The true value of labour
It has well been established that capital, resources and labour are three critical elements to the advancing of any enterprise or organization. Without these, the possibility exists that both growth and development may be stifled or suppressed.
The case can be made that each of these elements assumes a measure of prime importance, as they seemingly complement each other. Notwithstanding this, it would appear that there is an overriding level of importance attached to the engagement of workers in an enterprise or organization, for the basic reason that workers can be considered as a defining factor in the process of measuring the achievements which are recorded.
The fact that workers are fundamentally linked to the productivity of an enterprise or organization, underscores their importance and value to any establishment. It would be foolhardy to think that workers are not a priority to an organization. Indeed, workers represent a valued investment to employers, as it is recognized that their resource serves to drive output which, in turn, is translated into the attainment of the targets and goals which are set by the enterprise or organization.
It is to be understood that apart from applying measurements in terms of the quantity of production, there is also the measurement of the quality of service delivery and customer satisfaction. Taking these factors into consideration, it means that employers would want to pay critical attention to those they recruit and hire as employees. It follows that it would be in their best interest to attract workers who possess the requisite knowledge, skills and competencies, and where applicable, the experience which is required to enable them to deliver quality work and to be productive as expected by their employer.
It makes good sense if the employer recognizes workers as an asset to the enterprise or organization. The undervaluing of the importance of employees by treating them as if their engagement was a matter of convenience will certainly not inspire or motivate them. The exploitation of workers will definitely add to their frustration and demoralization, reduce enthusiasm, commitment and loyalty, and significantly impact on their work ethic.
The turnover of members of staff by way or retrenchment, layoff or redundancy will tend to reduce the enthusiasm, commitment, loyalty and productivity of workers. The fear factor becomes an overwhelming reality among workers who bemoan the fact that despite their best efforts, the possibility looms that they could find themselves in a position where there is no job security; and moreover, they can unexpectedly find themselves on the breadline.
This raises the question of confidence. Is the employee to have confidence in the employer who does not have his/her interest and welfare as a primary concern, or is the employee to work on the edge, not knowing what the immediate future holds? This begs the question of how is it possible to grow an economy in an environment where uncertainty surrounds the sustained employment of workers.
In the first instance, it rests with Government to provide an enabling environment to promote avenues for business development. This could serve as a means of avoiding a brain drain which can occur as a consequence of the unavailability of employment opportunities.
In small independent developing states such as Barbados, there is merit in attracting foreign direct investment. Aligned with this would be the creating of employment opportunities, which would give hope to the retention at home of the brightest and best brains, and those with requisite skills and talents. Where a nation is unable to retain and engage its human capital, which basically is its greatest asset, it means that this serves to undermine the investment made in the education of its people.
Over the years, the claim has been made that Barbados has had a high calibre of worker, who is not only well educated, but also said to display a good work ethic. This is a credit that should not be taken lightly, for it is a testimonial which stands Barbadians in good stead where ever they go across the globe in search of job opportunities. It is important that complacency does not set in to change this perception of the Barbadian worker.
It is now possible that a positive change in attitude and outlook to work could come about as a consequence of an enlightened, empowered and engaged workforce. Given the changing attitude and outlook of young members of the workforce to the work culture that we have come to know, it is critical that attention is paid to maintaining and enhancing the reputation and image of the Barbadian worker.
This underlines the need for training and retraining, and the constant review of ways to motivate and incentivize employees.
(Dennis DePeiza is a labour management consultant. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org)