As it appeared in the Daily Nation on January 16th, 2018
We often talk about quality of products and quality of service. However, discussions about quality of staff are not common. This is despite the fact that quality products and quality services are dependent on the quality of staff. Our staff produce products and offer services. A main question is – Is the quality of our staff hurting us? If it is hurting us, what are we doing about it?

During a recent conversation with a CEO of a leading Kenyan company, the subject of quality of people came up as we discussed innovation. The CEO indicated that innovation is heavily dependent on the quality of staff. If the staff are not creative and motivated to follow through on their ideas then innovation is unlikely to happen, he added. As we went on with this conversation, I wondered how many organizations are being held back by poor quality staff. How many would rather let go their staff but they are still holding on? One of the thoughts that I often share is that we should not waste our time trying to change staff that have a bad attitude, but that we should free them to join the competition. How often do we critically assess the quality of our staff, the quality of their attitude, and the quality of their work?

Quality of staff is often discussed behind tightly closed doors. It is a sensitive issue. I have sat in board meetings where the quality of staff was raised. In one such meeting, the principal of the school felt helpless; at another meeting, the CEO was adamant to let go the staff in question. Quite often, even when there is a boardroom consensus that quality of staff is hurting an organization, business owners and managers seem hesitant to take action immediately. Therefore, many organizations continue to struggle with the quality of products and service that they offer because they have failed in having in place high quality staff.

I believe that the quality of people comes from the quality of the leaders in an organization. It is the leaders that recruit, train, coach and mentor the staff. During the recruitment process, the leadership team must look out for people with the right attitude, passionate, and willing to learn. I worked at an international organization that prided itself with having the best people. What I recall as having stood out in that organization was the intense recruitment process. In yet another organization, one of the slogans was “our people make the difference”. This organization relied heavily on referrals from existing employees during recruitment. It also put in extra effort to create a healthy culture that made working there enjoyable.

To nurture quality staff, our business must look for the best, lead them well and support them on their learning and development journey. Only quality people have the ability to produce quality products and services. Therefore, before we complain about the quality of our products or services let us first focus on the quality of our people.

Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy