Mr. Femi Mokikan
Executive Director, 7Up Bottling Company Plc, Mr. Femi Mokikan, who is also a Human Resource expert, spoke to Linda Eroke on human resource management issues and emphasised the need for effective workplace communications
Management of Outsourced Workers
Let me start by saying that the issue of outsourcing is a global phenomenon; it is a development that the world has come to embrace and this is because businesses are facing tougher challenges, challenges that in the final analysis end up jacking up the cost of doing business.
And so, corporate bodies look for different ways of pushing the cost down and one of the ways of doing that is through outsourcing. Now, it depends on how it is done in our own environment here. In other places, there are structures, guidelines and rules that must be followed before you can be licensed to be an outsource agents.
Of course, within the environment where they work, the fact is they are not employees of a principal company, they are employees of a third party, that third party has its own terms and conditions of employment which is applicable to every outsourced employee.
The principal company also has its own staff with conditions and terms of employment which is applicable to its own staff alone. But the reality is that because they work in the same environment there are bound to be some disaffection that demoralises employees of third party and so they use this as a stepping stone and what has made it so prominent these days is the fact that the unemployment situation in the country is so terrible that anybody will go for anything just to keep body and soul together.
What many companies have done is for the Human Resource (HR) practitioners of the principal company to take up additional responsibility to help the third party to manage their employees. Because many of the outsourcing practitioners do not know how to manage employees effectively but how to set up a company go to fed ministry of labour, get license and begin to supply labour.
In terms of managing employees, there have very little idea so what most companies do is to use their own human resources to help these people to manage their employees. This is so because at the end of the day, whatever happens will affect the productivity of the principal company.
Redundancy and Staff Engagement
The labour law is very clear on what should done in the event of a company declaring redundancy. If you look at section 20 of the Labour Act, it specifies four conditions that must be met and one of this is effective communication.
No company can successfully carry out redundancy exercise without some form communication, interactions, meeting with the unions or representative of the workers. Unfortunately, what happens is that because it is called redundancy, employees themselves are already on the offensive or defensive as the case maybe.
If it is normal retirement, it is easy to put a package together such as a retirement course, seminar which retirees will voluntarily attend. But because this is redundancy (asking employees to go when they want to work) employee are already angry and would not want to go for any post redundancy training.
We have done redundancy a couple of times and each time, we bring up this issue, they will tell you that they will attend but on that day you will not see them because they are angry. It is later they will realise that they have lost the opportunity. If we can get the unions to help change that mindset it will help a lot.
There are two ways to motivate. First, there is self motivation where the individual will make up his mind to motivate yourself in your workplace regardless of what your boss does to you. So the way you carry on with your job must give you that internal satisfaction. Having put that aside, the employers must motivate its workers by making their wages and salaries readily available, and this should be tied to affordability.
These workers are the ones who produce, sell, take of accounts and know the fortunes of the company so it will be difficult for management to come and deceive them that there is no money. So when management come up to say what the employees are asking for are unreasonable, the employees know they are not telling the truth.
However, you have to know that human need is insatiable because there is no limit to which money can satisfy a man. So, what we do is to moderate our individual demand within the capability of the organisation. This is because the organisation has to survive.
If we are shortsighted and want to consume all the money we have made today, what are we going to leave behind for our tomorrow. Money alone cannot motivate employees. There are some things we can do in our organisation without increasing the pay package of employees. For example, commending an employee who performs very well, challenging him with responsibilities, and respecting him because all want to feel accomplished.
Managing Employee/Employer Relationship
It takes both parties to build a relationship. First, you have to define clearly the context within which the relationship exits. Most of us are here so that the organization can achieve its objectives. In the process of achieving the objectives, there have to be sufficient communication. Call it engagement, interaction or dialogue.
Every day you run a company, there has to be effective communication, it is when there is no communication, when people do not hear what they should hear that they create stories for themselves.
But if management is open enough to engage them, create opportunities for them to meet at different levels and have sufficient discussion with workers believe me you will see that the relationship between employees and employers will be cordial.
It is all about knowing the soft skill that can help people feel belonged and if that happens, the relationship in organisations will be a lot better. With seamless communication, labour morale will be boosted and industrial conflict will reduce.
Aptitude test in the course of seeking employment has exposed the level of rot in the nation’s education sector and if urgent steps are not taken by the government, it could take Nigeria not less than 50 years to recover. When we make statements like our educational standard is falling, some will argue it is not falling, that it is just that the things we were looking at in those days and the things we are looking at for today are not the same.
I remember Primary six pupils in those days, some of them used to teach. Some of them could teach in secondary schools years back. Today, a graduate cannot even teach. Anyway, the aptitude tests that we have administered show the kind of educational system that we have.
Anybody can say whatever he likes, but I have no doubt in my mind that there is a sharp decline between the qualities of students that leave our educational institutions, not just universities. I started my life as a lecturer in a polytechnic. I went to the university as a student, and to the polytechnic as a lecturer.
I know what it was then, and what it is today, because I still relate with some of my friends there. Things have changed. We had a test here (7Up), the very first question in the quantitative section was to compute mean, mode, median. I know that anyone who did statistics in school, even in secondary school, when they give you data you rearrange it first before you start anything.
I will like to narrate my experiences from interaction with different individuals and employees during job interviews and on the jobs in relation to educational qualifications. There was a man who said he had B.Sc Mathematics/Statistics, and won an award, but he failed the question. He failed the test, and I insisted they invite him for interview, because I wanted to know what exactly the problem was.
So, he came for the interview, and I asked him whether he could recall any of the questions especially in the quantitative. He said yes. I said how did you do that one? He said it was okay. The way I was asking him questions, he suspected something, so he asked, if he did not pass the test, how come he was invited for interview.
I had his paper with me. So I said to him: “If you say you had a B.Sc in Mathematics/Statistics from the university, you do not need to prepare for just mean, mode, median.
So, I stared at him for a long time, and he said “I am no longer interested in this job; I do not want to continue”. If you go back to the school you attended from secondary to university, what you see today will make you cry. Why, because in the course of running after money, getting values wrong, we abandoned those things that we ought to be promoting.
If I come back again, I will want to be an HR practitioner again and again. This is because human relations practice is the real life itself where you get to interact with the weak, the strong, the mighty, the poor, the rich in your organisations and those that are coming from outside.
It exposes one to different dimensions of human lives and so for me it has been very fulfilling being a human resource practitioner. I have seen so much, so of the skills we are talking about, the HR process has helped me to be able to improved on those skills and manage my relationship with others. It has also given me the opportunity to engage government, employers and other stakeholders at different levels both locally and international.