In my previous post, I examined the relationship between an organization’s brand promise and the brand experience produced by customer interaction with its workforce.

In this post, Mr. Folu Adeyeye, a creative strategist with a leading Lagos-based strategy and innovation firm shares his views on how to ensure that an organization’s employees deliver its brand promise to customers.


Folu Adeyeye

Winning with People by Folu Adeyeye

Your organization is only as good as its people. No matter how cliché this proposition has become, it still holds immense truth especially for businesses in the 21st century that are serious about catalyzing business growth based on consistent brand delivery. Just as your organization is only as good as its people, this group of people are also only as impactful as the creed that binds and guides them. This notion, perhaps, best underscores the importance of “branded behavior” in creating the right corporate culture that will guarantee effective delivery of your brand’s promise.

More often than not, business owners go about setting up their businesses without giving consideration to the kind of environment the business will sport or the kind of people that will best deliver the business’ value proposition. Ultimately, the employees of such businesses get the front row seat in defining what culture will pervade the business – more often than not, this culture is not very enabling.

Your people continue to be a major pillar in your business strategy, but now more than ever before, these people must become the key drivers and builders of your brand. If the people that represent you to your customers and your market do not understand your brand, then it would be near impossible to deliver that brand. While marketing communications play a vital role in the brand building process, it is people who deliver the vital brand experiences and encounters that reinforce your values and fulfil your promise.

A classic example of this would be most Nigerian banks. Very often does a bank communicate to the public their utmost commitment to service, creating some anticipation of almost celestial encounters when you do business with them. However, one cannot help but notice the sharp contrast during actual physical transaction with staff of that bank. The sad result is that the millions on Naira spent on marketing communications have gone to waste because disappointed customers will not only withdraw patronage, they will also become negative advocates for your brand.

The global business landscape, over the last decade has witnessed immense changes; so much more than the preceding century. The most obvious consequence of these changes is the transfer of power to the customer within transactional relationships. After years of empty talk, the customer is now truly king. They have developed an ever evolving taste, they have access to lots more information and now seek to be more included within the realities of business owners. They want more.

These customers, however, are people; people who still need other people to interact with in the course of their lives. The implication for your business within this new paradigm is that you have to “humanize” your brand and distil all that you stand for into personal interactions. This is where your people come in. Customers do not interact with your brand in a vacuum. They interact with you through your people and if these people do not effectively portray what your business stands for, then that sharp contrast which I referred to earlier will mark off a dangerous slide for your business.

So how do you ensure that your people effectively deliver your brand? It’s simple really. Over the last few years of working at Headstart Consulting, a strategy and innovation firm, we have developed comprehensive branBrandingd acculturation program which we call “Living the Brand*”. This program employs a comprehensive and systematic way of entrenching an organization’s values, ideals and aspirations and creating a pervasive a corporate culture that is aligned with corporate objectives. The format for the program shows clearly the steps for taking your staff through that transformational process: from employees to brand champions. Here are four steps to achieve this:

Understanding the Brand

The first thing to do is create a pervasive understanding of the key elements of your organization’s brand. These include a clear definition of why you exist as a business, the value proposition on offer to your customers, specific character traits of your brand and a sturdy position you intend to occupy in the mind of your customers. These elements make up your brand platform and when effectively applied, can be a viable springboard for effective brand delivery.

Living the Brand

This stage is called the “Baptismal Stage”. After ensuring a clear understanding of your brand across your business, the next step will be to cascade this knowledge into your corporate culture. This means that in re-writing your culture book or HR manual, you must take account of the kinds of behavioral characteristics and personality attributes that your people need to foster in order to fully take on your brand image.

Delivering the Brand

At this phase, your people are ready to begin the process of delivering your brand. However, you need to ensure that their knowledge of your brand is matched by a comprehensive consideration and understanding of the peculiar need, expectations and aspirations of your public (internal and external). This way they can be sure to create consistently delightful brand experiences.

Championing the Brand

Finally, you need to ensure that you entrench a deep sense of pride, ownership and responsibility amongst your employees as they take on the role of brand ambassadors.  You can achieve this by not only identifying but by also rewarding brand-centric behaviors and actions.

It is important to note that to realize your true potentials as a business, you need to effectively and efficiently tackle cultural misalignments and deficiencies by entrenching a culture that reinforces corporate aspirations and a workforce who’s collective and individual behaviors support corporate values and ideals.

*Living the Brand is a proprietary brand acculturation program of Headstart Consulting Limited

Brand building is all the rage these days. Perhaps that’s not as big a surprise as one might think. After all, a growing glut of look-alike products and sbrand buildingervices is making it increasingly difficult for organizations to differentiate themselves to customers and employees alike.

