Hilda Kabushenga Kragha is an executive with a decade worth of experience across EMEA. She is the current CEO at Jobberman, Nigeria’s number one recruitment platform. Jobberman’s mission is to improve workplace productivity by making sure the right person is placed in the right job. Until December 2018, she was an Engagement Manager in McKinsey & Company’s Lagos office, serving private and public sector clients primarily on strategy, human capital, talent management, change management, and organizational behaviour. Prior to joining McKinsey, she worked as a transfer pricing expert with KPMG East Africa working with Multinationals in the region to design/develop their transfer pricing policies and support them in negotiations with the different tax authorities. She is passionate about human capital and organizational behaviour more so about solving Africa’s talent and productivity conundrum. In her free time, she blogs on Instagram about motherhood and finding balance as a working African mother @modernafricanmother. In this interview with Vanguard, Hilda shares vital information on recruitment and the future of work in Nigeria during and post-coronavirus.
A lot has changed lately since the outbreak of the pandemic, most companies have had to work remotely or closed shop. What has the experience been for Jobberman and the recruitment industry?
Yes, a lot has changed even at Jobberman. Fortunately, we are digital natives, so the transition to remote work was smooth for us and we saw little disruption in our way of work since we have been using collaborative online tools for a while now. What we did differently was enable our staff to work well from home, by introducing a data and diesel allowance to ensure connectivity during working `hours
At an industry level, it has been interesting to witness first hand, which sectors of the market are thriving in this environment and which are not. Our platform, for example, registered a 19% rise in jobs in the technology sector, even as traditional consistent recruiters such as FMCG ground to a near halt. We have also seen a sharp rise in job seekers; we typically have around 20,000 active job seekers weekly on our platform, however it has risen to over 50,000 in the past couple of months which is indicative of the scale of job losses in the economy at the moment.
Organizations have adopted different workstyles as a response to the pandemic. What do you think is the outlook for the future workplace in Nigeria?
To be honest, I think the majority of businesses in Nigeria will revert to their old way of work. Our infrastructure is not an enabler for remote working at scale especially when you consider the availability of power and the cost of data. For small businesses especially, productivity at the moment has probably plummeted simply because there is a prohibitive cost that comes with enabling efficient remote work.
I do believe that we might see remote work become the norm at more established companies. In the past year or so, a number of our clients have been grappling with the concept of “flexitime”, with the goal to let employees work at least one day a week from home. For these companies, the COVID-19 lockdown can be taken as “proof of concept” and they will move full steam ahead with their plans, possibly even expanding on the number of days spent at home.
Another category of businesses that are bound to see a shift are those for whom, the cost of enabling remote work, is lower than the cost of rent and utilities in commercial hubs. If only 30% of your staff need to be in the office on any given day, you probably need only a third of the space you needed before. This could have implications on the commercial property market, but that is not my area of expertise.
Finally, what is the future of career growth in a remote context? Without a physical office space and community, there will be fewer opportunities to showcase leadership outside your given role, this could flatten career advancement opportunities especially for generalists, while specialists take the cake since their advancement is typically based on the depth of expertise they possess. Prolonged remote work would also force companies to rethink coaching and mentorship, team building, performance management, and even employee discipline which have traditionally depended on facetime
How is Jobberman helping employers to balance their talent needs and challenges across Nigeria during this period?
When the lockdown started, we made a decision that after the health of our employees, our next priority would be to ensure that we supported our clients in whichever way possible. Specifically, we wanted to make sure that companies that need to recruit but no longer have a recruitment budget can still access a good quality service. We, therefore, launched our free listings campaign tagged “Unity in adversity”.
Every employer can list on our platform and access our talent pool free of charge. We are also running discounts on our premium products including our skills-based testing services. In addition, we have developed value propositions for outsourcing companies who constantly need to access a large number of candidates. This can be done by subscribing to our applicant tracking system, which will be free for the first three months. In retrospect, we know that this was the best way to support our clients as listings on our platform grew 183% in the month of April despite the lockdown.
Which sectors would you say have the most in-demand for job seekers at the moment and what skills do employers require most from them?
At the moment, the technology, insurance, and training sectors have the highest demand on the platform, has grown. In terms of functions, IT/Software development and sales roles are the most popular.
In terms of skills, Employers have consistently stated that soft skills are the most crucial in the workplace and because of this. Jobberman has launched a comprehensive free soft skills training program for all our job seekers and indeed any Nigerian who would like to improve in this area
How can employees optimize their chances of being retained for organizations that faced possible downsizing decisions?
One thing you can do is develop a clear understanding of your company’s current context and adapt. Is your typical JD still relevant or can you adjust your roles and responsibilities to meet what your company needs at the moment? A static mindset will not serve you during periods of uncertainty because everybody is trying to figure out the way forward and you will be best served by joining in that effort to figure out what needs to be done. Adaptability is key.
One thing to note though is that you may do all this and still be let go because these are tough times and every company needs to ensure that they survive. Prepare for this possibility by investing in self-development and reaching out to your network to find out how they are doing in this tough time, so that in case you need their help finding a new role, it doesn’t come off as opportunistic
Are there any challenges or problems you foresee for the recruitment sector and what are the possible solutions?
I think the recruitment industry is in for a tough time this year because, without economic activity, hiring will slow down. Even for those hiring, traditional methods of reaching out to candidates might not be effective due to the lockdown. One way to avoid this is to go digital and partner with job platforms which are enablers, rather than competitors to traditional recruitment agencies. Jobberman, for example, has over 2.5m job seekers in its database, easily accessible online. Embracing such partnerships will help recruiters ensure business continuity while saving costs.
If you were to give one advice to employers, employees, and job seekers, what would that be?
I read the following recently and it really resonated with me “Learn how to learn. The working world after the pandemic will be different, companies will be different, and many of your people will themselves be different as a result of their experiences during the crisis. Organizations that equip their employees with the meta-skill of learning how to learn, adapt, and change quickly will be better able to thrive and succeed.”