The dominant narrative about professionalism in the African workspace is that it is elusive and is only possible for the major multinational companies having their operations in the continent.
For example, when I returned to Nigeria from the UK in 2007, with my MBA and UK work experience fresh, I was certain I did not want to go back to banking. After several non-banking job interviews, I decided to accept a job with a holiday resort and homes company that sold time shares/ holiday homes. Needless to bore you with the details. Upon resumption; I did not like the company. The Managing Director was almost invisible and the Chairman; her husband breathed down everyone’s neck causing employee stress. I knew I had to exit fast as employee morale was low and productivity close to zero.
Present day 2021 entrepreneurs in Africa are better aware of the advantages of launching a company in a well-established start-up ecosystem where funds and resources are readily available. Though, some of these entrepreneurs may be less familiar with where untapped opportunities lie and the opportunities that professionalism brings.
After successfully training over 1,000 medium and small businesses and companies, I can tell you without a shadow of doubt that professionalism soft skills training is a very significant tool and enabler to establish proper procedures in the workplace as well as reform an inefficient workforce that is not up to professional standard of what a workplace should be.
Well designed professionalism training programs devote time to research and address problems that affect people in different work-stage groups: graduates with no work experience, the entry-level workforce managing high-rent costs in cities; middle management, parents in the workforce raising children despite high costs of living and childcare; senior management (people who may not be meeting organisational expectations because their skills are outdated); and those in the work force managing their time at work preparing for retirement.
These are areas in the workplace orientation and re-orientation programs that require urgent attention as they affect people’s attitude to work and productivity. What is ironic in Africa is that we are just making it worse and instances of unprofessionalism and corruption in the workplace are a daily news item.
Now, because of technology, people’s skills on the job and in the workplace are fast becoming irrelevant. Some employers are quick to let employees go instead of investing in soft skills/professionalism training and retraining. By doing so we’re not creating solutions. We’re creating bigger problems.
Big problems require big solutions. Professionalism in and of itself, is not just one skill but the blending and integration of a variety of skills.
I do believe people in Africa want to solve the unique problems in the continent which have plagued us for years and generally make the continent a better place to live and work in. So many in the workplace and on the street just want to live a life that provides basic amenities without having to suffer and struggle with corruption, inadequacies, irregularities and unprofessionalism in the public and private sector service space.
What you can do;
- Create opportunity for orientation:
Yes, wherever you are in whatever field, speak up and make the opportunity to shine by solving big problems, and call out the stuff that’s just superfluous. It will begin to yield results gradually.
- Promote sensitisation:
We all can advocate for better workplaces by embracing the opportunities for change that professionalism enables. The sensitisation will help create more awareness of the most important aspects of professionalism development.
- Resource management: for your business/company/organisation, this is the most critical part of professionalism development. When resources are mentioned, I believe most people readily think about money, time, and knowledge. In reality, most businesses in our part of the world focus on money but people who lead in different aspects of life globally understand that there are many resources that create long-term success. When you take the management of resources seriously, it is easier to structure the right processes and systems in every workplace.
- Create adequate structure and systems in your company/ business Organisation as a CEO:
I have been privileged to work as employee in highly professional organisations and multinational companies where the vision statement is not just a picture on the wall.
The amazing thing about having an engaged structured vision with your team as a CEO is that your team bonds better and there is a healthy working relationship that is necessary for business/organisational growth.
Show empathy towards employees’ personal issues however do your background check and due diligence to avoid negligence in productivity (sadly some employees working in toxic workplaces suffer in silence or die from stress induced issues at work).
As a leader, do avoid gossip, colleague bashing and listening to rumours. Ensure that rules, policies and procedures are the same for everyone with no preferential treatment.
- Write to or Call your Government Leaders at all levels: our Public government officials are in the public service to serve and it is required that they do so professionally. When this is not the case, there will definitely be abuse of power in different areas.
In summary, have you ever visited any business/company where you could feel the tension in the environment? It could be an airline company, a government establishment, a restaurant or even a supermarket where the staff are so rude and discourteous. Sadly, this could be your business environment.
Many companies’ CEOs usually struggle with giving the desired customer experience and aligning employees with the company vision/culture.
Setting up your organisation’s management system after a training needs assessment will guarantee the right results.
The vibrant, creative, transformational training style should be adopted to bring a positive professional change to your business and maximise growth. Put the right structure, standards and processes to continually produce profitable business results.
Adopt training approaches and programs that guide and lead you/your team on the soft skills and professional etiquette needed for life and business on the African continent. We can do better and Africa is relying on us to do better!
The writer is the Founder of The Positive Professional Training Company, where she offers consulting, training and coaching services to Leaders of organisations and their employees to energise and empower them for profitable growth. Ifeyinwa may be reached on https://thepositiveprofessionaltrainer.com and [email protected]