With over 20 years of experience in Nigeria’s personal consulting sector, Tunde Johnson is the chief executive operator of Tusen Consulting.
In this interview, he accesses the challenges and opportunities facing Nigeria’s consulting sector, the impact of technology, the advantages of outsourcing and how to prepare for the new crop of the workforce – the millennials and Gen Z’s. Dipo Oladehinde brings excerpts:
Matching skills and talents with key players in the industries where they are needed is a task that most companies are increasingly outsourcing. How does your firm put up with this demand?
We are an HR solutions provider delivering solutions to flexible staffing and career resources to companies and individuals. The company has existed for over 20 years and continues to grow stronger year after year. We are the only HR solutions provider in Nigeria that provides a comprehensive range of services from general to highly specialised staffing needs, as well as temporary and permanent placement.
What inspired the setting up of this organisation?
I was the Vice President of corporate affairs for Adecco, the global leader in the HR services space when I was asked to take over responsibility for our fledgling businesses in Africa in 2001. We subsequently set up a subsidiary in Nigeria because we had a client who needed our services there. This was Sagem, a French company that was engaged for the identity card project in Nigeria starting in 2002. Adecco Nigeria evolved into Tusen Consulting as a result of a management buyout in 2007.
How would you describe the personnel consulting sector in Nigeria?
I would say the industry is at a very early stage of development in this part of the world. The market size of the global HR and recruitment services industry is $761.6 billion. Africa is only a tiny percentage of that market. There is still a limited understanding of what we bring to the table in Africa. Consequently, we have a lot of sensitisation to do. The high rate of unemployment and skills shortage would suggest that there is huge scope for our industry on this continent.
What are the significant changes you have witnessed in the industry over the years?
I would say that there is a lot more professionalism within the industry. This fact has been aided by the need for a licence from the government to operate within the industry. With the increasing struggle for talent, companies understand that they need an edge to help manage their human capital. That edge can be enhanced by specialist companies like Tusen.
What would you say is your biggest achievement as an organisation?
Our greatest achievement has been the loyalty and cooperation that we have been privileged to foster with our clients, associates and colleagues. Many of our clients have been with us for more than 10 years of collaboration and partnership. They trust us to do the right things. Trust and confidence have been nurtured over the years.
What are the main challenges facing the personnel services industry now?
The Small and medium size companies, the engine for growth in any economy, need to be engaged in understanding how the new world of work can help shape their businesses. I was involved with a project we did with Mckinsey’s in Europe some years back about the contribution of private employment agencies in Europe and we found that a significant number of projects would not have been undertaken by companies without access to a flexible workforce. Companies need to understand the benefits of flexibility in their management of human capital. In the same vein, there needs to be more transparency in the provision of financial data to help all parties appreciate the liabilities they are faced with.
How has technology impacted your sector?
As in all aspects of life, technology has been positive in the main. For example, within our sector, it helps in accelerating the processing of data. We utilise proprietary technology for payrolling and testing. In particular with testing, we can not only test the ability to perform a function, but we can also get an insight into what motivates the individual to do a job.
Do you see technology replacing your services?
Our business is about people and the human touch is always critical in that relationship. So, I don’t see technology replacing our services. Of course, there are elements of our service delivery that are aided by technology but human relations is not about the numbers, it’s ultimately about the ability to empathise with and relate to people.
What are the advantages of companies outsourcing their personnel services?
The more successful, forward-looking companies realise that they need to focus on their core business and let the experts in human resourcing help support their needs. There is also a school of thought that companies should focus on the top 30 percent of their performing staff. The rest can be managed by an organisation like Tusen which can help find the balance between the needs of the company and that of the individual without creating tension.
Nigeria is currently losing talent across all sectors due to migration abroad for better opportunities. How does this impact you?
Being able to maintain your staff is all about the quality of work and work-life balance. Companies must focus on the things which they can influence to attract the best candidates. There are some things that are outside the control of the employer.
The grass always seems to be greener on the other side, but when people get to know the realities of life in the developed world they will think twice.
They should ask themselves first why there are so many expatriates calling Nigeria home who do not want to leave. I remember when there was the recession in the West around 2007/2009 many Nigerians were looking to come back home because things were better here. It’s a cyclical thing and one hopes that now that the main elections have wrapped up, we will see a rebound in the fortunes of the country and economic development.
How can companies better prepare for the new crop of the workforce – the millennials and Gen Z’s?
Flexibility is the watchword, both companies and individuals must be flexible in their approach to the new world of work. The traditional 9 to 5 working pattern is changing as well as the structure of the work environment.
This was significantly illustrated during the covid pandemic when the world had to take a pause. Companies found different ways to maintain business continuity. We must continue to learn from that as well as other experiences with the young and the economic realities in order to shape a new world at work.
How do you think firms such as Tusen Consulting can back the government and other stakeholders in developing programmes that create jobs?
We have a global experience that we can leverage and share in terms of employment creation. I have worked with governments in the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain, European Union, China, and South Africa, among others, to shape legislation for a new world at work and to give the unemployed a stepping stone into the labour market. We have worked with the unions and other stakeholders to evolve solutions for the new world at work that balances the needs of employers and employees.
Do you have any international affiliations?
We maintain a relationship with Adecco SA in helping to service clients in Nigeria that they have a global agreement and cannot service locally. We still have access to established contacts with the World Employment Confederation (formerly CIETT, the confederation for private employment agencies of which I was an officer for many years).
Do you intend to leverage strategic partnerships now or in the future?
We have been looking at strategic alliances and commercially viable joint ventures, acquisitions etc. We have very strict expectations in terms of due diligence as we do not compromise the way in which we do business. Consequently, that is always an open door for the right reasons and fit.
What is the outlook for your sector in 2023 and beyond?
The outlook for 2023 and beyond is actually quite positive. I think a lot of economic activity will increase now. I have always believed in the idea of the Nigerian economy being managed by an invisible hand as defined by the economist Adam Smith. In other words, despite some of the challenging decisions and omissions in managing the local economy by the government, somehow, we seem to survive and thrive. I am an optimist for a positive future for Nigeria and Tusen Consulting is here to stay for the long term.