We read the employment letter of a certain business some time ago and it sounded more like a court judgment sending someone to imprisonment.
No life in it, no line saying welcome, not to talk of the company’s vision and how new recruits fit into it. Basically, it’s a “this is what we employed you for, just come and do it daily and have your pay” kind of letter, not bad at all if that is how the business wants it.
However, we once had a discussion with the owner of the same business and she was lamenting how the employees weren’t diligent enough. They quit without prior notice a lot of times. She had lost a lot of good hands, “just like that”, and the process of rehiring for the same positions was draining.
Reading through the employment letters she issued, we saw exactly what the problem was for many other businesses. It’s the hiring process and how we onboard those we expect to “own the business”.
Many business owners don’t realize it, perhaps due to the prevalent job scarcity, but you also have to market your business to potential recruits, especially millennials and generation Z. You have to give them reasons why your business is a COOL place to work and WHY they should give their best to it beyond just earning their monthly pay.
Recruiting, motivating and retaining good talents is serious work. You don’t wish it into existence.
Written by Janefrances Ibezim
There was a social media outburst recently triggered by an article published by TechCabal and a session on Twitter spaces. Tech giants like Kuda, Bento Africa, Prospa, Life Bank, Ulesson, Wallet Africa amongst others were called out as toxic workplaces according to documented records by Trendinalia, a social media monitoring platform. Bosses like Sim Shagaya of Ulesson, Ebun of Bento, and the founder of Kuda Bank were accused of being high-handed and abusive towards employees in their organizations.
Techcabal did a detailed report on this issue of tyranny and toxicity at the workplace and put Bento Africa as their major focus. Bento Africa (formerly known as Verifi.ng) is the brainchild of Ebun Okubanjo and Chidozie Okonkwo his friend, business partner, and Bento’s chief operating officer (COO), headquartered in Lagos Nigeria. Bento provides payroll management software to 900 businesses, including Hygeia, Paystack, Kobo360 and others. Ebun who was the CEO and co-founder of the company was described as a “narcissistic boss” who dictates the day-to-day operations in the company while his co-founder Okonkwo is rarely around or heard from in the company.
Sim Shagaya is described as one of the champions in the tech world, he has built many businesses such as Konga, eMotion, DealDey, and Ulesson, which is his recent start-up. He was said to be born to military parents in Jos and equally has a military upbringing which many saw as one of the factors that led to his success but also contributed to his tyrannical behaviour.
A Twitter user identified simply as Deji accused his former employer, Goodness Kayode, CEO of Sprinble, of making employees work overnight. Responding to this; Kayode admitted that working late and overnight is a possibility to get things done. In his words, he admitted to shouting at the employees for reasons which he described as “pressure from clients”. Kayode responded to Deji and mentioned that it was stated clearly before employment that overnight work may be required sometimes when deadlines are pressing.
Also, Daniel Emeka, a founding partner and creative director of Surkreo was also accused of maltreating employees and going as far as sacking someone for not singing him a birthday song. Thirty ex-employees were allegedly said to have accused him of harassing them both physically and emotionally while working with him. Responding to this; Surkreo CEO said his methods were different and his passions could be misinterpreted, he equally described himself as “a young experimental genius who makes mistakes”. Benjamindada.com, a publication that reports events across the African tech space, highlighted the need for more active and influential boards that check the excesses of and hold the founders accountable.
On March 24, according to The Will, the chief executive officer of Bento Africa, Ebun Okubanjo in the “Toxic or Horrible bosses” saga, has apologized to former and current employees of the company. Earlier Ebun was said to be known for using abusive and derogatory words on his workers and never seeing their opinion as useful or needed in the company’s decision-making process. According to an ex-employee described as “Pascal” by Techcabal, Bento Africa took everything from him – his sense of humanity, sanity, confidence and trust. Just like Pascal who’s an ex-sales executive, other employees like Kunle, Bola, Tare Johnson and others stated that they worked around the clock and there was no rest for them or break from work. And the present employees despite being diplomatic in their responses as contacted by Techcabal agreed that everything the publication exposed about Bento Africa’s work culture “was not false”.