The hope seems to be that a powerful brand can somehow cut through the noise of the marketplace, heighten awareness of our products and services, and shift demand in our favor.

Unfortunately, too many businesses are finding it hard to deliver on their brand promise and the consequences of not being able to do so are easy to see at various points of contact between the customer and the organization.

These are the so-called ‘moments of truth’ that can enhance or erode a brand, heighten or undermine customer loyalty and generally impact on business outcomes for better or for worse.

In recognition of the dangers uncontrolled moments of truth present, businesses are increasingly seeking to create a unique ‘customer experience’. Doing so typically requires every point of customer contact to be carefully aligned with the brand promise.

Although several factors must combine effectively to create a successful customer experience, the behavior of an organization’s workforce is probably the most important. Those moments of truth involving human interaction often have the greatest impact on how a customer feels about the brand.

Taking the right steps to ensure employees continually reinforce the brand through their actions is crucial. Yet, all too often it is quite clear that many organizations have little or no real understanding of what enables or hinders employee effectiveness at the key moments of truth.

As always, a variety of factors combine to undermine an organization’s brand promise. Rarely, is it all about malicious intent or lack of interest on the part of employees.

My personal experience suggests that many employees, particularly, those on the frontline, don’t understand the implications of their organization’s brand promise for their own work situation. Others simply don’t have the wherewithal (training, tools, etc.) to deliver.

In most cases, employees can be just as frustrated as business owners or managers, when faced with the sheer reality of the gaps between what their customers expect and what they are able to for them.

Fortunately, all is not lost as there are a number of steps smart organizations can take to better align their human capital practices and brand investments. These include focusing on the experience and competencies of customer-facing employees, as well as on the work process and organization structure.

Attention must also be paid to the availability and timeliness of critical business information, the way decisions affecting the customer are made, and the reward system the organization uses to motivate people through pay and other incentives.

Not easy, I hear you say. No, but well worth the effort.

I recently turned to LinkedIn to search for candidates for an executive position I was trying to fill. During the process, I observed that a number of potential candidate-nominees could only be sent invitations by people who know their email addresses or who appear in their “Imported Contacts” list.

Now, this might seem like a smart thing to do considering the fact that social networking sites can sometimes attract all kinds of unpleasantries but, securing your profile certainly could hinder your chances of being offered a great opportunity. You know, the kind that comes knocking on your door when you least expect.

Get Out Of Your Way

Think about this for a few seconds and ask yourself why you decided to establish a LinkedIn profile in the first place. If one of your reasons for signing on to LinkedIn is to showcase your talent or career achievements to prospective employers, why would you create a ‘firewall’ to prevent them from connecting with you? What was the purpose of showcasing in the first place? Don’t you think you might be shooting yourself in the foot?

So, here’s a word of advice: Try to avoid getting in your own way.


Chinedu Paul Okafor

Chinedu Paul Okafor

Welcome back, folks.

Looks like we’re on a bit of a roll as we have another great guest blogger for our next post.

Mr. Chinedu Okafor is a human resource analyst with Accenture and he’s got some great views on the importance of taking the “pulse” of your workforce from time to time.




What Is The Pulse Of Your Workforce? by Chinedu Paul Okafor, HRBP

pulseTalent…the right talent which will assist in achieving an organization’s vision is increasingly becoming more difficult to attract. Attracting the right talent is one thing; retaining and fully engaging employees is another.  A fully engaged employee is extremely enthusiastic about the job and the organization and is willing to exceed in ensuring that the organization’s goals are met. A fully engaged employee is distinctively different from a ‘passive’ employee or a disengaged employee; one who just clocks in and out at resumption and closing or employees who might have mentally “shut down”.

In these times where employers scramble from the existing talent pool, keeping employees fully engaged is a good way to ensure employees stay devoted to the organization and are fully aligned and willing to contribute actively to the long term strategy and goals of the organization.

Employers are often of the notion that a ‘robust’ remuneration is synonymous to a fully engaged employee. Though this may be the case for some, it goes beyond remuneration.  The employees’ morale and social fulfillment increasingly have an impact on performance, productivity and retention.

How then can employees be better engaged? This differs from individual to individual and from one organization to another. What remains fundamental across board is aligning the employees’ work experiences with their personal and cultural needs. Work-life balance or better said, work-life integration is progressively gaining more attention. Employers who are able to identify their employees’ needs and make an effort in meeting these needs will invariably increase the morale of the workers.

