BY VICTOR ADAR
You know times are tough when a huge number of workers have been laid off and others sent on unpaid leave. The situation has been made worse by the current maddening coronavirus pandemic. Recovering from the economic crisis might be a tall order, particularly to job seekers. One certainty though, life must go on.
With advancement in technology and digitization, there is a growing need for not only companies but also employees to re-invent themselves to remain relevant. In scenarios where a huge number of workers have been laid off and others are on unpaid leave, it is how people re-invent themselves that matter.
Recently, players in the private sector led by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KPSA) released a report showing that more than 5,991,768 million jobs have been affected since the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country on March 12. Travel and tourism sector suffered the most with 3.1 million jobs affected. Business was so tough that even corporate giants felt the pinch. But there was a huge sigh of relief in September when President Uhuru Kenyatta extended curfew by 60 days but opened bars and restaurants.
At least hotel employees, tour operators, and public service vehicle operators had something to smile about. Slowly but steadily, a number of businesses complied with the Ministry of Health safety measures and have been able to bounce back, so it seems. The lucky employees, too, who might have been rendered redundant when the pandemic was at its peak, got their jobs back.
As we all know, companies cannot be run without human resources, so it is upon organization leaders to craft ways to ensure employees are safe, adjusting and that the company continues to make profits. This could be through ensuring safe distance between employees at the workplace, having employees work in shifts or better still, having employees work from home. That’s the new normal. With this sorted, there is hope for job seekers.
“Job seekers need to learn an additional skill to make them relevant. For example, if an organization has a work-from-home policy, then it means you must be able to effectively use a computer. If you have little or no computer skills, a potential employer would not consider you,” says Kevin Kadipo, HR practitioner based in Nairobi.
Online job applications have sprung up of late and most companies have made online applications mandatory. Such portals can frustrate users especially those who are not tech savvy. Individuals with no computer skills or are in remote parts of the country where internet connection is not that strong, or simply absent, are always left with the
short end of the stick.
It is also frustrating when you have to wake up early and travel from upcountry to the capital city to get clearance documents. It speaks to the cost implications with regards to obtaining such documents. It costs Sh2, 200, for example, to be cleared by the Credit Reference Bureaus (CRB), Certificate of good conduct (Sh1, 050) and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (costs from Sh200 to Sh500). At least Higher Education Loans Board made a good move by waiving clearance certificate charges that was initially going for Sh1, 000.
Nature of the application process too is a stumbling block. As always the case, one must present him or herself physically to the agencies entrusted to issue those clearance certificates, a move that might constrain a job seeker who is on a shoe-string budget.
To address the issue of accessibility, experts say that employers should demand the good conduct certificate, for example, only once the candidate has passed the interview stages awaiting medicals/employment letter and in some instances, make it easy for job seekers to obtain the certificate of good conduct by paying for it. After all, once one is employed he or she is still placed under probation. This takes care of the time it will take for the certificate to be out.
“It’s the Government that requires all these. Private companies mostly require certificate of good conduct and they will check if you are listed on CRB. This basically gauges your moral principles. For instance, if you borrow and do not pay back your loan, it dents your moral integrity. Employers don’t want that,” says Kadipo.
As Covid-19 is reshaping the business world and job market, it is the best time to grab the opportunity brought about by gig economy whereby an organization employs for a specific task or specific hours a day. Could be for, say, two hours a day. And this will only benefit those with a skill or two. An organization, for instance, would find it affordable and efficient to employ an employee relations manager for two hours a day to handle employee relations matters. Or, engage services of a lawyer or a credit manager working from home.
It saves on space and money for the organization, but at the same time gives an employee more time to seek another organization which may want his or her services for another few hours a day. Acquiring a skill is important so that should things go south, you are assured of something to cushion you.
“A job seeker therefore needs to master important skills that are relevant in the market today. A certification course will go a long way as employers are highly likely to hire a certified practitioner to execute a task and pay for it. It is with us, whether we like it or not,” says Kadipo.
It has been a bumpy ride for the last seven months and the fact that a majority of job seekers can’t afford service fee charged by recruiters cannot be ignored. In terms of income, most job seekers are always at the end of the tunnel. So, a good number are incapable of raising the small fee for recruitment services but are in need.
According to James Watare, the proprietor of Executive Jobs Hub, human resource should address the challenges brought about by the shift to use of technology. He says there is huge advancement in recruitment process. Application Tracking System (ATS), for instance, has made so many job seekers apply to hundreds of positions online and receive zero response, an indication that a CV could be the issue. It is at the back of this that job seekers should work together with recruiters as far as developing a modern CV is concerned.
Therefore, people who are doing a spirited search for jobs should embark on making sure that they have ATS compliant CV, or resume to increase effectiveness of how their CV interacts with ATS – Application Tracking System is the first point of contact with CV before it gets to the recruiter, if it is rejected at that level the job seeker will never get a response.
“This is the problem we are solving,” says Watare. “Most of these scenarios are heart-breaking. COVID 19, with many people having been laid off and others sent on unpaid leave has worsened the situation. We understand their frustrations and try to guide them on how to remain on track and never to give up. It is common knowledge there are not enough jobs in Kenya and everyone has to compete with the few jobs available.”