MISTER Abiola Popola, FCIM, is the President/Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria, CIPM. In this interview with Vanguard’s Correspondent, Victor Ahiuma-Young, he spoke about the re-branding of the nation’s foremost HR Management Institute, the challenge posed by quacks to the profession, delay by government in accrediting the institute among others.
We understand the institute is re-branding. What is it all about?
As an institute we have been existing for over forty-two years and all along our focus has been on how to upscale and upgrade the practices of Human Resource Management in Nigeria. We are actually chartered by Decree 58 of 1992 to regulate the practice of Human Resource Management practices in Nigeria and also to promote excellence in the acquisition and application of world class and best standard of HR practices. We have of course, a brand that we are known by, a logo and that logo had been around for a very long time.
In the recent times as an institute, we have tried to reposition ourselves as an institute. Our vision is to be the foremost Human Resource Management institute in Africa, respected across the world and in a pursuit of that vision, we have been upgrading our services to our members.
We feel that to more or less re-enforce that new standing of the institute, we also need to change our logo to reflect the new CIPM. This project of re-branding have been on for a while involving consultation with professionals in the area of advertising and marketing and at the last conference that we held, we unveiled the new logo of the institute which was approved by council and so our new logo is to let the public see us in the new light that we present ourselves. So that is what the re-branding is all about
What impact will this re-branding have on your members?
Already our members are feeling the CIPM in the new way. The quality of our services to them, our quality of response, the support we grant to our members have improved over time seriously and this re-branding is more or less to re-enforce that new feeling. So how it will impact on them is just that it brings to the fore that the CIPM is really evolving, we are on the move and we are marching very boldly towards our vision of being the foremost in Africa
In what ways will this affect the practice of Human Resource management in Nigeria?
You know the re_branding thing itself is not a be all and end all thing. We exist to provide services to our members and to the nation generally. We exist to promote the practice of Human Resource Management in Nigeria and that we have been doing and what we are trying to get across is we have scaled up our services even the delivery of that service and so the re_branding is just like a representation of our new personality
What informed your decision to re-brand?
By the collective wisdom of the council, we just felt that the brand that we had before, the logo that we had before was not as refreshing, as dynamic as we would like it to been seen and felt. So the feelings in some quarters is that, may be the time has come to change it, it was okay but it was not necessarily reflecting the new thinking in CIPM..
That was what informed our re-branding move and as all organisations evolved, so we too are evolving and we felt that to re_enforce that evolution we needed to have a new outlook of who we are. So I can say that all the members have been very excited about the new logo which is much more dynamic than the previous one, it is more refreshing, it is reflecting a contemporary feeling to our institute.
Will you say that your average member is better off in service delivery today than five years ago?
Five years ago, the practice of HR Management was very much at a low level in terms of the skills and knowledge of the members. For example HR Management used to be seen as a thing that any body can do. There was no thought that to be an HR Manager or it was called Personnel Manager at that time, you needed any particular training, anybody could do personnel.
But there is a lot more awareness now on the part of the public that the management of people is a specialised area and those who must be in that area must have some specialist skills and knowledge. Five years ago, the level of knowledge and skills of practitioners in Human Resources Management was by far lower than what it is today.
It used to be seen as a kind of welfare officer role. But now, the awareness has come that its about the total management of the people in an organisation . How does the organisation get the best out of its human resources? If I may just remind you, in any organisation there are several resources available to it, there are machineries, there are plans, there is money, there is time and there are people and of all these resources, the people are the most critical and out of ignorance of the past many oprganisations did not place emphasis on that and they use to handle people any how.
Today that is different because there is an awareness now that people make the difference and therefore, those who must be in_charge of people as a resource must be knowledgeable and skilled. What has changed in the past five years, is that those people who human resources now are more knowledgeable, more professional and they are adding a lot more value to organisations in the country.
In specific terms, how does Human Resource Management help an organisation to grow?
Organisations by the name, they are organic, they are supposed to grow to become bigger and to grow you must expand the scope of your activities. Your performance must improve year in and year out. We are in the world of competition, all organisations are in competition against each other. Now if you do not have people that are good, you can not compete, the people are the most important source of competitive advantage.
It is like in a football team the players are your most critical resources.
So how does HR Management help the people or organisation to grow? Your people are the ones that can build your organisation. If you have weak employees, your company cannot go forward. So strong employees are employees who are well trained, who are well remunerated, who are well motivated and who are ready to do well the job they should be doing. All those things, training, in fact, even from sourcing, you must have the right employees coming.