Bento’s board of directors has opened an investigation into the workplace culture of Bento Africa under Okubanjo. A statement jointly signed by Obinna Ukachukwu, Manpreet Mann, and Adedayo Amzat on behalf of the board said it was reviewing the HR and people practices and guidelines at Bento while working with HR consultants to make the company reflective of “human values” that drive sustainable performance.
The #HorribleBosses hashtag started trending after a Twitter space hosted by a journalist, Kiki Mordi received massive contributions against alleged toxic behaviours of founders and chief executives in the Nigerian tech ecosystem. Others mentioned are the CEO of RadioNow 95.3fm, Mrs Kadaria who was also called out by her former employees for being toxic.
“In many tech startups, the founder usually wears too many hats (for a long time), so what happens is that there is a lot of pent-up frustration, pressure, and inadequacies that the founder is dealing with,” reports Benjamindada.com. “The founder might have his own core functions — like business development or partnerships — so he is now probably managing a team of business development associates and maybe the business development targets are not being met, so he’s already frustrated.
Now, where inadequacy comes in is that he might not have even been trained as a people manager and was just an individual contributor in his previous employment and that is if he has even worked elsewhere. The average 20-something-year-old founder has never worked anywhere, and founders who are older might have been used to toxic workplaces growing through their careers. So, they don’t know what the expectations of a good manager are, and nor do they have the right training.
The blogger, Benjamin Dada advised that “when you start hiring past 10 employees, you should start critiquing your competence — find out what you are stronger at, and where you could use some help either by going for coaching or hiring a People Lead or both.
It is also important to get more awareness about people management. But the active and influential board comes in when they need to help founders point out areas of weakness, and suggest the training/coaching, discipline and hiring components that could save the future of the company.
“I think there’s a lot the tech ecosystem (including future employees) stands to gain, as I think it’s a lesson for everyone involved to assess themselves through the lens of the recent revelation,” Dada added.
The happenings in Bento Africa and other places are not a new thing nor are they surprising, the various interviews carried out showed that it’s been happening, still happening and will continue to if these red flags are ignored. And this shows the fact that most people are used to this toxicity and would prefer to work in such places for the payment instead of leaving for their own peace of mind.
My experience with Winny opened my eyes to the gradual shift in the work culture and aspirations of young people, especially those who have great work ethics and discipline.
She mentioned to me that she was learning how to make hair via YouTube. I didn’t hesitate to encourage her initiative because I knew she deserved better pay but the business could not afford to pay more at the time.
She focused on a particular hairstyle and started making it pro-bono for her friends until she perfected the craft and started charging 5,000naira per client for home service. Within a short time, she was getting a minimum of 8 clients each month. She provided this service mostly during weekends. The implication was that she was making as much as her salary just by providing this service on weekends alone.
This new reality boosted her confidence to return to Asaba since it has always been her utmost desire to be closer to her family. We steered these conversations further till the point where she notified me of her intention to resign. That was three months ahead of the resignation itself. We got walking through things together as the business employed someone else, whom she trained. Her hand-over was smooth. That was a few years ago.
Drawing from the lessons of 2020, we decided to start a support community for entrepreneurs and those aspiring to be one sometime soon. It will be a full-blown business community (in the form of an Academy) for those who are seeking to go beyond mere hustle and survival to building sustainable companies and reputable brands.
Many business ideas will be shared.
Statistics and data from various sectors of the Nigerian economy will be shared.
Even foreign networks and opportunities shall be shared.
Hacks and contacts for funding and other access will be shared.
But being a part of this community will not be free. So we can have only committed people on board.
We will learn together without anyone lording it over.
The many questions of members can be answered by different persons, not just one person.
We will have breakout groups according to areas of interest and unique challenges.
There will be an exchange of experiences, resources, and support.
It will be a community for those who want to be inspired and pushed beyond their limits without feeling less of themselves.
There will be hand holding for the weak or inexperienced.
There shall be no talking down or shaming of anyone.
Both the sprinters and crawlers are all welcome on board.
Do you think it is a good idea?
