Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Employers and Employees: A tricky balance

The stalemate on MPs salary has brought to the fore the question of balancing the rights of employers and employees. The dispute that has caused national outrage must be looked at from an employee-employer perspective in order to bring it to an end. In this case the government wants to reduce the wage bill while the employees want more salaries to sustain their desired standard of living. On the other hand the same dilemma is constantly manifesting in the private arena. In this case the balance is that of corporate rights, with corporations seeking to make profits and increase shareholder value and employment rights for the employees who run corporations. As the current debate has proved, it is not easy striking the balance.

The Constitution provides that employees are entitled to fair working conditions. A wholistic reading of the constitution and other labour laws also reveals that employers have rights that they can enforce against employees.  

Kenya’s is a case of progressive move towards an aggressive tussle between employers and employees. As the economy thrives, everybody wants a bite of the cherry. Last year we experienced strikes by teachers, doctors and nurses that paralysed the delivery of essential public services. The private sector was not spared either, as there was experienced several labour strikes and unrests.

The tussle has also manifested in the judgments emanating from the Industrial Court. The Court has been aggressive in enforcing employment rights provided in the law. Employers cannot get away with violations of the law and employees cannot expect to get more than is provided under their contracts of employment or the law. The decentralisation of the Court to other High Court stations has helped in shaping a nation-wide jurisprudence in labour law.

As a solution it is important for parties within the labour movement to embrace alternative dispute resolution in resolving any misunderstandings or disputes among them. The stakes in labour issues are high because the employer and employee are both yearning for survival. The life of the state or corporation depends on the income it earns and by keeping expenditure as low as possible. Employees on the other hand seek to earn more income and hopefully improve their livelihoods. To balance these competing interests, embracing negotiations and mediation as the preferred means of resolving labour disputes is essential. That is why the talks between the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) are a welcome development are encouraged.

Alternative means of dispute resolution will ensure that cordial relationships between employers and employees are nurtured and preserved.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Vision, Mission and Values for Long-term success

If you have interacted with the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S4, you can’t stop admiring its unique features. However the message and philosophy accompanying the smart phone is of more importance here and it all starts with its slogan “Life’s companion”. According to Samsung, it is a phone that simplifies life and even helps one check their weight and keep proper health balance. Specifically the company states in its website that the Galaxy S4 was “Developed to redefine the way we live, the Galaxy S4 makes every moment of our life meaningful. It understands the value of relationships, enables true connections with friends and family, and believes in the importance of effortless experience”.

Well I have been reading Jim Ware’s book “Investment Leadership: Building a Winning Culture for Long-term Success” that confirmed the vision and strategy of firms like Samsung. The book discusses the need for corporate organizations and corporate leaders to have a clear vision that goes beyond profits, a mission that has people as its motivation and a culture that is informed by the company’s values and unique attributes. Although the book is focused on the investment industry, I believe that private companies, public entities, partnerships, state ministries and departments, community organizations, churches among others can learn great lessons on the important basics for building a winning culture for long-term success. Remember that the emphasis is not just on success, but on sustainable and long-term success that outlives the people currently running the organization.

Companies and organisations that have an active vision and mission of their desired destination and keep working towards this vision, are more likely to have long-term success. The government has a development blue print – Vision 2030. County governments are also expected to develop economic blue prints. However it not a question of just having well written visions but are they living in the hearts and minds of all stakeholders.

In the corporate scene a common example is Equity Bank whose main vision is to provide banking services to the poorest of the poorest in Kenya and now the bank is implementing the same vision across Africa. You wouldn’t be surprised to meet an elderly lady at Equity bank seeking financial services because that’s Equity for you. So it is not just about having a vision in corporate marketing materials but the vision must be alive, it must speak every single day that an organization is in existence and building innovation in line with the vision.

The greatest lesson Jim Ware offers is that a vision must not be about money and profits, but about people. Jim interestingly observes that profits follow organisations that have a larger-than-profit vision. Listen to a CEO as he/she announces the full year results. Is the announcement just about profits or about the innovative products that have transformed customer’s lives?

The other most important lesson is the fact that all directors, managers and employees in the firm should have the vision at their finger tips. Once a customer enters the reception area the impact of the vision and the firm’s core values should be evident. Employees should be alive to the vision and be committed to achieve it whether they have a big, small or no title at all.

Lastly, for today, Jim shares on values and culture. He states that it is important for firms to have values that are not just well stated technical words like, integrity, efficiency and so on. These words do not communicate the values of an organization. Each stated value should be accompanied by an explanation in a language that is easy to read and understand.

For instance a firm can expand its commitment to customer service as follows, “Customer Service – at Kip Limited, we are committed to provide our clients with the right information at the right time to enable them make the best decisions for their family’s financial future. We shall listen more than we speak and therefore respond to all written and oral questions and complaints within 24 hours. We shall keep our client’s updated on the status of their account. We shall speak to clients with respect”. By reading this, a client going to Kip Limited knows the kind of service expected.

I encourage leaders across all sectors of our nation to build organizations with a living vision and mission statement and establish a value based culture to achieve long-term success.