In December 2019, the Jobberman team reached out to notify us of being among the Best 100 Companies To Work in Nigeria. The initial reaction was that of a surprise because we typically don’t think anyone is watching, and we are particular about making progress without beating a gong about every little thing; for us it’s keep building, solving problems is all the praise we need. The surprise wasn’t that we were unworthy of being on the list but rather amazed that our little efforts in making work experience in Nigeria as non-conventional as possible, got recognized by many outside the comfort of our company.
At the heart of FlexiSAF is building for tomorrow as we have for more than 10 years, and doing things differently is how we have made such huge successes. 100% of this success is owed directly to our eccentric team doing what they love in an environment that enables them to connect largely with the vision of reinventing learning. There is nothing accidental about this; our goal has been to intentionally create a culture that celebrates the uniqueness and the individual value that each of us brings to the table; the total sum being the success we keep building.
The wellbeing of “SAFstars”, as we love to call ourselves, has always been a top priority for the company, thus our core values are enshrined to support one another to excel and reach our potentials, as well as providing the opportunity to achieve our ambitions. One would agree that it is no surprise that people would want to be a part of our community.
During the award presentation at our head office in Abuja on January 9th, 2020, Kemi Vaughn, The Jobberman PR representative said making the list meant that FlexiSAF was “doing something good in its niche”.
We were recognised as one of the Desired Companies (companies where respondents would really like to work) and also one of the Respected and Admired Companies (companies where respondents have utmost admiration and respect for and also uphold in very high regard) to work for in 2019 from a total of 3,148 valid respondents.
Some of the factors employees desire and yearn for in an ideal workplace were considered during the survey. The analysis at the group level was based on certain factors and respondents were asked to list, rank, and state their level of satisfaction with the company, as stated by Kemi.
These factors were in four categories;
With what we have achieved over the years and how far we have come, we can say that 90% of the contributing factor to our success stems from our employees and their commitment towards the growth of the company. We take pride in ensuring that we have a transparent and flexible system where every SAFstar has an equal opportunity to discover their potentials and achieve their dreams. We have also created a conducive work environment where work-life balance and general well-being is ensured.
Recognising that over 90% of our workforce are millennials, we have taken time to understand their unique needs, what motivates them, and what inspires them to be productive and fulfilled. We also understand that every SAFstar and potential candidate wants to be associated with employers with great reputations—who are known for fairness, flexibility, independence, strong leadership, and opportunities for growth. The company has therefore structured it’s processes to meet these expectations. in a vibrant way that connects with the kind of people that we are looking to attract.
As a company whose existence is centred on promoting lifelong learning, we have done our bit in reinventing learning through creativity and collaboration while having fun. For an average SAFstar, one inspiration sticks out; the certainty of contributing to promoting innovative learning in society by not just working to tick off daily tasks on a schedule, but by contributing to and transforming education in Africa and truly making a difference.
This tells us we are doing something right as a company.
FlexiSAF has managed to take what was once known as a freelance service, standardized it and made it available for all while providing optimal support.
The act of not just building solutions for schools and institutions but turning it into a whole industry, creating a company and corporate structure around it, is what set the company at par with other big industries in terms of standards. So it makes sense that FlexiSAF is the only Nigerian owned EdTech company to have made the list.
FlexiSAF began its operations in 2010 with only 3 staff members and we have grown to 100+ hardworking and amazing individuals in Sales, Design, Customer Success, E-Learning, Finance, Engineering, People operations, PR and Communications across 5 branches in Nigeria.
Many SAFstars shared their FlexiSAF experience and what they felt about the award…
Abolaji Ajabiowe, the team lead for Customer Success expressed that “It’s just about time FlexiSAF gets deserved recognition. Working here for over four years, I would say it’s the best place I could ever wish to kickstart my career. It’s been more than just a workplace, it’s been home. The reception in FlexiSAF has been overwhelming.
And FlexiSAF has always been concerned about the growth of her staff which has currently contributed to how I have grown.
Looking back 4 years, I probably wouldn’t have believed that I would have achieved the kind of career growth I have today.
When we asked Luqman Ekundayo, the Product Manager for SAFTIMS, what prompted him to apply for a position in FlexiSAF he responded that “FlexiSAF was truly one of the companies I admired before I decided to join 8 months ago, the fact that it was an Edtech company, stubbornly so, in Abuja and actually doing well, that stood out for me. I remember going through their Instagram post and came across the FlexiSAF Foundation. For me, it just showed that FlexiSAF was really passionate about Edtech and that was it for me. One thing I have learnt in my time here is that everyone is constantly striving to grow, to figure out what next, even more so on the management level.”