Organizations provide several benefits in meeting these needs which cuts across strong recognition and awards programs, mentoring and leadership programs, crèche for employees’ kids, gym membership, social interactions outside of working hours (team bonding activities) and so many of such ‘perks’ that will come with working for an organization.

Different engagement practices are peculiar to different organizations, but understanding what motivates your work force to make them high performing and dedicated employees is most crucial. Some may argue that employee engagement is hard to achieve and if not nurtured, may wither. However, identifying that only a motivated and fully engaged workforce can genuinely care about the future of the organization and invest their time, discretionary or otherwise, in achieving the organization’s goals is paramount.  A fully engaged workforce is what I will describe as having a ripple effect in an organization.

Do you know the pulse of your workforce?

Hi folks,

Olabimpe Alabi

Olabimpe Alabi

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing a new guest blogger. Olabimpe Alabi is the newly appointed editor of HEWORLD.COM and has already helped to make the website a must-stop destination for career-minded professionals.

Bimpe is a lawyer by profession, but she clearly has a flair for insightful writing as well. In this post, she highlights the hidden dangers of identity theft on the web.



Guard Your Digital Footprint by Olabimpe Alabi

Digital-FootprintHow often do you keep a close watch on your digital footprint? If you are an individual or a company, what efforts have you made to monitor how you are being represented online and what various onlookers think of you?

Hold the thought for just a few minutes until you read this story:

Late one night, a colleague of mine was surfing the internet and randomly entered our company’s name into Google’s search engine. As usual, what came back was one million search results in x seconds… you get my drift.

Anyway, as he continued to view the search results, something caught his attention. One of the results was for an unknown film critic’s blog. I mean, really… human resource consulting and films don’t quite match, do they? He thought so too and decided to click on the link to find out what it was all about. To his dismay, he discovered that back in September 2012, the author of the blog had dedicated a whole post stating in a nutshell, that Human Edge Limited was a firm of job scammers. He even went further to post images from our company’s address. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he concluded his post with the statement: “They are Nigerian, do I need to say anymore?” 

For the full gist and our response, please visit:

After this experience, we decided it should be one of our major priorities to conduct regular scans of our digital footprint online.

So, back to my earlier questions, just how diligent are you about keeping a close watch on your online profile?

You may be a corporate entity or just a concerned individual, but I think the following tips, borne out of hard-earned experience, may be useful to you:

1.  Take a few minutes each day to check your online profile

Enter your company name into a search engine and scroll through as many pages of results as you can. What should you be looking for? Well, for a start, you should investigate any strange links where you normally would not expect to find your organization referenced. For instance, we were surprised to see a link between Human Edge and a film review blog.

2.  Subscribe to Google Alerts or some other intelligence custom alert system

Google Alerts is a notification service that automatically notifies users when new content about you from the web (e.g. news, blogs or discussion groups) matches a set of search terms selected by the user. The service then issues an alert to you in the form of an email digest to your Gmail account at predefined intervals.

3.  Make it easy for people with concerns to contact your organization

Anyone who feels concerned about an attempted scam and who wishes to confirm the legitimacy of your organization’s involvement must receive a prompt response to his or her enquiry.

4.  Post scam alerts on your website

If you do identify a case of “stolen identity” i.e. someone is engaging in apparently fraudulent behavior in your name, you must quickly issue a scam alert. The alert should describe the nature of the intended fraud, the identity of the scamsters (if you can) and categorically dissociate your organization from the whole event in the strongest terms (see our response in the aforementioned link).

Chartered Institute of Personnel Management LogoOver the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to forge a close relationship with the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM).

The Institute has been in the forefront of the ongoing renaissance of the HR Management in Nigeria and has been largely responsible for the emergence of HR as a premium career destination for some of the country’s brightest young talent.

In February 2013, I had the honor of being invited to facilitate the Institute’s 2013 Strategic Planning Retreat at the luxurious La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort, Ibeju, Lekki. Over 48 thrilling hours, 40 of the country’s top HR practitioners brainstormed their way through a no-holds-barred examination of the Institute’s current performance and then charted an exciting plan for future growth. It was exhilarating stuff and I remember thinking how fortunate I and my team of co-facilitators and support personnel from Human Edge were to have been a part of the project.

Although the Institute has always been led by some of the nation’s most accomplished HR practitioners, the current (and outgoing) president, Mr. Abiola Popoola has brought his own special brand of executive leadership to the role. A consummate corporate executive and seasoned HR practitioner, Mr. Popoola has reenergized the Institute and given it renewed confidence in its mission.

