Thriving in a difficult business environment requires a well thought out strategy and the ability to be creative in the application of specific action plans aimed at navigating the turbulent water of change in customers preferences, competition, and global economic dynamics.
One interesting fact that we must all embrace is the truth that the economic situations of Nigeria and most African countries are largely regulated by forces outside the control of these nations and until we take decisive action to diversify our economies from a mere natural-resource-based system to value added and transformational economies we would remain at the same point and further decline if proper care is not taken.
At the beginning of 2015, it would be recalled that the Nigerian economy outlook was projected as the strongest in Africa at 6.7 percent growth rate. However, vagaries in global oil prices and the economic vulnerability to change in demand made this projection difficult to attain.
To further drive home the not too bright outlook for the economic, the IMF in its update of world economys outlook predicted higher risks and a weaker recovery in 2015 and 2016 than it had previously projected. The agency said global growth will slide 1 percent to about 0.2 percentage point from July 2015.
Maurice Obstfeld, IMF Chief economist said global economy is at an intersection of three forces, which he named as
1) Chinas economic transformation
2) Fall in commodity prices and
3) Impending normalization of monetary policy in the U.S.
A discerning mind would see that the factors above are outside the control of Nigeria and the only factor that we can reasonably control to the advantage of our economy is item two and it seems we are yet to realize this.
THE POWER OF THE HUMAN MIND
I have mentioned elsewhere that whether a Nation is classified as a first, second or third world to which majority of African Nations belongs is a matter of the brains that drive national development and the orientation of the people generally. The human mind has enormous ability to make things out of nothing; the capacity of the human mind to invent, create solutions and transform societies has been put on display by the ascendancy of China as the number two leading economy in the world and the giant stride by the Asian Tigers.
In the word of Chuk Danes The potential of the Human Mind is subject to and limited only by our individual beliefs or unbelief. As to whether we can accomplish a thing or not. Human Mind Power is evidenced by the fact that we always get to be right.
That American is today a global leader is a decision made by people who believe in the possibility of their collective aspiration to attain lofty height. The American system deliberately unlocked the potentials of the human minds thereby bringing out their creative ability.
Franklin D. Roosevelt alluded to this when he said: Man and woman are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.
I have been personally challenged each time that I read about corporate organizations that have been in existence for over three to four century and are still waxing strong yet we have companies in Nigeria that have barely existed for ten years and yet are having survival problem.
HUMAN RESOURCE AS A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
I want to say here without fear of contradiction that Nigeria as a nation has all it takes to become one of the seven leading economies in the world. All we need to do is to harness the enormous natural resources that nature has blessed us with using a vast array of human resource and capability.
In this article, I will pay attention to human resource and how it can be made a competitive advantage by both public and private institutions to the benefit of the Nigerian project and development.
DEFINING HUMAN RESOURCE
Using the words of Armstrong and Baron (2002) Human resource will be defined as People and their collective skills, abilities, and experience, coupled with their ability to deploy these in the interests of the employing organization€¦
Ingredients of Our definition
1) People. People here refer to a section of a national population that qualify and are ready to work or be productive what we call the working population. In Nigeria, if properly harnessed we are looking at a working population that constitutes about 52.7% of the nations population. These are people between the age of 18 and 64, fewer children, the aged and retired population.
0-14 years: 43.2% (male 39,151,304/female 37,353,737)
15-24 years: 19.3% (male 17,486,117/female 16,732,533)
25-54 years: 30.5% (male 27,697,644/female 26,285,816)
55-64 years: 3.9% (male 3,393,631/female 3,571,301)
65 years and over: 3% (male 2,621,845/female 2,861,826) (2014 est.)
Source: World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency- 2015
A look at the age structure and population distribution in the above data indicate that if properly harnessed and provided with the right skills and education the Nigeria population could skyrocket it to the status of a leading economy in the world.
2) Skills. Skills are acquired capabilities gotten by an individual in the course of their exposure to a task or a particular endeavor to which they have special proclivity or talent.
3) Abilities: The concept of ability to HR portends competence demonstrated by an individual over task or work assignment. The ability like skill can be acquired or learned but would normally develop over time.
4) Experience: This is knowledge or expertise acquired following repeated exposure to a particular career or work.
5) Deployment: This is a guided process through which people effort are intentionally directed at a productive task. It is important to note that labor can be dormant, wasted, under-utilized or wrongly deployed.
6) Employment: The process of finding, attracting, managing, organizing and directing human effort profitably in order to achieve organizational objectives and aspirations.
7) Organization: For the purpose of this article I will adopt the definition given by Weber in ( 1947) who sees an organization as a corporate group, a social relationship which is either closed or limits the admission of outsiders by rules€¦ so far as its order is enforced by the action of specific individuals whose regular function that is, of chief or head and usually also an administrative staff.
Please note that definition is not intended to downplay the more liberal thoughts on human resource management but I view it as more appropriate for the purpose of the opinion that I wish to express here. This definition will align with my view that if African Nations must move away from their third world status their effort must be concerted and deliberately planned just like we saw in the case of China and more recently with Indian.
Putting all these together I will define Human Resource as the totality of a nations ideological stand point on human development, effective and productive educational system that gives room for the acquisition of knowledge, skill, and ability ( KSA) and their application to value-adding activities.
HOW TO PROMOTE HR AS COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IN NIGERIA OR IN CORPORATE ORGANIZATION
Comparative human resource management practices across the world point to the adoption of best practices, domesticated processes and procedures to suit local condition, as the best means that organizations can adopt to attain a reasonable level of competitiveness. However, I will highlight some findings and experiences gotten in the course of managing HR functions for the past 18 years.
WHAT IS COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE?
Competitive advantage is an organization Superior marketplace position relative to competition Lawrence S. Kleiman (2000). In his words competitive advantage can be achieved in two ways namely:
a) Cost Leadership,
b) Product Differentiation
Cost Leadership shows the relative advantage of an organization to produce quality and acceptable products or services at a lower price relative to competitors. This is calculated as
No of Units Produced
Total Cost of Production
Cost leadership can be achieved through a planned process of quality assurance, dedication to customer service, right attitude and commitment to work by employees. It is not abnormal that customers would demand better quality product at cheaper prices so it behooves the organization to adopt creative and innovative means at ensuring that the demands and expectations of the consumers are met profitably.
Product Differentiation. This is the ability of an organization to ensure that its products or services have a mark of uniqueness that made it preferred by the buyers when compare to competitors.
Kleiman gave four ways that organization can gain competitive advantage using product differentiation namely:
1. By creating better quality products and services
2. Provide innovative product and service
3. Choose a superior location
4. Promote uniqueness
Running a summary of the position of Kleiman, one would come to a conclusion based on the fact that competitive advantage can only be achieved through human resource engagement, planned operation, and production processes that take cognizance of customer value propositions. For an organization to successful to achieve competitive advantage in the face of competition would require about 70% of human resource effort.
WHY IS HR THE MOST POTENT WEAPON THAT COULD HELP ORGANIZATION REMAINS COMPETITIVE?
Traditionally the resources of an organization are classified into four subgroups namely:
Out of these, it is labor, defined as the totality of human productive effort deploy to making the first three factors productive and create utility for the human being. It then means that without labor; land, capital, and equipment would remain dormant and of no use.
Human resource is the most potent of organizations resources because she can think, be creative, she has emotion and feelings. Properly managed you will get the best from labor and not properly managed they could frustrate your effort.
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