. This propels companies to higher levels of uniqueness where they become inimitable. In the developed world the outsourcing model has been used extensively and successfully – the key being the ability to identify the organization’s core competencies.
In conclusion, identifying and developing organizational core competencies provides a sound basis on which strategy can successfully be developed and executed in an organization. Business strategy should always leverage on the organization’s core competencies. Companies should not focus on anything and everything, they should not pursue every opportunity that presents itself in the environment but should deliberately develop desirable core competencies on which strategy rides. This approach creates unique expertise in organizations and propels businesses to market leadership by offering unique value propositions to customers that are rare to find and that are inimitable. It also allows organizations to expand by competing in different markets – riding on their unique capabilities.
Workplace bullying is a continuous pattern of mistreatment that causes mental or physical hurt to a fellow employee in a workplace situation. It can sometimes involve negative physical contact. Where bullying takes the form of intimidation, it’s usually a perpetrator instilling some fear into a victim who then lives on borrowed time for fear of losing their job. Such mental disturbance then provides a platform where bullying will thrive even getting to the level of sexual abuse as an assertion of one’s power over someone.
It has often been debated whether bullying really takes place in workplace because sometimes the practice is so hidden and well crafted such that it becomes hard to know whether it is bullying or victimisation. These are two sides of one-coin Individuals in organisations respond to these bullying acts differently, some are shocked, others become angry, frustrated, helpless, lose confidence, suffer headaches and lose sleep. What are some of the common acts of bullying observed in the work place?
Bullying in organisations may involve deliberate undermining, intimidation, impeding a person’s work, removing areas of responsibility without cause, establishing impossible deadlines, offensive jokes at work, yelling or using profane language, constant criticism, dubious relocations, blocking one’s training opportunities or leave ... The list is endless.
It is factual that in one way or another every employee has fallen prey to bullying. While it the duty of every employer to protect employees from acts of bullying at work, most employers have not done so. Simply because our country has not developed specific policies and resources related to workplace bullying. While within the Labour Act in Zimbabwe, allegations of bullying can be handled but the mammoth tasks of proving such cases usually results in parties to a bullying act losing because they would not have documented enough the prerequisite evidence. The legal process requires that one documents clearly such incidents communicating openly with the perpetrator.
One school of thought says that bullying has been acculturated in a number of institutions. For example, my attention was recently drawn to the case of a Lawyer who claimed that she was a victim of bullying at her workplace in a professional practice. The Lawyer claimed that every time she worked on a case and brought an opinion to the boss this would be dismissed with such remarks: “Ah, that legal position of yours keep it to yourself,” The boss would then contract another Law firm to seek an opinion on the same matter. This belittling of the junior Lawyer occurred particularly in those cases where the Junior employee had an opinion which was at variance with the boss’s thinking or intended course of action
It has been argued that similar bullying acts take place every minute in organisations. What is surprising perhaps is that despite this bullying, employees continue working for the institution. Are these people not aware of the mistreatment or it’s our environment that has normalised bullying? One school of thought says people have been “taught” to live with it. It has also been alleged that when the institution has bullied the person enough, he or she is often fired.
I have also encountered cases where it has been argued that relocation is another very rampant form of bullying. When you question or refuse you are fired. According to this school of thought even high performing Managing Directors are relocated in the name of turning around ailing organisations only to realise it was a bullying ploy to fire them. Internationally, countries like Canada, the United States of America and some European countries have developed policies to curb workplace bullying some of which have direct local relevance.
Think of how yelling is practised in organisations! It’s a mode of bullying. Colleagues even know who yells but very often no action has been taken on the majority of these people. Their power base is fear, not respect.
As in the cited examples, bullying is often used strategically to rid the workplace of good employees and to avoid legal obligations. It is pertinent to note as leaders that when bullying happens at the highest levels, its effects are far reaching and those that take place in the Boardrooms actually threaten the productivity of the entire organisation. The typical reactions to workplace related bullying is the survival instinct of ‘flight or fight’ and flight in most cases is the very legitimate and valid response by the victims.
I feel that we need a chemotherapy treatment to this deadly disease in organisations. The continual parcelling of bullying acts under the current labour laws allows the spreading of this cancer as it is often difficult for one to confront a perpetrator head on when still in the job.