Moody Awori - old people holding jobs in Kenya www.businesstoday.co.ke
Former Vice-President Moody Awori is among senior citizen still holding positions in government. Older workers also have the competitive advantage of experience. [ Photo / Business Today ]

I have an appointment on Thursday, 17th October 2019 to discuss a business deal on how to develop a Human Resource Plan for a client. The taxi cab that I have hailed through the App seems to be playing a trick on me. In the first instance, it shows it is three minutes to my destination. Suddenly it changes to eight minutes forcing me to ring the driver who assures me that he is in the neighbourhood.

To my shock and disappointment, the App. indicates it is out of internet range. My goose is cooked! I am unable to communicate with the taxi cab driver anymore and I am sure I will be late for this critical appointment. Fortunately, my second attempt is lucky as I get a cab that has just “dropped’ a client right next to my residence. As we ease out of the estate I grab two newspapers from the vendor with one having a screaming headline “A COUNTRY OF OLD PEOPLE”

I reach my destination and pay my cab. At the reception, there is a sea of humanity. Luckily, there is space on one of the couches occupied by two young boys and a girl who look as if they have just finished college. From their animated conversation and brown envelopes they are carrying, I am able to deduce that they are carrying their curriculum vitae and testimonials.

I ease myself slowly and carefully at the farthest corner of the couch where space has reluctantly been created for me and curse silently at the disrespect that the young generation have for senior citizens. Seeing that I will be waiting for quite a while, I quickly bury myself in one of the newspapers.

“Can I read your paper?” One of the young men demands, rather than request.

 “It is may I please borrow your paper for a moment, sir,” I impishly remind the youth and hand the paper to him

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After about 10 minutes of blissful silence, the peace and quiet is suddenly breached with aloud exclamation from the same youth to his colleagues who he refers as “comrades”

In an agitated voice he loudly reads page 4 of the newspaper. “Appointments made by President Uhuru Kenyatta in his second term reveal his love for retirees, even as millions of young Kenyans languish in unemployment. …This has drawn anger from a section of Kenyans who felt slighted by the hire on the so-called   account of age and expertise. The appointment mirrored that of former Vice president Moody awori, 92 years to chair the Sports, Art and Social Development fund, former Cabinet minister Noah Wekesa,83, as chair of Strategic Food reserves Fund and former head of Public Service Francis Muthaura,72 as chair of Kenya Revenue Authority, among others.”

He suddenly turns to me and aggressively seems to demand for my views on what he has just read. Not having the benefit of reading the article I hesitate to get into the conversation

 “I am Bakari,” The young man introduces himself.  “I am from JOOUST.”

I am completely lost what JOOUST is.  Before I Could find out, Bakari went into a tirade against the Government

“Work hard in school, but never expect that the world is waiting to roll out a red carpet for you once you graduate,” Bakari said to no one in particular. Prof. Otieno made no bones about the reality.

“But there’s something I don’t follow,” he went on, and then paused to clear his throat noisily. “Comrades, he turned to his two colleges who strangely enough seemed fixated to his every word. “Is it that after school it’s so hard to get a job even when you have a first-class honours – I mean even when you are A students like us?”

Bakari suddenly stood up with a clenched right fist almost knocking the tray on the small round table. “There are jobs, but unlike old times when my father went to university and degrees were just a handful and employers would even shortlist students before they finished their studies, the tables have now turned. Universities are graduating students every other day. And it’s not just good grades that will send a paycheck our way, make no mistake, but a smart mind to plan, network, walk with the right people, and above all, that motivational predisposition that you have what it takes as we were taught by   Prof otieno”

I smiled, then sipped my tea. The young lady comrade chipped in. “Remember we were taught to package ourselves well and become so good at something until no one can ignore us…”

As I let that sink in, my cup of tea remained half full, steams spiraling and vanishing into space…just like the hope of Kenyan youth seeking jobs seem to be disappearing.

