On HR and cul­tural adap­ta­tion

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WE ARE A RE­CRUIT­MENT and train­ing con­sul­tancy, as well as an out­sourc­ing con­sul­tancy. Our ethos is to iden­tify, de­velop and em­power ta­lent in Nige­ria, and sub-Sa­hara Africa through re­cruit­ment, per­sonal and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, as well as em­pow­er­ing in­di­vid­u­als from an en­tre­pre­neur­ial per­spec­tive.

One of the ma­jor is­sues of­ten talked about in re­la­tion to the hu­man re­sources avail­able in the Nige­rian econ­omy is the qual­ity of man­power, es­pe­cially the lack of or the de­fi­ciency in skills that are avail­able. JEN­NIFER OYE­LADE is the di­rec­tor of Tran­squisite Con­sul­tancy, a UK based hu­man re­sources con­sul­tancy firm, who, in this in­ter­view with OLUWASEUN AFO­LABI, shares her view about Nige­ria’s wor­ri­some em­ploy­ment is­sues and speaks of her de­sire to change the face of hu­man re­sources in the coun­try. Could you run us through what you do at Tran­squisite Con­sult­ing?

WE ARE A RE­CRUIT­MENT and train­ing con­sul­tancy, as well as an out­sourc­ing con­sul­tancy. Our ethos is to iden­tify, de­velop and em­power ta­lent in Nige­ria, and sub-Sa­hara Africa through re­cruit­ment, per­sonal and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, as well as em­pow­er­ing in­di­vid­u­als from an en­tre­pre­neur­ial per­spec­tive. Iden­ti­fy­ing key ta­lent for our clients en­tail sourc­ing for pro­fes­sion­als who will be an as­set to their or­gan­i­sa­tions us­ing strate­gic method­olo­gies to en­sure they are not just a tech­ni­cal fit but also demon­strate the at­tributes that em­body their or­gan­i­sa­tions’ ethos and cul­ture.

We also pro­vide a ser­vice that de­vel­ops ex­pe­ri­enced and as­pir­ing pro­fes­sion­als, us­ing our in­ter­na­tional train­ing mod­ules, en­sur­ing that they are im­ple­ment­ing in­ter­na­tional soft skills in the work­place and be­havioural com­pe­ten­cies to en­sure they are em­ploy­able in a mar­ket where the em­ploy­ment level is high and the op­por­tu­ni­ties can be scarce.

We are very big on em­pow­er­ment; as a brand we em­power pro­fes­sion­als through ca­pac­ity build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that fo­cus on pro­fes­sional/per­sonal de­vel­op­ment, and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of in­ter­na­tional busi­ness pro­cesses that em­power the lo­cal econ­omy. The over­all ob­jec­tive of this is to at­tract bi­lat­eral trade within your sec­tor and re-po­si­tion your brand as a mar­ket leader.

Prior to set­ting up op­er­a­tions in Nige­ria, I had 10 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing for a num­ber of global re­cruit­ment con­sul­tan­cies in the United King­dom such as Hays Plc, Robert Half and Geneva Health. I wanted to bring my ex­pe­ri­ence to Nige­ria and add my own quota to the de­vel­op­ment of Nige­ria in any way that I can, as well as change the face of re­cruit­ment - the way it is seen and per­ceived as a whole. Sec­ondly, to em­power as­pir­ing and es­tab­lished pro­fes­sion­als in the mar­ket place to un­der­stand that their ca­reer as­pi­ra­tions are valid and achiev­able if they are will­ing to go through the process and re­main con­sis­tent.

You said you came to Nige­ria to change the face of re­cruit­ment, so how has that been so far?

Ini­tially, it was tough, be­cause a lot of peo­ple didn’t un­der­stand the full dy­nam­ics of re­cruit­ment and its value to an or­gan­i­sa­tion. We needed to sep­a­rate the mon­e­tary as­pect and fo­cus on the value con­sul­ta­tive re­cruit­ment brings to any or­gan­i­sa­tion. At first, it was tough, es­pe­cially be­ing a new or­gan­i­sa­tion, but once we broke into the in­dus­try by ex­plain­ing the value of ser­vices, how it saves our client’s time, pro­vides mar­ket in­tel­li­gence, and adds prof­itable value by bring­ing key pro­fes­sional with its tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise and cul­tural adap­ta­tion, it started to get eas­ier.

Com­pared to com­peti­tors in this space, what makes your or­gan­i­sa­tion stand out?

I think what makes us stand out is that we en­gage our clients more as stake­hold­ers rather than act as though we have a “sup­ply and de­mand re­la­tion­ship”. En­gage in the sense that, we work with you and not for you be­cause we see each client as a part­ner. We syn­er­gize job spec­i­fi­ca­tions with pro­fes­sional cul­ture, em­pha­sis­ing on the fact that be­cause some­one has the tech­ni­cal abil­ity to do the job the ethos and the cul­ture may not fit the can­di­date or the or­gan­i­sa­tion. We also pro­vide mar­ket in­tel­li­gence for our clients based on the cur­rent busi­ness trends and mar­kets from a man­power per­spec­tive en­sur­ing that our clients are em­ployer brands and not just mar­ket lead­ers in their var­i­ous sec­tors.

