Life & Work

Why workers wield more powers in post-Covid era

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COVID19 changed the way organisations handle employee integration. PHOTO | POOL

The work environment has undergone a tremendous shift with employees’ input and opinions being a factor in decision-making within organisations.

This has been made possible by the dispensation of information, thanks to the world being a global village and employees’ awareness of their constitutional rights.

Even though workers being part and parcel of some decision-making meetings has had its share of pros and cons, especially the power struggle between employees, asserting some power has had its benefit as well.

Boosted by the labour laws and unions that advocate for employee rights, there are ways in which organisations engage with their staff whether during hiring, firing, promoting or demoting based on the laws.

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So, where does fifty-fifty power sharing among employees and employers come to play?

Employees play a vital role in ensuring that a company achieves its goals given that they are the blood that runs in the organisation’s productivity veins.

Dickson Chahenza, a lead consultant at Unified Human Resource Consulting Limited, says access to information has empowered employees, especially Generation Zs, to know their place. “This generation is not subservient and will not jump when you say so without questioning. These are people who are not interested in being with you for the rest of their lifetime. They have to know what is in for them,” he says.

However, in any partnership, there is an understanding of what role each of them plays to some extent.

Employee involvement in the ‘sanitisation’ or formation of the goals must be made possible as they are the drivers of propelling the company.

“Gone are the days of servitude where employees were there to be seen and not heard,” he explains.

So, the fifty-fifty power sharing between employers and employees comes into play only on the obligations and stipulations of the workplace.

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Dickson Chahenza, the Lead Consultant with Unified Human Resource Consulting Limited. PHOTO | POOL

“We are looking at the terms and conditions of employment, how grievances are solved, staff involvement in changes within the organisations that call for public participation.”

Deliberate initiatives of one-on-one or departmental meetings with the staff working in an organisation have to be actualised as they are part and parcel of the process.

This also calls for making announcements not only when the company is undergoing losses but also when it has made profits and goals have been attained.

“Shareholders are not supposed to be getting the dividends only by themselves, neither is the top management going to be increasing their packages only. It has taken that cleaner to be part of the team, the operator to deliver and though not in equal share the principle is sharing in profits.”

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Dr Laura Mamuli, a senior lecturer of Human Resource Management in Kibabii University. PHOTO | POOL

With this being the clarion call, that employers have had to heed, their adaptability and agility are a mirror that reflects on the company they are leading.

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The work environment has now shifted to output based rather than the traditional time based where an employer wanted to physically see all employees in the office from 8 am to 5 pm to know they are working.

The goal is to be productive and for every stakeholder to understand their input and deliver on it.

“Draconian, archaic working rules had to go away and in came input of employees.”

So, how did Covid-19 change the work environment?

Even though Covid-19 fast-tracked technological adaptation within companies, it also changed the way organisations handle employee integration.

Dr Laura Mamuli, a senior lecturer of human resource management at Kibabii University, says companies were not ready to allow their employees to work away from the offices.

“Remote working made employees feel they had the power to choose when to work and when not to with them sometimes giving excuses when they were required to hand over their agreed upon work,” she says.

Nonetheless, they had to be cautious enough not to abuse the ‘power’ entrusted to them as their livelihood depended on their salaries.

Working from home cultivated responsibility, accountability and trust, fostering the almost ‘ideal’ employee-employer relationship.

However, employers gauged the power they allowed their employees to wield based on their nature and deliverability on certain tasks.

“Employers did a background check on every employee and understood their perspective, this determining what was entrusted in them.”

While not all employees in different organisations have resumed working in the offices, employers have welcomed hybrid working.

“Employees were able to recommend some clauses that would be more accommodating to them and the organisation.

“Kibabii University, for instance, incorporated blended learning with lecturers teaching both physical and online. This arrangement was made possible due to prior negotiation limiting power struggle,” Dr Mamuli explains.

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