Invest in employee education

Here in East Africa there’s never been a lack of interest in training. Twenty years ago diners seeing the Training Levy added to their restaurant bill used to joke:  ‘Good heavens, we’re not still training him are we?’

Graduands during Moi University’s 24th Graduation ceremony presided over by the institution’s Chancellor Prof Bethwel Ogot on December 10, 2009. JARED NYATAYA (Eldoret).

A substantial training industry has been created, and employees delight in ‘going for a training’ and having a few days out of the workplace. But training has its limitations: not least if there is no follow up in measuring of improved performance. And too much training investment is still discretionary and too many attendees nominated for the wrong reason. John from Accounts is threatening to leave? Send him on training.

Usually training aims to improve a specific technical skill: how to work a booking system or drive a forklift safely. None of it really grows employee capacity. Opens their eyes to new possibilities, or prepares them for higher responsibility. They are rooted in making a better job of the present.

Which is why I was inspired by news of a programme introduced by the folks at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Europe.KFC has become the latest UK employer to offer degree apprenticeships, allowing staff to work and study at the same time to achieve a university degree. Course fees, travel and accommodation costs are covered by the company.

Launched this summer with a first cohort of 10, they are open to all staff having at least five GCSEs (a secondary qualification examined at age 15). So on most working days the chosen 10 will be frying chicken using the famous but no-longer-so secret recipe. But for two days every month the group will switch to a university campus to study Marketing, Management or Finance.

After four years, supplemented with online learning, coursework and support from a workplace mentor, they will graduate with a BA Honours degree in Business Management plus Chartered Manager status. Cody Cluff, KFC Head of Personnel for UK & Ireland, says, “We are hugely proud of the degree apprenticeship programme. It will help nurture the talent we need for the future.”

To understand why I find this programme particularly inspiring, you need to adjust your local perceptions of KFC. Here in East Africa the brand has a more premium position than it does in Europe. There the customers of KFC are what the global aid community would classify as BOP – bottom of the (socio-economic) pyramid. And if the customers are BOP, then so is the staff.

So what we have here is a global food company investing in tertiary education for BOP employees. Pretty cool I’d say. I wish them well and I hope that their investment is complemented by an internal development programme that makes sure employees have the opportunity to give back.



Chris leads the Brand Inside’s African operations.


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