We don’t use the word con­sul­tancy lightly and like to see

Tran­squisite is a con­sul­tancy and not a re­cruit­ment agency. We are ac­tu­ally in­ter­ested in what our clients do, their busi­ness ob­jec­tives, short-term and long-term goals. Be­cause we are closer to the mar­ket, we have pri­mary re­sources in mar­ket in­tel­li­gence through our en­gage­ment with can­di­dates and other rel­e­vant play­ers in their sec­tor.

What are the prob­lems you have en­coun­tered in try­ing to sat­isfy your clients?

Well, I try to see ev­ery prob­lem as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore other ar­eas that can make us suc­cess­ful in our de­liv­er­ables. The com­mon ob­sta­cle we can come across is giv­ing a spe­cific time­frame – be­cause though we work to our de­liv­er­ables, our vet­ting process is quite thor­ough so some­times we do ex­plain that while we aim to meet your spe­cific time­line we want to en­sure the qual­ity over ev­ery­thing. We en­counter prob­lems with the econ­omy, be­cause peo­ple are not sure if they want to in­vest money in re­cruit­ment, so that some­times can be an is­sue, but for us, we do not like to look at it as an ob­sta­cle, and ex­plain its ef­fi­cien­cies, and how a costly hire can be more dam­ag­ing to an or­gan­i­sa­tion if due dili­gence has not been per­formed.

What are the risks in­volved in out­sourc­ing?

There are quite a num­ber of risks in­volved be­cause though psy­cho­me­t­ric tests to test some­one’s emo­tional in­tel­li­gence and psy­cho­log­i­cal be­hav­iour are rel­e­vant screen­ing pro­cesses they do not guar­an­tee the change in the hu­man mind. If some­one de­cides to par­take in ac­tiv­i­ties con­sid­ered as gross mis­con­duct to­mor­row that will def­i­nitely fall on us as a con­sul­tancy be­cause it could be per­ceived as we didn’t do our due dili­gence. How­ever, be­cause we do not con­trol the hu­man mind, we rely on our ex­per­tise, past case stud­ies, and thor­oughly dis­sect their pain points and ca­reer as­pi­ra­tions in line with the role and or­gan­i­sa­tion we are re­cruit­ing for and find the syn­ergy.

That is the kind of risk that we are faced with, but we en­sure that we have done our part to make sure that the can­di­date does not have those ca­pa­bil­i­ties; but if we see a can­di­date that demon­strates a red flag, we will rather not en­gage and suf­fer the con­se­quences later. So, some of our look­outs are their tech­ni­cal fit, cul­tural fit, lead­er­ship qual­i­ties and as­pi­ra­tions as well as the trust in your gut, so you have to find a way to in­cor­po­rate all these fac­tors when specif­i­cally sourc­ing for a client. If some­one is go­ing to cause a red flag, and the per­son does not sit 100 per­cent com­fort­able with you, then there is a like­li­hood that some­where along the line that per­son might mess things up, so we try to find that bal­ance.

Given the state of the Nige­rian econ­omy, how have you been able to ma­noeu­vre?

Well, we’ve been able to ma­noeu­vre by iden­ti­fy­ing the needs in the econ­omy, and tai­lor­ing our ser­vices to meet that need. Even if you are not in a po­si­tion to hire and utilise our re­cruit­ment ser­vices, we work with clients to iden­tify the ar­eas they can fo­cus on which is the nur­tur­ing of ta­lent that they al­ready have through learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment. This en­sures you as a busi­ness, to main­tain a low turnover of em­ploy­ees, and in­crease your em­ployee en­gage­ment ini­tia­tives. How­ever, also note that re­gard­less of how the econ­omy is do­ing, there are cer­tain sec­tors that will still thrive be­cause they are a ne­ces­sity, such as agri­cul­ture, FMCG, ed­u­ca­tion, IT; these are some of the many sec­tors that don’t com­pletely crash with the econ­omy. So, we have been able to cope with the econ­omy be­cause I can say that our ser­vices are en­gi­neered to sup­port the suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tions of our clients ei­ther by iden­ti­fy­ing key ta­lent that will drive prof­itabil­ity or de­velop in­ter­nal em­ploy­ees through train­ing and learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes to achieve busi­ness ob­jec­tives.

What are your views on the present min­i­mum wage tus­sle?

