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What top companies in Kenya look for when hiring
By Agnes Aineah | Updated Apr 15, 2020 at 11:01 EAT
James Mworia, Centum CEO (Photo/Courtesy)

A total of 2,060 employees in different established companies participated in the research that sought to provide insights for job seekers.

Some 60 per cent of those interviewed were found to be earning below Sh50,000, which is the amount paid in entry-level jobs.

According to the survey, all interviewed employees were more inclined towards working for Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Andela and IBM.

The World Bank, Central Bank of Kenya, Kenya Commercial Bank, Equity Bank and Barclays Bank also found their way among top financial institutions that employees preferred.

On the list of manufacturing companies, most employees said they were more comfortable working for Unilever, Coca-Cola, British American Tobacco and Bidco. The others were Google, Kenya Revenue Authority, Centum, Kenya Power, and Unilever.

A total of 2,060 employees in different established companies participated in the research that sought to provide insights for job seekers.

Young employees aged between 25 and 34 years, mostly recent graduates, participated in the research where they accounted for 60 per cent of all those who were interviewed.

Some 60 per cent of those interviewed were found to be earning below Sh50,000, which is the amount paid in entry-level jobs.

Fifty per cent of interviewed employees were unwilling to recommend their friends and relatives to the companies they were working for, a reflection of the level of job dissatisfaction. Only about 23 per cent said they would recommend their company to job-seekers.

According to the survey, job security, pay and welfare benefits were the most important factors for employees. Other preferences included good opportunities to learn and career advancement prospects.


“We pay closer attention to the simplest of things at the workplace that can influence the attitude of employees. Things like provision of meals. We serve both breakfast and a nice meal for lunch. Most of the company’s important issues are discussed over meals in a cafeteria where we all share work experiences.

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“We strive to strengthen our graduate trainee programme each year. Last year, we had an 80 per cent retention. Out of the 81 graduates we took in, only 20 left and we hired the rest. We are putting in structures to take in even a bigger number in the coming years. I believe this is good for recent graduates and those still in school.

“Our development training is open for on-job as well as through sabbaticals for those seeking career progression. We have good structures in place that facilitate training.

“Part of what we do to enrich each other in the job is assigning complex tasks and achieving them through team work.

“This means that to get someone on board, they must prove their ability to work in a team. One must also have self-drive and such soft skills as communication, leadership and critical thinking.

“It is just unfortunate that learning institutions miss the opportunity to inculcate soft skills like self-management and critical thinking in learners. It is also evident that some learners don’t equip themselves with IT skills, which happen to be a requirement by the industry these days.

“And in line with the new competency-based curriculum, assuming that institutions of higher learning have started testing it, even though they are not required to practically teach it, it is important for graduates to note that we in the industry have also started to test on competency.

“Importantly, we are keen on knowing if the graduates can learn and have the adaptability that comes with it. We will be thrilled to have engineering graduates who can work at the customer service desk and in accounting, just by observing other do it.”

SALOME NDERITU – HR Director, Unilever East Africa

“Key to what we do to make the workers life comfortable is encouraging open plan offices for better collaboration and communication that isn’t hindered by hierarchical requirements. We also allow employees to work from different locations and take up flexible working hours. We provide special rooms for nursing mothers and allow people we report to work in non-official dress code.

“It is hard to ignore the missing links between academic qualifications and what we are looking for in recent graduates at Unilever.

“Theoretical outlook of graduates into the practical working environment is always evident when they show up for interviews. These are young people who come prepped for the interviews in a manner similar to what they learn in class, and find it difficult to bend to the particular company requirements.

“And there is an obvious need for stronger partnerships between learning institutions and the wider industry to better understand the ever-changing skillset requirements. I don’t know who should make the first move but the need is hard to ignore.

“It is interesting to note that fresh graduates look out for opportunities for quick vertical growth in their careers. They want to spend short periods in the various roles before they seek career advancements. That is why they are always looking for such opportunities as career progression, especially outside the country. It is a very admirable trait, especially among recent graduates.”

NELSON MUKURIAH, Deputy Commissioner, Human Resource Department, KRA

“KRA has systems in place for staff training and staff welfare. For wellness and fitness, we have a gym where employees have a perfect unwinding opportunity. This also helps keep them in shape and healthy.

“But much as employees say they are satisfied, they are always looking for another level of challenge. This is the challenge that most companies grapple with while trying to meet the needs of employees. This is a normal human trait, even explained in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But we always try and there is accomplishment in employees seeing the management try to achieve their next level of satisfaction.

“And these are the people we like working with. People with the right attitude above everything else. Apart from the relevant qualifications, a candidate needs to demonstrate a positive attitude and willingness to learn as well as possess high integrity. KRA upholds high values of trust, ethics, competence and usefulness and imprints them in employees. A candidate should be able to identify with these values as an aspiring employee of KRA.

“It is unfortunate that graduates these days suffer the negative outcomes of poor teaching methodologies in school that do not equip them with the right attitudes and skills. If students are taken through programmes to pass exams, they are sometimes unable to translate the book theory into practice. It is important for educational institutions to connect theory to practice to adequately prepare students for the work environment.

“Most companies solve this problem through management trainee programmes where a candidate is equipped with knowledge through training. I urge graduates to hunger for these programmes more than they look for jobs. It is the only place you can be taken in with your inefficiencies and curved into something that the industry is looking for.

“And as a recruiter, I must point out one habit portrayed by job-seekers that really annoys recruiters and dims their chances of getting considered for employment. This is sending out generic CVs and a failure to do some homework on such basic things as the company profile before they show up for the interviews.

“However, I must point out their aggressiveness in looking for opportunities and their braveness in standing up for what they believe they are worthwhile.”


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