Human resource experts acknowledge the fact that management enables the organisation to contribute a needed objective to society, the economy and the individual. Some of them like Peter Drucker go on further to equate management to people. Other management gurus also observe that “organisation’s success or failure is almost always due to the human factor.” Managing people at whatever level and purpose includes dealing with their peculiarities, unpredictable nature, idiosyncrasies, emotions, attitudes and psychological frame of mind.
Managing people is challenging because the system in which they work has its own culture and climate and is constantly changing; the people themselves have their own beliefs, values and influences impinging on them, and the manager as a person also has his or her own style of management and training. This combination is complex and challenging because it creates its own synergy. Behind every action or document in an organisation, there are people who help to achieve an organisation’s goals and objectives. If people are handled considerately and humanely, they will give off their best in attaining organisational goals.
People are different
Managers who have a lackadaisical approach to the people factor in their organisations may not have taken cognizance of the import of handling their ‘people’. People are in themselves micro-organisms with their own set of resources, constraints and purposes. They bring their own values, perceptions, and attitudes to bear on organisations, systems and styles of management. A well-trained, highly motivated employee really makes a difference in terms of improving productivity and quality, which are two major organizational goals.
The interpersonal factor
According to the Carnegie Foundation, personal qualities account for eighty five percent of factors contributing to job success, while technical knowledge contributes a mere fifteen percent. Further evidence of the importance of human resource as compared to the other resources at the disposal of a manager by The US Congressional Hearing on Human Factors in Technological Innovation, Productivity Improvement and National science foundation shows that Japanese automakers are more productive than US automakers because of collaborative management and employee relationship and not because of robots being used.
In an interview with the late Professor Kwapong on his achievements, Professor Kwapong remarked that “the minimum qualification needed to be a good leader is not intellectual capacity but the capability to work with people, the modesty to understand one’s own limitations and to do one’s homework.” So some of our leaders know the importance of working with people and this may have been a contributory factor to their successes.
It is therefore imperative for managers to develop interpersonal skills in addition to conceptual and technical skills. They should make an effort to study and understand their humans as intensely as they study their field of expertise. Good managers of human resource will therefore discover inherent qualities in people and tap them for the good of the organisation.
Characteristics and challenges
It is difficult to manage people in economically challenging times. Managers know that subventions are woefully inadequate therefore what moral authority will they have for disciplining a subordinate who informs you that because of lack of funds they walked to work and was thus late? As a manager, you will have the power to discipline for tardiness but will you feel morally right for disciplining? National cultures are easier to recognize than to define. Our national culture affects our personal attitudes towards matters such as wealth accumulation, ethnicity, ethical issues and respect for authority and elders.
Attitude towards wealth
Our attitude towards wealth accumulation makes managing people difficult in Ghanaian organisations. Anyone in position is supposed to have money or is supposed to use their position to acquire wealth. People therefore find ways and means to live up to these expectations. The means used are often questionable. We therefore have to deal with corruption in our organisations.
Some Ghanaians in positions of authority have a tendency to employ members of their own ethnic group or relations (nepotism). This practice often affects disciplinary actions. The manager who encourages ethnicity is often not able to take an objective action in disciplinary issues. These things do not only happen in the informal sector but also in institutions with a board and well-defined systems and structures. When this happens the leader does not get the full cooperation of other members of staff who see a clear bias in favour of the leader’s ethnic group.
At the heart of public sector human resource management there are issues of fairness, justice, social responsibility and accountability. Managing people becomes challenging when people have poor work habits. Their attitude is that they do not feel any personal responsibility for their work and actions. This attitude and behaviour is portrayed when an employee comes to work late, when shoddy work is produced and time for work is devoted to other personal duties. It becomes difficult to manage people who exhibit such behaviour since the objectives of the organisation will definitely not be achieved.
Respect for authority
Ghanaians generally have the culture of respecting elders and those in authority. How does this pose a problem or challenge for managing people in Ghanaian organizations? It poses a problem for some managers who have subordinates much older than they are. They might find it difficult to issue instructions and directives to such people, and this can impede the flow of work in the organisation. Our culture does not encourage us to challenge our elders or those in authority. We therefore find it difficult to point out a leader’s mistakes, which can lead to sycophancy.
The fact is if Ghanaian managers and their organisations want to increase productivity, first, the employees’ attitudes to work should change and managers must rethink their perception of their employees, regard them as important, treat them fairly and respectfully and consult them as much as possible in matters that directly affect them.
By: Sandy Kojo Andah