She Leads Africa

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The Sierra Leonean economy is in dire need of a streamlined and engaging workforce. Edleen B. Elba and Fullah Musu Conteh are two professionals in the Human Resource field helping to develop, recruit and retain talent in various sectors for the Sierra Leonean workforce. Edleen is a Chartered Human Resources Analyst who owns JobSearch, a human resources management company while Fullah is co-founder and managing human capital consultant at human capital solutions firm TV-PG.

In this article by Moiyattu Banya caught up with both ladies and got them to share some tips on building human capital for any business.

It is a known but sad fact that the average job seeker in Africa is a young person. Add to this the African Development Bank’s prediction of a youth bulge on the continent. This just begs the question, how will African countries cope with the increase of young people who will far outweigh available opportunities? In post-conflict countries like Sierra Leone, that rate is even higher. According to the 2013 Status of Youth Report released in Sierra Leone, over 70 percent of young people live under a dollar a day. The country’s unemployment rate is at 60 percent and is one of the highest in West Africa.

Ladies, how important is setting up an efficient team? What key attributes should young women possess for business?

Edleen: Your team is critical.

Hire employees with the right attitude. They may not be the most qualified or experienced but you can always train them.  People with integrity and those who care about their personal development and business growth are likely to be more committed and therefore, more productive.

Fullah: Be professional at all times with your team.

When it comes to your team and standards, be professional. Culturally in Sierra Leone, the lines tend to blur between professional and personal relationships. This situation, if not well-handled, can diminish one’s image as a leader. Case in point, as a start-up, you may have set systems in place and your policies may be top-notch. However, consistent adherence can be a challenge when clear-cut boundaries are not set. Evaluate your leadership style, and ensure your  team is in agreement with your expectations.  Always check for non-compliance to policies and structures, address the culprits and help them improve on compliance. However, if they still don’t fit in, let them go, irrespective of who they are.

What would you consider critical for a young woman setting up a business?

Fullah : Understand your business market.

Understand your competitors, know what the market needs, lacks or has in abundance – then strategically come in. To this end,  you can create a niche that caters to your passion and also the market. Use that knowledge to find mentors who can help you reach your goals and potential customers/clients. Know when to take a step back and when to aggressively push with a service or product. While at it, align with international best practices and contribute to Africa’s consistent growth. It’s best to do away with the standard TIA aka “This is Africa’s way” by ensuring that you adapt to best business practices for your clients’ sake and personal prestige. The bar should be raised, always.

Fullah Musu Conteh
Fullah Musu Conteh

Let’s talk about the dream team. How can one effectively manage a team without breaking it?

Edleen:  Share your vision!

I would say, share your vision with your employees and give them responsibilities. If they are actively involved in the decision-making process, they are more likely to believe they are a vital part of the business.

Also, it is important to have open communication channels. This is essential to any relationship.  Be fair, give regular and effective feedback.

How do we maintain personal control in the face of business expansion?

Fullah: Know and understand your strengths and weakness.

Once you do, find ways or people who can help close that gap. For example, I am a transformational person and monotony bores me to distraction. Owing to this, I  do not consider myself a sales person as I am terrible at selling my organization’s new products and services. To address this weakness, I have a strong team consisting of a competent operations person and a passionate business development individual. I design products and services while the operations person follows through with implementation. The role of the business development individual is to get clients while I work quietly behind the scenes to make us all happy.

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