Olusoji Oyawoye, an associate chartered outsourcing professional and managing director/CEO, Resource Intermediaries Limited, a human resource outsourcing company in this interview with KELECHI EWUZIE comments on principles that organisations need to thrive. Excerpts:
Talent management issue
The major challenge we have with Nigerian education system is that educational institutions principally train students to pass examination and not to apply the knowledge in the real world. This is unfortunate and it is a major problem. You see graduates with the degrees, but they cannot apply what they read.
What we do in Resource Intermediaries Limited (RIL) is that we have what is called capacity building training school or the RIL finishing school. So before we deploy graduate employees we make them go through that finishing school. This is a capacity building 18 modules training programme over three days. We teach them soft skills, corporate life issues, interpersonal skills, team building, relationship management, sales marketing, presentation skills and others.
By the time the graduate employees go through the 18 modules three days programme, they are better because they would have learnt things they were not taught in schools.
From my experience, when I was an employee and even now, I have come to realise that it is the right attitude that propels ones career not the aptitude. What students learn is theories all through their schooling days with certificate but no practical application of that certification.
For every staff we manage in RIL, we have an online e-learning platform; it is like a school online for every one of our staff. They can go to that school online and take programmes and courses on different aspects.
For us at RIL, three things are most paramount as an organisation. We called them RIL critical principles. We are a resourceful organisation, we are flexible organisation and we are knowledgeable organisation. The term knowledge is key to us because we create opportunity for our staff to enhance their knowledge.
Motivation in career path
At age 35, I had decided that I would want to be working for myself by the time I am 40 years. I had planned my life in such a way that by 40, I wouldn’t want to be an employee. Coincidentally the bank consolidation thing came about the time when I turned 41. I did not achieve my planned target at 40 as I anticipated, but I achieved it at 41. This was something I had planned five years in advance, so the banking consolidation just made it easier. I felt this was the right time to take an entrepreneurship opportunity.
Resource Intermediaries Limited
This is a human resource outsourcing management provider. We manage staff in an outsource basis for various organisations in Nigeria. Currently, our principal clients are in the banking industry, telecoms and manufacturing concerns.
At the moment, we have about 4,000 staff all over Nigeria; three branches in Nigeria, a subsidiary company in Ghana called Resource Intermediaries Ghana Limited doing exactly what we do.
What distinguishes what we do from contracting is that every one of our staff have a valid letter of employment that is not tied to a contract that is renewable. It is a normal letter of employment.
Staff under our organisation has access to paid vacation annually, access to paid bonuses, access to medical cover, access to loans and when they are on vacation, their salaries are going on, they collect leave allowance and are entitled to benefits should they be leaving the organisation. All these are condition under the labour laws.
All those that work under our organisation are not contract staff. We are aware that a typical contract staff just gets a letter that says they have being employed for six months or one year and it is renewable. We are not into contract staffing, we are into full outsource labour law certified service and we are registered by the various agencies of the Nigeria government that need to oversee labour law management.
From my experience, I am what you can call a people person. I have been privileged and favoured by God with the people I have worked with in my life. They are the kind of people who will guide and coach you through the work. So that also has become my leadership style.
I don’t believe anybody is perfect. I allow people express themselves in their work. I only provide guidance and when there are mistakes, I use it as a learning period. So over time, my people are more productive. They use their initiative rather than waiting for me for all things.
Dealing with competition
When we started RIL in 2006, there were major players in the industry some local and some foreign brands.
What we decided from day one of our setting up shop was that there is nothing like competition. We are of the school of thought that competition is in your head. We determined to create a niche. Do things properly that nobody else does; for example, one of the things that is a major challenge for an average Nigerian business person is integrity. When you promise to do certain things either for staff or the clients and you do something else, it does not show integrity.
So we determine to play by the rules. Run a business that is based on integrity. It didn’t make impact in the market in the first few years, but in the last two years, we are getting more business now with people just walking into our office than us talking to them.
Our philosophy to do business the proper way is driven predominantly by our faith. We are one of the only if not the only outsource company in Nigeria that has a registered staff corporative and multi-purpose society and currently about one third of our staff are voluntary members.
So members of my staff have access to loans. In most organisations, this kind of condition is not there. With this in place, it does not disturb the work and my staff do not disturb the clients I have deployed them to because they are well taken care of through the various incentives provided and that also makes them more productive as it is.
There are things that I do deliberately. Every Monday morning, I send to all my staff by email what I call my weekly thoughts. It is called MD’s weekly thoughts. I have done that every Monday morning for almost seven years now.
The weekly thought is a one page write up of what I am thinking for the business or life generally. This medium creates an open door policy. It means that if staffs are getting emails from me every Monday morning, they can also reach me by email. So there is no gap wherever they are located in Nigeria where they are deployed to. They have access to the CEO, so no boss or supervisor is in between should they have issues that are personal. I have also found out that it helps.
One of the major challenges is that of understanding from client about the benefits of outsourcing. For instance, we are able to prove that the RIL outsourcing model guarantees that the customer will save money, at least between 10 to 30 percent of whatever they are spending currently per annum for the same services that we provide. But even with that, you still find out that most clients still have difficulty in even accepting an outsourcing arrangement.
The typical Nigeria mindset still is to own everything, to get that psychological satisfaction that they are their staff, but they don’t remember that if there is a liability for instance they are the one taking it because once you have outsourced, the liability become the providers responsibility.
So, all those savings are catered for but unfortunately, people just look at the salary of a staff, but there lots beyond salary. The benefits are huge but most companies rather than deal with professionals, some clients would rather just give the business of outsourcing to a relation who may not be professional, just to create job for a friend or relation.
This practice was what most banks used to do in the past before the current CBN governor came and said no banks should outsource to a subsidiary company of the bank. You must give it to people at arm’s length so that you can have professional service.
The other challenge has been the statutory bodies. There are too many taxes with little or no service commensurate to the tax that we pay. So the cost sometimes can be huge, but we are creating a legacy business, a business that will outlive us. So we are not too worried about main profit in doing it right.
We know a lot of companies can make a lot of money doing what we are doing, by cutting corners here and there, but we are not in a hurry, it is a legacy business. It has taken us about five years to even break even, but the last two years have been quite comfortable.
Now and the next five years, I am of the school of thought that three things that are critical for RIL and for any business at the moment are innovation, talent and process. Those three things are what I am focusing on for that future which is to consistently improve on what we do. So no matter how good and comfortable it looks, to constantly be improving which is why we are also a resourceful organisation.
Then talent is to hire the right people. The right people in my own word are not necessarily the most qualified, they the right people with the right attitude. After hiring then, you train them and provide an environment to retain them. People are an organisations asset any day.
So if I get the right kind of people and spend a lot of money training them, there is need to provide certain system in place to retain them so that they will have no reason to look elsewhere, then the future can only be better.
We are currently in Ghana. In the next five years, we hope to be able to move up in the outsourcing ladder. Human resource outsourcing is one of the lowest parts of outsourcing. In the next five years we would be in call center management which is more technical and move up to be able to provide more technical outsourcing services.