The Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) will stage the 11th edition of its biannual Employer of the Year Awards (EYA) on Wednesday 20th September at the Kampala Serena Hotel. John Agaba talked to FUE Executive Director Rosemary Ssenabulya and brings you excerpts what to expect.
Qn. What are the objective of the 2017 awards?
The EYA survey was initiated by the Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) in 2001 with the major objective of identifying, ranking and recognizing organizations in Uganda that have excelled in instituting and remarkably executing world class human resource management policies and practices and to encourage other organizations to follow suit. Another objective is to assess and reward improvement of employee working conditions throughout the country whilst at the same time developing a set of HR and management guidelines derived from the survey findings, combining expert opinion, and practical experiences that have evidently worked.
Qn. What companies are eligible to participate and what is the criteria used?
We encourage legally registered employers both well established and upcoming to enlist because improvement never stops. There is always room to get better. We have run the EYA with commendable success once every two years for 11 editions now. Each of these times we hinge the survey on a unique HR theme which is arrived at during a participative stakeholder seminar one month after the awards event.
This year’s theme is “HR Analytics: using people data to create value” which is basically about assessing how organizations maximize the benefits of systematic use of information about their employees, and how derived decisions about people in an organization contribute directly to business outcomes. This theme is rather timely because HR analytics gives an organization a distinctive ability to take advantage of potential that is apparently hidden and at the same time it helps reveal costs that normally wouldn’t get noticed in the traditional financial records. If you follow Jack Ma the founder of Alibaba, you will appreciate the fact that an employer’s strategic formula for success lies in integrating HR analytics initiatives into the management of their people and culture.
Perhaps a criteria I can share with you is that we seek to find verifiable evidence of bespoke, outstanding and consistent execution of the themed HR practice under survey. And our consultants are on the lookout for unique and compelling implementation stories. Important to note here is that most companies appreciate that their participation in the EYA survey, will help expose areas for improvement, as much as sound areas worth recognizing. A good number therefore look forward to receiving the detailed general EYA report(will available for sale to general public during and long after event), and the brief company specific 2 to 3 page report and the in-depth, (on special request only) detailed company specific EYA reports provided for benchmarking purposes and
Qn. Why is it important to use independent consultants and not FUE staff to conduct the survey?
The major reason is to dispel any conflict of interest fears. You see participation in the EYA survey is open to both current FUE members and those that are still on the decision making journey to become FUE members. Agaba allow me take this opportunity to encourage all employers in Uganda apply to become members of FUE, our slogan is the “Voice of Employers” and our paramount reason of establishment was and still is to championing their interests at a national, regional and international level at every opportunity. For example for our excellent job chairing the East African Employer Organization (EAEO) headquartered in Arusha, FUE represented by myself was given another Kisanja, in fact the resident overseer of the organization is a Ugandan who we deployed from here.
Additionally, as a practical mutual capacity building initiative, FUE signed a 5 year MOU with Makerere University. Previously we have contracted with Earnest and young to conduct the survey.
Qn. Qn. How many companies are you looking at?
The total number of companies which enlisted to participate under the different categories are 91 from all over the country. And as was the case in the last EYA in 2015, we are looking to spur on Young Employers (below 35 years) with the direct help of our partner the International labor organization (ILO), as they provide decent employment in their growing enterprises, by encouraging up to date HR practice and other good conduct for example remitting their employees NSSF contributions diligently. The other categories are the well-established firms, Micro Small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) some of which have HR departments that may not be fully established but because of this survey they identify gaps that need to be plugged. Our focus in future is to have the EYA competition wholly based on sectors with sectoral winners and an overall Gold winner across the sectors, however this will be subject to the number of sectoral players that enlist to participate.
Qn. So, won’t that give the ‘well established’ organizations bias over the ‘developing’ and Young Employers?
Not in the least. We are going to have winners from across the board. Young Employers will be rated against themselves regionally depending on the survey analysis and verification exercise results by the consultants, so will the well established firms and the SME’s as well. We shall also recognize and award companies in theme relevant categories like Personal accountability, Employee Engagement, Work life balance, Functional accountability, Business partnering
Talent management and Physical and mental wellness etcetera. New in this edition of the EYAs will be an award or more depending on the analysis of field data gathered by the experts, to employers who are equal opportunity employers with regards to employing people with disabilities (PWDs). We signed an MOU with NUDIPU and together with our front line implementing partners where this cause is concerned -the Human Resource Managers-, as represented by their association President Mr. Patrick Ngolobe, and the Ministry of Gender Labor and Social development, we are determined to motivate employers to create a level playing ground for PWDs such as enabling recruitment procedures and work environments.
