No Job In Nigeria: A Market or Manpower Failure?

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

In Nigeria, it is rare to find an employee who has a good word to say about the organization s/he works in. Strange isn’t it? But it’s true. Most of the time we continue to stay on in an organization, even when we recognize that it has nothing positive to offer to us. Why is it so? Why do we crib and grumble till we turn crabby and yet continue to work for the same organization we often hate or condemn? Perhaps, it is the small pay packet, long duty hours or the lack of a congenial work environment that is responsible for the dissatisfaction.

However, despite security of service, an employee also looks for job satisfaction. An employee is seeking more than a pay packet. He wants to realize his potential and the optimum utilization of all his capabilities. In a scenario where levels of unemployment tilt the scales in favour of the employers, what needs to be done to ensure that both the employees and the employer are satisfied?

According to my cousin with SPDC Nigeria, who is again, an MBA, often discontentment arises out of comparing pay packets, without seeing the other person’s input. It is usually mid-career as well as middle-level employees who are the most disgruntled lot. The mismatch between expectations and the fulfillment of those can create a feeling of stagnation and a no-exit situation. Very often, the question is ‘what is the employer giving to us’ and not the other way around. Hanna Ndukwu, an assistant marketing manager with MTN Mobile Nigeria Communications, feels that the middle and junior staff is not indispensable for the management. That is why there is hardly any effort to retain them or to oversee their job satisfaction levels. According to her, another factor that creates a lot of dissonance for the employees is the system of dual reporting. If a boss is not competent, he does not even allocate work in a satisfactory manner. Loyalty, an important component of the boss-employee dynamics, is no longer a must, with expertise and not age becoming an important criterion.

Alex Uchendu, who helps in the management of the engineering firm set up by her father-in-law in 1972, maintains that a large group should be divided into smaller sub-groups. Monitoring is a must, especially in the case of unskilled labour. Group leaders have to be selected and each person has to be evaluated before utilizing his potential to the utmost. For instance, some workers can get things done. What is essential, feels Uchendu, and is the ability to do the work with your own two hands. That, coupled with the ability to constantly remain in touch with the workers and keep the channel of communication open is a must to facilitate interaction. As she proudly declares, they have never sacked an employee ever since the concern was set up in 1972. Another factor that has to be kept in mind is never to turn down the request for monetary or material help, whenever it is made.

An analyst in “nigeria4betterrule” is of the view that the employers do not have any employee-recognition or involvement programs. That is the major cause of employees being disgruntled. The employers must make their salary structures competency and skill-based. That will automatically motivate the employees to improve and upgrade their skills and knowledge, lay stress on performance and lower the levels of dissatisfaction. He does not subscribe to the view that due to the unequal ratio of employer-employee, the latter is often dispensable. Bringing a skilled worker to a certain level wherein he becomes useful for an organization requires time, effort and investment on the part of the employer. If there is a failure to retain employees, it is bound to affect the costing.

While it might be possible to link the pay packet to skills and competency in the private sector, the laid-back, hierarchical structure of the government organizations is a different ballgame altogether. Cronyism, not competency, is the buzzword here. When promotions are strictly time-bound and there is neither reward for performance nor punishment for non-work, a non-chalant attitude is bound to flourish. No amount of globalization can change the widely-held perception of a majority of Nigerians about a government job being a life-long security blanket. Once having got in, one doesn’t need to work. Perhaps that is why there is no stress on productivity and an unabashed apathy towards loss of working hours due to holidays.

In a time when expertise matters more than age or experience, employers too have to hone their skills. A participant in our bi-monthly forum is of the conviction that today’s employer has to be emotionally intelligent, since he is dealing with a knowledge worker who does not require supervision but inspiration. An emotionally intelligent employer should possess the following qualities: self-awareness, self-control, empathy, should be self-directed and has inner motivation and social skills that facilitate group dynamics. An employer should be able to evolve an optimum utilization of time, money and resources. While employees enhance skills, employers should hone their leadership qualities.

In the ultimate analysis, it boils down to something simple: sense of belonging to the place we work in. This can neither be bought nor taught. It either is there or isn’t. And if it isn’t, it is much better to look elsewhere rather than accept oneself as a square peg in a round hole or vice-versa. If personal satisfaction is the bottom-line then all one needs to do is to step out and seek it, wherever one can find it. No amount of grumbling would yield it, anyway. Or do you think, otherwise?

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1 comment June 8, 2009 - 10:47 am

You raise a lot of good points. I will just address the title of your article.

I want to bring to your attention a fact in the nigerian labour market. I seak form personal expereince. I am in HR and have managed several HR functions. There is a serious dearth of skills in the country. I have had many unfilled vacancies because the skill and competence to fill them are very scarce and no, I am not talking about highly skilled jobs, I am talking about graduate vacancies requiring no experience, just a degree, a sharp mind and potential to learn in an environment that offers adequate training.

I have cringed at interviews, almost wishing the earth would swallow me up. The educational system is a big mess. A lot of the current graduates are ‘unemployable’. I am not talking about assessing them using complex tests. I am talking about the basics; they can’t spell, they can’t put a simple short essay together, they can’t think. I am sorry to sound so harsh but try sitting in an interview and you will understand. A lot of them who even speak well will disappoint you when they write.

Please, every firm I have worked in, in nigeria, small and large have vacancies they cannot fill, that is the harsh reality. There may not be jobs for all but there are still a lot of jobs that remain unfilled for lack of basic skills.


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