resources in the crosshairs
just resources, but resourceful people
Mohamed L. Mansour
February 26, 2003
As a manager, it’s
challenge enough to formulate five- and
business plans against a background of relative stability. It’s harder
to visualize a future whose scenarios are being written by other people,
in other places, far away.
management means allowing for contingencies and finding the means to
keep organizations productive – no matter what. So while we’re
grateful for each day that passes without news of war, we’ve got to be
ready for the worst.
One of the greatest
risks a business runs in times of uncertainty and economic sluggishness
is demoralization and the subsequent loss of efficiency – a sure way
to lose even more business. So in a situation like this, it’s up to
management to motivate staff and set goals. In other words, this is an
excellent opportunity to evaluate our companies’ human resources, and
do what we can to upgrade them.
I am fortunate to
have studied in America, where some organizational skills seem to be
almost culturally transmitted. The idea of teamwork, for example, is
second nature to many Americans, as is the principle of assigning
positions and salaries based on the quality of an employee’s
But delegating responsibility also means absorbing the results of some
errors in judgment, and many traditional Egyptian organizations prefer
not to take the chance. They lose out by underestimating people, who in
turn feel disinclined to make their best effort.
and showing appreciation for staff efforts is a daily feature of
Western-style management, whereas here it’s conspicuously absent. In
fact, the process of employee-manager feedback is often entirely
ignored. People are not really “working together,” and are therefore
incapable of accomplishing goals that require cooperation.
management is not a mysterious art. It’s a combination of common sense
and basic technique. Make someone feel that they belong to an
organization, that their work is necessary and appreciated, and you’ll
have a loyal, productive employee who will rise to many a challenge.
importance of assessing and upgrading each person’s skills, of helping
your employees make the most of their talents, and you’ll have
frustrated individuals who sabotage an organization without even
realizing it, simply because of their disappointment in their employer
and themselves. “People are important” is written in many a
corporate profile, but what is being done to nurture that asset, to make
human-resource management begins even before someone gets his or her
first job. It starts – or should start – with an education that
prepares youth for the job market.
To equip young
people for better jobs, Egyptian schools will have to improve teacher
training and coursework. The business community has pointed out the lack
of market entry skills – a list that includes languages, time
management, problem solving and computer literacy. Until these areas of
study figure more prominently on educational agendas, there will be a
growing need for intensive training and supplementary schools in
But in the meantime,
employee enthusiasm, plus good training and sharp management, can
compensate for educational gaps. People are not just a “human
resource,” there to be employed and administered. People are
themselves resourceful, capable of all sorts of contributions and
achievements when given the chance, and when properly rewarded.
Indeed, taking the
time to recognize talents and optimize people’s involvement in your
business can be an even greater reward than counting the higher profits
that the business – and its human resources – are bound to generate.
Mansour is a prominent Egyptian businessman, and the president of the
American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. This article previously appeared as
a letter from the president of AmCham Egypt in Business
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