Qn. That’s going to be big. How are the awards different from those of two years ago?
This time the Awards are going to be more colorful and glitzy than ever before, since as FUE we do not only encourage but also practice continuous improvement. We are giving the much deserved celebrity treatment to our CEOs, HRs, CFOs and other corporates as a thank you for their tireless year long fight against unemployment. I would like to put it to you that corporates who sweat in office making sure their companies stay afloat in tough economic times, are what FUE considers the real celebrities.
Another difference between EYA 2016/2017 and EYA 2014/2015, is that this year we are back to running EYA as we did for the previous 9 editions. In 2014/2015, we staged a Hybrid award ceremony with EYA awarding companies and HRMAU awarding individual HRs in a much needed show of solidarity to their inaugural recognition initiative called HR reveal which has since run for a second time last year and should be on this year as well. From my experience attending the ceremony, the push our joint ceremony gave reveal was every bit worth it.
Perhaps another difference is that, two years ago, the theme was different it focused on People Development as the fulcrum for giving employers a Competitive Edge. And, of course, this time round we have added more categories and companies are a lot more. Even the survey instruments are a lot sophisticated. We have upped our game. When we started the awards in 2001, the HR function at many companies was really minimal. Overtime it has grown, that is one of the reasons we are focusing it. The ministry for responsible for enforcing employment laws is one of the most underfunded and can’t afford to monitor employers everywhere. So, we try to complement government. We want to recognize those companies with good human resource practices so we can encourage them.
Qn. I noticed a glitter in your eye when you talked about HRMAU. Why?
(Chuckles) Oh John my son, your are alert. My fondness for HRMAU shouldn’t surprise you, as I mentioned earlier the EYAs were established to improve the HR practice and so HRMAU as the Umbrella body for HR practitioners is an organization close to my heart. Also HRMAU was born by FUE, I worked closely with my fellow HR best practice champions Mr. David Segawa and Margret Lackey to establish it and FUE hosted the HRMAU secretariat for years while I served as it patron. So personally I am delighted to see it grow and succeed because it is by far our most important partner in growing and improving the HR discipline in Uganda.
Qn. By the way, what company won overall Gold in EYA 2014/2015 awards? what did he have that others didn’t?
The Gold was won by Unilever Uganda. Reasons why they won, I am glad you asked, I get an opportunity to beseech you to please buy a copy of the EYA 2014/2015 report. The reasons, are contained therein and other employers can bench mark accordingly. But let me surprise you John, unlike the norm with most awards, a good number of companies that enter to participate in the EYA are not there for the win parse rather, they participate to expose their HR practice to an outsiders unbiased expert opinion with the intention to implement the recommendations to improve and to strengthen the areas where they are performing well already.
Qn. Does EYA have corporate sponsors on board?
Yes indeed and let me take this opportunity to appeal to all companies and individuals who care to identify with this employment cause, the EYA, to come on board as sponsors. I would also like to acknowledge the following sponsors EYA editions like NSSF, Coca-Cola, UBL, Century Bottling Redpepper The Sunrise and many others. We are reaching out to them to support this edition as well and I am positive well able and employment championing individuals will join in as well like MPs, business men etcetera.
We have created exhibition spaces as well on the side lines of the cocktail area, for hire to show case brands, so I encourage Airlines, insurance firms, international schools etcetera to come exhibit.
The Award event which starts with a cocktail and then a colorful Gala Dinner will highlight their brands support towards the enhancement of decent employment to over 400 of Uganda’s top and most influential CEO’s, HRs, CFO,s, PRs, international delegates etcetera. If you care to eradicate the unemployment scourge distressing majority Ugandans today, you are the perfect company or individual to become a sponsor. It pays to associate your brand with an effort like EYA that’s geared towards solving arguably the current most pressing issue of our time.
Qn. There are complaints about Ugandan graduates that they are not good enough. How do you find them?
It’s not true that all Ugandan graduates are not good enough. Some are exceptionally brilliant. I think the problem is that most of them (graduates) when they leave university, they are lacking in certain aspects and they don’t take time to make up for these inadequacies. Which is why FUE commends its membership who are providing practical on the job opportunities to introduce such graduates work skills
Qn. What do you mean?
You may not know a few things but when you are given work, you try and learn how things are done and better yourself. But some of our graduates don’t want this. They don’t take learning and the jobs they have been given seriously. It is culture which is cropping up, and more prevalent among young people, which needs to be stopped. Life is hard. Young people need to learn this and redeem time. They should stop spending time unproductively on Whatsapp and all these other social media sites. It is okay to go online to refresh you mind and after you have completed your assignments or to benchmark with the rest of the world.
Qn. Are you saying they need more supervision?
Not necessarily. But our culture needs to inculcate values so young people know they need to responsible. These days you hear words like “I am stressed”. Young people complain a lot that they are stressed. But what is stressing them when the older people, who are burdened by greater expectations, and ideally should be the ones who are stressed are managing okay? That said though, I am reminded of my grandson who educated me that for young people these days it is fashionable to be stressed or to say you are stressed. (Laughs heartily)
Qn. Maybe they need mentoring? Are many companies open to apprenticeship programs?
Everyone needs mentoring. And that is what almost every employer does after they hire workers. Yes, we have many companies that go the extra mile to really mentor their new employees. I also do it. You want to show them how things are done. So, you take them through report writing, through lots of things. But then they are mobile. They don’t want to sit and concentrate on one job for more than 3 years. After, three years they are moving to the next one. They are more after making money, yet they could do more if they got experience in one field and perfected it. We also do these (trainings) at the federation. We secure placements for lots of student’s fresh from Universities at many of our member companies so that they can gain work experience.
Qn. What could have changed? Why are todays graduates ‘less serious’?
There are many things. It is the exposure. The internet and the people they interact with. But we need to return to basics. People need to actually work. That is how they will develop. That is how the economy will develop. And that is how we shall push Uganda ahead.
Qn. Talking about the economy, Uganda’s economy seems to be doing badly, can we blame this on poor attitudes towards work?
In a way, yes, but Uganda has not been an exception. Besides there are also other factors.
Qn. So, about how many employers are registered with FUE?
The Federation has over 600 registered employers and that number grows exponentially since some of our members are organized associations. We recruit new members every year and so employers out there who are not members of the Federation, please apply. If you don’t apply, my member recruitment & customer relationship managers will reach out to you soon. Please welcome them. I also take this opportunity to invite all FUE members who have been inactive to please, get re-activated we will be making contact with you soon, but you don’t have to wait for us. Do contact us and we will be glad to start from where we left off.
Qn. There were proposals about the minimum wage. What is your stand?
The minimum wage debate is still going on. There is a draft (which the labor ministry) has taken to cabinet. So after Cabinet and Parliament, maybe we shall have a minimum wage in Uganda. We were consulted for our input and we (FUE) gave our views. Our idea was that we can have sectoral minimum wages, but the reconciliation was that the country has a uniform minimum wage. The proposed amount is about 130,000 per month.
Qn. What are some of the challenges employers face?
They are so many and it is key to note that while uniform challenges exist, several are unique to the sector one operates in. You have employers in manufacturing, they have their challenges. You have others in services, they have theirs. Then others are in production. All these employers have their challenges. So, our job as FUE is to champion their cause and interests to enable them to thrive. Every business has a challenge. But you have to rise above the challenge and achieve your short term and long term goals.
Qn. Okay, let us come back to the awards, when and where will they take place? How can my reader get involved?
The EYA 2016/2017 or The EYAs as a typical millennial would love to call them akin to famous The Oscars, this time will be a glitzy red carpet colorful ceremony on Wednesday September 20TH 2017 at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
Tickets are on sale right now for 250,000/= (at FUE Town office in Kamwokya behind Dax Couriers, we should soon have some at Radio One, Power FM, Sanyu FM, and Shell Petrol Stations, on Easy tickets and NTV), Or better still you call us on 0750 680 118 and our courier will deliver. Tables are available too, Corporate ordinary @ 3,000,000/=, Corporate Prime @ 5,000,000/=. You can also participate by Sponsoring an Award or a guest experience. For example my personal favorite guest experience, is EYA Ushering experience, I encourage the Airlines to grab this one while it is available, just think about it most of Uganda’s travelers all in one space attentive to your offering. Lastly, businesses have an opportunity to pay for Exhibition spaces at 500,000/=, 1,200,000/= and 2,000,000/=. Thank you for your time.