Just a few kilometres from Kampala town, Mr Paul Olweny, a senior human resource consultant, is sharing practical ways with 200 job seekers on how they can enter into the labour market. He talks about writing an impressive curriculum vitae (CV), preparing for an interview and expectations of recruiters.
But also within smaller groups, Standard Chartered Bank senior managers are sharing employment experiences and discovering some of the barriers job seekers face trying to find good jobs.
For business, this is key knowledge because on top of current economic times, shrinking profits, limited access to credit, attracting and retaining fresh employees with the right skill sets is becoming increasingly difficult.
“Banks are evolving because of digital technology. We are looking for people who can relate with customers and articulate how banking solutions can help clients improve their businesses. You find that there is a shortage of relationship management skills. These graduates have theoretical knowledge and the application of that knowledge in daily things like customer care is wanting,” Ms Sylvia Mulomi, head human resources Standard Chartered Bank, says on the sidelines of the training.
Mr Augustine Muserero has lived through this state of affairs. The 53- year old head teacher at Kasese Secondary School, has recruited employees for the last 15 years.
“Young people are leaving university when they are still raw. Someone tells you I can do any job; so they are not prepared,” he says.
On the other hand, the same graduates who business owners say lack work ethic still maintain a profound interest in leading companies in the country as opposed to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which account for 90 per cent of Uganda’s private sector.
“To graduates, leading means highly paying. So they are looking for banks, telecoms and the United Nations of this world. There are those looking for opportunities in sectors where they might make a quick buck,” Ms Mulomi says.
For her, employability can be found within budding SMEs. On the flip side, the challenge is as graduates turn to SMEs, which sometimes operate without human resource departments, obstacles are holding them (SMEs) back.
“SMEs come to us but have challenges such as operating on very thin profit margins.
“You find they were set up as personal businesses, have grown but do not have structures to take it to the next level,” Mr Olweny says.
“We have been in a downward trend for the last two years and the first area for any business to cut is recruitment. That impacts on the young people looking for jobs, on the business trying to reduce costs because there are fewer people doing more work and quality as workers are under pressure to deliver becomes an issue,” Mr Olweny says.
SMEs may not have the budget to recruit. But in order to get the right employees, they have to spend some money.
“You can recruit when you can afford it and when your business starts to bring in enough work for you to need help that has the skill sets for the kind of business you have,” Ms Mulomi who once multitasked as a chef, waitress and cashier, while starting a restaurant says.
For formal businesses that have hard-to-find employees, putting aside a recruitment budget will be crucial because then they are likely to outsource the special skill set through services of recruitment firms.
“The recruitment organisation has costs it incurs because it has to look through the market and sometimes even go outside Uganda especially where the type of business is venturing into things that are new,” Ms Mulimo says.
According to Mr Olweny who works at Aikan HR Consultants, businesses pay between Shs370,000 and Shs5m to source the right employees through the recruitment firm. But most of Aikan’s major clients have seen a decrease in the projected revenue posted early in the year by 50 per cent and the first area to cut costs is HR interventions.
For smaller businesses, minimizing this recruitment cost in bad economic times is possible with succession plans, Ms Mulomi says.
“For instance for a restaurant manager, I will make sure I have in the pipeline people that am training to go into that position should she want to take on another role, that way when the person leaves, I have someone who can readily take on that role,” she explains.
Changing trends in hiring employees
Although small businesses are capitalising on word of mouth to find employees, human resource practitioners say this can change. Like other sectors, technology is already disrupting recruitment for businesses. Businesses do not have to receive paper applications, call shortlisted candidates, processes that are costly and time demanding. Some businesses are turning to professional networking sites like LinkedIn.
Business career websites are now shortlisting candidates using their profiles within seconds which Ms Mulomi says is less costly and convenient for business operators.
Mr Jussi Hinkkanen has come to Uganda with Fuzu, an online platform that will help employers recruit more efficiently. Only 30 per cent of Ugandan employers have the tools they need to succeed in finding employable people, a survey by Fuzu.
Mr Hinkannen says analysis of CVs, talent profiles and personalities is automatic so employers can simply find the right employee.
But can digital technologies transform the recruitment for businesses? To Mr Hinkkanen, the high cost of Internet connectivity could downplay this digital revolution.