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 as 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.