I am of the opin­ion that there needs to be an in­crease in remuneration. Peo­ple drive the suc­cess of a busi­ness, two quotes from Richard Bran­son sig­ni­fies my stance on this. He says “Clients do not come first. Em­ploy­ees come first. If you take care of your em­ploy­ees, they will take care of the clients.” Richard Bran­son quotes clients do not come first, em­ploy­ees do. If you do not re­ward them for the con­tri­bu­tions they make to the suc­cess of your busi­ness, how can you ex­pect them to be pro­duc­tive? What loy­alty would they demon­strate to en­sure your brand re­mains a leader in its spe­cial­ism? His se­cond quote says, “Train peo­ple well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” Em­ploy­ees han­dle sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion that can make or break your busi­ness, so why can’t or­gan­i­sa­tions in­vest more in their progress. Em­ploy­ees re­main loyal when you ac­tively ap­pre­ci­ate their value and place im­por­tance on their progress.

With the cur­rent state of the econ­omy, prices are in­creas­ing but the wages are not, so how are peo­ple ex­pected to sur­vive? We speak to so many can­di­dates in the mar­ket and a few of the re­cur­ring an­swers we re­ceive when asked why they want to leave their cur­rent em­ploy­ment is that they are be­ing over­worked and un­der­paid, not ap­pre­ci­ated, and no de­fin­i­tive ca­reer pro­gres­sion and in­vest­ment in pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. Then there is also the cost of liv­ing, it is be­com­ing un­bear­able for the av­er­age salary earner to af­ford the bare ne­ces­si­ties, even some­thing as im­por­tant as their mode of trans­port to work is be­com­ing dif­fi­cult. In ar­eas you can­not af­ford an in­cre­ment, you should be able to sup­ple­ment that us­ing your em­ployee en­gage­ment strate­gies which can be very cost ef­fec­tive but makes a great im­pact within the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Okay, you have spo­ken from that per­spec­tive, let us look at it from the govern­ment’s view. The govern­ment is fac­ing var­i­ous is­sues and they are re­ally be­ing cau­tious of the in­fla­tion in­crease that could come from this in­cre­ment, so what do you think is the way out?

There are other av­enues in which they can max­imise to keep the econ­omy sta­ble; agri­cul­ture, man­u­fac­tur­ing of leather, shea but­ter and home-grown pro­duce is a big av­enue of ex­port for the coun­try. If the govern­ment fo­cuses on the nat­u­ral re­sources we have to gen­er­ate in­come for the in­di­genes of Nige­ria, there will be a bal­ance. You see a lot of multi­na­tion­als who be­lieve in the busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties that Nige­ria has and have pumped re­sources into the econ­omy as an in­vest­ment. In­ter­na­tional Govern­ment agen­cies such as the Ja­panese Ex­change Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion (JETRO) and cham­bers of com­merce, such as Nige­rian-Bri­tish Cham­bers of Com­merce, have also set up op­er­a­tions that pro­mote bi­lat­eral trade be­tween their coun­try and Nige­ria, so, why can’t there be ini­tia­tives set up to en­gage those or­gan­i­sa­tions be­cause they are will­ing to in­vest, if not they would not be here in the first place. Other coun­tries see the po­ten­tial Nige­ria has, but are we max­imis­ing those op­por­tu­ni­ties? The govern­ment should be look­ing to max­imise these op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause we have the bar­gain­ing chip, we have the sup­ply to foster and main­tain their de­mands.

You are in the know-how of this sec­tor, any­time we see a strike, it is mostly be­cause of min­i­mum wage tus­sle, does this have to hap­pen all the time for the govern­ment to look to­wards ad­just­ing the min­i­mum wage?

There should be a mech­a­nism; you do not have to push peo­ple to the wall to feel that they have to go on strike for their voices to be heard. There are labour laws that gov­ern things like in­cre­ment and gov­ern what should be done from a labour per­spec­tive, it is not like the laws are not there, but they need to be made a manda­tory re­quire­ment that busi­ness needs to ad­here to be in op­er­a­tion. So, I be­lieve that there has to be a mech­a­nism that should be made a le­gal re­quire­ment be­cause if that is the case, every­body will ad­here to those le­gal re­quire­ments and there won’t be is­sues of em­ploy­ees be­ing dis­grun­tled be­cause they know that there is a sys­tem in place.

What do you think the govern­ment can do to re­duce the level of un­em­ploy­ment in the coun­try?

The govern­ment needs to in­vest more in hu­man ca­pac­ity de­vel­op­ment and set-up more agen­cies that fo­cus on giv­ing its’ in­di­genes busi­ness grants one lo­cal govern­ment at a time. If lead­ers at the state level, can start from just the ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion for youth and train them in the sales and ba­sic ac­count­ing for the sale of lo­cal pro­duce they can grad­u­ally up­scale and part­ner with both lo­cal and whole­sale buy­ers and dis­trib­u­tors. The growth of Nige­ria stems from the growth in its peo­ple, pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties within the na­tion to grow and peo­ple will stop look­ing out­side Nige­ria for greener pas­tures.

We en­counter prob­lems with the econ­omy, be­cause peo­ple are not sure if they want to in­vest money in re­cruit­ment, so that some­times can be an is­sue

Oye­lade

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