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“We have graduated with first-class honors. It was a great feeling and we felt unstoppable. Who would dare stop us after being given the power to read and do all that appertains to our degrees? Society hyped it. Parties were thrown and chunks of meat served generously. We chomped on them like nobody’s business. Drinks were poured into glasses and clinks came in happy toasts,” observed Bakari with a shrill voice that brought unwanted attention towards me.

“Little did we know that Prof was right …the Kenya Government doesn’t care about our degrees. They are only giving jobs to sponsors, ancestors and fossils.”

I had taken a completely neutral passive stand until Bakari turned to me and asked in a rather accusatory tone. “Why is the Government keen on this policy of hiring on account of old age and so-called expertise?”

Why Employers love old workers

I told the young combative comrades that I would give them my balanced view on the subject under discussion. I started by taking a swig of bottled water from the table to clear my parched throat.

“The benefits of hiring older workers are numerous,” I stated. “Employers have remarked on the flexibility of these old employees, who can be tapped for special projects, part-time, and contract work. Many older workers may already be partially retired but do not want to fully exit the workforce. In this case, employers can develop contracts specifying part-time or temporary work to retain their skills without the high cost of fringe benefits, a major concern for many organizations.”

Young employees try to excel in their role and will try to impress with their initial results.

I added that older workers also have the competitive advantage of years already spent in the workforce honing their expertise and developing a rich array of skills that can be applied to a wide range of programmes and projects. They can be employed in managerial and executive positions without the risk that may come with hiring younger, less experienced employees. I went on to say “many older workers are natural team leaders, a trait that comes with years of working alongside people of all walks of life”

Mature employees have other invaluable assets that are not automatically found in younger workers.  They have unique traits such as superior communication skills, lower absenteeism, less likelihood of being job hoppers, and punctuality.

Young and energetic employees

I adjusted my tie and continued with what I believed was a very persuasive argument.

“Older workers have succeeded in dispelling the myth that they are averse to change and technology. A growing number of mature workers are going back to school and obtaining degrees, advancing skills, obtaining certifications, and embracing technology as avidly as their younger counterparts,” I spoke with authority.

“Maybe this is the reason why the government has developed a recruiting policy to target older workers. These old men and women professionals may play an important part in mentoring the next generation of leaders and carving out exciting new advancements in the employment landscape.”

I paused as I took a sip of my tea, which now was completely cold.

The looks on the comrades’ faces were murderous. I broke into a cold sweat as I imagined their next move. A gentleman seating right opposite us who had been eavesdropping to the conversation came to my rescue.

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“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mpita Njia. I want to challenge the good professor here to tell us the downside of this policy of recruiting pensioners by the government.”

When he referred to me as a professor, the mood of the comrades changed and I quickly composed myself and continued. “I want to address myself to the following key advantages of hiring young people.”

Old men and women professionals may play an important part in mentoring the next generation of leaders.

 “Young employees are much active and vigorous in work when compared to experienced employees,” I started my discussion. “Since it is their first job, their eagerness and enthusiasm will help the employers to expect much dedication and performance. They enjoy the workplace since they are passionate. As they are hungry to learn something new, it will help the organization to provide the best training so that they can apply it in their duties. Younger employees analyze their roles and responsibilities to the deep roots and understand the organizational standards.”

Young or old?

“Moving forward….” I deliberately used this overused term. “The young generation develops a positive attitude towards work. They build healthy relations with the team to understand the nature of the job. With proper training, a trainee can turn into any professional as per organization requirement.

With an open mind, they will accept the roles and responsibilities because they do not have the experience to urge for a particular role. They are bound to each policy that is designed by the organization. All they would require is proper onboarding. They want to develop their careers, so learning about the job role will be interesting for them”.

I continued: “Young employees try to excel in their role and will try to impress with their initial results. This will help the productivity of the organization to increase brought about by the enthusiasm created giving the best from them. They would also start competing with the other senior employees in order to build their careers, and since they get paid off for their excellence, the major advantage of hiring young employees is productivity. They try to set small goals for themselves to get equally recognized by other employees. They also try to intake more details of their duties in order to avoid errors. Organization need not worry about the time invested in their training because they would help in long-term organization goals.”

