By March 26th, 2013, Abiola Popoola’s tenure as President/Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) will come to an end. In this interview with thegazellenews.com team led by the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, MUSBAU RASAK, he speaks on the achievements of his tenure and other issues affecting the Institute and HR practice in Nigeria.
On Thursday, you will be doing a ground breaking event/project; can you shed more light on this?
Part of the planning is to continue to expand the institute. Where we occupy right now is number 1, CIPM Avenue, Ikeja, we are very proud this avenue is named after us. This building came about many years ago, it was handed over to our generation by our forerunners and when the building was built at the time it was actually a significant time, we were tenant before we moved here, this building occupies a one-third of the space on the land but we had always had the plan of erecting an edifice that is befitting of our new brand. It’s good that it’s our own time that we are making this dream comes true. The plan is to build a millennium building that is grandeur, more modern and bigger than what we have now. The one we have now is a three-floor building but the one we are anticipating to build will be five floor building and it is such that will grace us with a new look and that is why we call it the Millennium Building in this same premises and it will be equipped with newer and contemporary facilities.
Sir, hope you followed due process in arriving at the decision to construct this millennium building?
That is the position of the institute, issues of compliance and due process and that of appropriate principles are very cardinal. In fact what we did, by the authority of the council, we set up a special committee to look at this, and in that committee, members were carefully selected. The members of the committee consist of members of our institute who have integrity, in fact the Chairman of the committee is a former Vice President of the institute and other members are Directors of companies. Building is not our area of specialization, so we had to get services of professionals to design it and the bid process was given to another active professional to moderate the bidding process which was subjected to competitive analysis. Apart from this, we have an in-house Finance Department and an Internal Auditor. So due process is key to us.
Sir, what are the challenges facing the execution of this project in term of cost and other factors?
One big challenge is financing the project, but we have identified four sources of finance. The first one is internally generated finance; we have been planning this for a long time, so before now, we have been saving some money towards the project. Secondly, every member will be charged on a certain levy that will be used to advance the project. Of course we have the corporate members. Third source, is seeking support from friends and stakeholders who are ready to support such progressing projects like this one, so we will identify key players in economy, private companies who will be willing to support us on this project.
How much is being projected for the building of this complex?
The round figure for the project is about one billion Naira but we are hoping that when we get nearer we can still save more cost, it might be slightly more but we believe the money will be enough to deliver the complex, it is about millennium building
You call it a Millennium Building what inform the choice of the name?
It is just to indicate the timing, what we presently have was built in the 70’s , 80’s but this case of the Millennium building reflects that we have moved on. For instance, we raised the importance of library last year, we did it and named the library a “Millennium Library” and truly it was a millennium one in terms of standard and usefulness to members. Therefore what we try to do is to bestow this kind of laudable legacies to those who are coming behind.
You are reputed to be the architect of the rebranding of this institute; do you believe this project is sustainable?
I have 100% belief that this project is sustainable. It is even not 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, I believe leadership is a continuum and its collective, those two words are very important. In my own case, I had excellent support from my past president so I am assured about sustainability, we are all together, so I have no doubts.
Could you tell us how has it been these past three years that you have been in office as the president and chairman of council?
I was elected the President of the Institute at our AGM in April of 2010. As it turns out, whoever is the national president is also the chairman of the council. The council is the apex body in charge of the Institute. So, RATHER THAN SAY HOW HAS IT BEEN FOR ME for THESE THREE YEARS, HOW HAS IT BEEN FOR US these three years BECAUSE I TAKE IT that LEADERSHIP IS A COLLECTIVE? I’ve had the honour of being the chairman of the council but I have been working very closely with the council. This council came in three years ago. It has been a wonderful time to the extent that we had outlined what we hoped to achieve .THE Institute being a professional one, every three to four years, we have a retreat to review our strategy. We look at what we have done in the past period, what is the context of the environment, and what do we see as the key ways forward for the future. In this retreat, we define what we call our imperatives, and by these, our must-win virtues to be achieved and these become our guiding lights for the next two years. As it turned out , the committee that is responsible for crafting and designing that imperative is called the strategy planning and implementation committee, SPIC. And I have the honour of being the chairman of that committee and was part of the drafting of most of the strategy and planning that I inherited as president; So, looking back at these past three years, I’m very pleased and content, and grateful to God for being able to move the agenda massively forward. We have hit a lot of our key buttons, but we still have room to go. It’s been very wonderful these past three years.
Looking at the Institute how has the institute contribute to the practice of HR in Nigeria?
When we say we are the apex regulatory body, regulation is in the bigger sense. When we say ‘regulation as a company’, the thinking about it by the people is to catch people and force them to terms, but we still say a regulator must set the pace, you must articulate thoughts of the jobs and having set them, you must help your constituencies to raise their skill and competence levels. The third level is, those who fail to meet that standard, and the regulation council comes in to say they don’t belong to this group. I believe I am very privileged to say that this group has added great values to the regulation to the extent that we are a great player as it concerns and is expected of HR practitioners in this country; we organize exchange programs, we organize experiential opportunities; we organize events to promote networking of members.
