Deji Lana describes himself as a technology enthusiast and a look at his career journey reads like the origin story of a ‘foundational tech bro’. The Metallurgy and Materials Engineering graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University started developing twenty four years ago, writing his first lines of code in secondary school. As a student, he developed a software that served corporate and government organisations.
For Deji, coding is something he does to solve problems as much as possible. With his vast experience in software and delivery of creative tools, it is little wonder he has worked in big organisations in different sectors – from banking to communications, in addition to consulting within and outside Nigeria.
Deji’s first personal foray into the world of startups was with Insidify. He already did several tech products before founding Insidify alongside his friend, Emmanuel Okeleji. Deji describes the venture as being like ‘Google for jobs.’ The founders gathered jobs from existing job sites, company platforms, media, etc and then collated them onto their platform.
“We have always been in the business of helping people get better at work and connecting people. We gathered jobs from different places to help people connect to employers and get better insight into companies.”
As much as passion exists in work, it becomes difficult to sustain when it is not yielding a desired outcome – money.
“The business wasn’t making money so it was hard to sustain as employers have a deluge of resumes already so they are not willing to pay for it and applicants too couldn’t afford CV writing services.”
There was a need to change the business model and this happened in form of the request of an employer-customer of Insidify who asked them to build a SaaS platform after seeing the potential of Insidify.
“We pivoted into SeamlessHR at the request of one of our employer customers then. He saw how our platform was beautiful to experience and in-depth so he asked us to build an HR platform on a SaaS basis for an annual fee.”
They delivered a Minimum Viable Product MVP in six weeks and this pivot that became SeamlessHR happened in 2018, 4 years after launching Insidify.
Serving the workforce
SeamlessHR operates an end to end HR management system that includes performance and competency management, HR analytics, leave management, payroll management and recruitment management.
The passion that led Deji and Emmanuel to create Insidify is still the driving force behind SeamlessHR only this time, it was directed towards the workforce-employees and employers, instead of job seekers.
We went into this because we want employers to be able to optimise and make better decisions when it comes to their workforce.Deji Lana, c0-founder SeamlessHR
During the conversation with Technext, Deji makes frequent mention of ‘data’ as the foundation of all their work. It is no surprise that he describes himself as a data-driven person.
I like to study, work and create solutions with data. I like building products, processes and policies to ensure that I deliver value with my team.
For employers, the use cases of data provided by SeamlessHR gives them insight into operations and helps them keep track of attrition, appraisal and other employee engagements. Overall, it helps them make better decisions for employee welfare.
“Gone are the days of making decisions based on emotions or hearsay. You can actually dig into data to make better and more insightful decisions.”
Employees, for their part, experience better engagement using SeamlessHR. Traditionally, workers experience some sort of fear when they hear ‘HR’, but now, it can actually be what it is meant to be, a means to voice their concerns and have better work experience.
HR can now do what they’re supposed to do which is helping human resources using software
“People can apply for leaves from the comfort of their home, Instead of having to send mails or calling. Employees can see their colleagues on leave, work anniversary, birthday, etc. This way, they feel connected to the company and HR.”
SeamlessHR has grown from a team of 16 to about 200; from developers and engineers to product designers who are managing the direction of product development and making sure SeamlessHR is at the forefront of tech innovations and also information security and data protection.
Multinationals, banks, startups and investment firms like PwC, Sterling Bank and Flutterwave make use of SeamlessHR software. Rising to this height means they have picked up some lessons along the way.
For Deji, the biggest lesson is the understanding that HR in Africa is different from the global standard. Usually, there are general standard processes peculiar to each sector.
The co-founder of SeamlessHR was quick to find out that different organisations in the same sector had different processes.
“People have different processes, workflow, organograms, etc. We initially thought everyone had the same process.”
Thankfully, this lesson was learnt in the beginning when the first MVP came out and they tried to deploy during which they discovered that they had to build based on configuration, not customisation. This means using tools in the application to meet specific requirements instead of having to write new codes to meet those requirements.
“There was a lot of requests seeking the latter but that will give several versions of the application so we learnt to build from the configuration perspective for everything we build.”
The founders have also learnt that organisations like to learn from each other and that every CEO care about employees and are ready to pay a sizable amount to help employee engagement and retention.
Embedded finance in HR
SeamlessHR raised $10 million in Series A funding round and one of the things they want to include in their product offering is embedded finance. Again, this idea was born out of data.
“The concept of building embedded finance into SeamlessHR came out of studying data. There is a lot going on in the fintech space with several organisations trying to use tech to help financial processes. HR. which is a non-financial sector speaks to finance in several ways that include payroll, requisition, HR budget, etc.”
Data comes into play by revealing that one of the biggest cost points for most organisations, apart from FMCGs and manufacturing companies is HR. Embedded finance, using financial technology will allow HR to optimise their process, get more benefits, make more revenue and also get a better insight. This means the addition of features like Payroll API, debt financing, payment APIs and in the long run, enabling employees to get access to better financial services.
We are trying to create a financial system dedicated to employees that gives them access to credit, savings plan, early wage access, insurance, etc.
Employers are also not left out as SeamlessHR is exploring RFP financing, float for payroll in times of turbulence and also access to credit.
Future of HR in Africa
Deji does not own a magic globe to know what the future holds for the HR space in Africa but, he has data and makes his deductions using that data.
What I see from a tech standpoint is more remote work and employees and employers that will be able to compete on a global scale.
According to him, remote work is helping HR position better and open up access to better talents as long as the company can afford it. Additionally, he is of the opinion that there will be more technological advances like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in the HR space,
Rather than HR being a back burner, I see HR in the forefront because that’s the major place where cost is driven- I see cost optimization.
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