Olufunke Akinjiyan

  • Learning and Talent Management Director

  • Jacobs


Olufunke Akinjiyan is Learning & Talent Management Director for the Middle East. She comes with over 10 years’ experience in engaging, managing, designing, delivering learning programs across various global MNCs. She is Committed to, developing and delivering result-oriented L&TM strategies and solutions which include and not limited to Executive coaching, Talent development, and enhancing leadership capabilities across the board. Olufunke began her career as a senior associate consultant in a global management consulting firm, she has had the pleasure of working as a Regional Learning & Development Partner across various global Multinational corporations.

Olufunke will be part of the expert speaker line-up at the ATD 2021 Middle East Conference and Exhibition taking place in June 2021 at the Address Dubai Marina and online, sharing her insights on Building a Learning Culture.

Question and Answer

As I look at a post pandemic world, in my estimation the greatest challenges for business over the next 5 years are but not limited to

Global Uncertainty:  this will most likely be the new norm uncertainty around the world will create a situation where businesses are trying to figure out how to lead in a time of instability. That may require a different kind of leadership.”

Growing competitive urgency: with an increasingly competitive market environment, businesses cannot afford any delay attracting the best talent has become more urgent and will continue to be. According to a recent research, 43% of leaders cite a lack of talent and skills as the biggest and growing obstacle to overcome future innovation. Global executive leadership do not see the lack of talent and skills as a big but declining problem; rather, it’s a big issue today and it is going to get worse. This again goes back to the shortage of talent. We need specific talent to drive innovation and transformation and not only is it hard, it’s going to get harder. Transformation is currently business critical, and it will be 5 years from now and everyone wants the same talent hence it isn’t going to get any better

Demographic shift: The demographic shifts is driving interesting challenges. While its different around the world, there is an aging demographic that’s retiring, and people are living longer. We have this big population of older workers and retirees who are living a long time, combined with a declining birth-rate in most parts of the world, hence not as many people coming up through the ranks. In my opinion, an important observation is that “developing the next generation of leaders” is one of the top issues because leadership teams are aging today and in five years they’re going to be older still, so we have got to start looking at the long-term in how we are going to attract and develop the next generation of leaders.”

Technology accelerating the pace of change: Businesses of all types are looking at how technology is changing their business. This isn’t about tech businesses—it’s about all businesses. Businesses are asking, ‘how is technology transforming what we do? How is it transforming us internally, how is it changing our clients, and our business strategy? it’s not about any function, business or industry. It’s about leveraging technology to make us more efficient, to better connect us with our customers and to drive innovation and transformative thinking.

Gender Inequality: At a time when there is a shortage of talent, there are a great many talented women who aren’t being given the opportunities to move up to the upper echelons of management. The reasons are many, and complex. According to the World Economic Forum, Future of work Report 2020, reasons include lack of work-life balance, unconscious bias amongst managers, lack of female role models, lack of qualified incoming talent and even women’s confidence and aspirations. The fact is that a lot has been done in relation to gender inequality, but the reality is a lot still needs to be done.

Diversity: while it is known that actualizing digital transformation requires a culture of innovation and we know that diversity drives innovation, a lot of organizations have still not made the required connection and taken the required action. I think business leaders look at diversity and think, ‘I know we’re still tackling the diversity issue—surely it will sort itself out. It is important that Inclusion and Diversity strategy needs to be embedded into all organizations.

Though a whole team may work remotely, the organizational culture is very vital. When a culture of trust and empathy is maintained, it will strengthen the organizational culture. Some of the most effective ways in building organizational culture across remote teams are by

Easy, consistent and frequent communication; Obstacles to clear and open communication might be ‘molehills’ for in-office teams, but they become mountains for remote teams. Scheduling regular one-on-ones with all remote teams, even introverted employees need to feel visible and heard.  Bi-monthly individual check in with a direct manager prevents any important conversations from slipping under the radar. Alongside regular senior leadership town halls ensure’ s the organizational culture is embedded in a remote working environment.

Encouraging shared leadership in teams; Creating a sense of shared leadership is essential to building corporate culture for remote teams. So how do you do that? By not centring leadership on management alone but offer opportunities for employees to rise to the occasion. Encourage employees to share their experience with others by creating a remote “lunch and learn” schedule. Invite the members of each remote team to meet over video chat during lunch once every two weeks or give each member of the team an opportunity to present a theory or idea to their team. Soon, employees will come to appreciate the skills and wisdom of each team member.

