Firms face test of boosting
February 04, 2008
“We cannot divorce ourselves from is happening in the community,
since it is from these communities that we seek the talent.”
February 04, 2008: Human Resource managers are facing a tough time
following the outbreak of violence in parts of the country - and
the task ahead is arduous.
“I have had to transfer 36 of my staff members and it is a very
expensive endeavour, but a there is no other way out since we have
to look out for our staff members,” said Mr David Ruchiu,
executive director of Kenya Agency for the Development of
Enterprise and Technology.
Kenya Commercial Bank, the country’s largest branch network bank
with 135 outlets, has also had to transfer 50 employees to safer
areas. However, the most affected organisation has been the
Teacher’s Service Commission. In Western province alone, over 80
teachers have been relocated.
“At this point in time, a most pressing issue facing employers is
how to ensure that their employees are safe from the animosity in
some parts of the country. These are real urgent practical issues
organisations are faced by at this time,” said Dr Ceaser Mwangi,
director of ET Consult, a human resource management firm.
And the sentiments across the board is that the country has been
reduced to retrogression since it is utterly impossible to have
just one tribe working in certain areas.
As companies handle the situation by transferring staff to more
safer locations, human resource managers are faced with the
delicate issues of how to promote and enhance diversity in their
Following the disputed 2007 elections and the tensions that have
arisen, experts say that Kenyan organisations will need to assess
the way they manage diverse work forces in relation to ethnic
In the short-run, the future is not as buoyant for the human
resource managers according to Ms Sally Mukwana, a director at
“When you tell HR managers to hire from different communities in
order to embrace diversity in the company, and in light of how the
social fabric has been destroyed, how is the HR manager expected
to make the different communities work together as a team? We
cannot divorce ourselves from is happening in the community, since
it is from these communities that we seek the talent,” says Ms
She says that social integration is pertinent and can be achieved
through atonement. This, she added, could be achieved when the
perpetrators of the violence take responsibility as the people
uptake reconciliation in order to rebuild trust.
Mr Mwangi advised that it is important to understand how the issue
of one’s tribe will affect performance, motivation, success, and
interactions with others.
But as much as the most important issue may be ethnicity,
diversity encompasses age, gender, physical abilities or
Qualification, race, sexual orientation, educational background,
geographic location, income, marital status, military experience,
religious beliefs, parental status, and work experience also come
A long-term solution that management consultants have suggested to
employers is that in particular situations such as in recruitment
and in communication, managers should be particularly careful as
it is easy to be misunderstood by vulnerable groups.
Frank Ndolo of Frank Management Consult Ltd suggests that resumes
should cease to have any reference on gender, religion, age, or
even physical abilities
“Talent is present in all corners and all companies need it to
invest into their recruitment, develop their own set of assortment.
Management trainees would be a good head start for companies to
nurture their assortment,” said Ndolo. In an era where flexibility
and creativity are keys to competitiveness, proper management of
diversity can provide distinct advantages such as meet new
customer needs. Moreover, a diverse work force is able to
effectively service a diverse customer base.
“Heterogeneity promotes creativity and heterogeneous groups have
been shown to produce better solutions to problems and a higher
level of critical analysis. This can be a vital asset to any
organization striving to improve on its organizational
effectiveness,” explained Mr Mwangi.
He added that with effective management of diversity, an
organisation will develop a reputation as an employer of choice
and further have the ability to attract the best talent from the
job market, thus save time and money in recruitment and employee
Given the situation in Kenya, management should be aware that they
have a key role in transforming the organisational culture so that
it does not leave some ethnic groups to be more vulnerable to
Direct support and commitment from key executives throughout the
organization is critical in the process of embracing diversity. At
the same time management should devote itself to improving
communication skills surrounding diversity, while learning to
respect, appreciate and understand other people’s different
Nonetheless, management’s commitment should be tied to individual
performance appraisals, as well as departmental goals with a
significant weighting toward their overall rating.
“There is no easy recipe to manage the diverse groups in the work
place and advice and strategies given for one situation may not
work given the same situation in another context.
However it is clear that Kenyan HR managers should acknowledge
there is a difficult situation which the country is facing and
tribal sensitivities have been heightened,” said Mwangi.
“ They should therefore avoid any practices that may suggest that
they are discriminating between vulnerable groups and always
promote inclusiveness, ” he added.