Why it’s hard finding good workers

Many entrepreneurs focus on getting cheap labour rather than quality

In Summary

• Business owners often complain of theft, laziness, absenteeism and bad attitude


Business owners and managers keep lamenting the difficulty of finding honest, hardworking employees. Most of the complaints revolve around theft, laziness, absenteeism, fake academic papers and a generally bad attitude.

From big corporate entities losing billions to employee fraud to small-scale enterprises losing a few hundred shillings, entrepreneurs seem resigned to constantly monitoring employees. Banks, mobile phone companies, supermarkets, small shops, farms, transport providers and schools are among the businesses affected by employee fraud.

"Kenya is not a poor country, it is just hard to find honest workers," former Education CS Prof George Magoha exclaimed in March. Global accounting firm PwC reported in 2020 that 44 per cent of Kenyan companies experienced economic crimes. The crimes include fraud and corruption.

In their defence, employees in SMEs say their bosses are temperamental and don't provide them with the resources needed to do their jobs. Joshua Ngati, a farm worker, says his boss accuses him of not working hard enough, yet does not want to spend money on farm inputs.

"The other day, he [the boss] came and found the maize farm choking in weeds. I had told him before to send money for labourers to do the weeding, but he thought I was conning him," Ngati says. "When he came to the farm, he blamed me for not informing him about the situation."

Rose Ruwa, a former shop attendant, explains how she often got frustrated by her boss' decisions. "I would tell him to stop bringing certain items because they were slow-moving, but that's exactly what he would supply as new stock to sell," Ruwa says. She quit the job when the employer cut her pay, citing poor sales.

One of the qualities of successful entrepreneurs is identifying the right calibre of employees and then helping them to fully function in their roles. This is because as a business owner, you cannot be present all the time. You must prepare your employees to take up some functions so that you don't get overwhelmed by work.

As many business gurus have advised, a business owner should not get bogged down in mundane tasks. He or she should be preoccupied with getting new clients. This is why the quality of employees can make or break your business.

Local entrepreneurs often don't pay attention to identifying good employees and nurturing them. Instead, the focus is on getting the cheapest labour possible. Roles are assigned to unpaid relatives who are not always suited to the task. Your business should not be an employment bureau for extended family members.

It is not unusual to see businesspeople give jobs to anyone walking through the door, looking for employment. Current economic circumstances are forcing job seekers to accept any job at any wage, but employing someone without assessing their abilities is risky. At best, such an individual may drive away customers because of a bad attitude. At worst, the individual may steal your property or cash.

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