For the August edition of our Culture Leaders series, we chat with an HR professional with over 12 years of industry experience, Ruby Addai. Ruby is the HR Business Partner - Ghana for Robert Bosch Ghana Limited, leading People Management. She is passionate about improving the educational system in Africa to foster the development of unique talents across the continent.
She talks to us about a range of topics such as how to improve work culture for the younger generation, early career mistakes employees need to avoid, navigating bills and passion as a young professional, and how to make that ultimate transition to the desired role and solid tips for moving up the career ladder.
Cadana: Tell me about your work and experiences working in the HR space.
Ruby: This is my 12th year since I started working in HR. I started right after National Service. I was privileged to get an HR manager who had faith in me because right after National Service, I did not know much, but she believed in me. That’s where the journey started in 2010. Since then, I’ve taken it upon myself to make sure that I learn everything about HR and make sure that I impact lives. When I see somebody excited when I call them to say ‘hey you got a job', it makes me so happy. When I pay salaries, people call back to say ‘hey the money has hit our account’. I get satisfaction in those things. I decided to just follow the HR career. I did my MBA in HR, I’ve done professional certifications in HR and I’m currently the HR Business Partner in Robert Bosch Ghana.
Going forward, I’d like to impact people. I think it’s natural. It’s a God-given gift. If someone asks me a question, the answers just keep on coming. Much later, I’d become a consultant, impacting people by giving them career guidance, training and HR solutions to their organisational problems.
Cadana: In your 12-year career so far, what are the highlights for you?
Ruby: The positive impact I have made in the lives of employees I have worked with is the highlight. From believing in people and giving them the chance to show what they can deliver by employing them to helping them to identify their talent and helping develop it. Being the voice of employees and advocating for them is my passion. I know that having the interest of my organisation in mind is also necessary as an HR professional. Still, the employees make the organisation, and it is just right to give them what they deserve.
Cadana: Tell me about one moment in your career that made you the happiest.
Ruby: This is going to be a difficult one. The happiest? If you say my life, I’d say my kids. But when it comes to my career, I can’t mention one thing because honestly, I love my work in general. Everything I do gives me satisfaction so picking one thing would be difficult. I love everything that I do.
Cadana: That’s good to hear. It means every moment in your career makes you happy.
Ruby: Fortunately, I know people might pick one or two things but for me almost everything that I do, I’m happy about it. I have a lot of people I’ve mentored and I’m still mentoring. I see they've taken managerial roles in organisations and are leading the HR teams, and I tell myself I’ve done a good job. I see these people and I’m excited. It gives me satisfaction. So yes, it’s the people that I’ve impacted to become HR leaders today. They might not be a lot of people but anybody who comes around me shines. Being a good mentor and a coach to the young ones makes me happy.
Cadana: Let’s talk about your work as a professional. In your own words, how does your work help the work culture of organisations?
Ruby: Culture falls under HR, I must say. Every company is unique and every company has its own culture. And, losing this culture means losing the identity of the organisation. No matter how extremely good or bad it is, it’s the culture that is identified with that organisation.
With our current organisation, we are agile and work flexible hours. People are excited to be in such a culture, the excitement helps them to work more, and it shows a high level of trust. Because of that trust, they’re constantly giving their best. We respect each other, believe in diversity and allow people to be themselves because everyone is unique. The only thing we want is productivity and this has formed part of our culture.
When I’m recruiting people, what I look for is number one: is this person going to fit in our culture? If they don’t fit in the organisation’s culture, they would feel suffocated, resign early or develop mental health issues. When you’re interviewing a candidate you have to keep these in mind. From my experience, bringing people in is the first step, and making sure that the person will fit in is the next thing.
Cadana: I like that you mentioned enabling and empowering people to be themselves and be comfortable. I also like that you hinted at diversity. That’s also another strong point. What other ways do you think organisations can improve work culture?
Ruby: Apart from allowing people to be themselves and embracing diversity, I also think there are a lot of things we have to change to accommodate the new generation of the workforce. Honestly, the Gen Zs are different because of technology and many other things happening in the world so if we use the old ways of managing the workforce on them, we will limit them.
They need a high level of patience else you’re going to get a high level of resignation. They want money, yes but that is not the source of their real satisfaction. They want somewhere they can be comfortable. So at this point, I’d say more flexibility and diversity, and we have to make sure we put in real things that make them feel comfortable.
Some of them would want gig employment. Gig employment means that “I can do 3 days in a week, I can’t do 5 days.” The gig economy means they might have YouTube channels they want to work on, they are not fully available, and they want to do something on their own. It’s like they are “work-entrepreneurs”, “I want to be in corporate but I also want to do my own thing” so it would get to a point where people will sign an employment contract for 3 days in a week or 2 days in a week so that they can have time for their own thing. We have to be ready to accept those as well, they are great talents but can’t be there for you 24/7. What are we going to do? This boils down to being agile, the organisation needs to be flexible enough to accommodate it.