Prioritizing health and wellness; When working with remote teams, it’s easy to assume that employees have a better time of finding work-life balance. Regular one-on-one health and wellness check-ins are a good start. Encouraging PTO to ensure employees get that very well-deserved break. Running various mental health sessions discussing hot topics to enhance employee wellness.

Building team culture through raining; Frequent training can unify employees across teams and distances. making sure that training sessions are well-organized, engaging, and includes opportunities for remote collaboration. Whether it’s onboarding, upskilling, leadership or even compliance training, all training programs should have opportunities for teammates to work together.

My top learning from the Covid 19 pandemic has been that businesses can’t afford to put capability building on hold. Whether the effort is reskilling at the business-unit level or a company-wide aspirational transformation. Most importantly leaders must learn to listen to innovate.

Some of the adjustment we have made are coffee mornings where employees are encouraged not to discuss anything work related. Employees had the opportunity to get connected by celebrating cultural event, sharing recipes and getting to know each other more. We encouraged our EAP helpline, remote working and encouraged employees to take time off. We engaged extensively with our health insurance provider on health awareness sessions to ensure good mental health and wellbeing.

We know that diversity and inclusiveness are not “nice to haves” they are business imperatives. In the last one year globally, the strategies been developed include;

Qualitative focus groups to understand the barriers to Diversity and inclusion; For organizations to have a better understanding, qualitative focus groups have been conducted to have a better and concrete evidence of the biases faced my employees which consistently affect equal opportunity. For example, the gap between renumeration and acceptable qualification between women and men

Implementation of organizational diversity trainings; Most organization have lately sprang into quick action with the role out of various training programs ranging for Conscious inclusion, diversity training to cultural programs as a means of bring the awareness to the organization to foster an inclusive environment.

Adjustment to recruitment and selection strategies to eliminate all bias. We cannot unlearn implicit bias immediately, but we can do a better job with how we assess applications, perhaps even moving towards anonymous applications and gauging interest solely on a person’s resume and supplemental materials before learning their name. It comes down to unlearning bias. While this takes time and education most organizations are implementing strategies to eliminate bias.

Establishment of mentoring program to grow diversity; Increasing diverse hires is one thing, but for diversity to stick, you must account for inclusivity, the act of inclusivity has led to most global organization establishing mentoring program directed at employees from underrepresented minority groups. Over the years what we have seen is people mentor others who are like them, employees from underrepresented minority groups do not always have access to mentors in the upper echelons of organizations hence not having the equal opportunity available  

Accelerated leadership programs for minority group; leaders from minority groups are few and far behind in the corporate world. Hence a lot of organizations have taken this approach to acquire skills to accelerate their professional development.

The future of business success is at the intersection of digital and human influence. For HR leaders about to initiate digital transformation;

Establishing a clear goal that makes sense from a business perspective is very important before embarking on the transformational journey. In this process the focus should always be on the employee as an end-user.

Get everyone on board; This means all stakeholders, from employees to the C-suite and everyone in -between. When it comes to a digital HR transformation – something that will affect the entire organization – you need all the support you can get for it to become a success

Don’t overcomplicate; Ensure it is simple because when it is over complicated you tend to loss people as you go on the journey

Prioritize ideas; There will be undoubtedly a long list of ideas. Prioritize them based on impact and effort. The former meaning the business impact of digitalizing the ideas and the latter meaning the time and money it would take to get the ideas to go digital.

Start with the ideas that are high impact and low effort.

Assess performance; Trying and implementing digital technologies is great but doesn’t make much business sense if we don’t look at their results. Hence, we need to critically assess what works and what doesn’t. After all, the only way for us to advance is to solve actual problems with technological solutions that truly solve these problems.

Culture; Digital technology alone is not enough for an HR transformation. Let alone a digital transformation of an entire organization. It’s just as much – perhaps even more – about the mindset of everyone involved. And that has everything to do with your company culture.

The last year for me has been filled with opportunities for me to add value within my role by helping my organization and colleagues navigate the change by virtue of the pandemic. Working collaboratively with wider teams on the curation of contents that upskill employees and coaching colleagues to drive and keep up team effectiveness while working remotely.