Headhunting: improper, or otherwise?

Not so long ago, I met a touring American who said that their job is head hunting employees for both local and foreign employers based in Uganda. It didn’t mean much to me. “That is how they do it wherever they come from.” I thought, until I spent a weekend with the head of the best paying legal department (I mean double-figure, and six zeros league) in the country, and they too were head hunting.

Listening to them, I felt that, at least from most of her sharing, there were a whole lot of sacrifices of the traditional, prudent, due diligence methodologies required when taking on new employees.

As the head of a legal department in a government parastatal I felt that they had carried their ways from law firms and immediately applied them without that much of revision, as was the case with one of their employees who said they were “outsourced” by way of a phone call, from a leading law firm, to this department. He was later to confess that he is only there for the money and a few years.

In a country like ours, where millions of endlessly queuing but potentially qualifying employees are systematically culled for the benefit of their head hunted and already employed colleagues, head hunting necessitates both an examination and a re-examination – a continuous one.

Head hunting is not necessarily bad honestly. It is the most convenient way by which one can get the crème de la crème that they need. However, picking from a pool, one made up of applications from the general public and testing them on the basis of their otherwise ignored capabilities is even more appealing.

In the case of the former, the chosen are bound to entertain sentiments of entitlement as they are eternally reminded of their very best qualities. Here is how, a firm chooses those it believes are the best, and assigns them responsibilities. When they perform well, they are reminded of how good they really are by the increasing weight of the bonuses they realize from their turnovers. The worst-case scenario is if and when they are of the save relations. It becomes an exclusive body of persons, one in tune with the purpose and vision of their employer, but, sadly, in exclusion of a hungry society, pregnant with service.

Section 23 of the Employment Act, 2006 is to the effect that a person shall not be employed under a contract except in accordance with the Act. As if to lay more emphasis to it, Section 27 of the same Act provides that any variation or exclusion of provisions of the Act will be void. Importantly, Section 38, which provides for recruitment permits, is to the effect that any person or agent or messenger shall not engage in the business of operating a recruitment agency unless he or she is in possession of a valid recruiting permit.

It is safe to assume that those engaging in head hunting are violating Section 38, and with effect both Sections 27 and Section 23. An impression developed from reading the Act is that it, for example, in detailing the procedure of termination of a contract of employment favors the employees more than it does the employer upon whom it places several responsibilities it becomes really hard to beat an employee except where they have a really bad case.

The major criticism of the Act is that it treats all employment contracts as the same yet the nature of employment differs. What head hunting may achieve for more skill demanding acts, it may not for low level employment.

In creativity where it is widely known that advertisements for jobs are run in public media after the same positions being advertised have been taken up, and, also, in a country without job centers, it is, therefore, incumbent upon those who rely on head hunting to be mindful of the rest of the population beyond their own castes or circles, and to do so after sieving from them. Preferably, with help from those who still rely on the genuine traditional public engaging calls for submissions of applications for positions of employment. Lest, head hunting turns into an exclusive method, one which strategically aims at isolating those who may would have deserved the same opportunities.


This article appears in our weekly law digital magazine, The Deuteronomy, Vol 7 Issue 3 of October 21st, 2016

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