Managing our human resources
A keen observer of the industrial relations in Nigeria would notice the usual one-way wage negotiation occupying the center of discourse, both from the worker and employer perspective. While the former is incessant in asking for an increase, the latter always points out economic indices to justify the reasonableness of the current rate.
Admittedly, wage negotiations can hardly be ignored in Industrial relations; the undue emphasis on it is not in the best interest of industrial development, with which industrial relations serve as a catalyst. Industrial relations extend far beyond wage negotiation if a reasonable level of development is ever to be achieved. Based on this, the management of human resources will be x-rayed in order to consider the extent to which it is efficiently carried out or otherwise.
Human resources are related to the input of man into the production of goods and services. It ranges from the mental ability to the physical dissipation of energy necessary for production and other resources. With this, it is no doubt that human resources occupy a central position within which the development of other resources rotates. Therefore, the totality of the production processes stemmed from and is derived from human resources.
Despite the critical nature of human resources, it has become one of the most difficult of all other resources in terms of placing an appropriate value and evaluating its essence in harnessing other resources. While it might be pretty easy to determine the volume and number of materials needed to achieve a particular production level, even where the number of human resources to employ can be reasonably determined, placing an appropriate value on such has not been particularly an accomplished mission. Aside from the issue of quantity determination, the sourcing of such other resources is given priority attention over and above human resources; however, human resources are still required from the planning stage to the implementation state of all our production processes. This lack of rendering human resources its right of place; could it have been (if one may ask) the level of appreciation of its importance or the satisfaction of its abundance? Why would everything be done to source other resources before consideration is given to what is known as a primary resource? Is it because human resource is under the close control of managers vis-a-vis that it is readily available that no one bothers to give himself sleepless nights over its sourcing?
So many questions on the neglect of human resources got so few answers to explain such neglect. In Africa generally and Nigeria in particular, the level of our human resource management is abysmal. It is often left to find its level within the production cycle. Its priority of place is neglected in the background. Most feasibility studies of high standards emphasize material and capital sources; it hardly delves into measuring the required level of human resources to achieve the expected level. It may get to the extent of discussing the effect of inflation on the country and financing of the required material. At the same time, no mention is made of the same effect this will have on the psychology of the workforce that essentially constitutes the human resources. To eliminate the desirability of a project, the effect of human resources is kept constant while the effect of other resources is closely monitored and evaluated.
This position may not change in a long time to come. As materials are often used and forgotten, their effect must be monitored closely as capital is required. Any wrong decision in this regard may spell out doom; hence it also requires close monitoring. Nevertheless, on the other hand, human resources though very important can be made flexible to accommodate whatever circumstance. Little wonder why workers have no confidence in the production cycle as such, and the main concern is how much accrues to the pocket at the end of the day labor. An average production manager is strictly concerned about managing the raw material to reduce the level of wastage. He has little time to think about the psychological trauma that the worker is going through, even when this can reduce such a worker’s production capacity to zero levels. Anyway, if the worker misbehaves, he/she will be fired, and another hired in his/her place from a market that is already saturated with the labor force. The average worker has no goal and aspiration that is to be paid any attention even when this is congruent to the organizational goal.
What stake then has the worker in the outcome of the production process, one may ask? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, he must be compensated for his effort, and the only compensation is the regular wages paid to him. He/she also believes that this must be sufficiently paid to at least energize him/her for further usage.
As a result of this unfortunate neglect in the encouragement or motivation to show more empathy to the workforce, wage negotiation has been the one and possibly the only focus of our industrial relations. Managers should consider devising better approaches to appreciate our abundant human resources and, hence, implement effective and efficient management of such. We are not getting the best out of our human resources, and this is due to the neglect of the importance that should have ordinarily been accorded it.
With a complete change of heart in relations to the welfare and the aspiration of the labor force, a significant shift would be achieved by way of increased production of good and services and better industrial relations that is constantly being dominated by wage negotiations. Give the Nigerian labor force its pride of place and bring efficiency into the goods we produce and the services we render.
The Nigerian government’s recent “no work no pay” stance on the striking Doctors is a classic case of the lackadaisical attitude of employers of labor to the concerns and aspirations of the workforce. The contributions of the workforce are grossly undermining, to say the least. It is about time we have a change of attitude to the most crucial resource we will ever need to run our businesses, both in production and services. No single system can survive, let alone become profitable (businesses) if the human resource will not play its vital role. If we understand and recognize this, new strategies have to emerge to manage our human resources better. This is a collective responsibility far beyond the mere purviews of human resources managers or industrial relations practitioners. A new orientation has to be fashioned by all and sundry, and this archaic and unproductive wage negotiation should be entirely replaced with influential stakeholders’ management. There is no doubt that employees should be seen and treated as primary stakeholders in any forward-looking organization.
While I feel strongly that the management of our human resources is at the lowest ebb, a genuine change of attitude by our managers from the present one will go a long way to installing improved managed human resources and therefore achieving an exceptional result in our society.
Mr. Oluwadele is a chartered accountant and public policy scholar based in Canada.
He is the author of “Thoughts of A Village Boy.”