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Monday, August 1, 2011

Balancing the needs of clients and staff


The craze in on and the competition stiff. Employers are out to impress and get through to the hearts of clients as the pressure for performance and profits picks up. Surveys and polls are being facilitated to provide up-to-date market information to employers on the best practices that will ensure effective mobilization of a bigger, wider and deeper client base. As a result, new products are being introduced into the market, companies are pushing for longer working hours and new office and operational units are being set up.

This scenario has over time placed the employers and employees at logger heads. The employers are strongly driven by the need to maximize on profits at the expense of the staff needs and interests. Staff are being forced to work for longer hours at the same terms and conditions. Extra working days are being introduced as employers seek to move above the rest gradually squeezing in personal spaces that employees have previously planned for. This forces the employees to regularly adjust their lives in order to accommodate the changing demands.

Let us for instance consider the life of Joe who works for a local bank. He joined the banking industry 4 years ago after searching for a stable job for more than a year. The experience has been exciting until a couple of months ago. In response to the competition, the bank management decided to open up more branches upcountry and with the deployment, Joe was transferred to a remote town in Nyanza Province.

At the stroke of his supervisor’s pen, Joe had to defer studies he was undertaking at the local university since he could no longer make time for the lectures. He has since deferred through two semesters and fears he may have to terminate his studies unless a miracle happens within the next one month. The bank has over the last month made other changes with regard to the working hours. The staff have to report to work 30 minutes earlier and leave 30 minutes later. In other words, Joe has to work for an extra hour every day.

As much as the desire to compete is understandable, we need to sit back and debate on who ought to bear the cost of these changes.  How much should an employer push the employee to achieve the ever rising targets and at what point should the employee stand up and demand audience with the employer. Employees ought to be considered as stakeholders and involved in the making of decisions that affect them. It is necessary for the human resources practitioners mandated with the duty of managing people at these organizations and companies to appreciate the fact that today’s employees are more informed of their rights than was the case awhile back.

It is therefore recommended that employers consider the effects of the changes in the working hours, days and other conditions of work on the staff social, economic, spiritual and academic lives. Would it for instance serve the purposes of both the employer and the employee if the changes also come with reviews of terms of service? It is not fair play when an employer expects the staff to perform better, spend more time at work and travel longer distances with no commensurate compensation. To say the least, this is a perfect recipe for staff turnovers. Staff at this point start working out their exit strategies and before long, the employer has to contend either with a de-motivated workforce or with staff exits.

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