June 7, 2021

A new approach to the employee value proposition in the new normal

Live inspired – a new approach to the employee value proposition in the new normal

By Esther Akinnukawe, Chief Human Resources Officer, MTN Nigeria

Over the last 18 months, the way in which many companies and their employees relate and interact has changed fundamentally. A transition that had been slowly emerging, as technology-enabled remote working began to change corporate cultures and ways of working, accelerated at unprecedented speed. What might have taken a decade to happen in normal conditions, took place almost overnight.

The pace of that transition, combined with the natural stress of a global pandemic and all the associated uncertainty, put unprecedented strain on employees, and on the HR and operations departments that are mandated to support and manage them. We have learned more, faster, than at any point in our history and we are now applying those learnings into a new employee value proposition, that reflects the new normal but retains the heritage on which a brand like MTN has been built.

When trying to adapt to new realities, it’s often possible to overlook that heritage and seek to only reflect the current status quo, but that’s a mistake that means the DNA that defines you as a business gets lost. Think about the hundreds, if not thousands of Nigerians who have worked for MTN since 2001, and now work across the African telecoms landscape. Our challenge was to ensure that DNA that has driven our success as a business, could be combined with the digitally enabled, flexi-working evolutions that enable a much more global outlook to employment and drive mobility opportunities.

Then we had to ensure that the commitments that have been made that are unbreakable, remain at the center of our thinking as an organization. Let me give you an example. There is a misperception that the acceleration to remote working constitutes a threat to local employment and will be used by companies to outsource Nigerian jobs offshore. Nothing could be further from the truth. We see this as an opportunity to double down on the local recruitment, talent development, and capacity building that has been critical to our success today. Not only do we have new mechanisms and structures for exposing Nigerian employees to global best practices, we also have a much broader set of opportunities to offer. During the height of the pandemic, it was the access to global learning capability that meant we could offer all staff digital skills training, ensuring that they were equipped to work in their home environments. I firmly believe that not only can we continue to develop a world-class Nigerian workforce, but that we are now better equipped than ever to do so.

With these new ways of working and structures, do come challenges. Some of them are, we hope, time-bound to the pandemic. For example, the constantly changing dynamics around social distancing and other restrictions, and the downstream economic implications, make it much more difficult to execute long-term plans and force a level of constant recalibration that is exhausting. The ability of employees to separate work and personal lives is much more difficult when they work from a home environment, disrupting the balance between employee well-being and business delivery. Equally, the skills and capability to manage interpersonal relationships changes when we can’t have the adhoc personal interchanges that happen in an office environment.

The final element that has become of clear concern to employees is the role that the ‘purpose’ of an organization plays in the value proposition for the employee. Whether it is climate change, a global pandemic, social and economic inequality, or an issue of personal concern, the motivation for employment is shifting towards impact. For progressive employers, that’s a great thing, because it means more and better alignment. But it means we need to communicate the role that we play in society more directly and involve them more closely. I don’t think anyone can deny that a workforce that feels like they are positively impacting the world is much more likely to give their best, every day of the week.

All these factors were considered when we built our new value proposition. It’s designed to ensure our people work with meaning, grow with purpose, thrive on positivity, and are connected to develop. In these four pillars, we think we’ve managed to capture the DNA that is distinctly MTN while adapting to the new normal. We’ve introduced the concept of ‘anytime and anywhere work, that enables flexibility. We’ve emphasized small teams, agility, and innovation. We’ve embedded a focus on sustainability, learning and ownership and we’ve ensured that a work-life balance and integration is combined with an unwavering focus on inclusion and diversity.

I am confident that we have found the right balance, but in line with the philosophy embedded within it, we are watching closely and will react, refine or adapt where necessary. Success will mean that MTN delivers another generation of technology professionals into the Nigerian ecosystem, just when the emphasis is even more closely on the digital economy. Playing that talent development role is good for us, it’s good for the ecosystem, and it’s good for Nigeria.