Zimbabwe: Employee Confidence Drops

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Since 2009 Industrial Psychology Consultants has been undertaking a Quarterly Employee Confidence Survey. Employee Confidence is defined as the extent to which employees perceive their organisation as being effectively managed and competitively positioned.

It also refers to whether or not employees believe they have a promising future with their organisation; that is if there is job security given the current performance of their organisation as well as the macro-economic performance of the country. 905 Zimbabwean employees participated in our survey this quarter.

Our research revealed that Employee Confidence Index for the first quarter of 2012 is 58,18 percent. Only six out of 10 employees feel the general employment environment is improving. This represents a 0,92 percent decline in Employee Confidence when compared to the Employee Confidence Index in December 2011 (59,10percent); this the second drop in the Index since dollarisation - the other drop was noted in the first quarter of 2011.

Despite the slight decrease in Employee Confidence levels, we should not disregard the fact that our Index is still indicative of positive confidence levels amongst Zimbabwean employees. An analysis of Employee Confidence Dimensions this quarter reveals that employees have inconsistent perceptions of the various indices assessed. What we are seeing is a general confidence amongst employees in the recovery of the economy.

The Employee Confidence Index fluctuates with time and its trend is an important indication of the production and economic development of the nation. However, job security levels and confidence in employers remains low - rightly so; the recovery path has not been as smooth as expected and industry still continues to face serious viability challenges.

The graph below shows the result for the four employee confidence indices assessed.

Reports suggest that the economy grew by 9,70 percent in the first quarter. Although this is positive, various economic developments occurred that continue to threaten the recovery process.

In particular we noted four things that may have affected employee confidence in the macro-economy, namely:

1. A poor agricultural season and its impact on food price inflation and the current account.

2. Increase in civil servant allowances

3. The possibility of holding/ not holding elections

4. Limited and inconsistent electricity supply

Protracted illiquidity in the economy, dwindling cash inflows to the fiscus, an ailing agriculture and manufacturing industry and a huge debt burden amongst other factors continue to threaten the economic recoveries made to date.

Employees have considered these factors in assessing whether the economy is indeed stabilising and improving. Our survey also requested employees to list things that are causing them stress (in other words, their dominant stress factor.) The dominant stress factor among Zimbabwean employees is career development. 28,20 percent of the respondents cited developing their careers as their main concern. 23,80 percent cited job insecurity as a major concern.

Of these 17,70 percent said they were actively looking for another job. 6,01 percent said though insecure, they would rather stay with their current employers. When compared to December 2011, the result for the quarter under review suggests a 0,80 percent decrease in the number of respondents that view job insecurity as a major concern. A staggering 13,90 percent said their main concern causing stress was the management style of their current employer.

In addition, of interest is the response to a new stress factor that was added in the last quarter, that is, corruption and increasing lawlessness. 7,60 percent of the respondents said corruption and increasing lawlessness was their dominant stress factor.

Industrial Psychology Consultants notes that the times ahead will be very much unpredictable. It is very difficult to tell what the economic outcome of the forthcoming election will be. Whether elections are held/ not held this year, investors (both local and international) are likely to take a cautious approach to their participation in the economy. This will negatively affect the forecasts the treasury has made on GDP growth and ultimately how employees view the economy.

An area that needs urgent attention is power generation. Inconsistent and unreliable electricity supply threatens to reverse production and productivity gains made since dollarisation. Though outside the scope of the quarter under review, an interesting ruling was passed at the Labour Court - the Labour Court allowed companies to enter into agreements with their workers to pay their workers only for the time worked due to ZESA power cuts in order to save the companies from collapse. The effect and impact of this ruling remains to be seen though initial predictions suggest the impact to be disastrous on both employees and employers alike.

Memory Nguwi is the Managing Consultant of Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm.

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