How do you source them? How do you recruit them? that is HR Management. How you recruit them, how do you motivate them to do their work well? How you deploy them within the organisation, that is HR management. How you manage their performance to get better, is HR Management, How you get them to be promoted and develop is HR Management. So, all these things I mentioned above are aspects of Human Resource Management and if you don’t do them well your organisation can not grow .
To grow means you are expanding your market place, the turnover is getting bigger, you are having more outlets, you are having more profit, all those things are as a result of human efforts. Human effort is what makes the difference. If you do not manage them well you will not grow. So, we are so confident in the institute that it is ignorance on the part of organisations that do not look after their people well. If you do not, you will not grow. Similar to a country as well, like our country Nigeria, for as long as we do not manage our people very well and we do not get quality people, we will not grow. We need to invest on our people so we have the right people in the right places, otherwise our aspirations cannot be achieved. In fact, our mandate transcends just organisations, we are contributing towards national development efforts.
That is our mandate. We want to move this country forward. You can only move forward when you have qualified people who are motivated to do what they have to do. You know for those who do not value HR Management they believe that all you require is a PhD or a professor.
No you require the skills for that role and the people who have the skills and knowledge must also be motivated. I can be skilled and be knowledgeable and I choose not to contribute if I am not motivated. So, it is all about, how do you get people to be skilled and capable? How do you get them to want to do their best on the job?
Do you think lack of qualified and skilled HR managers have contributed to the frequency of industrial disputes in the public sector?
(Cuts in Industrial dispute in the public sector, is it frequent?) I do not know if it is so frequent. But to your question about if I have confidence in what we have in the public sector, my confidence in human resource management in the public sector is not high at all because it is not only about getting people who are qualified, it is about how you prepare them for the role they have to play. Do not forget that outside the issue of my competence ie what I can do, there is the issue of my motivation, what I want to do. Human beings are sovereign entities, they chose to give or not to give their best.
Now for me to give my best, I must be motivated. So, it is important that people are not only qualified, but they are willing to give their best and that is the issue of how their management in total . So, it is not about people who are qualified in the public sector, it is about how do you get the qualified people to do their best in the work assigned to them. There are two stages. You can choose to get good people in the organisation and we have had cases of people in government who are very highly qualified but they get their the environment is not enabling. They are not motivated to do their best work. So, that is it. It is a question of getting the right people and getting them to do their best work in terms of how you provide for them, physiologically, physically environment that is enabling, for them to give all their best to the organisation.
How have you addressed the problems of quacks in HR practice?
The issue of quacks is a key concern for us. A quack is somebody who does not have the requisite qualification, requisite knowledge, requisite skills, to do what he is doing and that is the issue about incapability. Many organisations have people in HR roles who do not have the required skills and knowledge. Our approach is two folds. The first approach, is to offer such quacks opportunity to upscale their knowledge by providing them with training. So, the institute provides opportunity for HR practitioners to upscale their knowledge. We do training to affect different aspects of HR, recruitment, personnel management, strategic change etc. We offer training to help such quacks so to speak to fill up the missing gap in knowledge and skills. That is the first thing we do which is our major trust, to offer opportunity to people to upscale their skills and knowledge. The second approach of course, is to begin to go to organisations and challenge their choice of head of HR. We are concerned even about the public sector.
Many public sector organisations and agencies, those who head administration in those organisations, do not have the required knowledge and the skills to manage human resources in those institutions and you can call them quacks as well. As you rightly said, when you have a quack as the head of the function, of course, that quackery will spread across the organisation. So, how are we affecting change in this area, number one is to offer such “quacks” opportunity for upscaling their skills by offering them training. Second is that we are going to go very actively to challenge organisations about the capability and competence of the head of their HR functions to play the role that they are assigned to play.
Those who read Personnel or Human Resource Management in the Universities and are not members of CIPM, do you still consider such people as quacks?
We will consider him a quack because he transcends just knowledge, not a professionals. Who is a professional? A professional is that person who has the required knowledge and skills and conforms to a code of conduct of a professional body. So even if you have PhD in HR Management and you are not a member of the professional body, then the code of conduct on the institute is not binding on you. You can practice anyhow, do not forget that there are people who are very brilliant and they are very negative. So, it is not just about the knowledge alone, it is about what is the code that guides the practice.
You cannot say because I have read medicine, I will not go and be a part of the medical profession.
