People vs. Money: Which one is more important to an employer?

BY ANTONY MUTUNGA W.J. Cameron said, “Money never starts an idea; it is the idea that starts the money.” He wanted to show that the origins of wealth are found in ideas and innovation, which can be only brought about by people. The late journalist believed money was an end result, which could not be achieved easily without an intermediary, people, to assist. If you were a general manager of a growing organization, which would you focus more on? Is it the money or the people? This can be described as the ‘million dollar question’ because, if one is able to know exactly how to balance the two, one is able to make profits and be on top of the competition in the industry. Business has changed from what it used to be. In early days it was always about making profit with no regard for the workers. Even though profits are still important, the people have become more or equally important to their employers. People are one of the most important assets of an organization and in order to achieve maximum profits, one of the leading strategies to take on is to ensure that the employees of the organization as well as the customers are contented. A happy worker is a productive worker. Employers now focus on the employees’ well being to ensure optimization in the organization and that customer grievances are dealt with. This is referred to as business ethics. Business ethics can be described as the principle involving systemization, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour in the workplace. It is simply a system that helps business to operate fairly and in a moral fashion. Ethics is one of the most important values in a business if not the most; it is evidently essential to make a business more profitable. Most organizations have not adequately ensured they have a code of ethics hence they are always back-trailing the firms that have. Giving employees bonuses and ensuring fair promotions are some of the ways businesses ensure ethics are upheld. Apart from ensuring the employees are best taken care of, it is also crucial to ensure the customers are happy by giving them adequate and safe products. Most of the organizations consider the people first then money later. For example, Chase bank in 2015 was named the best employer in Kenya in a survey done by Deloitte. It was named the best company to work for among 43 companies that were surveyed. Chase Bank Director, Hellen Okello attributed their performance to the fact that the organisation has continuously improved the work environment for its employees. It is evident that ensuring good working conditions for employees leads to major achievements for an organization. During the event, organisations were challenged to invest more in their employees. “The bottom-line is that companies don’t succeed, people do. People are the only source of sustainable competitive advantage,” said Debbie Hollis, Senior Manager, Deloitte. Kimani Njoroge, Partner Deloitte East Africa said, “What we have seen companies do in the past is use money to retain staff. Though money is a good thing, it does not enable an organisation to win the war on talent. But if you keep employees engaged and happy, they will produce more.” Another example of such an organization includes Airtel Kenya, which is extolled by the employees as well as the customers. This is due to the fact that they consider their employees, ensuring they are working in a comfortable environment, which tends to make them more productive. They also consider the grievances that the customers send their way and try their best to timely handle them. This, though, is not always the case. Some organizations concentrate more on money than any other factor.  Jonathan Swift once said, “No man will take counsel but every man will take money. Therefore money is better than counsel.” This can be said to be the case for those who concentrate on money as they put it above ideas and advice from the people they serve in the end. Firms that focus on profit more and less on the people tend to fail and collapse in the long run. The recent collapse of Imperial bank, which has since been put under receivership by the Central Bank of Kenya would serve as a perfect example where the employer puts profits first and ethics last. Another example is to be found in higher institutions of learning. Most of these institutions have put money first. Last year a college in Nairobi was revealed in an exposé dubbed ‘Certificate of Doom’ that aired on television to have concentrated on money more than the education of its college students. They admitted anyone who could afford to pay the fee without regard prerequisite qualifications. In the end, they passed out students with diploma certificates but without adequate skills with which to penetrate the various industries. The college has never recovered from the exposé, a year on. It drew the wrath of the then cabinet secretary, Education, Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi. “There is something I have been telling our quality assurance bodies to be courageous enough to do: close these institutions. I have a feeling, in view of what I’ve been shown, that some people don’t close these institutions because they are bribed,” the CS lamented. Money, one can easily conclude, has become the most important aspect in our education sector, with some of the institutions forgetting the purpose for their existence. Indeed, people, and therefore, ethics, are important in an organization. Companies should heed the counsel and ensure that they keep people engaged and contented in order to be more productive and committed. Money is good. However, on its own, it cannot enable grow the company.

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