The “post-pandemic” world of work will continue to evolve. With no clear answers in sight, organisations will continue to search for best-fit solutions to navigate the uncertainty around us. There is no doubt that this will have an impact on our lives.
With little to no information about Africa, specifically the Nigerian business environment, many thought leaders offer solutions suited to advanced economies. However, differences in everyday realities such as technology adoption, economic strength, demographics, and educational levels affect the pattern of evolution in developing and emerging markets.
On the 28th of October 2021, pcl., in collaboration with the Nigerian-South African Chamber of Commerce, organised a webinar that explored the future of work from the Nigerian perspective, with leading executives discussing and sharing practical experiences and proposing viable solutions for our unique market.
Joshua Ademuwagun, Head of Advisory- People Transformation, delivered pcl. ’s perspective on the future of work. He emphasised that people can neither stop nor fight the future of work. Joshua further advised that organisations should position themselves to ride the wave of change by answering the questions about why, by whom, when, and how we will do work in the future.
Critical considerations for preparing for the future of work include rethinking business strategy and processes to allow for agility and digital transformation. With the global economy tilting towards digital platforms, it is not enough for a Nigerian organisation to only use digital to optimise operations. They must move to a level where technology is integrated into business models and critical processes.
According to pcl., the realignment of leadership & culture is another key determinant of an organisation’s future. It is not uncommon for multiple generations of employees to work in the same organisation, each with unique characteristics and traits. Designing a working culture acceptable to all should be a key priority for Nigerian business leaders.
Joshua emphasised six (6) leadership competencies that pcl. believes executives should pay attention to this new era. These competencies are enabling collaboration & teamwork, prioritising employee mental health, societal changes, displaying a strong sense of vision and purpose, leading with empathy, and increased communication & employee engagement.
He stated that successful organisations must treat their most important assets (their employees) not as inventory or a line item of expense, subject to cutbacks and right-sizing, but as a wealth of corporate potential worthy of care and respect.
During the panel discussion, pcl., represented by Omorinsola Sofola, Partner Strategy and Operations Transformation, was joined by strategic business leaders who brought on a broader perspective of the Nigerian business of the future.
Leading the conversation, Omorinsola spoke about the pcl. experience and how the firm had evolved to meet the new demands of remote work during the lockdown. She mentioned that engaging employees in designing their future workspace created a sense of ownership and identity. She further cited pcl. ’s Strategic Preparedness Report, stating that organisations need to ensure a culture built on diversity and inclusion. This often involves engaging key staff members, not just executives. She discussed how pcl. had used its Phillips Accelerated Solution Environment (pASE™) to help clients solve culture and community challenges.
Joining the discussion, Remi Dada, CEO of Spacefinish, noted that nobody knows the answer to the future of work and that we are all experimenting. “The good news is that we are probably making the correct guesses.” He pointed out that the future of work is not just about physical buildings but about human and social behaviours. What people think and feel when they get into an office space or sign into a virtual environment all play a big part in determining the quality of their final output. Thus, organisations need to see it as an opportunity to increase productivity and proactivity in their employees.
Tosin Okojie, VP Financial Planning and Analysis of Andela, revealed that technology is now the trusted intermediary between employer and employee, creating a network effect that has scaled the gig economy and, in the process, made organisations more agile.
In preparing for the future, he stated that companies should ask themselves what it takes to be part of the future of work and develop new thinking patterns around their business structure and how to get things done.
Babajide Duroshola, General Manager of M-Kopa reminded everyone that the future of work is borderless, even for the Nigerian market. We no longer need to have people confined to working in a specific geographical location. With COVID-19 pushing globalisation and allowing for accessible communication and dissemination of information, employees no longer need to be in the same country or time zone.
Rob Taiwo, MD pcl. summed up by advocating progression over perfection. He said that “work is not where you go, but what you do, and the truth is there is no silver bullet. The future is fluid, and often the best strategy is to simply engage. Make your mistakes, forgive yourself quickly, and move forward. The wrong thing to do is bury your head in the sand and hope this all blows over. In Africa, there will be winners and losers. The winners will most likely be those organisations that choose exploration over exploitation and innovation over business as usual.”.