Sound organizational culture will help SMEs drive employee engagement – Adeyemi Ajayi

Adeyemi Ajayi

Adeyemi Ajayi is a multi-variate professional cutting across Entrepreneurship, HR, Risk Management and Corporate Governance. He is a consultant and an Entrepreneur with a passion for people management, business growth and career development. Adeyemi is a partner at Exitum Consulting Limited  and he has been recognized as Top 150 Global HR Influencer and Top 8 African Thought Leader in HR.

In this interview with MSME Africa, Adeyemi bares his mind on the issues of Human Capital Management and Processes for SMEs.

Considering their peculiar nature, how can small businesses drive employee engagement and people management?

Employee engagement is very important to any business; especially small-scale business. The value small scale businesses demand from people management is quite enormous and growing from time to time. One of the key resources that a small-scale business owner have is its people. Once a business owner ascertains Employees Value Propositions (EVP), it can be harnessed, and business can grow.

Small scale businesses can drive employee engagement through sound organizational culture. This is a culture of performance and excellence. The tone from the top must be clear and must speak to the values that employees are expected to deliver. This culture will strengthen the achievement of organizational goals. Another consideration in driving employee engagement and people management is a sound talent management strategy. Businesses should set a system for the attraction, growth and retention of talents. Talents are the employees who do not only add values to the organization, but also ensure that their commitment to the organization make significant difference.

How can small businesses handle learning and development goals considering their peculiarities and financial limitations?

The current realities require lots of learning and re-learning. The entire workforce in an organization is expected to commit to new ways of learning. Learning development goals should include the need for employees to improve in performance and productivity of employees for career development and organizational growth.

With limited budget, learning and development can still take place. There are opportunities for virtual learning and capabilities for development. There are online learning and Massive Open Online Courses. This can be tailored towards specific competencies gap in an organization. Small businesses owners should look at virtual learning, on-the-job learning and other efficient means of learning like Knowledge Sharing Session and Knowledge Management System.

Would you say performance management is important to small businesses? If it is,how can it be achieved?

Performance management is the key driver of results and achievement of short and long-term goals. It must be designed in such a way that the key performance indicators of the business are cascaded down to departments and individuals.

There are 3 major performance management system; Management by Objectives (MBO), Balanced Score Card (BSC) and Objectives & Key Results (OKR). The choice of these Performance management system depends on the organization’s performance management’s philosophy. It is advisable that organization determine a standard of performance and set appropriate KPIs from the beginning of the period. When appraised, businesses can ascertain its progress in achieving its goals.

The ‘One Man business” syndrome seems to be prevalent around here; how can small businesses overcome this syndrome?

Starting and owning a business comes with some level of pride and “I know all” self-rating. The self-prided business owner can easily slip into overrated ego which leads into “one-man business” syndrome. I have seen many businesses die because of this one-man business sense. It comes with lots of micro-managing and sense of self-value.

The best way to overcome this syndrome is to learn about leadership skills which includes delegations, supervisory and strategic directions. This option helps a business owner to realize the need to empower his team to deliver on strategic objectives. Effective communication, team building, management values and continuous learning are pivotal to building an enduring institution. Without these, the one-man syndrome will exist and may eventually kill a business.

If you would advise small business owners on the subjects of coaching, mentoring and succession planning, what would you tell them?

Any business owner who does not raise leaders is a failure. This can be achieved through effective coaching and mentoring. These two components are not same. A business owner should be able to build someone who can run the business without them. The fears many business owners nurse is circumnavigation and sabotage. But this should not be an issue where a business owner builds a system with checks and balances.

Coaching involves committing individuals on the path of specific knowledge and discipline while mentoring is building a life journey with a mentee. The process of coaching and mentoring requires deliberate steps to build individual’s capabilities and talents. A good business owner should be able to spot individuals who will fit into the leadership configuration of the organization. This should be taken seriously.

I will advise every business owner to

  1. Set up leadership structure
  2. Create a system to build talents through coaching and mentoring
  3. Raise leaders of the future
  4. Empower their team and workforce to perform

Building structures around business is quite important, how can SMEs achieve it?

Building structures requires two things; functional and strategic intent. It starts by putting the right processes and policies in place. Policies are guiding document that will enable a business to direct its transactions and activities in a definite manner. Many SMEs in Nigeria do not have policies and processes in place. The transaction and activities are directed by the thought and mindset of the owner. In many cases, they act as “the spirit leads”. This creates a system compromise and lack of trust in leadership. There are no definite ways of doing business and many times, the businesses fail due to lack of definite approach to doing business.

Structures should be built around people, product and operations. Effective design will help organizations build a sustainable system that is difficult to manipulate.



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