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Unsettled millennials changing Kenya’s job market

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Companies are taking a beating from a movement being steered by young men and women in their 20s and 30s who are now throwing themselves into startups and freelance jobs, otherwise known as gig economy.

Gig economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements – something a kin to what is happening in workplaces today.

This new phenomenon, previously thought to be inconsequential is now eating into organizations’ output with the trend towards gig economy rising as fast as young Kenyan workers opting for independent contractual jobs as opposed to round-the-clock occupations.

This new breed, eminently known as millennials are shunning lucrative jobs with relatively good perks to pursue their ‘dreams’ and are not afraid to venture into startups as a key to ‘keeping them happy.’

This in return has contributed to companies spending more time and resources to train and absorb new talents, with majority of millennials preferring short-term contracts that allow them flexibility to try other projects and talents.

“We are seeing a lot of companies putting more emphasis on an employee wellness rather than their wellbeing,” says Tom Muchel’le, a Human Resources and Management Services expert.

Adding, “I am afraid it is a trend that I foresee carrying on and therefore organizations should be ready to provide more flexibility, promote diversity and encourage innovation if they are to create a more motivated, productive and happy workforce.”

A report by Brighter Monday conducted early this year found that flexibility, regular field works, convenient work hours and not just good salary for millennials who constitute about 45 percent of workforce in this country, was key in how they work and how it affects their productivity.

“They want to be measured by how well they hit targets and not just the actual man hours they put in the workplace. They want to work with timelines and targets and work smart as opposed to just working hard.

They also want a fun place to work with group recreational facilities as well as health programs in place. For them, it is important that their employers cater to more than just official office work, but their wellness as well,” reads in part the Survey published last month.

While good pay and positive corporate cultures are most likely to attract Millennials, Iverson Ogilla, a 30-year-old real estate practitioner in Nairobi believes that companies need to look beyond wages and offer job securities for this lot if they are to retain their younger workforce.

“It’s a new concept taking root in the hearts of the millennials who are not only keen on how much you paying them but they want room to try various business ideas to an end they consider will be their path to success hence the massive exodus from employment,” comments Ogilla, a former employee with real estate firms Wealthmith and Barbing and now running Reverie Realtors Ltd – a gamble he says has paid-off.

“Did quitting pay off, yes it did I’m happy with the decision I made one year ago.”

A 28-year old Viola Nkatha, presently working in a law firm is also on the verge of leaving her position as a legal file clerk, having worked at the company for six years.

“I have been here long enough, but I now feel drained, early mornings and late nights are taking a toll on my health. I want to venture into entrepreneurship at the start of May,” she says. Nkatha is considering starting an online business for cosmetics and perfumes targeting female customers.

“I am not leaving because of poor pay, no, I have done my groundwork and I also have a friend running a similar business, it’s the root I want to take it is a risk worth taking,” she says.

Human resource experts believe that the trend – common in private sector is now creeping into public sector as well and could have a long term impact on employers that are today facing prospects of not only losing their aging top talents but also spending resources to cultivate new younger ones into their systems.

“Public institutions are also under threat and it is a worry because you will realize that some of these young people are agreeing to pay cuts in order to have their flexibility,” says Muchel’le.

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