High inflation, which has increased the cost of doing business in Africa’s most populous nation, is forcing employers to opt for more workers who are generalists than specialists.
According to a BusinessDay interview with some human resources consultants and professionals, this move helps to reduce their spending as well as maximise and optimise human resources and skills for growth and sustainability of their businesses.
“Employers are trying to minimise their costs by looking more for generalists than specialists,” Ogugua Belonwu, founder and chief executive officer at MyJobMag, said.
He said the demand for generalists usually boils down to the company’s size, adding that smaller companies looking to scale usually employ them.
“There is also a rise in companies’ spend for internal training in a bid to train employees to perform various tasks,” he said.
Generalists, usually referred to as “jacks of all trade”, are people who have broad general knowledge and skills in several areas, while specialists have special knowledge and skills relating to a particular job or area of study.
An article by InnovationManagement.se, one of the internet’s preeminent resources for innovation news and best practices, says a generalist can help see the bigger picture and come up with ideas and solutions that benefit the business as a whole.
“In a fast-changing workplace, transferable skills are becoming increasingly important and generalists tend to possess more transferable skills,” it said.
It said businesses are constantly taught about the importance of scalability. “But this isn’t just important for the organisation; it is also essential for its workforce, and transferable skills come in handy in many situations.”
Olamide Adeyeye, a Lagos-based human development researcher, said compared to previous years, 2023 will be a test for mastery and role enrichment, where one person will be doing two roles and will be paid more.
“In every organisation, the biggest line items around expenditure are usually human resources. So, there will be a lot of trimming around human resources this year,” he said.
Adeyeye added that in terms of the tech skills that are required, nothing more will change because it is still a digitally driven economy.
Last year, the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war, which started in February, pushed Nigeria’s inflation rate to 21.34 percent in December 2022, the highest in 17 years, from 21.47 percent in the previous month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
This has squeezed consumers’ purchasing power, making many poorer. The multidimensional poverty index report released in November shows that 133 million people are poor in health, education and two other dimensions.
The high inflationary pressure is one of the major economic headwinds that led to a slow growth in salaries and wages for employees. They grew by the slowest pace since the third quarter of 2020 to 3.93 percent in Q2 2022 from 6.48 percent in the previous quarter, according to the NBS.
“The sessions and retreats that I have attended from November till today, the talk of inflation keeps coming up because a lot of organisations are looking at the money side of it,” Kemi Ogunkoya, a leadership development strategist, said.
She however said the money side would not sustain companies anymore. “We have to start looking for holistic interventions that would cater for the body, mind and soul of the lifetime of employees within the organisations.”
Read also: What Nigeria can do to tame inflation, says Niyi Yusuf
Tech and digital skills like software development and engineering, machine learning, data analysis, search engine optimisation, web development, strategic management, business intelligence, user experience and financial analysis are still in demand by companies.
Jennifer Oyelade, director at Transquisite Consulting, said that in 2023, people need to increase their level of diversity in skills, add more leadership, project management, and cross functional courses that will elevate their careers.
“It is not just what their core expertise is, but the general expertise that can add value to the current work place,” she said.
Last year, the talent exodus from the country, popularly know as ‘japa’ (a Yoruba word for “run quickly”), disrupted office processes in the banking, telecoms and other sectors, forcing employers to rethink work conditions and recruitment processes.
It has led to adjustments in employment criteria and work arrangements, increased the demand for technical and digital skills, and shifted more attention to employees’ mental health, upskilling and reskilling local talent, among others.