• Sunday, April 14, 2024
businessday logo


Challenges facing organizations and employees in contemporary business (2)

Developing and sustaining employee engagement

In the first part of this article, we examined the challenges such as globalization, recession, and low purchasing power, change and coping with environmental changes, attracting and keeping highly skilled employees, diversity and cultural differences, as well as multiplicity of stakeholders, which business organisations face in contemporary time. However, it is not only organisations that are facing challenges in contemporary society. The individual employee is also facing several challenges among which are:

· Competition for the few opportunities at the top: as the fortunes of organisations narrow, the organisational pyramid becomes more pointed. Opportunities for top-level advancement drastically reduce as the competition becomes stiffer. Employees may face stagnation, not necessarily because they are not good, but because of very limited vacancies. Remaining motivated in such a situation becomes a big challenge for an employee especially the very ambitious ones.

· Corporate Politics: closely related to the above is the energy-sapping politics that goes on in corporate organisations as one rise in the hierarchical ladder. Most corporate organisations inherently operate a zero-sum culture that encourages stiff competition for juicy positions. Because these positions are no longer based on technical competencies, there is jostling and cut-throat politicking among employees for them. Not everyone can play politics nor cope with the concomitant stress and tension. In some cases, the best employees for the job, do not get them, if they are not also good at playing politics.

Sticking to old habits is the worst thing a 21st century worker could do. Sometimes, the changes are so many and come in quick succession that the average employee struggles to flow with the tide

· Pressure for continuous self-improvement and the acquisition of new skills: to be able to favourably compete for the scant positions in the organisational hierarchy, and sometimes be able to even keep the job, employees must continuously self-improve through continuous education and the acquisition of new skills. These will not only make the employee relevant in contemporary society but will place him/her in the vantage position for the filing of the few spaces that naturally open at the top echelon of the organisation. Ours is a knowledge/learning generation and a worker who does not want to be left behind must be a lifetime learner. Doing so involves a lot of personal sacrifice with respect to work-life balance, financial resources, etc.

· Adapting to organisational changes: as pointed out earlier, today’s organisations are faced with change as a way of life. As the organisation changes and adapts to environment-induced realities, the individual employee must cope with the changes in a consistent, systematic manner to minimize the stress associated with change. Sticking to old habits is the worst thing a 21st century worker could do. Sometimes, the changes are so many and come in quick succession that the average employee struggles to flow with the tide. Some suddenly begin to see themselves as lagging behind and no longer good enough for the company. This can lead to depression, if not properly managed.

Read also: Challenges facing organizations and employees in contemporary business (1)

· Fitting into an increasingly diversified workforce: closely related to the challenges above, is that of the individual employee seamlessly fitting into a workforce that is getting more diversified by the day. Diversity itself is assuming a fluid form that workers in organisations especially multinational corporations must learn how to accommodate differing values, perceptions, and cultures; and to be good team players for the overall good of the organisation. Some people are highly ethnocentric and find it relatively difficult to cope as the team continues to diversify.

· Global mobility: As already pointed out, organisations are increasingly looking beyond geographical borders for cheaper raw materials, labour, and a greater share of the market. These are the imperatives of globalisation. As the organisations globalise, there comes the need to sometimes move some key staff to offshore/overseas branches. Employees who are not prepared to take up such assignments may find themselves out of job. This is a very big challenge for workers with families and those who do not find it easy to learn new languages.

· Difficult and uncertain times: we live in very difficult times with a lot of uncertainties. Insecurity, natural disasters, political upheavals, corruption, unabating unemployment, underemployment, economic woes, and diseases such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, negatively impact the state of mind of today’s employees. They contend with all these, in addition to other personal circumstances, and still must face the workplace. Then, there is also the anxiety as more jobs are taken over by robots. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review estimated that in the next ten years, about 50% of jobs in the U.S. would be manned by machines; not humans.

· Societal pressures and high debt profiles: In countries like ours where there is no social safety net and nearly zero support for the people at the base of the pyramid, the few people who are employed carry the burden of caring for families and loved ones who do not earn incomes due to unemployment, age, incapacitation, etc. A salary earner who has such circumstances will need to borrow to augment the income from employment, which real value is battered by inflation.


The message is that times have changed and keep changing. With the changes come challenges for both the employer and the employee. Adjusting/adapting to the changes in a sustainable manner will make the difference between a failed organisation and a going concern; between the high-flying professional and the redundant, disgruntled employee.

Dr. Ebereonwu writes from Lagos. He can be reached via 09064987192 (text only)