You know, the HR space is one of such that is required to share ideas that nobody knows, the institute provides the opportunities for its members to network. Unfortunately, many HR practitioners are not yet members of the institute, and that is where we have concern, so to that extent we have challenges of how to expand our membership so that a lot of practitioners out there can be within the circle and then we can actually enhance the scheme. Don’t forget that our vision is to promote excellence in the acquisition and application of skills and knowledge in HR practice. We want our members to be part of the national space to work beside the government. Our best resource is people, the need to equip the HR Managers to make them really professional so that wherever they are in this economy, they can help us reconstruct the place. Our space is about regulation of HR practices and the impact of that on the economy is immense, everywhere you look, those are the greatest asset; in organizations, private sectors, public sectors, all is about people, so how do you acquire them? How do you equip them? How do you grow them? How do you motivate them? If we are able to help our members to become professionals in that area it will go a long way.
Most Practitioners are not yet members of the Institute, is it because the CIPM has not been known much in the past and what are you doing to bring them to the Institute?
That challenge is actually not peculiar to our institute; there are many practitioners in other professional areas, they don’t necessarily join professional bodies. Let’s face it; we have to be very ruthless in the assessment of the matter, what are attributable to those who have not joined. So, that is why the rebranding thing was very important, we should ask what value proposition we are giving to those who have not joined. I can say happily as an Institute, CIPM has giving more commitment to this proposition.
For instance, we use to have induction of few numbers once a year. However, in 2012 we had two induction ceremonies where we inducted close to 800 people, so it is been growing leaps and born but yet, we have not gotten to where we are going and is partially due to our style because we need to be more active. Some of our processes for admitting are not as friendly as it need to be, and this are challenges because some we are looking for ways to reduce the stress and make it easy for people to join while not diluting the brand, that’s what we have and I believe we will get there very soon.
What qualifies a practioner to be a member?
You can be a member either as a prospective practitioner, if one is a young graduate, there are some examinations one will take and basic minimum level of knowledge, so the examination will place you to acquire the knowledge required to say ‘I am a member’. But what qualifies a graduate or HND holder, you must take necessary examinations and they are in stages. But if you already practice and you have evidence of what you have done and you meet our requirement its compulsion to admit you as a member So you can be quoted to be a member when one meets requirement of knowledge skills and when one commit to abiding by our code of conduct to conform to the ethics of the profession.
What benefit would this Millennium Building offers other stakeholders?
This space we have is no longer sufficient for the size of the Institute, we are a professional Institute but we only have one training room, we need to have more to accommodate the needs of the Institute. One key benefit for stakeholders is the expanded space to serve her needs. Number two, If you are a member, you must see that the Secretariat signifies and reflects the status of the institute, by conveying the status, symbol and emotional connections
By March you will be rounding up your tenure as the President of the Institute, what advice are you going to give to incoming leaders?
leaders to the institute cannot be outsiders, so what to give is not advice, it is a reminder on the need to maintain the high standard that our institute is known for. Brand building especially for policy like this, of course is a journey and it takes a long time to build a reputation it doesn’t take time to erode it. The Institute must be ambassador of that brand. I will like to remind them that they are carrying a huge responsibility and advise that they keep the reputation at the highest points.
Looking back to the past three`years, what would you have done better if you are given another opportunity?
Okay, that area I think we need to focus on is how we engage younger members. Historically, personnel functions had not so many young people in it, but these days there is a generation of new young practitioners and the point is how we inculcate culture into the younger generation.
Also in the area of being more visible and louder when we it comes to advocacy we need to do more, so that when people are asking or seeking opinion relating to HR practice, we will be natural point of call even in Government.
Will it be appropriate to say that the focus of the Institute is to changing the face of HR pin Nigeria?
I will rather say we are trying to raise a perception and respect as regards HR. You know the history of HR personnel is related as ‘tell the personnel, we hire and fire’. But the word has moved away from that, in fact today the HR personnel is integral to leadership and since leadership is about people, and so we are trying to raise consciousness that the field is a specialist area that requires a body of knowledge, skills etc.
Tell us about yourself
I really love to live a balanced life. I believe that there are pillars in life that makes life balance, You have God, Family Life and I believe there is a pillar around hobbies (Things one likes to do); I enjoy the herbs, lifestyles, I Iove cars and like to drive, I enjoy lengthy discuss and I also enjoy walking or riding bicycle.
Can you give us brief ?
My name is Abiola Popoola. I read Chemistry in University of Ibadan, I joined a wonderful company called Guinness Nigeria Plc as management trainee, I was in production, it was a wonderful place to start a career, and I worked in the Production for about 10 years and became the Packaging Manager later on. Being active in management activities, I was later spotted by the HR Director as having potential for Human Resources, and was asked to join the HR Department. And later became the HR Director of the company before I retired. I now run a consultancy company of my own.