Q&A: Recruitment In Africa Is Not An Employer’s Market Anymore

Unemployment in Africa is a big challenge and no one knows this better than Perminus Wainaina, managing director at Nairobi-based Corporate Staffing Services.

His seven-year-old company, that also co-owns and manages one of Kenya’s top jobs websites Career Point Kenya, helps both local and international firms recruit staff in the East Africa region. Together with other partners, Corporate Stafing also trains recruits and company employees on soft skills that including ethics, integrity and how to take initiative at work.

AFKInsider interviewed Wainaina on how he started his business and got his thoughts on how the recruitment sector in Kenya and across Africa is fairing.

AFKInsider: What is Corporate Staffing Services and what services does it offer?

Wainaina: Corporate  is a leading recruitment firm and we offer three main services: number one is recruitment, we also offer staff outsourcing that includes payroll processing and we also offer training services, but this is mainly in partnership with other firms. We train on soft skills, whether its customer service, leadership, sales and so on.

AFKInsider: How did you start the company?

Wainaina: I started Corporate Staffing in the year 2009. It was not my first business. My first business was stock brokerage agency, but during the credit crunch I had to change and it so happened that I was dealing with SME owners. When it become difficult to invest in the stock market, there were no good returns, I noticed that these SME’s were facing challenges in recruiting and retaining talent and that’s where I saw an opportunity. By then there were no stiff regulation as far as running an HR firm goes. It started as a one man show. A website and a small room in Nairobi.

AFKInsider:  How has your company grown over the years to what it is now?

Wainaina: Our growth has been organic. By organic I mean mainly through word of mouth, satisfied clients referring their friend and business networks to us and also through our websites. We have also got a reputation with the candidate of being ethical with them. Whereas some firms charge candidates a fee to take their CV, us we have never done that. That won us a lot of trust in the beginning and that really helped us.

AFKInsider:  What changed have you seen in the recruitment sector over the years?

Wainaina: When we came in Kenyans were embracing online job applications. We were somehow lucky to come in at the right time. So when it came to job applications employers were insisting candidates to apply online. The other thing that made our business thrive is that the education sector had just been liberalized, evening classes and parallel courses. We now had more candidates in the market with standard qualifications and the employers were not sure. These created a need to engage a third party to come and sieve these candidates and that was us. Those were the two factors that played into our advantage.

AFKInsider: How’s competition in the recruitment sector in Kenya?

Wainaina: I will categorize the industry into three players; there those very old and established firms, which are 20 years and above, then there are people like us who are less than 10 years in the market and then there other people trying to get in. In terms of our target market, which is the medium sized and growing companies in Kenya, I would say we are doing well because we still have clients who we started with in the beginning, we understand them. It’s a relationship based business and we understand who they are and what they want and we’ve been able to grow with them over time. It’s a very personalized business and so long as you serve your clients the right way, they will not see a need to go elsewhere.

AFKInsider: Unemployment in Africa is a big issue. What changes have seen in the recruitment sector and how has this affected both employers and job applicants?

Wainaina: Unemployment is a big issues in Africa. If you are talking about fresh graduates the rate can go as high as 70 percent, whereas the average is something above 40 percent. Earlier on there was this assumption that it was an employers’ market, that they could afford to hire and fire at will. Two things have happened the codes in terms of compliance has really become a big issue in the last few years. There is also the fight for good talent. You find these are individuals who are asking for top dollar. Unlike before where the job market was open and you had many candidates, now you have employers willing to recruit but you have very few good candidates that qualify. The employers have really have to rethink their employment strategy because they don’t want to take more time training a recruit. So they are taking more time to find the right person and are coming to recruiters like us to help them identify the best talent. There is really a war for good talent out there.

AFKInsider: There is this notion that young generation employees are not loyal and are always quick to change jobs. Is this something you’ve experienced?

Wainaina: Yes I’ve seen that with the fresh graduates a lot of them change jobs within two years. It is a phenomenon we are experiencing currently and that comes with its risks in the sense that you’ve just trained this person and before you even start reaping fruits of investment, they have already left. This is more pronounced in the technical areas.

AFKInsider: How has the use of technology affected the recruitment process?

Wainaina: Everything now has gone online. It has its pro and cons like you find there are a lot of applicants. In the survey we had we asked the HR managers the frustrations that they have and the top most was that they are having too many applicants apply for the wrong positions.

AFKInsider: With increased technology use are employers you’ve worked with willing to allow employees to work from home?

Wainaina: Unfortunately not yet.  Even if it is a job that can be done at home a lot of employers will still want to see you at 8am. I’d say it is an issue of work ethics. As an employer you’d want to give some leeway, but then the people you have might not be responsible enough.

AFKInsider: There are more and more youth joining the labor market in East Africa as a whole. How is the labor movement across these African countries?

Wainaina: From my perspective I’ve seen there is free movement of labor in East Africa. There is an improvement in the movement of labor. For example, we recruit for Tanzania market and Rwanda and earlier on there was a bit of skepticism. There was the issue of them giving work permits (to Kenyans), but over the last one year they have become a bit more flexible.

AFKInsider:  What advice would you give to young graduates preparing to get into the job market?

Wainaina: We did a survey at the beginning of the year where we surveyed 205 HR managers on what they are looking for in fresh graduates. The first thing they are looking for is area of specialization. So this idea of graduates having dual qualifications they need to stop. You find a graduate has done marketing, but has also done accounting and IT. They have to assess their passion and where they want to fit in and pursue that very early. That is key. The other thing is employers are very keen on leadership skills and other soft skills. They are very keen on leadership, integrity and initiative and someone who also engages in extra-curricular activities. They don’t want a candidate who gets an A or a first class but they have nothing to show beyond that.

Source: AFK Insider

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