Employers: Key to Employee Productivity

Traditional practices in the workplace are changing with unprecedented advances. It is becoming less and less about being physically present at a workstation and yet being expected to generate substantial outcome.

This tectonic shift in how work is done is barely being felt in Ethiopia, which should be worrying.

I had a friend who would request to be excused from working at the office as a result of internet issues. He hoped he could work on his assignments from an internet café, instead of the office where the internet connection was intolerably slow.

It was for the employee a genuine worry about the loss of productivity at the workplace. It was not so much for the employer though, who insisted the employee should stay put in the office, even if he will not be able to get that much work done.

Work is not merely about showing up at the office. Yet this is a matter of great importance to many employers who nonetheless are aware that too many of their employees spend the day idle.

Employers can be heard complaining about high turnovers. The reasons for these are that the jobs in Ethiopia pay marginally and offer little to no benefits. But on top of that, employers, who themselves complain that this is a generation averse to a hard day’s work, enforce rules without understanding the practical reasons behind reinforcing them.

Business people feel the need to exercise their power by demanding employee’s presence even when it is unnecessary.

Many have had the experiences of having to stay in the office without actually having anything to do. There is a running joke among my friends that work sometimes feels like free day-long internet service.

It is unfortunate that firms are not showing a willingness to improve working conditions by making them more favourable. They fail to ask if there is perhaps something strange about a country with high rates of unemployment and yet companies that are hit with unprecedented numbers of turnover.

It does not have to do with a generation especially averse to earning an honest living but job opportunities that offer little opportunities for personal growth or a level of autonomy. There are rarely training or innovative programs to make employees’ experiences more exciting.

The world is moving toward open source knowledge and employees that work remotely. Current infrastructure may make this unrealistic for the majority in the case of Ethiopia, but the nation needs to figure out where such developments fit to improve productivity.

Most of us strive to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. When employees are treated unfairly, or as replaceable entities, they are less interested in working toward a common goal. The relationship should not be one of master and serf but an undertaking where everyone’s input matters and the benefits are shared proportionally.

If this was not the case, public entities would have made more leeway than private ones. But the truth of the matter is that there is a bureaucracy not expected to experiment or in some cases even thrive on the basis of meritocracy. And when the bare minimum that is required of employees is attendance, one does not need to scratch the surface much to realize what mess public institutions are in.

We need to open our minds to how we can improve the lot of employees. Some say this would require capital on the part of employers to implement, but it can start with better leadership, a healthy working environment and acknowledging employees for their good work.

Challenging the norms in the workplace, which currently include a great slice of work hours slated to social media, will help us ensure productivity. The current non-functional trend that we are following is due for a reappraisal.


By Hanna Haile
Hanna Haile (hannahaile212@gmail.com) is an Ethiopian writer and social worker. She is one of the organizers of Poetic Saturdays at Fendika Cultural Centre in Addis Abeba and at Terara Bar & Kitchen in Hawassa, where a stage is open to those who celebrate art through performances on the first and second Saturday of each month.

Published on Sep 29,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 961]



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