By NBF News
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HUMAN resources experts have charged corporate bodies and managers to clearly define their visions and goals, as well as create an enabling environment for employees to effectively perform their functions.

They, however, cautioned employers to stop treating their personnel as commodities, noting that the era when the human capital in the production and service chains was treated as tools had gone.

The experts: Prof. Chioma Kanu Agomo of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Mr. Victor Famuyibo, Human Resources Director of Nigerian Breweries Plc, and Mr. Akinola Ayoola of Oando Plc, gave the admonition at the 17th yearly Trainers' Clinic of Tom Associates held in Lagos last Wednesday.

In their treatises, under the theme 'Employee Engagement,' the trio asserted that for employees to be properly engaged for higher productivity, they must be attached emotionally to their jobs, organisations, managers, and co-workers.

Although, most Nigerian companies are yet to adequately embrace global best practices in human resources, the speakers told participants, who were mainly human resources managers that their companies would gain more if issues that affect their workers were given more attention.

Agomo told the audience that in the current global employment market, the employee has ceased to be a tool to be used and dumped. She added that industry best practices no longer support or subscribe to the old order of 'take it or leave it' in employee-employer relations.

The don said human capital under the new dispensation is treated with respect and dignity, with the workplace made suitable for him to operate.

Agomo particularly dwelt on ways a company can drive employee engagement, company practices, opportunities and people, and organisation's engagement strategies that encourage staff retention.

According to her, the contract of employment is the 'key that opens the door to employment relations whether at the individual or at collective level.'

Highlighting the benefits of employment with status over employment at will, Agomo said: 'In today's global employment environment, the focus has shifted from employment at will to non-negotiable attitude, to recognition of the need to see the employee as the most valuable resource. The fairness or unfairness of an employer's action may no longer be immaterial,' citing the celebrated case of Longe vs First Bank Plc to buttress her assertion.

Making a case for respect of the workers' rights, Agomo charged the HR managers to always remember the Philadelphia Declaration of 1944 that labour is 'not a commodity, freedom of expression and association are essential to sustained progress, and all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue their material well being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity of economic security and equal opportunity.'

In his presentation on the manufacturing sector experience in employee engagement, Famuyibo called for intellectual clarity, such that the employee understands the organisation's goals, vision, mission, values and strategies.

He canvassed the use of subjective measures such as continuous informal feedback, informal 'temperature' gauge, and workplace and objective measures like climate survey to measure employee engagement and their relationship with their employers.

The firm chief said when his company gauged the workers' pulse; it paid off as the employees had the opportunity to express their views about the firm, the managers and the problems they encountered.

Famuyibo said the company had continued to address the issues raised by workers by introducing employee-friendly policies such as the creation of sporting and recreational outlets within the company's premises, special recognition for outstanding contributions, and effective communications with feedback channels.

On his part, Ayoola said once the enabling environment is created, engaged employee perform 20 per cent better than the less engaged, adding that they are less likely to leave the organisation, more innovative, and more customer-friendly.

He said to aid employee engagement, senior managers must listen to the workers' views, create strong opportunities for promotion, encourage an entrepreneurial culture and maintain a focus of good work-life balance.