Kenya and incentive programmes: An inside perspective

Kenya is making waves not only with local markets, but also in the international economic community.

This was pointed out in our previous article on the East and Central African powerhouse. It is no exaggeration to assert that Kenya is quickly moving towards being a veritable African emerging market.

Kenyan development is rapidly moving from strength to strength, and local businesses are growing at a phenomenal pace. In this competitive environment, incentives may just be the tool to give any enterprise the much needed competitive edge. This is to say that the correct incentive programme motivates employees, drives sales, increases morale and aids in the retention of talented employees.

In terms of business etiquette, Kenyan culture values interpersonal relationships rather than impersonal and digital exchanges of information. It is therefore imperative that foreigners operating in the region build strong interpersonal relationships with partners before discussing business proposals. It should also be borne in mind that whereas many Kenyans have “day jobs”, several also embark on business ventures in their own time.

The latter fact speaks to the fact that Kenyans are, by nature, hard workers and have a natural flair for the entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit, in turn, has had a profound effect on Kenya‘s economy as a whole: diligence and innovation are a highly-prized virtues.

Some examples of prominent Kenyan business leaders include:

1. Chris Kirubi – industrialist and media tycoon

He is passionate about youth mentorship and personally engages with young Kenyans through differing media, such as his own radio show and personal Twitter and Facebook accounts.

2. Bob Collymore – CEO of Safaricom

Collymore leads Kenya’s largest telecom company, Safaricom. Its success is not just in the creation of the revolutionary M-Pesa, but also in the branding of Safaricom as a proudly Kenyan company. Safaricom and M-Pesa are now as Kenyan as tea.

3. Manu Chandaria – industrialist

He leads the Comcast Group which for over 60 years has successfully focused on core products essential to every African’s life. The Comcast Group produces aluminium for sufurias (cooking pots) and mabati roofing, while also producing steel and plastics. It’s hard to find a Kenyan home without at least one of his company’s products.

How can incentives add value to a business?

Incentives are often based on the level of a professional within an organisation. Entry level Kenyan employees are much more responsive to cash or M-Pesa awards whereas mid-level employees are motivated by gifts/rewards such as cell phones and vouchers. Executive level employees are motivated by rewards such as trips that have an exclusivity status.

Kenyan workers are also motivated by public recognition from their bosses or executives. Company culture can be very family-oriented so praise from an executive is similar, in a sense, to a parental figure’s approval. Like many workers around the world, Kenyans appreciate acknowledgement from their peers. But tangible awards need to be meaningful as well, as Kenyans are focused on additional revenue streams, and the impact of cash, especially through M-Pesa, should not be overlooked.

Incentives provide a means for company leaders to engage with their employees in a significant and profitable way. The keyword here is ‘engagement’ –  employers that are disengaged will not receive answers as to why their employees are not motivated. But if an incentive programme is in place they will be able to ascertain clearly as to how employees want to be recognised and motivated. This, in turn, will increase employee performance.

Currently, incentives are a somewhat fresh new concept in the country’s business environment, and businesses that identify their value stand to gain through higher productivity rates. Another area of improvement will be in the stronger relationships developed within the various power structures.

Incentives in Kenya can, undoubtedly, add to a company’s performance levels, giving them a competitive edge over organisations operating in the same markets.

David Sand is the founder and CEO of Uwin Iwin, an incentive, loyalty and employee engagement specialist company with offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, India, and Brazil.