‘Nigeria’s educational system should spark creativity and innovation’

LANRE ONASANYA is the executive director and chief executive of H.C Bonum. In this interview with JOSEPHINE OKOJIE, he spoke about his organisation and how the country’s workforce could quickly adapt to the 21st-century workplace.

Can you tell us a bit about H.C. Bonum? H.C. Bonum is a performance- oriented management consulting company focused on supporting organizations in maximizing productivity and ultimately, achieving better results through human capital. We work with clients in different industries — energy, power, utilities, financial services, manufacturing, food and beverage, telecommunications, information technology, and healthcare among others — as well as public sector institutions, to develop capabilities (knowledge, skills, attitudes, strategies, and working methods) that drive performance improvement at individual, team and enterprise levels. Our team comprises savvy entrepreneurs and seasoned business professionals with experience working with Fortune 500 companies and a solid track record in exceeding client expectations. We possess highly complementary skills and deep experience in coaching executives, developing leaders, building cohesive and collaborative teams, facilitating strategic meetings, shaping organisation culture, and improving performance management systems.

What inspired the establishment of H.C. Bonum?

What started as a chance meeting of two strangers in February 2012 has evolved into almost a decade of collaboration and the birth of an idea called H.C. Bonum Limited. After collaborating for three and a half years, the founders decided to take their collaborative efforts to the next level by co-founding a new organization that merged their two legacy companies and leveraged their collective and complementary strengths. In May 2015, H.C. Bonum was incorporated as a performance-oriented management consultancy. For those who are wondering about the name, the word ‘Bonum’ has its origin in Latin and is synonymous with the nouns good, advantage, endowment, and benefit, and it represents the impact that the company seeks to have on individuals, teams, organizations, and communities and the ‘H.C’ stands for Human Capital.

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As an organisation focused on developing the workforce for the future, what is your assessment of the Nigerian business environment? The Nigerian business environment is incredibly resilient, energetic, and innovative. The reality is that despite all the challenges, we have seen local talents develop to the point where they can consistently compete globally. In many cases, we have worked with multinational clients to develop local talents and then have the talents poached by other affiliates within the group. It is no mistake that in the Diaspora, you see Nigerians distinguishing themselves at the very highest levels in all fields of endeavour. We fundamentally believe in the raw talent of the Nigerian workforce.

How does your organisation support businesses in achieving increased productivity and better results through their human capital?

We have successfully worked with companies of different sizes, in different sectors and different countries to enhance their people performance and prepare their workforce for the new world of work by reskilling and up-skilling their human skills through the provision of performance consulting, training, team building, executive coaching, and business meeting (conferences and retreat) facilitation services. We take a very bespoke methodology that is tailored to understanding each organization’s culture, philosophies, and nuances whilst taking into consideration the personalities of the organization’s stakeholders.

What are the peculiarities that hinder the Nigerian workforce from being prepared for future work?

So, the reality is that the world has been ushered into the fourth industrial revolution (also known as the gig economy) and the digital future will be driven by high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and cloud technology, one thing is clear – the workforce of the future will look nothing like the workforce of today and Nigeria must be ready for this transition. The provision of adequate technological infrastructure in addition to other basic amenities like electricity that will constitute a conducive business environment for promoting a competitive national workforce is one peculiarity that may hinder the Nigerian workforce. Professionals having to provide these infrastructures for themselves will most likely reduce the speed of the adaptation of the Nigerian workforce and/ or increase the relative cost of labour. The World Economic Forum (WEF) in its 2018 Future of Jobs report estimated that 75 million existing jobs will be lost, and 133 million new jobs will be created.

This reality of the changing nature of work has significant implications for human capacity development for individuals, organizations, and nations. The report also stressed that beyond technical skills, the workforce of the future will require strong human skills such as effective communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, agile learning, initiative, resilience, emotional intelligence, social influence, and service orientation to be future proof. The focus of the Nigerian educational system on purely technical skills is another peculiarity that may hinder her workforce.

How do you think the government can address some of these peculiarities?

It is our belief that the future of work requires a mindset shift that starts with revisiting the school curriculum – from primary to universities and vocational education. Nigeria’s educational system must start to include concepts that can better spark creativity and innovation, along with other soft skills. Additionally, the provision of technological infrastructure and lessons on (even adoption of technology where possible) will go a long way to preparing young minds for the global playing field that is slowly emerging.

With COVID-19 raging and businesses struggling, what extra value will you add to a business apart from consultancy?

Beyond consultancy, we are equipped to deliver on executive retreats and conferences, learning academies, executive coaching, and an exciting personality profile analysis called Insights Discovery®. Given the movement restrictions imposed by the pandemic, we deliver our solutions virtually in addition to our face-to-face offering.

Three of our products have been especially relevant this year: Executive Coaching (Helping business leaders make strategic decisions while faced with novel challenges), Remote Team Collaboration (helping teams learn to collaborate virtually), and Productivity Management (helping professionals maintain and improve personal productivity in the new virtual working environment).

How affordable are your consultancy services for Nigerian businesses?

We are remarkably affordable as evidenced by the wide range of our clientele – from the public sector to large conglomerates to SMES and even individuals in some instances.

How is your organisation positioning Nigeria’s workforce to easily transit to the 21st Century?

H.C. Bonum was founded on the belief that genius lies within us all, and when individuals tap into their creative genius and thrive, teams and organizations will achieve greater success. The world of work is changing, but the potentials of the individuals remain and so, helping people and organizations discover how they can achieve better outcomes to realize their full performance potential is at the heart of everything we do. Well, we practice what we preach, and there is nothing that we promote that we have not done internally ourselves. We hire the best of the best and we empower them with the critical skills we discussed earlier. We run a non-hierarchal organization where anyone and everyone can challenge another in a positive way. We have helped hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals reframe their thinking and boost productivity.

WHAT ARE THE TOP five SKILLSET and jobs of the 21st century? How can young Nigerians take advantage?

In our opinion, the top five skill sets of the 21st century are critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and technology literacy. As for jobs, that’s a bit more nebulous. The jobs of the future are being created as we go along and in addition to honing the skills we have outlined, young Nigerians need to be dynamic and fluid in their thinking. As opposed to the 20th century where many in the workforce had the same career their whole lives (some working for the same organization for decades), the 21st century will likely have people constantly reinventing themselves as they go along.

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