A Lesson in Work Ethics from the UK

Dec 25 , 2018
By Eden Sahle

Organisational ethics has been an essential facet in the workplace in developed nations over the past decades. The case is different for developing countries such as Ethiopia, where the work culture is unbecoming.

A nation Ethiopia can learn from is the United Kingdom, where the level of professionalism and respect for work is inspiring. Employees must constantly prove they are relevant to their employers so as not to risk being replaced. They continuously strive to keep their supervisors pleased with their performances, putting in the extra effort.

Lunch breaks are barely taken, where employees choose to spend less than 20 minutes, often working while having their meal. Assignments that have to be delivered are mostly on time, because work performed after a deadline is considered undone.

I met a British biochemist in her early forties who works as a researcher. Her husband works in another town, thus she is left to juggle a full-time job and two young sons because, unlike in Ethiopia, family support systems are rarely an option. I was impressed by her discipline as a mother and dedication to her work. Despite the challenges, she manages to make a decent living at her expensive London apartment.

Professionalism comes from discipline, reliability, competitiveness and, from the firm's side, incentives. Developed nations have proven that salaries calculated to the hour and deadlines make workers productive and committed.

Businesses in Ethiopia can follow a similar system to improve the work culture and productivity. Working efficiently should be rewarded so that it is not the exception anymore but a norm where workers deliver and earn appropriate remuneration.

The problem is most severe in the public sector where people skip work without fear of consequences and take hours for lunch breaks. Most people are not concerned about losing their jobs, basically because such a performance-driven system is unrecognisable in Ethiopia. Arguably, daily labourers in Ethiopia have a much better work ethic, working long hours under harsh conditions and pressure but, unfortunately, earning what does not provide them a decent living.

Policies on minimum wage and performance-based payments can play a significant role in promoting efficiency. There is an urgent need for Ethiopia to create such a system that encourages workers to be productive and to put an extra effort in their work. With so much happening in the world of business, impressive growth cannot be had without catching up with global standards of professionalism.

Unproductivity is a crisis Ethiopia cannot afford to ignore. The unparalleled dynamism between the United Kingdom and Ethiopia - it is never too early to compete - shows that the best systems influence best practices. New wage payment modalities and sustainable systems can fill the void in the work sector. Productivity gains are vital to long-term growth, because they translate into higher incomes, in turn boosting demand and more jobs.

Being more productive at work requires being more deliberate about how to manage time and be effective. There are studies that show taking short scheduled breaks can help improve concentration and productivity rather than long hours of breaks. It allows workers to maintain a constant level of performance. While we usually think of work stress as a bad thing, a manageable level of self-imposed stress can be helpful in terms of giving us focus and helping us meet our goals quickly.

Performance and productivity are vital for the success of any business. Regardless of the type of industry or the size of the organisation, how employees are motivated to perform tasks is critical to businesses and the workforce. Instituting a system of incentives can unlock the potential of employees, with the indirect result being economic competitiveness.

Such systems, with a primary focus on key business needs, performance and integrity, can reduce absenteeism, increase collaboration, lower turnover and improve employee engagement. Fostering a positive and engaging work culture also encourages higher levels of performance while reducing the risk of harmful or potentially destructive work behaviours.

Largely, integrity used to be perceived as a personal value to be held by the employee, rather than an ethic embraced by businesses. However, countrywide effective work ethic systems can shape culture to promote integrity.

To enable businesses to thrive, Ethiopia should embrace an authentic leadership style and organisational systems. These will promote engaged, flexible and innovative employees able to match the pace of change. Professionalism is often not convenient, yet it is ultimately the most fulfilling path to career fulfillment and higher incomes.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 25,2018 [ VOL 19 , NO 974]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

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