Addressing Critical Skills’ Gaps in the Professional Workforce [SPECIAL FEATURE!]

Special for the AWIB Forum: ‘Unlocking Potential!  Driving Effectiveness!’, May 23, 2013, United Nations Conference Center, Addis Ababa

On May 23, 2013, AWIB will host its second annual forum which will offer members and participants an opportunity to unlock their potential and drive effectiveness in their personal and professional lives.  This one-day event which will be held at the United Nations Conference Center will feature a plenary session followed by parallel sessions for transformative self-development, reflection and networking.

As one of the leading women’s organizations in the country, AWIB draws our attention to the power of women’s organizing. AWIB will be honored to welcome an internationally renowned woman leader as a keynote speaker, and a national perspective on women’s organizing will be provided by Selome Tadesse, a leading figure of women’s associations in Ethiopia and a long-term supporter of AWIB.


One of the parallel sessions will focus on a burning issue in the contemporary professional scene – that of Critical Skills Gaps in the Professional Workforce.  Any Addis Ababa-based business owner or employer who has tried to fill vacant posts or develop a talent strategy within the last five years can tell you that the dire shortage of applicants with the required professional skills is a major hindrance to the growth of their businesses. Quite apart from professional qualifications, the skills gaps most often identified by employers include proficiency in written and spoken English, time-management, public speaking and capacities to apply principles of personal development.

At the April monthly event, Yusuf Reja, the founder and CEO of Info Mind Solutions, an AWIB partner organization estimated that up to 60% of any company’s employees may be ‘Disengaged Employees’, on the opposite end of the employee spectrum from ‘Engaged Employees’ whom Yusuf describes as the Ambassadors of their companies and whom he explained take initiatives and responsibilities – these employees also work with minimal supervision.

According to estimates by Human Resource practitioners, Disengaged Employees who may constitute up to 60% of employees are un-motivated, task and not role-oriented. They often contribute negative energy to the company, badmouth their employers and promote the perspective that ‘the grass is greener on the other side.’ As negative a presence as this segment of employees represents, they should not be ignored as that would risk allowing them to ‘poison’ the organization.

Responding to the common complaints presented by Disengaged Employees that they do not have an enabling environment in which to work, Yusuf reminded us that ‘’you cannot choose your boss.’’ He also reiterated what he tells job seekers – no company hires employees because they need money – they need to do the required work. On the same theme of some employees hedging their responsibilities, Yusuf quoted Oprah Winfrey;  ‘I have tried my best’ translates to, ‘I have failed, but with honor.’

Some Suggested Solutions

In his presentation, Yusuf also addressed what companies can do to be competitive employers in terms of attracting and retaining engaged employees.  In addition to branding themselves as employers of choice, companies need to invest in good talent sourcing. Yusuf gave the apt pieces of advice, ‘’Hire Slow – Fire Fast’’ which he explained is actually contrary to prevalent practice, and ‘’Hire for Attitude – Train for Skills.’’ He also recommended that companies establish better assessment tools to accurately predict competencies, and described ‘effective on-boarding’ as a thorough welcome and induction which if done properly would shorten the learning curve, and may reduce turn-over by up to 80%.

In terms of staff performance, Yusuf argued that traditional ‘Job Descriptions’ are now being replaced with ‘Job Purposes’ which outline competencies, clarify results with assignments challenging enough to motivate and specific enough to measure performance.  Therefore, the focus will shift from how to do certain tasks to not what to do. Similarly, performance development should shift its focus to increase employees’ competencies.  Yusuf recommends tailoring staff development to each employee and making individual performance development plans.

In this regard, Yusuf’s presentation emphasized the importance of open communication between employees and their management and effective internal communication – in this more participatory management cycle, the development of organizational objectives is something that employees input on. In addition, the increasing importance of Employee Wellness and employers’ obligation to ensure that employees are happy with their benefits as well as the attention they get in terms of rewards and opportunities for career development was emphasized.

Forum Session

Participants of the parallel session can expect to contribute to the discussion on addressing the critical skills gaps in the workforce that affect businesses and organizations and to learn how different stakeholders in our community are rising to the challenges.

The Line-up

AWIB has invited a range of speakers representing the government, the public and private sectors as well as the ‘brain gain’ initiative by members of the Ethiopian Diaspora to debate and ponder on this timely issue. In addition to a detailed discussion on the obvious crisis in the professional job market posed by under-prepared entrants, this interactive session will brainstorm on creative solutions to address gaps in the professional sector.

As one of the largest and most dynamic public sector employers, a representative of the Human Resources Management of Ethiopian Airlines will share the company’s unique brand of training new employees for excellence.

AWIB members as well as guests are invited to participate in this transformative Forum and to contribute to the essential discussion of the parallel session focusing on skills gaps in the Ethiopian professional sector.

For more information or to secure your participation by purchasing your ticket for the reasonable investment of 500 Birr, please call Nebat Abbas at +251911604850, or Sehin Teferra at +251911190442.