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Why employers miss out on the best talent in the market

Fa calendar 16 grey January 12, 2017   
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Various companies have developed methods for measuring the abilities and efforts of their new and existing staff, to make sure that they hunt and nurture the right people that can take the company to the next level. 

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It is commonly believed that if a company manages to hire and retain the best possible talent in the market, it has great chances of becoming a financially successful firm. Various companies have developed methods for measuring the abilities and efforts of their new and existing staff, to make sure that they hunt and nurture the right people that can take the company to the next level. They try to eliminate inequalities and subjective judgements to make sure that the best persons really get chosen.

The efforts of being objective, fair and measurement-driven can also be called ´meritocracy´. According to Wikipedia, meritocracy is a “system of (…) business administration (…) wherein appointments and responsibilities are assigned to individuals based upon their "merits", namely intelligence, credentials, and education, determined through evaluations or examinations.” To put it another way, meritocracy commonly means true fairness in decision-making. Companies applying meritocracy tend to say no to all forms of discrimination. The managers in these companies are likely to have an open heart and mind and ability to listen to others and give value to all opinions, independent of the person’s background. Consequently, the individuals who are most talented, hard-working and smart will likely get monetary rewards and great opportunities to move upwards in their career.

Meritocratic thinking has been promoted worldwide during the last decades, but it has unfortunately not quite been traditionally the way businesses have been managed in Kenya. Unfortunately, nepotism has been a common vice for far too long. For instance, various decision-makers with influencing power have been favouring their relatives, friends or people from their own ethnic groups when making hiring or promotion decisions. Further, corruption has unfortunately been a major problem too: payments or exchange of favours have influenced decisions, leading to poor or compromised outcomes. That is why those who have the expertise have unfortunately not always been the ones who have had the chances to become leaders in companies in Kenya.

While times have changed a lot and meritocratic methods have slowly gained ground, various inequalities still exist in the Kenyan business life. On the other hand, lack of merit-based hiring and rewarding remains a problem e.g. in Europe, Asia and America too, especially in smaller firms and family businesses. Therefore, it is fair to say that in various countries there is still quite some work that needs to be done in order to achieve fair policies and practices.

What steps should leaders of Kenyan companies take to move their thinking towards meritocracy? We suggest the following six steps:

  1. Spend time studying what meritocracy entails - Make sure you and your colleagues have a common understanding of what the term means, what it includes and what not. Write down those sentences that best describe it to you and your firm.

  2. Make it clear that meritocracy is the way to go in the company - Put a stake on the ground: from now on, we start to apply meritocracy in the firm. Let all the employees know that this is the selected path. Use both verbal and written communication. Repeat the message until it sinks in.

  3. Measure objectively the performance of the individuals in the company - Create evaluation systems and tests that leave little room for subjective thinking or liking someone without clear and measured justification. Use peer reviews to double-check the performance and rankings of people and complement the evaluation made by the line manager. Document the results of the performance analysis in written format.

  4. Hire and reward people based on their objectively measured performance - Make it fully transparent why someone was rewarded or hired to the company. Let everyone know how they were promoted to advance in their career and what metrics were used to analyse performance. 

  5. Reward good behaviour and punish wrong behaviour - Make sure that you praise those people that have applied meritocracy in their management style. Instances where there has been great performance form an individual and has led to promotion or an increase in salary should be celebrated. Unacceptable behaviours within the organization should be dealt with and those involved should get a warning.

  6. Evangelize meritocracy to other people too - Major changes in the working environment cannot spread across Kenya unless they become real movements involving numerous opinion leaders and millions of people at work. That´s why, every Kenyan has a role to play to push meritocracy from company to company.

Applying meritocracy does not happen overnight in any company. Instead, it requires determination and persistence that is demonstrated by the leaders of the company. Further, moving towards meritocracy needs a big dose of courage from the managers: it’s not easy letting go of old habits or thinking differently from other people in the firm. Finally, applying meritocracy requires strong belief in the better business performance that is anticipated to come thanks to the changes in the management style. If the business benefits can be proven, then many courageous and determined managers will tend to opt for objectiveness and fairness.

How about the ordinary workers at the firm? Why should they promote meritocracy and how can they win if/when it is applied? There are various benefits. For instance, meritocracy creates trust within the firm: the joint feeling that smartness and hard work really matter and can lead to success. Next, meritocratic habits create a modern and internationally-oriented working culture that makes it enjoyable and gives employees a sense of belonging. Lastly, all employees win when they see their colleagues and bosses being competent in their work. These points are proof that objectiveness and fairness don’t benefit managers only; but the entire company and its employees can all win when applying them.  

If Kenyan companies wish to become more modern, internationally-oriented and prosperous, they should consider meritocracy as a management philosophy and common practice. All Kenyan employees should try and think of ways on how they could push meritocracy forward in their respective organizations. Meritocracy is the way towards a healthier and happier workplace.

Fuzu is a Finnish-Kenyan company that develops career guidance, online learning and recruitment services for the emerging markets. We help people take the next step in life, get inspiration and unleash their hidden potential. We truly believe in fairness and meritocracy in business. Click here to see how your company could benefit from Fuzu’s recruitment and learning solutions!

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