A humble man, the CIPM president recently sat down to an interview with Nigeria’s Saturday Punch newspaper in which he described some of the highlights of his term in office and gave a peek into his personal background and life. The interview is reproduced in full below. It’s a fascinating read. Enjoy.

How would you assess your tenure as president, CIPM?

Looking back at these past three years, I’m very pleased and content. I am grateful to God for being able to move the Institute’s agenda forward. We have hit a lot of our key buttons, but we still have more to do. These past three years have been very wonderful. I was elected the president of the Institute at our AGM in April of 2010. In CIPM whoever emerges as the national president is also the chairman of the council. I believe that leadership works best in a team. I have worked with some of the best people here. It has been a wonderful time; we worked ahead and always outlined what we hoped to achieve and how to get it done. We hold retreats to review our strategies as we look at what we have done within the context of the environment. Then we define our imperatives which become our guiding lights for the years ahead. We have a committee that is responsible for crafting and designing the imperatives, that is the Strategy Planning and Implementation Committee, which I chair. We worked together to draft new and existing strategies towards achieving our goals.

How would you describe CIPM’s contribution to HR practice?

I am privileged to say that CIPM has added great values to the regulation of HR practice in this country. As the apex regulatory body for HR, when we mention the word “regulation” the thinking of most people is enforcement and sanctions, but we still advocate that a regulator must set the pace. You must help your constituency to grow their skills and competencies. The CIPM council is there to handle people who fail to meet the standard set by the Institute. We organize exchange programmes, experimental opportunities and events to promote networking of members, among others.

You know, the HR space is one that is required to share ideas that nobody knows. Unfortunately, many HR practitioners are not yet members of the Institute, and that is where we have concerns. So to that extent, we face the challenge of how to expand our membership so that practitioners out there can come into the fold. Don’t forget that our vision is to promote excellence in the acquisition and application of skills and knowledge in HR practice. Our best resource is people, hence the need to equip HR managers to make them real professionals. That way, they can help us reconstruct the economy. So our concern is the regulation of HR practices knowing that its impact on the economy is immense. Human resources are the greatest assets you find in organizations, whether private or public sector. It’s all about people, so how do you acquire them? How do you equip them? How do you grow them? How do you motivate them? These we do by grooming our members to become thorough professionals.

 What’s the need for a new building for the Institute?

Where we occupy right now is number 1, CIPM Avenue, Ikeja and we are very proud that this avenue was named after the Institute. The building was erected many years ago and handed to our generation by our forerunners. The building was built at a significant time; we were tenants before we moved here. Currently, this building occupies one-third of the space on the land but we have had the plan to erect a more befitting edifice that matches our new brand image. Part of the planning is to continue to expand the Institute and it’s good that this is coming in our own time. We are making the dream come true.

The plan is to build a millennium building that is more modern and bigger than what we now have. This is a three-storey building but the one we are anticipating will be a five-storey building. It will give us a new look and that is why we call it the millennium building. It will be within this same premises and it will be equipped with newer and more contemporary facilities. We call it a millennium building because this one was built in the 70’s but in this case we are saying that we have moved on. Therefore, what we try to do is also to bestow laudable legacies to those coming after us.

How much is the building going to cost CIPM?

The project is about One billion Nigerian Naira. But we are hoping that we can still save more costs. It might be slightly more but we believe the money will be enough to deliver the complex. However, one big challenge is financing the project, but we have identified four sources of finance. The first is internally generated revenue; we have been planning this for a long time. We have been saving some money towards the project. Again every member will pay a levy that will be used for the project. Then we also anticipate support from friends and stakeholders. Finally, we will identify key players in the economy, private companies for support on this project.

Is this project sustainable?

I have 100 per cent belief that this project is sustainable. It is not even about me, but I can tell you that the new leadership is part of this tenure led by me. I thank God that it’s during my tenure that this is happening. I can tell you that I inherited the design of this building and I believe leadership is a continuum. In my own case I had excellent support from the past presidents so I am sure of sustainability. We are all together.

Why are many practitioners not CIPM members?

That challenge is actually not peculiar to our Institute; there are many practitioners in other professions. They don’t see the need to join professional bodies. Let’s face it; we have to be very ruthless in the assessment of the matter. That is why the rebranding thing was very important; We should rather ask what value proposition are we giving to those who have not joined? I can say happily that CIPM has given more commitment to this proposition. For instance, we used to have induction of few numbers once a year but in 2012 we had two inductions for about 800 people. The number has been growing. Some of the processes for admitting people were not as friendly and that was a challenge. People are looking for ways to reduce the stress and we try to make it easy for people to join without adulterating the brand. All that a prospective member requires is to go through our qualifying exams at different levels, especially as a young graduate. But for those who are already practicing, they need to provide evidence of what they’ve done and we see if it meets our requirements. Most of all, they must commit our code of conduct and conform to the ethics of the profession.

