Ayodeji Adewunmi is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Jobberman.com, which is West Africa’s most popular job search engine. Since going live in 2009, the company has helped qualified people get new jobs and change employment, thereby reaching over a million people since inception. Just recently, the organization presented a whitepaper on its survey: Millennials and The Digital Workplace: How to Keep Millennials Productive in the Workplace. The surveyed featured 5,380 actively employed Nigerian millennials to arrive at its findings. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, he shares the reason for the survey and how it will improve the Nigerian workplace.
Why was it important to conduct the survey?
This is an important issue hence we decided to do a review on millennials in job placement because, in the next five to 10 years, over 50 percent of people in workplaces will be millennials. So it is really important for us to have a very thorough understanding of how the workplace is changing and how to best deal with this crop of generations. It is now normal to see people work for a year or two and want to change jobs unlike our parents who worked in the civil service all their lives; this is a big paradigm shift; it is a very mental thing and maybe we need to unlearn a lot of things that we know to be normal and start appreciating what we have today.
What are some of the things that should be put in place for millennials to be productive in the workplace?
I think one of the things is to have an understanding that the company really cares; just like having a coach or mentor. So if you work in an organization, you should be assigned to a mentor, which will avail you to have a better understanding of the work. Secondly, things around flexible hours and having the understanding that you are allowed to grow in the job is super important. Most importantly is even when you leave the organization, they should have a way to connect with you whether it’s through an alumni network or through some other channels like a network series. This way they can really engage with the company for life. However, we are patriarchal in our work culture and so it is very important to see women move in mid and senior level management positions. The issue about maternity leave affects these set of people and if the company is very deliberate, they will see the impact over a period of time.
Do you think the Nigerian environment is ready to cater to the millennials?
Structurally, I will say no and I think that culturally it will also take a lot of work. Structurally I say because even from a macro perspective the economy is going through a lot of uncertainty. Around the country, things have really slowed down; a lot of businesses are just thinking about surviving and so from that perspective, at best things will be slow. But the reason why we decided to release this report at this time is that we say awareness is the best solution; so let these organizations and institutions know the options and considerations available.
So, based on their resources, strategies, and timing, they can start making some of the changes at the appropriate time. But we believe that we do have the responsibility to present the information that we have, have the facts on the table, and based on their different organization plan, they can make some changes. And then culturally, for the millennials, the older generation still believe that they are responsible for the decisions being made whether within or outside an organization, so it’s definitely going to take a while for people to see these things as being normal.
What hope do you see for the Nigerian labor force where employers have pegged employment at age 24?
Definitely, unemployment is a major issue in the country, people have to be economically engaged for them to be productive and the only way a society can move forward is when you have young people productive. Structurally, the economy is import-dependent as a result of that, when you look at the people in the workplace, we are not so competitive globally because we don’t export. So, for the future of the country, I believe very strongly that industries have to be transformed for exports, including constructing roads, access to markets and power generation. Unemployment is just a by-product of more topical issues that need to be addressed.