I pointed out that it is easy to manage young employees because their attitude towards the job is more sincere when compared to older employees.

 They are ready to stretch hands to contribute their help at times when an organization needs extra working hours. Their expectations are low. They can multi-task because they understand the necessity of the present jobs. They are more flexible to timings and benefits. They strictly follow the guidelines of their trainers or mentors, so it is not a tough job to get along with them.

Young employees have fresh knowledge, they are more updated with the latest technologies and strategies. So they can lay a foundation for innovation which will reflect the future growth of the organization. They think in smart ways and come up with different thoughts in a different perspective, which is very much required for organizations to grow and to change the traditional method of doing business.

 Organizations need to hire young employees in order to grow vertically and to compete with other organizations. It is not enough to just sustain but they should be able to set a unique way of making business.

Fired up, I almost shouted “One cannot grow with the same old way of techniques; there should be a change in the process. Smart and updated new generation employees are much needed.

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“An idea can change the world,” Bakari Interjected as I shook my head in agreement.

 “Youth come up with cost-effective ideas and smarter ways of performing a task which will not only save time but will also help to focus on the key elements of the business. They may lack experience but not knowledge. Those who participated in initiatives will be helpful for future projects, because they are aware of the hurdles involved in itm”I said with a certain finality that even surprised me.

Mpita Njia who had now bought into my line of thought jumped in and said: “New generation expects their work environment to be refreshing and inspiring. They will help to recreate the work culture. This will not only inspire them to work but also excites others to work with them. Healthy work culture will directly affect the organization growth.

A boring workplace may not encourage the employees to perform their duties efficiently, so it is necessary to have employees of the young generation to work with fun and deliver results. Also, they are not influenced by politics around them, their focus and goals will be very clear. Hence they can perform efficiently. They also contribute best to help their mentors or trainers which will build the best workforce environment.”

It is necessary to have employees of the young generation to work with fun and deliver results. [ Thomas Mukoya / REUTERS ]

Mwanaleka, for this was the name of the female comrade who had been quiet throughout the conversation, came in strongly and spoke with passion. She said, “Unlike the experienced candidates, the hiring managers need not worry about the payroll expectation of young employees. Due to the high unemployment, many of us are in trouble to find jobs these days, so no one will afford to lose a platform which will help in their career. So compared to experienced candidates the employers can invest low budget for young graduates.”

Qunta Kinte, the less talkative of the three comrades concluded this interesting segment of the conversation with a surprising observation.

 “Last but not least,” he begun, “We comrades can learn things easily; we can adopt the nature of a job within no time since it is not much time that we have left colleges and studies. The enthusiasm to learn and adapt is much higher when compared to experience. So when an organization wants to start something new, comrades will best fit to start up. More than anything we are healthier than older employees in the organization. We have more energy to work for long hours irrespective of any working conditions. Hence employers should prefer young employees in the workplace.”

Moment of transformation

“Daktari, the boss will now see you,”… and just like that, the very invigorating discussion came to halt. As I gathered my documents and walked towards the large and expansive office of the Managing Director, I heard heavy footsteps as if somebody was following me. When I turned and looked backwards it was Bakari whose quicksteps demonstrated a sense of emergency.

Worried that I must have offended a comrade, I was relieved when he stopped and said, Bakari: “Your Newspaper, Sir!” I forgot to give it back when you stood to honour your appointment.”

 “Thank you Bakari, it was a pleasure making your acquaintance,” I responded.

 As I knocked on the door of the MD, I was amazed at the transformation that Bakari had undergone during our short but exciting encounter, though I had not cracked what the name JOOUST stood for!

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About the Author

Dr Elijah Achoch is a Human Resource Management and Development Specialist and an adjunct lecturer in Kenya's top universities Business Schools. He holds a PhD degree in HRM from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Email: [email protected]

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