I was conducting research on the top issues and challenges faced by HR in the past few years, when I came across two articles written by Eric Friedman for Forbes. One article was titled, Top Five Issues Facing Human Resources in 2020, and the other was titled similarly, except for the year 2021. Some of the top issues faced by HR in 2020 included: the attraction and hiring of high skilled talent, employee retention and succession, and the need for workforce development programs. A year ahead, these challenges were carried forward, along with the renewed uncertainty that 2021 brought with it.
Be it the best of times or the worst of it, identifying, developing and retaining the best talent for the organization’s long-term success has never been easy.
A look into Nigeria’s recruitment landscape
Currently, over 50% of Nigeria’s youth between the ages of 15-34 are unemployed. That number increases to 70% when those aged 35-44 are added to the list. An unemployment rate of such major proportions leads to what Nigeria is currently witnessing within its borders - high crime rate and insecurity, among other social vices.
Nigerian economist and development expert, Dr. Chiwuike Uba called Nigeria’s unemployment rates as “challenging and unsettling”. The rising unemployment in Nigeria, Uba stated, could only be effectively addressed with a well-developed education mechanism - an important sector that was left to years of neglect.
Instead of finding long-lasting solutions to rising unemployment, the recruitment challenges in Nigeria were often resolved with knee-jerk approaches, like, providing temporary jobs. Inconsistent and conflicting public policies on employment further worsens the unemployment situation. Without identifying and addressing the factors causing the mayhem, Nigeria will be unable to solve its unemployment challenges. The country, therefore, needs an urgent and lasting solution to counter its unemployment challenges.
Recruitment challenges in Nigeria
1. The employability gap
Owing to Nigeria’s slow job growth, the number of jobseekers outnumbers the number of available jobs immensely. In 2018 alone, Nigeria’s job creation rose to 450,000 jobs as a limited offset for job losses in the previous year; but the number was significantly dwarfed by the 1.8 million young people that entered the job market. More recently, in 2020 there was an alarming rise in unemployment rate from 27.1% in Quarter 2 of the year to 33.3% in the fourth quarter.
2. The brain-drain issue
Nigeria ranks in the top 10 in terms of the number of skilled workers emigrating over the past four years. The subject of moving overseas has become a conversational icebreaker in the nation. And what once began as a trickling of qualified talent has turned into a mass exodus of the best talents in Nigeria to the rest of the world. As a result, organizations struggle to staff their departments with qualified talent.
3. Lack of competent middle management
The middle-management are often considered as the “power engine of organizations”, because at this level of management, leaders are the custodians of the culture, energy, and competence that runs the organization. They are in charge of driving talent and productivity.
However, the talent at this cadre of management are often the ones attracted for opportunities overseas. The consequent brain drain creates an imbalance in the workforce, causing problems to the top and bottom of the organization. Top level managers are pulled into operational and tactical issues, which leads to them being overstretched. Without the support of competent talent to take the helm in the middle management level, senior managers become stressed out, frustrated, and unproductive in their roles.
4. Emergence of pseudo-talents
An unusual trend that has arisen in the talent market is the emergence of pseudo-talents. These are professional job seekers whose only real competence is to excel at interviews and get the job. The individuals pass the interview process well, present themselves impressively to the organization, but perform underwhelmingly when they land the job. This can leave HR and recruiters perplexed. To combat this, employers need to strengthen their recruitment process significantly to ensure they don’t land with the wrong talent.
5. The work from home challenge
As with most other countries, COVID-19 introduced some major changes in the Nigerian workplace. Many employers mandated their employees to work remotely. However, start-ups and smaller companies embraced this method learning more easily than larger companies. Unlike smaller firms, the organizational structures put in place for larger organizations makes it difficult for them to go fully remote.
On the other side, remote working poses a challenge to employees due to the lack of power infrastructures. A study by MyJobMag identified these challenges and enumerated them as follow:
- Poor power supply
- Access to fast and effective internet connectivity
- Time management
- Work/life balance
- Efficient communication
- Distractions at the home front
6. The struggle to manage remote employee productivity and performance
The consensus among employers are mixed. A remote work setup provides flexibility and lowers operational costs. But most others emphasise the need for collaboration. The need for collaboration and communication are among some of the major reasons why organizations still prefer to stick with the traditional 9 to 5 schedule.
The ideal solution for this conundrum is to adopt a hybrid work approach where employers and employees would be able to reap the advantages of both work systems.
7. The recycling of talent
Another common recruitment challenge that has cropped up in Nigeria’s talent market is the phenomenon of few capable hands changing jobs frequently. Every few months or so, candidates shift from one organization to another, which leads to a worrisome recycling of talent. There is a lack of effort to invest in the development of talent and where organizations expect employees to resume and hit the ground running.
8. Recruitment based on proximity
With Nigeria’s job scarcity, the number of job seekers immensely outweighs the number of available jobs. According to Jobberman, a recruitment platform, for every 3 jobs posted on its site, the number of applications can rise to the thousands per job.
Given the high volume of applications, the last resort picked by hiring managers is recruitment by proximity. In this method, instead of advertising job opportunities publicly and thereby providing job seekers with equal opportunities, hiring managers use their personal networks to find qualified candidates.
The efficiency of finding candidates through referrals is undeniable. However, in Nigeria, hiring through proximity can often mean hiring from the same ethnic group.
9. The right candidates aren’t landing the right jobs
In a job market as unbalanced as Nigeria’s, the ratio of qualified candidates to jobs is starkly mismatched. The right candidates aren’t landing the right roles. The quality of applicants can run to extremes, from severely under qualified to overqualified.
Under qualification of applicants points towards the skills gap and lack of development of human capital in Nigeria. According to the World Economic Forum’s human capital index, Nigeria scored 44% on its human capital development as measured by its investment in education and skills acquisition. Employers also had a difficulty in filling up managerial positions, due to the aforementioned issue of the brain drain (see point 2).
10. High potential candidates fall under the radar
High potential candidates tend to fall under the radar because they struggle to write effective CVs. This phenomenon points towards the lack of availability of job counselling and career guidance services in Nigeria. Career guidance bridges the gap of a disconnected labour market, and effectively written CVs help recruiters easily identify qualified candidates.
Recognising its importance, in 2007, the Nigerian government mandated that universities provide career guidance services to its students. But despite the mandate, in 2014 it was found that only 20% of federal universities and 10% of private universities offered services like CV writing and interview prep on their campuses.
Nigeria’s hiring challenges are a result of the country’s job crisis, economic disparities, and a host of critical issues. Moreover, the stark disparity between jobs and qualified employees places a major hurdle in Nigeria’s economic growth.
But there is a bright side despite the challenges. HR technology using advanced AI algorithms and analytics to match the best qualified applicants to job openings can fix the lopsided recruitment challenges in Nigeria and eliminate some major hurdles.
By upgrading tedious recruitment processes, recruiters can finally focus of hiring the right talent, provide equal opportunities in the talent market, and put the Nigerian recruitment recovery on track.