When asked where he sees FlexiSAF in the nearest future, Luqman said, “I expect to see FlexiSAF breaking new grounds as far as Edtech is concerned in Nigeria.”
Juliet Ochanya Uja, SAFSMS Support Engineer rated her working relationship in FlexiSAF, she said, “Everything I know today, I learned in FlexiSAF so, I would give FlexiSAF a great rating. The team was very patient and encouraging. There is utmost flexibility in work and they are not rigid in making decisions. FlexiSAF will make you so comfortable that even if a company is offering more salary, you won’t want to leave o! (laughs).
On a serious note, FlexiSAF is more like a family, a lot of the time the lines are blurred between what’s yours and what’s the company’s because this feels like an extension of me as well, I can only say this because of how much FlexiSAF has given to make me the total professional I have evolved to become., I carry everything like my own, it’s my personal headache because I strongly believe that whatever affects the company, would affect me too and I believe it’s the same for every other person.”
Samir Abubakar, the Chief Information Officer addressed some of the metrics he felt were responsible for making the Jobberman list: “Transparent Performance Management and Open Effective Management are some of the factors I think are responsible.” Samir said.
“Let me explain. With regard to Transparent Performance Management, I think the OKR (Objective and Key Result) has been really great in getting everyone aligned and also allowing the staff to feel engaged.
It gives everyone the bigger picture of what they need to do and how they fit into the team, the department and company as a whole. The OKR has also helped with things like appraisal or feedback because everyone is a bit clear on what they are supposed to do and it doesn’t feel as subjective as other places that don’t have a performance management system.
We also have a twist to it which doesn’t only focus on the OKR but also the behavioural part which is an area I think we need to improve on. This is what we’ve been working on, and note, it’s not just looking at whether you’ve done your task but also the quality of what you have done; Is it time-bound, how well you work with others, are you a team player, and to also give feedback on areas that need improvement.
For Open Effective Management, this has helped us create a link to performance feedback. We have an open-door policy and we are able to engage with staff and get feedback early, we have to correct some of these things immediately. Looking at it critically it works, we get feedback early and this avenue encourages people to actually speak up and state what the issues are. We don’t have to wait 1 year or 6 months before you know there’s a problem. These are the main factors that must have influenced it, I mean there are others but for me, these two really stand out.”
We also asked him about certain traits that need to be imbibed in FlexiSAF. He said, “I think the concept of ownership is number one. We want everyone to feel like their task is something and they contribute to the growth of the company and they are valued for these contributions in many ways, not just the working environment. We also need to look at staff well being in general.
At the moment, we’re putting a couple of measures in place. Around last year we started the gym program, we are doing housing and pension, we are looking at creche, we are also trying to look into transportation, you know, things that would reduce the personal burdens of staff.
Most employers just look at 9-5 as the time allotted for staff to carry out their duties effectively and aren’t really concerned about anything that happens to you outside the work hours. It’s sad because, if one isn’t really in the right state of mind, then how do they work? So you have to address those underlying issues that would affect the performance of staff and also affect the company. These are some of the areas we would continuously work on.”
Samir analyzed the Jobberman report based on location and Industry. He said, “From an external perception, we probably might not do as much if we had more respondents from Abuja since we do B2B marketing. This is because we are not out there selling to everyone, so that could affect us. But if the respondents were from staff or old staff, then it wouldn’t really change, as they can actually vouch for their experiences here. But, for an external audience, they’d probably judge us based on how they see FlexiSAF, the physical building or, how a staff dresses or social media, which I agree is another platform that might address the perception that might make us look bigger or better than we really are.”
We discussed personal and professional opinions in FlexiSAF with Adebola Aduwo, E-Learning Instructional Designer. She said, “I believe opinions matter. For instance, in my team, we are encouraged to rub minds often and share our thoughts on any issue. When we are not comfortable with a decision made, we bare our minds.
If somehow, our ideas do not fit into what the team is trying to achieve, we are made to see reasons why it cannot work and not simply tossed aside.
We work as a unit and we speak out when we need to because we know that we will always be heard.”
