Shaiyen: Finding the Right Talent is a Major Challenge for HR Managers

04 Feb 2013

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Mrs. Eileen Shaiyen

Mrs. Eileen Shaiyen is the Managing Director of H. Pierson Associates Limited, a consulting firm with one of its areas of specialisation on human asset management and training. She tells Linda Eroke that finding the right talent to fill open positions in organisations has been a major challenge for HR managers

Given the critical role human assets plays in the success of an organisation, the hunt for the right talent has become more than ever difficult as employers grapple with the challenges of finding the right people that can fit into vacant positions.
This was attested to by Eileen Shaiyen, an HR practitioner, who attested that that getting professionals to fill openings has been quite challenging for HR practitioners in recent times, despite the high unemployment rate in the country. However, she was quick to state that the current challenge is not peculiar to the Nigerian work environment, adding that the war for talent has escalated globally, in view of the huge gap in the demand and supply for capable prospective employees.

Shaiyen, who has experience spanning over two decades in HR and risk management, told THISDAY at the company’s corporate head office in Lekki that talent attraction and retention has emerged as one of the top challenges in managing a business.
She explained that the quality of graduates, which are churned out every year in the country, makes it even more difficult to find the right talent.

According to her, talent attraction and retention appears to be a pressing issue for many organisations across the globe as employers finds it difficult to recruit professionals who can align themselves with the company’s goals and strategies.
“I think one of the biggest contemporary issues facing human resource management today is recruiting the right people. We have a situation where our educational system has been battered over the last two decades. A lot of graduates coming out of universities do not have the same standards as those who graduated in the mid-80s into the 70s. So the quality of human resource is one of the biggest challenges HR managers face,” she said.
She identified lack of the right talent as a drag on business performance adding that often times, such that employers complain about how the shortage of talent is impacting on their ability to evaluate new business opportunity, delay new growth plans, and eventually impact both the top line and bottom line of the company.
She noted that most organisations across the globe have looked at multiple ways of addressing this issue, including moving staff from other countries or enhancing their training set up.

In dealing with this issue she stressed the need for organisations to ensure that jobs and responsibilities are in line with peoples’ qualifications which include experience, ability, talent, skills, mindset, as a means of achieving corporate business objectives.
Another challenge entrepreneurial managers face, she said, is building a sound culture in institutions. She noted that most organisations work hard to ensure a sound and robust culture is developed without sacrificing optimal performance at any level.

There is a wide range of argument on the notion of culture, which is basically described as the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterises an institution, organisation or group. While many organisations today understand that a positive corporate culture can drive business performance, some still hold the view that corporate culture should be allowed to evolve naturally over time.
Against this background, Shaiyen emphasised that corporate culture does not happen on its own, stressing that it demands real planning and a lot of hard work consistently from across the organisation.
Specifically, she said to make a real impact on the business bottom line, every person across the organisation must also be able to understand, accept and reflect the true values that define the organisation.

“Again that is the picture of the big environment where we have major dilution of our value systems. You look at organisation grappling with weak productivity, absenteeism, fraud etc. All of these have to do with our value system coupled with building a strong culture with entrenched core values. The corporate culture influences how every individual acts in the organisation, in a way that can contribute towards business success,” she added.
According to her, when people in an organisation begin to understand the ethical values and principles of their organisation, then it becomes easier for them to express the culture of that institution clearly.

Shedding more light on the guidelines for managing ethics she said: “First you need to know what an organisation stands for in terms of the core values it drives. So if the ethical standard is very critical to such an organisation, the HR manager should make sure that message is fully digested across the institution. The HR manager should also make it critical a performance management programme.
“But as you know, institutions differ and there are some institutions that have issues of ethics as topmost on their list and others do not. So how you deal with ethics is actually where it starts.”

She also highlighted the steps to follow in establishing a selection plan for organisations. She said: “For me the first issue I will look at for are soft issues that have to do with character. From my experience I tend to find out that you can get the staff with the best skills, but if they do not have sound character, they will destroy values of the institution.
“So once you establish the core values for your institution, make sure that every incremental staff that you bring in is supporting the entrenchment of these values not those who will dilute the values. For me that is the number one issue in selection.

“The other thing I tend to focus on is professional background of the individual. There are some people who come from best backgrounds; they have a wider view of solutions and solution options. So people who have a good pedigree, give you value right from the start. The third is technical knowledge. For me, I would focus on people with technical knowledge.”

She pointed out that the major strength of each of the H. Pierson business groups is derived from the passion, intellect and character of its workforce and the unique competences and experience employees bring towards meeting the technical requirements of each area.
She added: “Recognising the critical role of an organisation’s people as a tool for competitive positioning within the industry, organisations strive to ensure that human capital values are at levels that can deliver its goals and objectives.
“In carving a niche for our organization, quality has been a distinguishing feature for us and that is why we are able to compete on projects even with international firms. Quality has been our unique selling point and that is what has endeared us and we will continue to uphold this.”

She however stressed the need for employers to motivate employees that perform excellently in their jobs to further maintain consistently good performance. In doing this she urged employers to set up a performance management system where employees can be appraised on a regular basis.

“The truth of the matter is for you to set a performance management system that everybody buys into, that is transparent. You can be doing the same job, one person will get an ‘A’ rating and the other a ‘C’ rating. That pushes you up the ladder. Then the second quarter, one get ‘AA’ rating and the other ‘B’ rating. So we may have the same job but deliver differently. One key challenge is that people must see transparency in that organisation and the criteria must be seen to be transparent.
“That is why we talk about the score card system where everybody is evaluated from varying degrees depending on what part of institution they work. We look at financial issues, customer satisfaction issues, process issues, values and knowledge issues. We try to make sure that the process is transparent.

“In my organisation, at the beginning of every quarter, we make everybody sign the performance contract and at the end of the day, it is that same contract that you are going to be evaluated with. So people get to know in good time how they have performed, as we do not need to wait for the end of the year,” she explained.
Speaking on downsizing/rightsizing as an organisation’s first response to a need to cut cost, Shaiyen said: “The issue of rightsizing is a choice on the part of the organisation. The organisation has got to do a strategic analysis to know how much jobs to cut that will not affect its operations.
“If an organisation cuts too much, it could affect its operations and if it cut too little, it will add to its cost burden. So having a clear indication of the right size is one of the key things to look out for. But in terms of the consequences, I think the biggest challenge is for organisations to remain focused on those retained and making sure they are able to contribute to achieving the goals of the company as well as taking the organisation to the next level.

“The primary intent of rightsizing is usually beneficial which is to make sure that in a period of dwindling fortunes, your costs are not running ahead of your revenues. So once you are able to trim those costs, it is easier to ginger the remaining members of the team.”
On the human resource management implication of globalisation she explained that globalisation has created the opportunity to migrate resources from one part of the world to another.
“With globalisation you have access to the best resources and in times like this, these resources are very useful. In a situation where an organisation downsizes, you can still have access to those resources anywhere in the world to pick from rather than retaining them within the institution, especially when you want to engage those resources without bringing them in as full-time employees of the institution,” she added. 

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