Business COMMENTARY: To train own staff or to poach, that is the question

Rwanda has received positive reviews on business reforms. The other day, the Rwanda Development Board announced it had further reduced the time it takes to register business from 24 to just six.
Allan Brian Ssenyonga
Allan Brian Ssenyonga

Rwanda has received positive reviews on business reforms. The other day, the Rwanda Development Board announced it had further reduced the time it takes to register business from 24 to just six. In reality, the Rwanda economy is growing at an amazing speed and investors are heading to Kigali in droves.

One day it is Nation Media Group, then Equity Bank, then Qatar Airways makes its entry and I am sure you have noticed the freshly painted houses with a bright red and the word Airtel in white. We are not even half way into 2012 but we are witnessing lots of changes in the business sector.

Increased investments always imply increased employment opportunities and that is why leaders such as President Kagame are known to traverse the world trying to lure investors to direct their money here. However, the issue of employment is not that clear cut.

Many companies that open up business are not just interested in hiring anyone; they are looking only for those with skills. Skilled labour in Rwanda is still a problem mainly because of the set back the country suffered by the pre-genocide politics that excluded some people from training and employment opportunities as well the genocide against Tutsis in 1994.

Major steps have been taken to correct this but a lot still needs to be done. So when an investor sets up a huge investment, they are often faced with the tough choice of whether to poach skilled workers from a company in the same industry or to simply hire and train its own staff.

One day I found myself in a bus with over 30 passengers headed to Nairobi for training

before they could start work with Equity Bank. In this case, a company invests in training
its own staff in how the company works and its corporate culture before they can start work.

Companies that choose this path often worry about investing money to train people who will simply cross to their competitors once their contracts run out or the moment they are offered better deals by the competitor. This is often the preferred option for companies that are pioneers in an industry or those that cherish the training instead of poaching.

Poaching tends to be the more common option for new businesses. The trick is often simple, offer slightly higher salaries to employees in order to lure them to make the move. It is very common in industries like mass media, where journalists will move from an old newspaper or radio station to join the new kids on the block.

Poaching seems like the easier route but like many short cuts there are also downfalls with this technique. The people who are poached tend to be quite mobile and will soon run away from you as well once a new company comes up. Money is their only loyalty and they will move where it goes.

Companies that are opening shop in Rwanda have to think seriously about whether to train new staff or to simply peep at their neighbours and flash bigger pay cheques to draw them away. All is said and done, our school systems should do more production of skilled labour to fill up the job opportunities arising from the new investments.

 

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