Lessons for employers and employees

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As a Kenyan and regional employer, I must admit that one of the biggest challenges we face today is employee retention.

The truth is this; a business cannot amount to much nor achieve much without excellent human capital. So, how do we keep our people engaged? How do we retain them in the face of thriving competition that threatens to poach your very best?

Back in my day, we were adequately persuaded with financial incentives. You either got a hefty salary increment, or a sizable commission. The larger the financial increment, the more likely the company was to retain the high performers. However, in a work era where employees aspire to more than just financial satisfaction, it is no longer enough nor acceptable to conduct business in such a manner. Not unless you want to fail.

As a result, you will notice that most progressive companies have come up with very innovative retention schemes. Employees want to feel a sense of ownership and belonging to their company. They want to create value; to make a difference; to dabble in their creative pursuits every so often etc. They want a work place that is flexible to their needs. It can no longer be run like a mill, and Esops (employee stock ownership programmes) just don’t make the cut anymore.

These are challenges that the employer must address in order to retain high performing individuals while meeting performance targets. There is no question that such schemes are costly to maintain, in addition to all other inflationary pressures. As a result, the employer feels the pressure to maintain the wage bill under a certain threshold leading to massive layoffs.

This account is made from the employer’s point of view. But how about when the shoe is placed on the other foot? How do you as an employee ensure that your employer retains you on his payroll?

Aside from the threat of layoffs, there are many young people who are working for the companies of their dreams. However, the lack of career progression makes them feel disillusioned and tempted to throw in the resignation towel.

So how do you ensure that you get that promotion that you feel is worth your potential? Or at worst, how do you ensure that the re-organisation program is completed with you in mind?

Obviously, your previous work experience and educational qualifications will come into play. If you have been a bad worker, this may be a good opportunity for the employer to get rid of the rotten tomato. But if all other factors are constant and above board, here are some tips to give you a competitive edge over the competition.

The most important quality that you can demonstrate is the ability to lead. Employers want to grow and retain people who are able to be in charge, to influence others and to win while doing so. This capability contributes directly to the bottom line, and as Robin Sharma put it in his 26th rule of work, leading entails thinking for yourself. Don’t be the type of person that has to be told what to do every minute of the day. Show initiative and think for yourself, it frees up your boss to attend to more important matters.

The other very important quality that is requisite is the ability to understand the fundamentals of the business. You must have some understanding of what the greater picture is for your business. It is not enough to merely say that you are not in management, or that these fundamentals have not been communicated to you. Such behaviour demonstrates an employee who asleep and unconscious on the job.

Be ready to demonstrate your understanding of these fundamentals at an interview or in your interactions with your superiors. For example, where does your company place itself in the industry? What are its values, its vision and general strategic perspective? What opportunities does the market present? Who is the competition and what are the global trends? What image does it desire to project?

The truth of the matter is that unless you understand your business, your company, your employer… you cannot be an effective warrior; this is what every commendable employer seeks.

So before you throw in the towel at retaining that very lucrative post, remember that survival is only for the fittest, and that there’s probably much more that you can do to ensure your own career progression or job retention.

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