I have been having a set of interesting conversations with young men and women coming from different backgrounds yet all having a common problem: unemployment.
The conversations weren’t filled with bitterness or anger as unemployment can bring out the worst in people, rather it was an interesting talk about challenges related to the working world, i.e. salaries, interviews, knowing ones interest etc. We all identified certain social and cultural limitations that hinder us from asking detailed questions about important issues like salaries, exact role and responsibility allocated to the position during a job interview. These questions are often interpreted by employers as being too blunt or “ፈጣጣ”, as we say in Amharic. Whereas these are important questions that every prospective employee should ask because they need to understand exactly what they’re getting themselves into, there seems to be some consensus that they should not be raised and that you will figure things out once employed. Asking “why should I work for you?” is perceived as an insult and not a viable question. Truth be told, an unemployment relationship is not solely a financial transaction based on the employee receiving payment for work performed.
Employers should take into account that their employees would like to know that there are career development opportunities, trainings and other motivating factors making them stay there. A lot of organizations and companies are unaware, willingly or by true ignorance, that staff morale and happiness has an impact on output of the company. If your staff is not happy, chances are their productivity is low and the quality of work will be affected. Things are slowly changing though; recently news about a large Ethiopian company opening a day care for its employees’ children is one such example. These kinds of measures should be encouraged by the government and duplicated by different companies.
The other common challenge identified is that there aren’t many organizations whose missions or goals line up with those seeking employment. I think this frustration is shared among many young professionals who after a short time of working on projects become quickly disillusioned. What they thought they would be doing and what they end up doing are not only different but also work against each other at times.
But not all youth are seeking employment, some want to be their own employers. Yet the environment is far from being encouraging or enabling. Limitations of access to a computer,Internet, necessary tools have a very big negative impact. In addition to all that, there’s a general sense of lack of motivation, encouragement is scarce and recognition even more scarce. I was excited to read about an Ethiopian start-up win an award and get recognition in Kenya. Unfortunately, I had to hear about after it was recognized outside of the country. And I know for sure that this start up is not the only that is doing great work but barely getting noticed here.
In the end, some of these discussions lead to many of these young professionals feeling that Ethiopia is maybe not the best place for young people to develop careers. That’s when I realized that although we seem to give more attention to helping people get jobs, i.e. trainings and skill building, there needs to be just as much of a support to employers. They need to be aware of the fact that young employees, which will be a very large majority of the workforce in the coming years are looking to get more than monetary compensation from jobs. By being more rewarding and presenting them with more opportunities to learn, employers can and should play an important role in not only decreasing high turn over rates but as well as brain drain. Companies play an important role in showing their young employees possibilities, they can be platforms for creativity and innovation by simply giving autonomy and encouraging their young employers to solver the problems faced by the company.