Africa: The ‘japa’ trend is good for Nigerian workspaces as it has led to adaptation in many organizations – HR Expert

Bad leadership, socio-economic issues, inflation, lack of opportunities and insecurity are the main reasons people are leaving the country.

Bad leadership, socio-economic issues, inflation, lack of opportunities and insecurity are the main reasons people are leaving the country. Before the economic crisis, ‘japa’ was not a big thing. Nigerians could travel to several countries without needing a visa and most always returned home. ‘Japa’ is a Yoruba slang that roughly means “to cut loose”.

According to Nairametrics, the rate at which Nigerians are continuing to seek greener pastures outside the country has continued to be a source of concern to stakeholders who worry about ‘who will be left to do the jobs’ if the majority leaves.

But Gbenga Totoyi, a Partner at HR advisory firm Alan & Grant, believes that beyond the negative effects, there is a positive side to the japa trend as it has led to adaptation in many organizations. Speaking to Nairametrics on our Business Half Hour radio programme, Mr Totoyi explained that the level of disruption brought about by the pandemic had prepared Nigerian businesses to adapt to the reality of increasing emigration.

According to him, his HR organization has been working alongside organizations to find new talent as well as keep existing employees and make sure that business objective is met.

Alternative workforce: According to Totoyi, one of the few positives is the wide acceptance of alternative workforce or distributed workforce model, as some of their key talents have left either to study or to work abroad. He said: “But these organizations have now decided to adapt their policies to accommodate such employees, so you may not be physically in the country, but you still can get your work done and technology has made that easier.”

He added that a lot of organizations in Nigeria now offer the opportunity to still stay in employment while they travel abroad while their organizations will work out the modalities of how to get work done when they are required and what their reward will be like. He added that some organizations also allow employees to run side hustles. As against the convention before the pandemic, he noted that contracts now get reviewed to allow some retired bankers, auditors, consultants, and others who seem to want to come back into the workplace on some contract basis.

He said: “Just before the pandemic, conversations around hybrid were somewhat skewed towards tech firms or service firms, but we’ve seen an increased adaptation of that across different industries. What we have also seen is changes to dress codes and all of that. “And just before the pandemic and as technology became very critical to some organizations, we started seeing tech people, people in brand and marketing comes who could work in financial institutions and a few other institutions with a different dress code and they were getting their jobs done. Now, as it were post-pandemic dress codes have changed significantly for different organizations. When and how you work has changed.”

He states that the new trend may be quite easy for service-based companies to adapt to due to the flexibility of their work style, however, production-based companies still have to run their lines physically as the production of goods cannot be possible virtually. Though, adaptation to work style, work mode, dress code, and compensation packages could still be possible for production-based companies.

Talent sharing: Totoyi noted that the concept of talent sharing in itself is not new to us as a country because, in the last few years, the average Nigerian does not stick to one job, but according to him, what has changed since the pandemic is the increased adaptation and level of acceptance and attention given to the space. He noted: “If you go to the education space, the average lecturer or even the person who does home lessons for your children at home also has different engagements with different organizations. But I think just before the pandemic the issues were either lack of sincerity – on the employee side, you want to keep it away from your employer, and then on your employer side, it’s a case of, well, I’ve paid for your time and you have to be at work, which means I have to see you physically and I have to see you behind the system from a certain time to a certain time.

“What is happening is that the concept of work itself was changing, so more work was being narrowed down to; what are you hiring me to do? what are the specifics? And how would you measure my delivery or my performance? And having performed, how would you reward me? And so conversations around the employment of service and employment for service started gaining attention.“

The challenges: speaking to challenges faced in the industry, Totoyi highlights issues around dealing with business owners and senior executives as well as helping business leaders to better understand and appreciate the importance of humans. For Alan &Grant, these were issues for a long time because business leaders just didn’t understand or accept how critical human talent was.

In recent times, however, he said that there’s been increased understanding within that same period, people who start on the HR desk are now in C-suite roles. Also, he added that from board to senior executives, there’s now a lot more attention and demand on HR and a few business leaders have taken the time to even go understand.

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