Work Culture and Its Effect on Revenue In African Startups

Many companies have a flawed notion of what work culture and employee experience truly entail. They fail to realize how excellent work culture can generate revenue for their company. In a conversation with Cherish Esekhile, the Employee experience lead at Kippa, she talks about how the Nigerian tech ecosystem can improve their overall employee experience and how it can lead to an increase in their bottom line.

Tell us about yourself and your work background

In 2019, I got my first role as a "People's Operations Lead." For me, it was challenging because I had no prior experience in Human resources or People Operations. I just walked in there with a passion for changing the Nigerian work system and creating a positive work environment for the typical Nigerian employee. So, I began taking courses in HR on LinkedIn Learning and it was a game-changer for my career.

In 2020, I took a step further and I took a course from Harvard business school called ‘Management Essentials’, and this helped me identify the loopholes that exist in the Nigerian work system and how the importance of having a good work culture has been neglected for the longest time. At the end of the course, I came to the realisation that I wanted to focus mainly on building great work cultures and improving the general employee experience at work.

What are some misconceptions about work culture that you have seen in the African tech startup ecosystem?

Employers think that the nice-to-have things are what work culture is about. To me, work culture is the personality of a company; it is basically how you do things around your company. . So, if someone asks what the work culture at Kippa is like? They're asking what’s the personality of Kippa and what the way of life is over here.

The mistake companies make is attributing work culture to things like giving out cakes on birthdays, including free MacBook as a perk, and having parties. I mean, these things contribute to employee experience but they are not the real definition of work culture. Focusing on psychological safety, values, honest communication, collaboration,  well-being, career growth and progression are some of the things that make a great work culture.

It also seems that most companies are unaware of the direct relationship work culture has on revenue. What are your thoughts?

The truth is, when employees are happy, they go above and beyond; and this positively affects revenue. Companies need to focus on employees' needs, wants, and expectations. Focus on the things that matter; companies can start with little things like listening to employees through one-on-ones. Companies need to view employees as internal customers and treat them the way they treat actual customers, and that will grow the company’s bottom line. The great thing about this, other than a positive impact on employee performance is that it leads to employee retention. Companies would notice that employees work for a longer period and even after they leave, it’s so easy for them to refer other potential employees to work at the company at any chance they get.

What are the practical ways tech startups can create a good work culture?

The first practical thing to do is listen to your employees, pay attention and listen to what they want. Creating an excellent employee experience is part of the overall work culture. Come up with initiatives that solve a particular problem, and not just because you think it's nice.

Another thing companies can do is be proactive about psychological safety, trust, and growth. Especially growth because when employees can see clear career progression, they are more likely to perform better.

Is listening the only thing companies should be doing?

It's one thing to listen, and it's another to implement. Implementing is one of the hardest things to do. Employee experience takes time and costs money because resources need to be allocated to it. From my experience, some things employees ask for are: work flexibility, growth opportunities, kind colleagues and good leadership. Once you’re done listening and gathering data, you can begin to implement one at a time because now your plans are tailored towards each employee's unique needs and expectations

For companies that have terrible work cultures and would like to do a 360, what are some things that should be on top of their minds?

For every company that has a poor work culture, I would say it is because they haven’t defined what work culture means to them and they haven’t invested in it. Truth is,  it starts with its leaders. So I think the first step to transforming the work culture is to look at the top management, those in charge and try to fix the problem from there.

Although healthy work cultures can be destroyed by employees as well, defining your own culture will help you select the right candidates while hiring and will set the tone for existing employees so you can preserve the culture you have built. Do not hesitate to let go of anyone or employee who isn’t a culture fit for your company.

Seeing as work culture is important to you, what was it about Kippa that made you join the company?

Last year, I saw a video of Kennedy, CEO of Kippa, where he said: We can always reach out to him to have conversations about Kippa. So I reached out to him. I found it very interesting that he was open to conversations; that was when I first heard about Kippa. Later this year, when I saw the opening for "Employee Experience Lead," it was the first time I had seen a Nigerian company hiring for the role which was pretty impressive.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the role. So for me, I was like: If these guys were able to identify the need for this role, they must be a forward-thinking company.

That was what it was for me; that was what attracted me to Kippa. So I thought if I got this role, I would focus on the employee's overall work culture, which I am passionate about. It was definitely a win.

Want to work together?

Kippa is the simplest finance management  & Invoicing software for small Nigerian businesses. Over 350,000 small business owners currently use the bookkeeping software to manage their business transactions, create and send professional invoices and collect debts 3X faster. To do this, we need a team of thinkers; in return, we give them the resources to do their best. View our open jobs and help us make business easy.


Onyinyechi Nneji

Onyinyechi Nneji