Getting ahead of the pack through people

HARARE - In today’s cut-throat business environment, it is the law of the jungle, where only the fittest survive.

Companies that are not meeting their performance targets will not survive for long and like in the face of a great tsunami, they will be swept aside by the stiff competition from their rivals in the fight for the ever-reducing economic cake.

It is not the organisation that has the financial muscle or top of the range equipment or machinery that will survive.

The world has witnessed some seemingly deep-pocketed companies go under, proving that it is the human factor that will give companies an edge, with those that have the best people working for them having the advantage.

Though unemployment is said to be at an all-time high locally, it has not necessarily translated to the labour market being flooded with people who possess the skills that organisations require to get ahead of competition and stay there.

The best skills are always hard to come by, the reason being that they gravitate towards organisations that have people-friendly processes.

For organisations to have the right personnel nowadays there are certain key areas that leaders must focus on so that they fight and win the war for skills and talent.

From a human resource front, what are these fundamental issues that managers must concern themselves with in order to positively affect organisational performance?

-  Resourcing — recruitment of the right people into the organisation is the starting point. Managers must ensure that the people who join their staff have aspirations and values that resonate with those of the organisation.

Specifications of those that will fit best in the organisation must be established prior to recruitment so that it guides the selection of the right candidate.

Mismatches will only offer temporary respite and never a long-term solution.

- Talent management — managers face challenges in identifying, attracting and handling people with the right capabilities.

This negatively affects productivity resulting in the ground being lost to competition. Talented people are not easy to keep interested using a casual approach.

Leaders must put in place programmes that ensure such individuals remain in the fold for a long time.

Besides financial packages, consider development, recognition and responsibility as other options.

- Succession planning — leaders who do not have a skills availability strategy court disaster will find themselves desperate when they have to fill positions as of ‘‘yesterday’’ as they discover there are no readily available persons internally to fill positions at short notice.

They lose several man-hours before feeling it affecting performance.

Managers must ensure there is a pool of skills which they can call upon as and when the need arises. Have in place a plan before the rainy day.

-  Motivation — how to get the best out of people is an age-old question that nobody has found an answer to.

Having people in the organisation, even with the right skills is not enough.

Those people need to apply themselves optimally if they are to be of value. Managers must put in place incentives that encourage people not just to show up but to perform.

Performance bonuses are a win-win option. Providing resources, rewarding and recognition are the other.

-  Skills development — managers must ensure that their people are continuously developed. Change is not constant and to be in touch with it,  organisations must regularly review their skills base.

Preventive and corrective action must be taken where there is a possibility of the company being exposed. Training could be on or off-the-job.

Coaching and mentoring are other cost effective skills development initiatives which management can consider.

-   Skills retention — identifying, attracting and developing the right people is of no use if the organisation is not going to retain them.

It will be a costly oversight that will haemorrhage the organisation to death if continuously repeated.
The skills which are lost go on to bolster the arsenal of the competition which will result in negative consequences for the company.

Managers must ensure investment made in people is fully recouped through retention.

-  Diversity — the world has become a village. Unlike in the past, organisations are now exposed to skills from beyond the country’s borders.

This calls for leaders to develop skills in handling people of diverse cultures, religions, ethnicity and races.

Gender sensitivity is also key. Absence of these skills will result in organisations failing to benefit fully from such workers or worse find themselves having to defend litigation for example for discrimination.

Managers must attend diversity training in order to appreciate and tolerate people who are different from them.

-   Culture — it is about developing an identity for the company.

Culture is a way of life which defines how an organisation conducts business.

Developing a culture that supports the organisation’s vision is one of the key result areas of leaders.

Attention must be paid to the company’s values, language and traditions among other things. Leadership,
reward and recognition help in developing the right culture. Culture takes time and commitment to develop.

-  Team development — When people are working together they achieve more than what they could if they were to work as individuals.

Armies are modelled around teams. Having talented employees is of no benefit if they are not going to pool together their strengths for the company’s benefit. Leaders must introduce group based rewards, rewards for team players and team building exercises in order to encourage teamwork.

-  Productivity — is the ultimate measure of whether a company is moving forward or backwards. Managers must set performance targets for staff and ensure appraisals are religiously carried out.

If performance is below expectation remedial action must be taken. Remedial action can be training, incentives or disciplinary action. There are different measures of productivity. Some organisations use quantity per person, some revenue whilst others use both.

The bottom-line is that managers must check the company’s pulse by closely following productivity.

-   Personal management — there is a  saying that people do not leave organisations but their bosses. That means a company can lose critical skills as a result of the way managers carry themselves around.

Besides learning to manage others, leaders must also learn how to manage themselves. If people ‘feel’ their leaders, they can improve on their performance which will better the company’s results. Leaders must embrace training in order to sharpen their skills. Most importantly they must learn to lead by example.


Leaders must hold themselves accountable for the performance of their organisations. They must take the glory for good performances as well as the stick for unsatisfactory ones.

Managers can do themselves a favour by reducing the instances of unsatisfactory performance by getting their staff to perform optimally regularly.

To do this they must ensure that critical skills are available, properly deployed, maintained and retained.

Positive employee productivity must be every manager’s ultimate prize. The easy to implement interventions which can be pursued in order to reap a dividend from the company’s human resource only require management’s commitment to explore and get them to work.

The ball therefore is in their court. - Atwell Mutsungi

*Atwell Mutsungi is a senior consultant at future Human capital an hr consulting firm. He can be contacted on or or on numbers 077379996, 0772269785 and (04) 852996 or at no. 4 Camerroon road, Borrowdale, Harare.

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