To be a professional, you must conform to the code of conduct, the Hippocratic oath. Similarly, you must conform to the code of conduct of a professional body before you can be called a professional. It is about competence, it is about character and the vital part is are you complying with the code? So, he is still a quack even if he has PhD in HR Management until he becomes a member of the professional body.
What should a competent HR Manager do even when there are pressures probably from the owners of the organisation he or she works for to engage or employ people who do not have the requisite qualification?
That is why we are insisting that people should be professionally qualified because when the HR manager does his work very well, it is for the benefit of the organisation. So, for the owner of the business who is enlightened, many owner are ignorant about these things, you will not be telling your HR manager to employ people who are not qualified because you are going to undermine you own business. The HR manager, do not forget, he is also a business focussed person, he is a business person who has a HR expertise. Let us say it was me and my boss is the owner of the company and he asked me to take his cousin whether he is qualified or not. To the extent that the person is not qualified,
I will let my boss be aware of the challenge that this may bring to us. I believe what many employers require, actually is education about the wisdom of listening to professional advisers in HR. Many of them act out of ignorance. They want to help a cousin, but you do not give a person a job because he needs the job. You give the person the job because the job needs the person. So you give the person who the job needs, not the person who need the job. That is how you can support your organisation and if the person is the owner of business, he will wants his business to grow. So the HR manager who is a professional will let his boss know, humbly but clearly and firmly that this is not going to help our organisation.
If the owner of the business insists on having that person, our code as a professional body suggest that if you are being asked to do things which you consider as unprofessional, you should resign your appointment. You could get to that if your boss will not allow you to practice the profession as you fill convince about. If he is forcing you to compromise your principles, one of our code suggests that you must resign your appointments because you have your integrity to protect as well.
What would you say has been your major challenge as an institute?
Our major challenge has been in the public sector, may be in both sectors actually. In the public sector, our major challenge has been that we have cases of our members who have to work under Heads of Administration who are not professionally qualified. That is a challenge because if you have somebody who does not know the HR, who is the head of the organisation with professionals under him, it may undermine the quality of the HR services. The challenge is, as we said before, quakes, unqualified people who are actually heading the HR profession and departments both in the public and private sectors.
That is a very major challenge. Another major challenge we have is that our graduates, those who qualified, our certification is yet to be accredited appropriately in the government circles. That is key challenge for us because we believe that our certified members deserved to be recognised appropriately. That accreditation challenge is still on with government. We have actually progressed a lot in this generation, but we are not happy that we have not gotten the appropriate accreditation for our members. So, these two are our major challenges.
If you are look into the future, what would the practice of Human Resource management be in Nigeria in the next ten years?
In the next ten years, I have great hopes for this country because where we are today is much better than where we were five years ago and I am imagining that, certainly in the next ten years, there will be universal acceptance of organisations for having professionals man their various department including Human Resources. In the next ten years, I will expect that the public sector will have a much more systematic approach to recruitment and development.
In the next ten years I hope that the federal government itself, would have really focused a lot more on the provision of the appropriate infrastructure for education, because that is the beginning of development. Education at the primary and secondary level. I really hope that this country would have focused a lot more on how it prepares young people for the world of work later in their lives. In the next ten years of course, this institute will be by far the foremost institute out of Africa respected across the world.
How has CIPM contributed to nation’s development over the year?
Over the years, the HR managers, that is one of the challenges that we have, as important as we are an organisation, we are not in public relations, we are not in marketing, we are not visible. To the extent that organisations that have embraced proper practice of HR are making progress, any where you turn and you see organisations making progress, HR has made progress. So we have affected our organisations by providing quality personnel to perform at their outmost.
What will your members and prospective members gain from the re_branding project?
What they will gain clearly is an upscaling of their professional standing. So by being a member of the institute, you are immediately exposed to the learning that is available through our courses, through the seminar that we organise, through interaction with much more experienced professionals members. Also, you stand to gain immediate expansion of your networks by meeting professionals who can give you support, who can coach and mentor you and a lot more.
Therefore, they are going to be able to go back to their organisations and make much more impact. Actually being a member, helps you to accelerate your development even in your career.
I do not see an HR practitioner in this country as we go forward being able to make much progress if he/she is not a member of the institute because he/she will just not be as equipped as those who are members. You know organisations are looking for people who are capable. If you do not upscale your capability, you can not expect to make progress. So our members stand to gain accelerated career development.