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As more Nigerians move abroad, employers rethink work conditions

By Guardian Nigeria
10 December 2022   |   5:21 am
As the Nigerian labour market suffers increasing loss following mass emigration, employers are having to embrace customised work arrangements, new research has found.


• Nigeria’s Dotun Ayeni, Pakistan’s Sara Chaudhry And Saudi Arabia’s Maryam Aldossari Announce Africa’s First Qualitative I-Deals Paper

As the Nigerian labour market suffers increasing loss following mass emigration, employers are having to embrace customised work arrangements, new research has found.

Titled Temporal contexts and actors vis-a-vis i-deals’ timing and creation: Evidence from Nigeria, the research is the work of Dotun Ayeni, a Doctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh Business School, in collaboration with Sara Chaudhry, Senior Lecturer at the Birkbeck University of London, and Maryam Aldosari, a Senior Lecturer at Aston Business School.

Data from the Africa Polling Institute (API) reveals that 73percent of Nigerians were looking to emigrate with their families in 2021- a 41percent increase compared to 2019 results. Career professionals across levels, support workers, artisans and students are relocating in droves, seeking better lives elsewhere. And the impact is being felt across the board. In Canada, the number of Nigerians admitted through express entry between 2018 and 2020 stands at 19,000.

In an interview with 62 employees from three industries (the capital market, medical and advertising industry) employing over 375 people, more than 97percent indicated awareness of an increase in employees negotiating idiosyncratic deals, a concept hitherto rare.

According to Debora (real name withheld), an i-dealer and manager at a capital market firm, ‘It started from 2016 when we began to experience as an organisation, and as a country, a lot of employees are leaving organisations and going abroad. At Oscon, we experienced a lot of flights. So obviously, we had to look inwards, and we had to change how we were going about things. We have tried as much as possible to be more accommodating in terms of people coming in and the requests they’re making’.

A senior medical practitioner at a dental clinic noted: ‘when you get like five people saying, ‘I want a letter of reference to Canada’, you (should) know that okay, we need to do something’

I-deals (that is, personalised, non-standard employment arrangements negotiated between employees and their employers) arise at different stages of the employment lifecycle. i-deals can vary by timing, such as those created before hire (ex-ante) versus after hire (ex-post). However, scholars have not fully considered the impact of the temporal context (environmental, social, economic, individual) on i-deals or how a range of organisational actors may respond to enabling/constraining conditions when creating i-deals.

‘Our paper focuses on the under-explored issue of i-deals’ timing by applying the theoretical lens of institutional entrepreneurship (IE)’, says Ayeni.

Key IE concepts enable a more critical understanding of broader temporal context impacts and the role of various actors (I-dealers, organisational agents) in creating i-deals. Drawing on a multicase study of three Nigerian organisations (62 semi-structured interviews, including fieldnotes and organisation-specific documents), our data revealed that field-level conditions and actors’ social positions interact to highlight (i) several distinctive temporal contexts, (ii) with differential impacts on i-deals’ timing and subsequently (iii) organisational actors adopting a range of tactics in response to enabling/constraining conditions. Based on these findings, we offer a theoretical model that reconceptualises i-deals’ timing by focusing on the invisible concept of time. Finally, we discuss our study’s implications for I-deal research and offer future research directions and recommendations for practice.’’

Yannick Griep, Editor of Group and Organisation Management (GOM), noted, ‘We are delighted to have this timely paper published in GOM- one of the prestigious publications in SAGE Business & Management Journals. We encourage all new authors, regardless of location or research context, to consider GOM given the support we offer to scholars, educators and practitioners to address and solve the most challenging issues in today’s organizations. As a publication, we go above and beyond in ensuring that all authors have all the support they need through the paper submission process, acceptance, open-access publishing, and providing top-notch proof-editing services before a paper is published online’.

According to Sara Chaudhry, ‘Our paper highlights the challenges that firms in the global south face due to the movement of skilled talent to the global north. For instance, data from the UK home office reveal that the number of Nigerians granted work permits in the UK increased to 15,772 in 2022 from 3,918 in 2019- a 303percent increase. The numbers are even higher for India, where 102,981 Indians were granted work visas in June 2022- an 80percent increase compared to 57,087 in 2019. However, little is known about the impact of brain drain on the firms affected and how employers are responding to this trend. Findings from our paper show that employers are adopting i-deals to combat the difficulties of attracting and retaining talent. However, employers must carefully manage how they are granting and managing i-deals, as i-deals can bring benefits while also increasing inequities among the workforce’.

‘The people that are leaving are not those that have no jobs. You find all sorts of people across banks, telcos and consulting firms leaving, and that’s because there is also a large element of underpayment’, says Rasheeda Seghosime, COO of Africa Foresight Group (AFG).

Maryam Aldossari adds, ‘not all employees will request i-deals, although broader organisational or industry conditions make the potential for i-deals possible. This may be due to employees not knowing that i-deals are possible or others being reluctant to ask for accommodations that make their working arrangements different from that of other workers. Therefore, the onus is on employers to create a culture where employees understand the organisation’s position on non-standard employment arrangements such as special flexibility arrangements (including time and place flexibility), personal training opportunities, non-standard pay, unique employee benefits and others. Managers must also be trained on the nuances around i-deals so they are sensitive to the needs of employees, especially when those in low-power positions require i-deals but may be hesitant to broach such conversations.’

According to the International Labour Orgnisation (ILO), 85 percent of 1,017 Nigerian companies adopted hybrid work arrangements during the pandemic, while at least four percent of those surveyed will operate a fully remote work approach post-COVID. Nigeria also leads the way in the number of organisations in Africa planning a hybrid work model (56percent) going forward. Companies like Interswitch are introducing spousal benefits and other perks, while startups like Flutterwave and Paystack allow workers to roam globally.

Dotun Ayeni concludes: ‘As highly skilled Nigerians move abroad to seek education, job opportunities and better living standards, the competition for Nigerian employers is not only giant multinational corporations entering the market, but wealthy nations looking to entice Nigeria’s best and brightest. Therefore, the Nigerian government has much to do to stem this tide by addressing the challenges impacting the Nigerian economy, including insecurity, poor infrastructure, strikes and corruption. Nigerian employers also have a chance to revisit their policies and practices by listening more closely and learning from what employees are requesting. Our multicase research shows that i-deals offer employers a platform to design more innovative policies to enhance their value proposition; however, only employers who give a chance to i-deals will reap the benefits’.

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