Raphael Nweku, UI Designer spoke about the FlexiSAF work culture, he couldn’t stop talking about the dress code. He said, “From the get-go, it has never been very corporate, in my three years here, everyone comes wearing what they are comfortable with and this is the same with our work in the sense that there are no strict measures or rules. I really appreciate this flexibility as a designer.
For other companies, your work has to be done a certain way, to me, this reduces creativity. And the corporate dressing (laughs), sorry I have to mention this again, cause I feel choked if I am compelled to dress a certain way and I’m glad that this doesn’t apply in FlexiSAF, as their focus is on what truly matters.”
When asked how she first learnt about FlexiSAF, Fatima Sarki, Business Development Officer told us she first learnt about us from a family friend. She said, “A family friend told me about FlexiSAF. You see, I didn’t really want to settle for “any” company, I was searching for a place where I could do what I love – Education. I haven’t been in Nigeria, I schooled outside the country and I was looking to work in Nigeria at a place that resonated with me. So, I spoke to a lot of people about this desire. Three months ago, my family friend whom I had spoken to about my interest informed me about FlexiSAF.
I was surprised to learn there was an IT company in Nigeria, focused on education. I applied with my fingers crossed and got my dream job (smiles).”
“When you look at FlexiSAF core values, you would notice that there’s a little piece of you in everything” Ibrahim Yusuf Mohammed, Kaduna Branch Manager said when asked which of the core values he resonated with.
“For example, I like to see myself as a people person so I value teamwork. I believe that whatever it is you do has to be in tandem with everyone on the team, it needs to be part of something, there needs to be a blend of work. We all have amazing skills and gifts. So, I have something special, you have something special, then we come together, take each individual gift and create something extraordinary from it. For every organisation, teamwork has to be the very foundation, else it would collapse. If we do not see each other as a team, then what are we doing, are we trying to outdo each other?
FlexiSAF has a common goal and we are all here to achieve it.
This can be achieved through teamwork. That is what is driving us to get to where we want to be and this is the core value that resonates with me.”
Eddidiong Abasey, has been serving with us in the finance department for some months. We asked her what she liked about FlexiSAF. She said, “I’m very glad that I was posted to FlexiSAF. From the first day I came to submit my letter. I remember the first person I saw was Damilola (People Operations), she was very welcoming, so was Femi (Finance). It’s been a wonderful experience, there are very friendly people here, It’s a cool place to work.”
“After the interview, I asked Femi if there was a dress code, I had thought it was like every other private company. I was glad that there wasn’t any, that one could wear whatever they wanted as long as it’s decent. I have also learnt a lot relating to my profession (accounting). There was a time I had to work with the business development team, it was a bit hectic but I learnt from the experience.
I really enjoy the team bonding. I’ve attended 2 events and it was really fun. We even had the People Operations manager and the top management join us. I was shocked. I’m aware of the staff packages, and it’s amazing that a “private company” (air quotes) would do this for her staff.
Did I mention that FlexiSAF provides free lunch too, although I am not a foodie, there are options to pick from?
I guess what I’m saying is – What’s not to love about FlexiSAF? “
“We were lucky to understand, intrinsically, from the onset that to solve problems and make an impact is not about 1 or 2 superstars. Instead, it is about building a great organization.” Faiz Bashir responded when we asked what we should expect from FlexiSAF.
“My joy today is beyond what we have achieved as a business, rather it is the wonderful family we have in FlexiSAF. I usually express to my colleagues that I cannot imagine being in a “workplace” that I am not engaged nor satisfied. Likewise, I cannot imagine any other person being in that situation. A workplace should be home away from home. This team bond is what drives me to get up early in the morning to pursue our purpose.
I cannot guarantee that in the future, say 5 or 10 years from now, FlexiSAF will be valued at a certain amount or will be successful by a certain percentage in business and so on. But what you should expect from us is the continuous building of a passionate, focused and dedicated team. We believe that if we have great people with a common objective, then nothing is impossible.
At FlexiSAF, we strive to see that everyone reaches a level of self-actualization. Self-actualization through a commitment to worthwhile work is the realistic path to human happiness.
The larger purpose of business is not to win or make money but to flourish through service to humanity. The workplace should be a great force for good in the world.
The greatest gift you can give to anyone is to educate them. At FlexiSAF, we have a unique opportunity to bring a societal change through education and the application of technology.
We have positioned ourselves to pursue a noble cause – to inspire people to take ownership of their learning and growth, and in turn, make a lifelong positive impact.”