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Nuggets for creating great work places

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“That can’t work here in Nigeria”. It’s one of the most spontaneous responses that we get when we share with HR professionals how the likes of Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola, Diageo, Intuit, Johnson& Johnson (all of whom are recognised as “Best Companies To Work for” in several countries around the world) invest significantly in their employees who, in return, reciprocate with loyalty, passion, creativity and much more.

Everything from free meals and snacks, game rooms equipped with xbox and playstation consoles, football tables, guitars, drum sets and comfy sofas (ideal for a mid afternoon nap), unlimited sick days and free premium healthcare regardless of position, amazing on-sight recreational facilities, world class in-house accredited universities to amazing work flexibility policies.

But I relish the expressions on their faces when we begin to share with them some of the amazing people practices that some of the Best Companies To Work for in Nigeria have adopted. Let me share a few with you

Child bearing policies – NSIA was one of the stand out organizations with respect to child bearing policies (and these policies have been in place since their earlier days as ADIC Insurance). At NSIA, mothers get four months fully paid maternity leave and fathers get five days of paternity leave. In addition to this, mothers get the chance to leave work an hour earlier for an additional two months. Add to this, the fact that you can work on a flexible work schedule – so you could resume at 7 a.m. close as early as 2 p.m. if you skip lunch…who takes lunch anyway! No wonder women at NSIA rave about their “women friendly policies”.

Microsoft offers dads 10 days of paternity leave, Guinness offers 4 months paid leave to mums and 5 days of paternity leave to dads and Deloitte gives fathers 3 days paternity leave and mothers, apart from their standard 3 months, have an option of taking an additional month off without pay (an option that many mothers still take as they desire above all to be close to their child especially in those early months). They go even further by offering extended paid maternity leave to nursing mothers who require more time with their babies due to health complications (either of the mother or baby).

Work-life Balance – Microsoft leads the pack in modeling the concept of work life balance and utilise technology to support employees efforts to balance their work and personal priorities. Employees are extremely mobile and given the flexibility to work from home (in fact, they are encouraged to work from home at least one day a week….yes, you read correctly!). Every employee has an internet modem and as such, they can adapt their schedule to allow them make personal commitments.

I will also mention that you shouldn’t be surprised if you see a child or two at Microsoft because employees are allowed to bring their children to the office especially when there are no arrangements to take care of them at home. ADIC, Guinness, Coca-Cola, and a few others also offer great flex-time options to employees. Coca-Cola and Unilever give even more flexibility by allowing their employees to work from home whenever there is a need (this is in addition to allowing their employees choose preferred flex-time hours which could involve early or late start and finish hours)
Free Meals – yes, Free meals. Guinness offers all staff a free 3-course lunch while Microsoft Nigeria offers not just free lunch but also snacks, fruit juice, soft drinks and fruits!

Health and Wellness – Gyms and Saunas, swimming pools and tennis courts are becoming more common in Nigerian workplaces. First Bank, Access Bank, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Deloitte are a few who have great on-site recreational facilities. Deloitte further supports staff with its unique health policy where every staff – receptionist to Managing Partner – have the same high-grade HMO plan made available to them and their families and First Bank provides its staff with unlimited health coverage.

Microsoft offers robust health club allowance and offers all its staff BUPA health coverage which covers their medical expenses even outside Nigeria (and would even cover emergency medical evacuations). You can also take Salsa and Aerobics classes at Microsoft and First Bank.

Learning and Professional/Career Development – Guinness has an immensely comprehensive and supportive development framework that they make available to all their employees. From e-learning modules available through the Diageo Academy, Breakthrough Performance Coaching program, People Manager Development Program, Growing Leaders Program, Diageo Africa Early Career Development Program, Career Compass to their Partners 4 Growth Program – to mention a few, literarily – the organization provides an supportive structure to help staff grow and thrive in their roles. All these programs and tools are in addition to core skill training made available to staff.

First Bank likewise has an impressive academy, First Academy. Though just under three years old, the Academy is one of the most structured institutions in Corporate Nigeria, with staff and faculty who exude a passion for information sharing.

The academy follows one of the most rigorous processes in developing its curriculum and ensuring its alignment with the organizaiton’s strategy and impact on the organisation’s bottom line. Their rigour is likewise evident in facilitator selection (and they have a healthy pipeline of great internal facilitators some of whom remain on the faculty even after leaving the bank), program execution and post training impact assessment/implementation follow up. They also have a vast Computer Based Learning platform with a variety of e-learning modules that are now being made available to employees on mobile devices. Add to this their affliations with leading academic institutions, including INSEAD University.

Unilever also plays strongly in this area: a robust e-learning platform with an extensive range of international courses accessible to all employees, Global and local Mentoring programs, Future Leaders Programme, Structured short term and long-term International assignments ranging from approximately 6 months – above 2 years, company sponsored and subsidized professional memberships and a continuous education scheme to encourage individual professional development, among others.

Deloitte likewise encourages staff to pursue personal and professional development. In addition to 6 weeks paid training, Deloitte offers every level of staff 1 week off for residential or learning programs. Every staff is equipped with a laptop and a modem which allows them to utilize the Deloitte e-learning modules from anywhere. Deloitte also avails it staff the opportunity to acquire certifications from Harvard Univeristy. Employees also have an option for a career break of up to 2 years . Employees can also participate in the Deloitte Global Exchange Program for the same number of years.
Thanking and Celebrating – When it comes to thanking employees, Unilever stands out with their MADE (Make A Difference Everyday) awards. There are 3 tiers to the program: The first is Peer-to-Peer award that allows employees to recognise outstanding performance of their peers on a daily basis; the second is the Functional awards where Directors can recognise members of their teams with gift certificate and cash gifts; the third tier is the company-wide awards that honours outstanding employees each quarter with recognition from the MD as well as gifts.

But there’s more – the most outstanding employee of the quarter is sent on an all-expense-paid trip to Europe with their partner, also receiving a shopping allowance to spend as they please! In addition, at the end of the year, the most outstanding employees on each job cadre, receive the MVP (Most Valuable Player) Award – each earning cash rewards of a whopping 50 per cent of their grossed up Annual Basic

  • Mr Thomas is the Country Manager, Great Place To Work In Nigeria.


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