They also want to have fun while working. That is why we have job crafting - for instance, you’ve given someone an admin officer role, and the person wants to be in sales or marketing as well. You have to give the person the room to perform the admin role and once in a while, join the marketing or sales team to go and do activations or sales promo outside. So, they have core roles but are also given the room to satisfy their inner desires. I know someone good at moderation and so, anytime I have a party, I pull him in and he’s always happy doing it, moderating meetings and parties.
Apart from having great careers, some of us came into it because we were pushed. Your father tells you ‘go and do accounting, go and do science’ but we realise that when you are growing up, maybe you were pushed into a career but there’s a desire somewhere in your heart, something you’d love to do. It’s about time we knew our talents and make sure that while doing their current role, we allow them to explore their interests as part of it - that part of something that they love to do so they get satisfaction in their job. We have to be ready for a big change in the workforce. We have to be flexible enough.
Gone were the days you set KPIs and goals and tell them how to do it, now you say “make sales of Xyz”, and you allow them to achieve it even if they are going to make sales on social media to get your money for you or they are going to stand by the roadside, whatever creative or innovative thing, just allow the person to do it and guide them where necessary.
Cadana: I want us to talk a little bit about employees now. For people starting out early in their careers, what mistakes should they avoid?
Ruby: I know many people are saying tech is the new way to go but it’s already here so tech is not their problem. Critical thinking is. I’m sorry but critical thinking is one problem we identify when we recruit the young people who are coming up; they don’t know the difference between being in school and being in a corporate environment where one has to think twice before making a decision. My advice is: first, improve your mindset once you move to a corporate environment.
They need to start thinking like professionals, if not they’d be seen as immature for the corporate world. Number 2 is to sit down to think about what you want to do. So many times we advertise for a particular role and somebody way off would apply. You call the person and you realise they don’t know what they want. My advice is for them to sit down and find a focus. If you’re doing something you realise you don’t truly wish to do, find a way to change it. We spend so many hours in an office that it’s super important to do what we love.
Think about what you want to do first, and make sure what you’re going for is what makes you happy. Start from the top to think through and start building the experience. Know what you want before going into it.
Cadana: Let us digress a little bit. Regarding thinking clearly about what to do before venturing into it, how would you advise them to navigate between taking a job because they have to pay bills and taking a job because of passion? For instance, if a person is passionate about photography but can’t pursue it because it won't pay the bills yet, how do they navigate this?
Ruby: So this is a perfect example, you have a passion for photography but you are not ready. I don’t have a problem with this situation because this person knows what they want to do so this is a means to an end, "let me go do this job, get my money, buy my equipment then I’d be ready". So, even though the person is doing something else, the final goal is to move at some point when he is financially stable to do what he wants. My point is that everyone should think about what they want, starting somewhere is fine but have an end goal.
Another piece of advice is that since people say ‘there is no job’, you can start somewhere. Start with internships. Some organisations have taken it upon themselves to do CSR in this area. When you join internships, that’s when you find your passion if you haven’t and hone your skills. I did an internship in the finance office, but I realised I liked HR because whenever I attend HR programs, I felt happier there. That’s when I decided to master it. So people should take advantage of internships to get to know what they want.
Cadana: Let’s talk about mid-level folks who want to pivot careers. What tips would you offer them?
Ruby: My advice is that once you are in a corporate environment and you decide to change roles, start sniffing around, do your research, and start learning one or two things from your peers in those roles - they would be ready to share the basics - you can research as well. Apply for the role when the opportunity comes and provide the basic answers. You may not be 100 % but show that you have done your homework, and with some pieces of training, you are good to go.
Even though you are not the most qualified candidate, they know that this person means business.
Cadana: On a general note, with your level of experience working with African workers and helping them grow in their careers, what’s that one thing you desire for them?
What I have realised, and I’m speaking based on my experience at a multinational, is that we have good talent but the way that we were brought up makes us less confident than we should be. We are good but we don’t want to show it, we are usually modest.
We have to show ourselves, we have to put Africa on the map. Usually, when given a job, we do it but we don’t make noise or amplify it. It doesn't help us.
We need to be more outspoken, confident and assertive and show leadership potential. We can be leaders and manage the projects too. We are usually scared of being wrong, and so we hide. There are some pieces of training now on self-confidence and assertiveness. We need to take advantage of them and find a way of drumming up our abilities because these will help us move up our career ladder.