What would you do better, if given another chance?

Okay, it is how we engage younger members. Historically, personnel functions did not have so many young people, but these days there is a new generation of younger practitioners. Another area is becoming more visible and louder in advocacy relating to HR practice. It is important to note that we are trying to build a perception and respect for HR unlike the history of HR personnel that was, “tell the personnel, we hire and fire”. But the world has moved away from that, in fact today HR personnel are part of leadership which is about people. So we are trying to raise consciousness that the field is a special area that requires knowledge and skills. The need to maintain high standards is crucial to our brand building policy. It is a journey and it takes a long time to build a strong reputation but it doesn’t take time to erode it. The Institute must be an ambassador of that brand. I want the new Exco to keep the reputation high.

How did you become a HR professional having studied Chemistry?

I owe a lot to my antecedents. I read chemistry at the University of Ibadan and joined Guinness Nigeria Plc. as a management trainee. It was a wonderful place to start a career and I worked in the production department for about 10 years. Thereafter, I became the packaging manager. Because I took interest in management activities, I was spotted by the HR director as having potential for human resources management and that was how I joined the HR department. I rose to the position of HR director of the company before I retired. I now run a consultancy company of my own.

What do you enjoy doing?

Generally, I love to live a balanced life. I believe that there are pillars in life that makes life balanced. There is the God factor, family life and hobbies. For instance, I love cars and like to drive. I enjoy lengthy discussions and also enjoy walking or riding a bicycle.

[This article first appeared in the Saturday Punch newspaper on March 23, 2013.]

December 17th, 2010 saw the passing of my oldest client and dear brother-in-law, Jeye Okorodudu, Chairman of the Adata Group of companies. He died in a London hospital after a long battle with cancer.    

Jeye was one of those people who are often described as a ‘force of nature.’ A handsome bear of a man, he had an unusual combination of great warmth and charisma, and almost laser-like business insight. An eternal optimist, he had a boundless belief in the essential goodness of other human beings. It was a trait that both helped and hindered him as he sought to bring his entrepreneurial vision to life. He reposed a level of trust in people that was seldom reciprocated. Despite this sad fact of life, he never complained and indeed I never heard him utter a bad word or negative opinion about another person.

Jeye was a serial entrepreneur whose adventurous nature took him around the world in search of business opportunities. Beginning with Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa, he built a global network of business interests and contacts that eventually stretched all the way to China and the Far East. To make sure that he would have the human resources to support his initiatives, he invested heavily in the training and development of his employees and he consumed large numbers of business books, in both written and audio formats, every year. I still recall many late night conversations in which he eagerly explained some new concept which he had come across and wanted my advice about how he could apply it to his business activities as soon as possible.

Most of all, Jeye loved his family and his friends. On December 17, 2011 – a year after his passing, the newspapers were once again full of tributes from people whose lives he had touched and who still missed him dearly. I know I do and it’s taken over a year to finally be able to write these few words about him. He always seemed to be in a hurry, like a shooting star streaking across the night sky. Now, perhaps I know why.

I’m going to close this post with a tribute from his son-in-law, Wohabiko Owhondah. I think it sums up the kind of person Jeye was.

In Tribute

“Dad had an enduring zest for life, and he approached each day as a gift and lived it to its fullest. Every moment I spent with him, he reenforced my belief that life is an unending stream of opportunities waiting to be grasped. He loved unconditionally with his beautiful, open, and giving nature.

Anyone with the good fortune to have met Dad would attest to his genuineness, warmth, generosity and good humor. He brought so much laughter and happiness into the lives he touched. He always looked out for others and often put their needs before his own. He had a rare quality that drew people to him and allowed him to find the goodness in others. There was never any pretension or prejudice about his feelings toward anyone.

His love and friendship were very real to me. He continued to put everyone before himself in his struggle against cancer with the utmost gratitude, appreciation and trust. Even as he battled the disease, he never lost his outstanding sense of humor. His courage, spirit and iron will during this difficult time were indomitable.

We miss men this good terribly when they leave us, but we can all keep the memories we hold dearly alive in our hearts. I deeply admire his fine qualities and I’m so proud that this gem of a man was my father-in-law.”

Wohabiko Owhondah

So say we all. Rest in peace, brother.