The Group Managing Director, Courteville Business Services Plc, Mr. Bola Akindele, explains the importance of employee engagement to organisations in this interview with IFE ADEDAPO
What are the practices by most organisations that prevent workers’ retention?
Some industries in particular are all about the value that employees must create for the company rather than what the company can create for the employees. They throw staff out and say, ‘I don’t care how you get it done, just go and do it.’ We have managers and leaders who tell their workers, ‘I don’t care how you achieve your targets, just do it.’ They will offer neither help nor mentoring.
It gives the feeling among the workers that all they are doing is working for their salaries. And that is very mechanical. You have people who are not well trained but can get results. They can look for deposits and they will get it because they are not trained in any other thing. Whatever it is they do to get the deposits, the managers don’t care.
We have managing directors who don’t get to see their employees regularly. There should be opportunities where the MDs and the employees can meet socially and officially. We have mentoring sessions and other activities that create that bonding among workers. It is missing in most organisations. What we have is that of a family setting where you can be hard or soft on each other, all add up to getting the best out of everyone. Organisations have to look out more for stakeholders, particularly their workers.
Recently, I said that if you recruit monkeys from the first day, everything around you will be denominated in peanuts. Meaning if you go out and recruit people who are cheap and you will not have to spend money on, what you will get will not be worth your time.
I remember an executive I worked with sometime ago, who said to me, ‘My staff should stop complaining; they are not working for me because I am helping to feed their families.’ That is a wrong mentality because once they have enough to feed their families, they will start doing other things.
Do we have enough regulations to protect workers from unfair labour practices?
We have enough regulations for the International Labour Organisation, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund. But the basis is to get the best out of people in terms of results, services and performance. You cannot get to do this without having good resources to work with. Part of the good resources are the workers and they have to be treated very well no matter the size of the business. The system should be such that it does not matter who is there, it should run. That is how to train people. That is how I am training myself. It is important to build capacity not just in the company, but in the people enough to know that if the MD leaves today, the system will continue and possibly even better than before.
What did you do differently to have been rated as the second best company to work in Nigeria?
The difference is that we are unique. As a company, we are known for our unique performance in service delivery. We are known for being unique in the kind of people we employ, the people we build capacity in and the kind of culture that we proclaim for ourselves. We try to do things differently, not just different to make it sensible and very seamless to achieving corporate goals and objectives, but also personal goals. We started by getting people that we are sure can grow with us, can understand us and add value to what we have created. We come together as a family at least three times a year to fashion out ways of creating the goals, objectives, company strategy and our culture; and we monitor ourselves within and from the outside.
Everywhere you see a member of staff of Courtville, it is the same culture you see, the same relationship you feel and the same quality of service delivery that you get as well as the same sense of belonging. We create leaders of everyone that we bring in no matter the level at which you were recruited.
What is your organisational culture?
Each person is a custodian of the culture, which is that of giving. Making sure that relationship with one another and our stakeholders are not only cordial but mutually beneficial. The quality of the relationship is determined by what each stakeholder gets in return. We are very conscious of our antecedents. We started small and we always try to go the extra length in satisfying stakeholders. We consider our members of staff as key stakeholders in our organisation.
Did you plan to be the best place to work initially?
We have a vision that we set for ourselves about three years ago that for our Human Resources Management, the vision was to be the best we could be in making this organisation a trusted place for employees to grow and to create an environment that will help them achieve their personal goals.
In achieving that mission, we said that our mission statement would incorporate being in the top three best places to work in West Africa within five years. This is almost the third year and we are already the second best in terms of Great Place to Work in Nigerian assessment. We know for now, Great Place to Work is only available in Nigeria in the whole of Africa. We can as well assume that this is the second best place to work in Africa. It is an international rating institution and we are hoping to do better next time because we are willing to improve.
The things we do are unique to us. We observe a Courteville weekend that incorporates every employee up to 100. We convey ourselves in a single bus or aircraft and travel out of the country during Easter. We have been doing this for the past five years. We were just in Cotonou this last Easter and the purpose was to have social bonding with no work.
Everyone looks forward to that period. We have all sorts of initiatives that are specific to our company. For instance, we are preparing people to take over the leadership in the next two to four years when our vision will probably be outdated and we will need new energy, initiatives, social capabilities and networks to be able to drive what this company does.
What do you intend to do to remain in the top 10?
We won’t try too hard but we will continue to be ourselves. We will continue to evolve as a best place to work not only in Nigeria but internationally. We will create a value that will add value to our personal lives and that of the company in order that what we offer to clients will continue to be the best and the value we create for ourselves will continue to improve.