Recruitment conundrum

30 June 2016
Author  
The never-ending recruitment puzzle for MDs, CEOs and other executive positions is ever-present in Namibia and will continue to present problems until we dig deep and address possible reasons why it happens. 
 
The recent court case involving a senior NHE official who tried to stop the appointment of the designated CEO due to alleged unfair recruitment practices stands as a typical case in point.
 
According to reports on the position of the NHE official, internal candidates weren’t given the opportunity to compete for the CEO post because the board felt that they were a part of the perceived NHE’s past failure to implement its mission.
 
Regardless of the truth in that dispute, we are concerned about the issue of how recruitment for such posts is done.
 
Can you imagine the challenges that the incoming CEO will face when he has a management team that feels he is not qualified for the post?
 
Coming from the outside to run an existing structure forces a new executive to ‘learn the ropes’ of how the institution works, very quickly.  Usually, this is learned from the existing management team. 
 
Human nature being as it is, many who are part of that same team will likely frustrate ‘the new guy’ at every turn, inevitably leading to his preoccupation in the beginning years of his term with getting rid of them.  And so it goes.
 
Then, they will challenge their dismissals or suspensions in court.  It will make for salacious headlines. But, the result will be that the new CEO won’t be able to get much NHE work done due to the administrative and legal hurdles. 
 
We believe the appointing minister will not be able to insert herself into this impending management vs. CEO and management vs. board battlefield as it is asserted by some that she is the one who earmarked the new CEO from Okahao for the NHE top post. 
 
A similar situation is brewing at Agribank where existing managers are publicly declaring that their qualifications, skills and experience with the institution should merit them a walk to the top post. 
 
A process for recruitment must be clear, unequivocal and balanced.  Even the hint of unfairness sows the seeds of future discord. 
 
The incoming executive, who arrives at a new post through questionable paths, will never have the respect of the team he/she needs to move the institution forward, regardless of whether they are qualified and talented enough to do so.
 
We look at the City of Windhoek that has gone for two years now with no CEO appointment. The jockeying and power manipulations swirling around that process is obscene in our view.  It is the template of how not to recruit an executive in Namibia.
 
With million dollar salaries and high flying perquisites on the line for CEO and MD posts, the field is ripe with jealousy, envy, outside interference and unhealthy competition. 
 
The challenge is for boards and line ministers to be proactive in anticipating these ill-winds that blow consistently in almost all recruitment processes and be firm, dedicated, quick and efficient about filling the post objectively.
 
Some boards have totally outsourced recruitment for CEOs, MDs, and senior managers to foreign or local human relations or accounting firms.  But, will this ‘outsourcing’ really work in a placement for any executive post where political issues are routinely incorporated into the mix? 
 
Will boards appointed by the government of the day have the backbone to go against a line minister who rejects the recommendations for the appointment of a foreigner or someone from the ‘wrong party’ or has the ‘wrong history’ or is the ‘wrong colour’ or ‘wrong ethnic group’ just because a recruitment process quantitatively scored them as the best choice?
 
Can you imagine a CEO of Windhoek or TransNamib or Air Namibia that is a former Koevoet? What about someone openly gay or someone from China, Zambia, Brazil or any other foreign country?
 
In these types of cases, the points received on a supposedly independent recruitment score card would likely be almost meaningless.  
 
We think that all of the recruitment consultants in the world won’t solve the conundrum of how to have clean and uncontroversial appointments to high positions in Namibia. But we need to start somewhere.
 
Recognising the problem and acknowledging why it exists, is the right place to begin.
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