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Coronavirus Pandemic Era And Corporate Management, Through The Eyes Of An HRM In The Construction Industry

Coronavirus Pandemic Era And Corporate Management, Through The Eyes Of An HRM In The Construction Industry

And for me the innovative thing that Covid has brought us is quite exciting – people having to be at home and work”, Nana Yaa Boateng, HR Manager, Krane Construction Ltd.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has hit the entire globe, and Ghana especially since last year, 2020, Real Estate Times Africa (RETAfrica) has being engaging with businesses in the real estate sector to find out how they have fared businesswise. As much as businesses are concerned, specifically in the real estate sector, management of staff in these difficult times has not been easy from 2020 through to this year, 2021. Therefore new management skills ought to be employed to keep businesses going. Yvette Appiah of Real Estate Times Africa caught up with Madam Nana Yaa Boateng, Human Resource Manager of Krane Construction Ltd. (Building Contractors, Civil Engineers), and shares some revealing insights into Corporate Management and the Covid-19 pandemic journey. Enjoy your read below:

Yvette Appiah: How did business fare last year, 2020 especially with the onset of Covid-19?

Madam Nana Yaa Boateng:We definitely have been affected if not badly. The whole of last year we didn’t have new contracts at all and most of the jobs at hand got completed with clients unable to honour payment certificates. Clients whose projects were completed three to four years ago still owe us. Such situations have a negative ripple effect on the payment of our creditors (suppliers) and  made it very tough for us to operate. So we barely kept ourselves above water till 2021.


Outstanding salaries,

 “During the lock down period, what do you do? So we proposed and negotiated half payment for April 2020. Of cause security staff were an exception to this. Beyond lockdown, we’ve had head office staff on shifts. Usually the challenge is how do you treat such people? We also took the opportunity to grant unclaimed and deferred leaves due to the nature of our business. If the exigencies of work requires so, employees may accrue for a year or two. So during the period we made sure most people who had their leave outstanding left; and if you did not have the leave, you worked; so that is how we did the shift and I think we are still doing it.

As I said, we had a peculiar situation because, we had salaries delayed before the pandemic hit the country. I remember for last year, there was a point where we had four months’ salary outstanding.   And so when you were to pay, even though April was due, we had to skip it – I mean if you owe four months of salary beginning with April which is half, and you are now able  to pay  two months out of that, you have to skip April and pay May and June that are in full. Eventually  April was paid together with  July. So these are some of the things we had to do. Last year was tough for us as a company and we can only be hopeful.”

Yvette Appiah: Who were the frontline staff who had to be at post?

Madam Nana Yaa Boateng: “The production team on site, drivers, mechanics, store keepers and securities. We had a shift system for some staff for example our drivers, mechanics and head office staff as I mentioned. 

Yvette Appiah: How do you mean if you say the impact of Covid-19 has also been emotional and stressful?

Madam Nana Yaa Boateng: “It has been very stressful and even sometimes emotional. Emotional in the sense that having to be in my position and knowing that staff have not been paid, and they come to me with all sorts of domestic situations. Managing site staff was even tougher for our project and site managers who had to encourage trades men to work with non-payment of salaries and you know how that feels. One did not have any option when someone calls you to say there is no money for transport to even come to work. It was difficult because you are expecting money from a client who hasn’t paid for the same Covid-19 reasons. An example, is a client for whom we were building apartments and townhouses for sale. The pandemic had affected funding for the project as their financiers could no longer send funds from abroad. So they have to market the properties here, you know, everything just came to a standstill. When that happens, we also cannot meet our obligations.

Yvette Appiah: Nowadays, they say a coin even has three sides, would you say Covid-19 for the past year and running also has another side, a good side?

Madam Nana Yaa Boateng:I think that we just have to be more flexible and find better means of working. And for me the innovative thing that Covid has brought us is quite exciting – people having to be at home and work.  I have actually pushed for that here. For instance on certain days depending on my schedule, I can afford to work from home. Coming in actually poses a risk to my health, I stand the risk of catching the infection. “Setting daily targets for those working at home may be the way forward”, I said to one of my bosses. Manhours will be lost but the employee cannot bear it all. We need to meet each other halfway; unless we are happy for employees to go and find jobs elsewhere. I am pushing more of being flexible on workers especially in these times when we have few months salaries outstanding. And it’s not like we don’t want to pay them, we just cannot, clients are not paying us. So when you have an employee who hasn’t come to work. It is nice for you to listen to the person and get to know the person’s challenges. And some of them you can’t even solve, but cutting the person’s salary just because they couldn’t attend and being so hard on the person is not the way forward.”

Yvette Appiah: You are a true HR in these difficult times – you speak for both management and the people.

Madam Nana Yaa Boateng: “I try and that is what makes the whole HR role a challenge to be well managed. And my people are tough, so you can imagine. They are not used to this new HR ways of doing things, family life, and programmes and things. And also financially very, very difficult to push even such policies.   So you just have to be flexible, utilise more of the soft skills in dealing with people at all levels in the company. You need to ask them…so for instance I like to be professionally friendly with the staff. Not just “hello, how are you?” and I walk out. [Rather], “hello, how are you? How is the family? Sometimes they tell you. So for me as tough as it is, this is how am managing it.

So there is a good side of it, the good side is it is making management look at the more empathetic ways of dealing with employees.

Yvette Appiah: The Government last year promised some stimulus packages for some businesses, did you benefit?

Madam Nana Yaa Boateng: We didn’t enjoy any Government package.

Yvette Appiah: What are your expectations as a business for 2021?

Madam Nana Yaa Boateng: “I think 2021 looks good because, we have secured one or two jobs that have commenced. Others are in the pipeline and are currently in the pre contract stages.  We are hoping that more jobs will be awarded to enable us manage our cashflows and operations effectively. We wish same for our clients in their endeavours so they are able to pay us what is owed. So we are all positive and hopeful.”


Appeal To Keep Covid-19 Protocols

“We pray and hope that we all keep adhering to the safety protocols, so this Covid situation doesn’t get worse, because another lockdown will hit us bigger than before. I cannot speak for any other company but this is us as a company…haa…haaa…haa”.



Source: Yvette Appiah (Journalist, Real Estate Times Africa)

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