An Interview with Tunde Omotoye

Tunde Omotoye is a Nigerian-born Senior Business Operations Analyst in one of Canada’s biggest banks (among the Big 5). After seeing a string of interesting Tweets that he wrote about his work and life experiences, we reached out to him to find out more. Below is the interview. We can all learn from Tunde’s tenacity, his views on leadership and HR, and his unfailing work ethic.  

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to where you are now? What do you do for work?

School and the search for a better opportunity brought me to where I am today. I moved from Lagos, Nigeria, to Kitchener in Ontario Canada, and later moved to Toronto where I presently live. 

I used to be a graphic designer in Nigeria, earning about 90 dollars a month. We were eventually laid off due to the company’s bankruptcy and that led me to a search for jobs. While searching for jobs, I came across an HR Officer job opening via an old senior colleague from my university. Before I got the job, I had always thought HR was all about hiring and firing, but upon getting into HR I found out how diverse it is, and I fell in love with it. 

Fast forward to almost two years in the HR field, I wanted more. So, I decided it was best to get an academic qualification in the HR field in Canada. Although I hadn’t saved enough, I just wanted to be able to get an HR degree plus a certification. When I arrived in Canada, I had to defer my admission and worked odd hours and shifts with different companies so I could save for school. Fortunately, I was able to multitask while working and going to school. I eventually finished school with distinction, as well as an internship with one of the best employers in Canada. While I was there, I gained the much-acclaimed Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) certification. After much hard work and after gaining adequate experience, I was able to get into one of Canada’s Big 5.

How do you see your life experiences informing your professional experience? What part of your personal experience do you bring with you to work every day and how do you use that? 

As we all know, life itself is the best teacher. My life experiences constantly remind me that I can’t be professionally stagnant, that I have to keep growing. Bringing the “I can do it” spirit to work every day has continuously made me stand out. Hard work doesn’t kill us, but only makes one stronger.

Another thing that makes me stand out is the positivity I always have, even when things are not going the right way. From my experience, when things are not how they should be and you allow it to get to you, then you will never move forward or advance in what you do. However, if you have a positive mindset and remain optimistic while working on your goals, then things will work out just fine.

What is it about working in HR that you find the most fulfilling?

Funny thing, the search for a job brought me to HR, which I mentioned. After a few months in the field, I fell in love with the profession. When I started, I hadn’t used Excel very much. But part of my role was payroll so I had to learn. At first it was boring, but as time went on I began to see the capability of the omni-purpose Excel. I fell in love with everything about the software as it made work easier and faster. 

Also, knowing that HR is a strategic partner in a company rather than just hiring and firing is something I love and makes me respect the profession all the more.

The joy I get from helping people keeps me going. As an HR professional, you get to help people solve issues, and hearing a thank you gives me a sense of fulfillment.

What do you think is among the greatest challenges facing businesses and entrepreneurs today?

A lot of factors are actually affecting a lot of businesses and entrepreneurs.  However, many go into business to either make money or just get away from the 9 – 5 life.  People often break over the pressure of being an entrepreneur and leaving the 9 – 5 world. For a majority, they just want that freedom of not reporting to a building or person for work. For others, they’re starting a business because they want to be called CEO/founder, but they fail to identify what it is they really want to solve, hence failing to be relevant in the business space. If a business is not set up to solve a problem, then it will only fail in a matter of time.

If a business is not set up to solve a problem, then it will only fail in a matter of time. Click To Tweet

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about starting a business? What are some things they should think about as it relates to HR?

Do a lot of research before going into any business.  Also, you need to understand the market and your audience, and start small. Starting small means you shouldn’t put all your investments into a business. Many times people go all in and then, at the end of the day, find out it is the wrong business. When you start small, you are mitigating or reducing all potential risks of losses.

HR focuses on the human capital of an organization. The human capital is the skills, knowledge, and competencies possessed by individuals in an organization which is viewed in terms of the benefit they bring to an organization. So when starting a business, no matter how small, it is important to have a strategic viewpoint of how HR will come in to play eventually, and how it will manage the human capital. 

I advise businesses and entrepreneurs to look beyond employee candidates’ resumes and to hire people, not paper. What’s your advice when it comes to hiring? What are some mistakes you see folks making in HR that, if they changed, would help improve their hiring processes?

Sadly, HR isn’t listening to people’s stories. When you focus on skills and qualifications without listening to who the person is, then you are only hiring a bunch of machines. We are Human Resources and that’s why we need to put that human touch to our name. We shouldn’t let technology make us lose focus. 

During the hiring process, HR should listen and get a feel for who a person is, rather than just relying on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that streamline hiring by automatically checking resumes. Lately, HR is relying on ATS systems, which do make hiring faster. The downside to this is that HR has lost candidates who have potential to take the company forward because they probably do not have great resumes that the ATS would have selected.

I write and talk a lot about the human element, by which I mean the following: at every turn and in every decision we make, we are dealing with people—by they our clients, customers, families, or employees. Applying the human element to every decision we make involves never losing focus of how that decision will influence those around us, so we need to make that decision with the needs, desires, and goals of those people in our minds. We take this one step further by listening closely during each engagement and interaction we have, and trying to “climb inside the head” of whoever we’re speaking with to truly understand where they’re coming from and what they need. When we do this, we are able to successfully meet that need—be it a product or a contract opportunity or an employment engagement—and the person we’ve engaged with knows that they were heard and that we are truly focused on helping them. This, in essence, is the human element.

In what areas do you see a need for businesses to more thoroughly employ this concept of the human element? What advice do you have, as an HR professional, to help people keep this “human element” in their minds as they run and develop their businesses?

There are several ways which businesses can improve upon the continuous degradation of human element. 

1. Training: Businesses need training on all aspects of a business, from the concepts of the human element in a business to the importance of the human element. 

Remember that clients, customers, colleagues, and business partners are not business systems that just support the business. Click To Tweet

2. Remember that clients, customers, colleagues, and business partners are not business systems that just support the business. They are part of the entity that makes the business move from one point to the other. When you treat them like they are not people, there’s a potential of you losing them to other businesses who value the human element. For instance, I once took a Lyft and I noticed the lack of great customer service exhibited by the driver. I want to believe that the organization doesn’t invest much in teaching its drivers the importance of being courteous and seeking the satisfaction of the rider. On the other hand, I have seen Uber drivers go as far as having water, phone chargers, and chocolates for their riders. These extra steps are just a simple way of understanding that it is not just business, and they factor in the human element. After all, we are all humans who always want to be catered to, regardless of if it is in a business place or a marketplace. If we continue to seek that human element in our businesses and with our staff, there will be more trust, more motivation to work, an increased ability to take initiatives, and longevity in such organizations. 

Having a dream and constantly striving for it is at the cornerstone of what I teach. I ask everyone what their dream is. So, what’s yours? What will you do when you become financially free and have obtained everything material that you need and want? Then what? Share your dream with us!

Write, write, and write. I have the ability to motivate and stir something in people by using my personal experience as an example. I’d like to write motivational and even fictional stories, as well as teaching people when I become financially free. I don’t want all the knowledge and can-do spirit to leave with me. 

Share with us anything you’d like for us to know or anything you think people in business could benefit from reading about. We’re in the business of helping people!

People in business need to know the value in engaging people. Aside from providing a service or running a business, your goal is to ensure you leave someone satisfied, including customers, business partners, and clients. The list is endless.