Malawi Friday joins the rest of the world in commemorating Labour Day. Our reporter Taonga Sabola caught up with Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) immediate past president Buxton Kayuni to explain the importance of labour in production.
How important is labour as a factor of production?
We are all aware that according to economic theory there are three main Factors of production land, labour and capital. Modern theorists now add entrepreneurship and time. However you put it, Labour is very key.
Labour is basically people together with its important attributes of skills set, knowledge base and competency levels amongst other things.
Unlike land and capital, labour reacts, thinks, feels, smells and gets emotional and as such you need to treat it significantly different from the other factors of production.
In fact, the other significant difference is that it is labour (people) that drives and manages the other two factors of production. That’s how tricky labour is.
It is on this basis that labour management is very critical to organisational effectiveness. As an employer we have realised that we need to manage labour in such a way that we balance organisational effectiveness with the needs of the people that we employ.
Previously under personnel management, labour was literacy taken as a factor of production at the same level with land and capital. ‘Push’ labour to the limit, be ‘strict’ with it, give it “money” and ‘measure its output per second’ and it will give you the results that you want.
Nowadays under Human Resource Management, the approach is different.
We, as employers, now focus on the soft Human Resorce Management dimensions of motivation, employee engagement, job satisfaction, personal development and involvement and participation.
This is all about ‘massaging’ our labour.
Often times, employees have disagreements with employers. What is the best way to handle those disagreements to maintain harmony in the work place?
Actually the last part of the response above takes me to the issue of contact and dialogue. Numerous research by labour experts such as Armstrong and others have empirically confirmed that productivity in an organisation increases with high participation of employees.
Get them to be part of the decision making processes within the organisation especially on matters that involve them.
Involve unions or in their absence their equivalent workers representation structures so that you enhance the employee voice in an organisation.
This is the fundamental ingredient in social dialogue in organisations. Constant dialoguing between management and staff in an organisation is associated with low strike and lockout rates.
There is empirical evidence to this assertion as well. Industrial peace leads to more productivity.
The only challenge is that this concept is relatively new in Malawi and hence we still have sporadic incidences where employees take advantage of this industrial freedom and act outside laid down procedures or law.
This will die with time as more and more resources are placed to educate employees on their industrial freedom and how to constructively use the same to address their needs.