ON THE SPOT: Standard Group HR Director Pauline Kiraithe could be next to go.

After doing all the dirty work of firing and rendering hundreds of employees redundant, the sword is turning to Standard Group’s Human Resources Director, Mrs Pauline Kiraithe. BusinessToday understands Ms Kiraithe is on her way out of the country’s oldest media house after serving for about three years.

Mrs Kiraithe’s career as a HR manager has come under close scrutiny after Deloitte consultants described the Standard payroll under her as “messy” and proposed a r*****l overhaul to put it in good shape. It is during her tenure that Standard Group is losing the largest pool of talent, erecting speed bumps on a robust roadmap the firm has been following to catch up with its fierce rival, Nation Media Group.  Apparently, most of those being declared redundant are her hires from her former employer, NMG, whom she brought in to bolster Standard’s fledgling fortunes then.

But despite convincing Standard to spend generously on poaching from Nation – and offering high salaries to the new recruits – Standard is nowhere near Nation Media Group. Standard Newspaper’s circulation has dropped, and its pagination declined from about 72 to 40. “Only the The Nairobian, a weekly tabloid, is thriving circulation wise,” says a media analyst.

For instance, before the poaching Sunday Standard averaged 90,000 copies in circulation, Saturday was doing around 85,000, while the daily clocked in 80,000. So when Charles Kimathi and Julius Maina were brought in by Ms Kiraithe, there was anticipation of numbers trending higher. But circulation started plummeting – first to 60,000, then further to 50,000. When they took up weekend editions, Sunday went down to current 56,000 and Saturday has recovered from an all-time low of 38,000 under Kimathi to 52,000. Interestingly, Kimathi was promoted recently to corporate affairs director.

“The two were transferred from daily because they flopped,” said a senior manager at Standard, who unsuccessfully opposed the expensive poaching. “Wambua has never added value, other than using his position to serve State House, Kalonzo, Ngilu and Mumo Matemu.”
Those in the know blame Ms Kiraithe for plunging the Standard Group in the quagmire it finds itself in: huge salaries but not-so-impressive work that has ensured less profits. Upon joining Standard Group in 2012, Mr Kiraithe extravagantly poached staff from Nation, and gave them huge salaries without considering the company’s financial health.

A reporter hired from Nation, for instance, is said to have been handed an employment letter at a local hotel with a salary of Ksh300,000. This is equivalent to what most of the Standard Group’s senior editors and even managing editors earn. “She messed up the payroll. That is why the redundancy purge is on now. This is the only way Standard can regularise its payroll,” says a source.

Poor talent management record

Based on these claims, sources familiar with Standard Group shareholders say Ms Kiraithe won’t survive at Standard Centre on Mombasa Road. “If she failed to protect her closest allies like Nyambega Gisesa, then it is a clear signal she has fallen out of favour.” Mr Gisesa, an award-winning journalist, was fired on Friday last week.

Ms Kiraithe has not had an impressive record in managing talent. During her tenure at Uchumi Supermarkets, she oversaw a massive “restructuring” that saw many people lose jobs. It was even worse at Nation Media Group. It is during her stay at the firm’s fifth floor, where the Human Resources sits, that Nation Media Group lost some of its best talent.

They include David Okwemba, Dominic Wabala, Nick Wachira, Washington Akumu, Luke Mulunda, Justus Ondari, Oliver Mathenge, Mark Kapchanga, Tom Mboya, Sophie Ikenye, Winnie Mukami, Bernard Oduor Otieno, Nicholas Chepkwony, Morris Aron, among others.
An expert familiar with her style of management says Ms Kiraithe’s strategy relies heavily on financial perquisites to staff rather than enriching the working environment.

A journalist fired from Standard last week, aptly captures the foul mood and frustration that she has caused at the media house. “Finally, am (sic) jobless, thanks to KIRAITHE and CO,” said the journalist in an email to BusinessToday. “But Mwenyezi Mungu halali…I believe I deserve better.”

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