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Why Somali Companies must Build Staff Capacity

BY ABDIRAHMAN M. GUTALE

Coaching is to help another person to become self-aware and to achieve a specific goal. In recent years, coaching has gained popularity in both personal and business arena as tools for both organisational and personal growth. Coaching helps the person to reach their potential. It gives career direction. It also helps to manage career transition as well as role transitions. To be a good coach requires key qualities: listening, communication skills, rapport-building, motivating, inspiring and flexibility. Personal development is a map for personal success. It is a focus on self.

The website www.coachingpositiveperformance.com lists six key benefits: “self-awareness, sense of direction, improved focus and effectiveness, more motivation, greater resilience, and more fulfilling relationships.” It can be both formal and informal. A company may require employees to have personal development plans with complete personal vision, mission, actions, and deliverables. At the same time, the person may be assigned a coach to guide them. Similarly, a struggling employee may be coached before performance measurements are not taken.

Global focus on coaching and development

Most multi-national and national companies see their people as a key “asset” to their success. As such, many leading companies create programmes and include Personal Development Plans (PDP) and coaching as part of employee growth strategies. Many companies create internal universities and institutes, and allocate budgets to develop this key asset and leverage it to achieve their vision.

I was privileged to be beneficiary of one such programme: Zurich Financial Services Global Associate Programme (GAP), a 44-week hands-on and classroom training conducted by top company officials and world renowned experts. The programme aims to develop future company leaders. My class of 2008 was second for the company. With 70 trainees from over 30 countries attending, we spent the first eight weeks in Zurich, Switzerland. For the next 20 weeks, each trainee went back to their home country to take on high priority tasks with coaching by key individuals from the organisation.

 Each trainee spent 10 weeks in their country of choice as relates to their field and company interest. After completing the programme, each trainee was given the duty to lead teams or high value projects to give them visibility. These programmes are not cheap. Rather, they are costly and require visionary leadership to protect them at hard economic times. The pay-off has proven to be worth the investment. Many of the GAP 2008 class became functional and departmental leaders, saving companies thousands of dollars in recruiting external leadership.

Somalia Focus on coaching and Development

 While coaching and personal development focus on the individual employee, the benefits accrues to the company in myriad ways: improved moral, commitment to the company, increased productivity, and boost to the bottom-line. I had an opportunity to work with a leading company in Somalia. This company has the largest share of its market. However, the elephant feeling has caused them to become a sleeping giant. I was brought in to fix their customer service experience. As part of my assessment, I found out that there was neither personal development nor standardised classroom training to improve work skills. There were no career plans for employees.

They just showed up for work with no hope for promotion. This negatively impacted their attitude towards customers. The employees saw clients as a burden rather than the reason the company existed. Coaching and development are not top priority in Somalia’s private sector. Companies are competing on products and see employees as tools rather than assets to develop. While this attitude worked in the past, it will not be viable going forward. As more multinational brands and foreign companies as well as Somali diaspora-led businesses emerge, local giants will be forced to perish or make their people as much a focus as their bottom-line.

The first step for visionary companies is to admit the need for coaching and development. Second is to put in place long-term strategies to make it a core company value as well as part of company mission with action Third, execution of this strategy will differentiate survivors from companies that thrive. Somalia’s leading telecom company, Hormuud, opened its own university. However, this positive step needs to be complimented by employee focused coaching to develop and play to the strength of each staff. It is only self-aware motivated and focused employees with clear career goals who can secure future profits.

Somalia’s private sector does not need to promote coaching and development to benefit their people, but they must do it to increase their productivity, efficiency, and profitability. Somali companies ignore the benefits of coaching and personal development at their peril. No amount of capital or leadership can make a company to differentiate itself from competition and secure market share through customer satisfaction (another alien concept in Somali private sector). Coaching and development will ensure going from good to great. Way Forward: Formula for Success Make coaching and development company priority. Leadership must deliver this strategy. Create achievable targets backed by strong companywide awareness and development programmes. Make PDP part of each employee’s performance plans, and hold each supervisor accountable for quarterly reviews. PDPs must be more than just pieces of paper. Rather, they must be living documents that help employees to achieve their goals.

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