How Nigerian firms can retain tech talents

The rising incidents of tech talents leaving abroad amid global economic squeeze is a major challenge for businesses seeking for specialised skills in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria.

The development, according to experts, is having negative impacts on organizations and businesses in the country like banks, contributing to glitches in transactions, among others.

In a recent statement, Abubakar Suleiman, the chief executive officer of Sterling Bank referred to the exit of these tech talents as a “great resignation”.

BusinessDay reached out to experts in the tech ecosystem who outlined various ways businesses in Nigeria can retain talents.

Muhammad Habib, a software engineer explained that the government have a crucial role to play in keeping tech talents from leaving the country.

“If the Nigerian government and business can guarantee the security of her citizens and provide basic amenities like constant electricity. I think people will be happy to stay,” he said.

Habib also stated that most companies in Nigeria have to start seeing tech talents as part of the production process and add value to their work.

“Unethical behaviour at work has to stop if businesses really want to retain tech talents. As this may sound somehow, it happens in many workspaces where an intern developer is turned into an errand boy and girl all because they are searching for experience to develop themselves. Some are not even paid but have to tolerate the kind of behaviour from their bosses,” Habib said.

The software engineer disclosed that most companies take advantage of the high unemployment rate in the country and give low remuneration, overusing their tech talents in the name of wanting to provide the best, which leads to unhealthy work and life balance. He said, “if businesses can follow due process in software development like agile development process, flexible working hours and pay what the employee is worth, I think the migration will reduce.”

Akinola Olumide, Finacle and C24 scripting officer in one of Nigeria’s tier one banks, noted that businesses in Nigeria have to adopt the practice of remote work in order to keep their tech talents.

According to him, the covid-19 pandemic serves was an eye-opener for many tech talents as some were seen handling works for various companies at the same time. He stated that after the period, most developers started aiming higher and none wanted to return to physical jobs.

“Companies should encourage the practice of remote work to retain their tech workers. Since the pandemic, developers or tech people no longer want to take jobs that are not remote. Any job offer I get these days that is not remote, I always decline it. The pandemic opened a lot of people’s eyes that you can actually be more productive when you work from home and a lot of our banks and tech firms are starting to recall their staff back to work physically,” Olumide said.

However, the web developer did not shy away from the fact that most tech talents abused the work-from-home privilege as some were caught engaging in side hustle during work hours.

He said, “A colleague was doing Uber driving business during work hours and unfortunately for him, he picked up a senior person while he was on a team meeting at work. But then its positives outweigh its negatives. Luckily now, there are inventories of monitoring tools that can be deployed on workstations to monitor uptime and work hours on a system while working from home.”

He also noted that security personnel in the country also have a part to play in the area of retaining tech talents. He stated that they need to find a means to differentiate a fraudster and a tech developer.

Read also: Tech talent exodus, glitches frustrate money transfers

“Our police and securities should start doing well also and know that everyone carrying a laptop is not a cybercriminal. When I was working at Surulere, I can’t count the number of times I was stopped by the police. Even when I had my ID and the laptop clearly showed it belonged to a company,” Olumide said.

Meanwhile, a UK-based Nigerian tech engineer who pleaded to remain anonymous said the need for Nigerian companies to start employing a higher number of junior developers who will eventually take over from the senior colleagues when they have the need to go.

“Everyone knows very few Nigerian companies can afford to compete with what people are paid on freelancing platforms. So it should be expected that experienced people may still leave for other good opportunities. Nigerian companies need to start to value junior developers in terms of giving them the opportunity to work with their senior engineers, so that when the senior leaves, the junior would have learnt much and be able to fill in for the senior engineer before a new boss comes on board,” he said.

He also disclosed that allowing the junior engineer to practice along with the senior colleague serves as a win-win for both the company and the junior developer.

Citing the banks, he explained that the system is too rigid for developers like him. He said most Nigerian banks are still running in an old manner and, “this is a big issue for developers especially those that have worked outside the banking system. Some banks still do full onsite for their IT staff which is a problem for developers that are experienced because there are international companies that are willing to give them a token that is more than the salary paid by the Nigerian companies and with a good level of flexibility.”

The engineer stated that Nigerian companies and businesses should also start paying their workers, especially tech talents, by the value they bring to the organization and not by the number of years spent in the industry or by age.

Meanwhile, he explained that they should also give out rewarding incentives to their workers and give them reasons to always find value in what they do.

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