The Organisation and Human Resources Director at Lafarge Africa Plc., Gbemiga Owolabi, has said the building solutions giant is “well prepared for the future” thanks to actions taken by the company amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking with leading Nigeria newspaper, BusinessDay, Owolabi, who joined Lafarge in the heat of the novel coronavirus outbreak last year, noted that the strategy organisations used before and during Covid-19 must be different from that of the post-pandemic era, a period often referred to as the “new normal.”
“Recall that I joined during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, which made it somewhat challenging to hit the ground running. However, over the past seven months, apart from providing leadership for the HR function, my focus has been to ensure that we get the business ready for the future.’
“During the lockdown earlier in 2020, we more or less tested our resilience and we satisfactorily handled the challenges of the period. The business is now well prepared for the future,” said Owolabi, a 1988 graduate of Industrial Relations & Personnel Management from the University of Lagos with experience across sectors of the economy, from Fast Moving Consumer Goods, Oil & Gas, to Telecommunications.
Highlighting some of the measures the company took since he joined the firm amid the crisis, the director revealed that Lafarge Africa, through regular engagement with business leaders and employees, has been able to develop a robust HR strategy linked to the overall business strategy, especially one that is predicated on a very high growth agenda.
“When you look at the employees who are going to drive that going forward, you must keep them connected and informed to ensure that they are all ready for a high growth agenda,” he said.
Part of the company’s efforts was the launch of Project One, which according to Owolabi focuses on building a high-performing organization, with one team all moving in the same direction. The initiative was launched in collaboration with the Communications, Public Affairs, and Sustainability Development team at Lafarge to drive the “One Team, One Direction” agenda, in order to further entrench a culture of oneness built on trust and collaboration.
“We leveraged the benefits of this shift considerably during the lockdown and post-lockdown phases of the pandemic, projecting us to be ready for the future,” Owolabi said. “The essence of it is that you have people with a common mindset to collaborate and lead successfully.”
During the lockdown, Lafarge activated its Business Continuity Plan and remote working arrangement, which ensured that its employees and their families are safe and healthy. The company also increased employee engagement, ensured it shared structured guidelines and briefed line managers on how to engage with employees remotely while encouraging the latter to also check-in on each other.
All of these measures have paid off hugely, according to Owolabi. While the effects of the pandemic have been felt globally with businesses in several sectors hard hit, productivity levels have increased at Lafarge Africa thanks to its business resilience. Also, Lafarge Africa won the Leadership in Crisis Strategy award by the HR People Magazine based on the strategy deployed during the crisis period, beating nine other multinationals in Nigeria that submitted entries.
“They were specific about the pandemic, reviewing how companies survived and ensured sustainability,” Owolabi said. “The award was about the process, the strategy that we put in place and how we were able to manage, and because we were able to demonstrate the results in terms of our performance, preparedness, and actions.”
Another key outcome of the company’s actions during the period was the “mindset and behavioral change that we quickly caught up to,” he added. “This led to Project One - one team, one direction which helped us to drive more productivity.”
About Lafarge Africa Plc
Lafarge Africa Plc, a leading Sub-Saharan Africa building materials company is a subsidiary of LafargeHolcim, a world leader in building materials. Listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Lafarge Africa is actively participating in the urbanization and economic growth of Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa.
Lafarge Africa has the widest footprint in Nigeria with cement operations in the South West (Ewekoro and Sagamu in Ogun State), North East (Ashaka, in Gombe State), South East (Mfamosing, Cross Rivers State) with Ready-Mix operations in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. Lafarge Africa has a current installed cement production capacity of 10.5Mtpa.
Lafarge Africa leverages on its innovative expertise to provide value-added products and services solutions in the building and construction industry in Nigeria. Additional information is available on the web site at www.lafarge.com.ng
LafargeHolcim is the global leader in building materials and solutions. We are active in four business segments: Cement, Aggregates, Ready-Mix Concrete and Solutions & Products. With leading positions in all regions of the world and a balanced portfolio between developing and mature markets, LafargeHolcim offers a broad range of high-quality building materials and solutions. LafargeHolcim experts solve the challenges that customers face around the world, whether they are building individual homes or major infrastructure projects. Demand for LafargeHolcim materials and solutions are driven by global population growth, urbanization, improved living standards and sustainable construction. Around 75,000 people work for the company in around 80 countries.
Director, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development