All members will have access to the following:
– An overflow of business tips and insights
– Answers to business questions and challenges
– Access to our resources (ebooks and online courses) at no extra cost
– Discount on our MBA courses in the works
– Access to professionals in various areas (Legal, Accounting/Finance, and many others)
Members of the community will set goals for 2021 and be paired for discipline, focus, and accountability:
– Saving goals
– Investment goals
– Business objectives for the year (You want to attend a global conference or change office or just get the business started? Etc)
– Travel goals
– Self-development goals
– Compliance goals (Your personal tax, company taxes, contract eligibility papers, annual returns, etc)
As we mentioned, it is a full-blown business support community.
Does this interest you?
Do you have someone to sponsor?
Click on REGISTER to enroll.
We can achieve more, one day at a time, with the right community.
We can #DoBusinessBetter
When we took over the management of a restaurant brand, most of the staff were problematic and gave the outgoing manager headache, particularly the cleaners and cooks.
Over ten months after, the same workers are mostly well behaved and improving daily. What changed? Leadership style. We will use a story to explain what we mean.
A few years ago we had a conversation with a restaurant owner who was frustrated by the attitude of her workers. When we inquired to know the grooming process for her employees, she revealed that they were trained by an international expert. We got further information and discovered what the problem was, the workers were trained with the standard template, not bad, but not enough.
These workers live in ghettos and slums. They fight to use the bathroom every morning. They even quarrel to empty their bowels. Then drama with yard people, keke driver, bus conductor that abused them that morning, and the underlying challenges of life they grapple with.
You cannot rework their attitude without addressing the underlying influences of their background. What works in Milan, Madrid, or Copenhagen, will not work the same way in Nigeria. You must adapt to local realities.
So for our restaurant client, we paid close attention to the background and environmental influences on the workers and gradually established a new way of relating to them.
One thing that provided this insight to us was a song by Phil Collins titled “both sides of the story”. In one line of the song, a ghetto kid with a gun grabbed a passerby by the shoulder and asked “would you respect me if I didn’t have this gun?”
We’ve had very personal experiences with three ghettos and could relate to that question, it is the same mindset behind most low cadre employees in businesses. They want to be respected, they want to be heard, they want to know that they matter, they don’t want to be trampled upon, that desire for dignity in humans is also in them.
When next you feel frustrated by your workers, also do a self-evaluation on yourself.
Do you treat them with disdain or respect?
Do you let them talk or you always hush them?
Do you pay attention to where they are coming from or it doesn’t concern you?
Their presence WILL rub off on your brand, it is a guarantee!
This matter is a major hindrance to the transition of many businesses into fabulous brands. You are putting in the effort but workers are messing things up, it is a real struggle and you have to find a way around it if you want to grow. Some of these workers are set in their ways and I advise for such, you work towards easing them out of your system.
We hope these perspectives will enable you to handle your workers better.
A few weeks ago, we spent some time with the CEO of Fifi’s Food House, Onimim Fifi Karibo, at her kitchen hub in the city of Port Harcourt where she treaded us to a three-course meal. While we sat in her office, we noticed her people were at work preparing the meal. At some point, a customer called to order a meal, Fifi was still with us all the while as her people brought the message that the meal was ready. Evidently, she had taught her people how to prepare the meals the same way she does.
About a year ago, Mapemond had multiple training jobs at the same time for various clients. We delegated different team members to each of the training and they all did a great job. One of the training had about a hundred and fifty participants and it was handled by a Staff, not our principal.
Even if you are a one-man business, for now, develop the consciousness of raising others to do what you do because you cannot keep doing it all by yourself and you cannot be everywhere at the same time. Yes, some people you train will disappear without first giving value to the system that raised them, but that is not a valid excuse to not raise others at all.
Some people you train will falter and make mistakes, especially if you have the traits of a perfectionist, but be patient with the grooming process and they will become well-primed. Instead of finding reasons and justification to do it all by yourself all the time, fight those excuses and raise your army unless you are fine with being a one-man business perpetually.
If your dream is to build an amazing brand, you cannot escape building people, against all odds.
Build your people. And trust them with the work.