Having served in the marketing research industry in Nigeria for approximately 5 years in a senior human resource management role, I agree with the school of thought that posits that there is a difference between talent and employees. Every talent is an employee, but not every employee is a talent. I can encapsulate the various distinguishing factors thus; talents make and break the rules through innovation and creativity, whereas employees conserve, protect and act on the status quo. So with talents, organisations metamorphose, grow, change, and eventually become better. With employees, the waters are better left undisturbed.
The marketing research industry in Nigeria has been said to be in its emerging stage. I like to opine that this outburst and change in growth pattern gained roots towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The catalyst obviously is the entry of more international players by means of mergers and acquisitions. The question is; Is the industry at the point where it should be after almost a decade in this current era of multinational mergers? The industry could have done better than it has to date.
The marketing research industry in Nigeria is faced with a number of challenges that must be treated with all seriousness. Let me explain a few.
1. Creative Ways of Grooming and
The industry is too stiff in its style of grooming talents. In fact the style needs to be updated and made more personal-development-focused and trendy. Research is seen to be the core business and so understandably more emphasis is placed on employees in the research departments. However, what MR companies need to realise is that their job should be more about providing needed insight and helping the client to make right decisions than just conducting surveys and other research projects. An intrinsic understanding of this shift should reflect in the way talents are identified, brought on board, and groomed right through to the top. The right structure for grooming and growing talents is missing, and this often creates a gap and weakens the leadership, and even makes smooth succession rare. I will strongly recommend that the career journey of talents should deliberately take them round every single function, research, marketing, costing, operations, project management, human resource, planning & administration, etc as may be applicable, that contributes into the system of producing results and keeping the organisation running. The result will be a well-grounded team that understands the business from end to end and will take decisions as owners and not as renters in the business.
2. Human Resource Involvement:
Human resource practitioners in the industry are yet to show sufficient understanding of their businesses, and this reflects in the quality of the contributions they make on the round table, and decisions they make in the line of duty. The MR industry is a heavily revenue-driven industry. As long as you are hitting your numbers, everything seems fine. The leadership of the MR companies in Nigeria are yet to show deliberate interest in huge training and development of talents. Consequently HR has a lot of qualitative and quantitative convincing and selling to do. But this is almost impossible, except they can reduce their submissions and arguments to numbers. They need to be alive to the dynamic trends in the core of the industry, and how the war for talents in an industry where there is desert-dry talent drought, can affect organisational performance. Furthermore, because of no or partial automation, and lack of data, even senior HR people are locked down with base functional activities, with little or no time for strategic activities. Let me also add that HR people in the industry need to improve their analytical skills if they must match their line managers and other senior managers in understanding the trends in the core business, and to be able to measure same against the business’ goals and achievements, including talent growth.
3. The Weakness of NiMRA Nigeria
It is a beautiful thing that there is the Nigerian Marketing Research Association (NiMRA). I was hoping it could be a stronger and more-on-the-ground association. In my days in the industry, although I have always approved payment of yearly membership dues for our employees at the time, I have also always questioned the real value derived from being a member of the association. By real value, I was and I am still concerned about the direct developmental benefits to individual members towards the growth of their career. I don’t feel the heavy presence and influence of NiMRA in the industry. I say so, because I can only imagine the power and positive influence an organisation like NiMRA can bring about in the marketing research industry, if things were taken more seriously in the association. The association cannot exculpate itself from the challenge of talent drought in the industry, in a country where MR is not directly taught from scratch in any university or higher institution. I suggest that NiMRA should begin to take the front seat in MR development, and should endeavour to work towards influencing policies to establish MR as a viable and integral learning programme in our institutes of learning, in order to breed a generation of deliberate marketing researchers, and insight providers. The positive effect on our political and social-economic life will be immeasurable.