This article features ideas from “The 20 Year Journey to Defining Our People Strategy,” the second episode of our webinar series, For the Love of People. For more episodes, visit our library of on-demand webinars.
Ramping up employee engagement has been a challenge across industries — with only 20% of employees feeling engaged at work, according to data from our 2023 State of People Strategy Report. Yet, research consistently shows that engaged employees are more productive and drive more profit.
Fintech is no exception, and Premo Ojokojo is setting the standard for what this means across the industry. As global head of people operations at the global payments fintech company AZA Finance, Ojokojo is building a people strategy that focuses on engagement, flexibility, and information — leveraging new HR tech and seasoned insights to help employees thrive.
For Nairobi-based AZA Finance, the focus on people has paid dividends, driven by learnings Ojokojo can leverage from 20 years of HR leadership experience. “All of us are looking for the best way to be profitable, to be useful. And people, as individuals, also want to be that way,” she said. Below are just a few of the lessons she shared during the episode.
Feedback and Surveys Are Foundational For Engagement
AZA Finance helps companies accelerate operations in frontier markets with money transfer technology. In a company of this size, people operations were always going to be an important challenge.
The organization has 220 employees spread across Africa, Western Europe, and America, speaking 14 total languages — naturally creating some challenges in creating and maintaining a strong and consistent company culture. To build a high-performance team, AZA Finance needed to build a high-performance culture. The company refers to team members as “AZAwatus,” and is proud of creating a company-wide atmosphere of open communication and constant, tech-enabled feedback.
“We make it an open and honest thing for employees to share their ideas, to tell us what they think would work,” Ojokojo said. But enabling that constant feedback in a globally distributed and hybrid working team requires the right tools and technology. Lattice’s engagement surveys and polls help Ojokojo’s team quickly glean valuable feedback about company policies, initiatives, and programs.
Leadership is committed not just to uncovering ideas, but to acting on them as well. “We want everyone to feel supported and valued here,” Ojokojo said. There’s little point in running regular feedback surveys without acting on that feedback.
The company’s feedback culture is informal and ongoing. Employees can easily request reviews from managers and coworkers, map out their contributions, and recognize colleagues’ successes. “Communication needs to be constant. You can’t shy away from it, you can’t hide from it,” she added.
Company Growth Must = People Growth
Since its founding in 2013, AZA Finance has grown its employee count while expanding internationally — the company has physical office locations in several countries, including Ghana, Spain, and the UK, becoming the largest fintech company in Africa.
That growth can create challenges when it comes to people operations, inviting questions such as: How will the chain of command change? What does a larger overall company mean for specific teams? What do leaders see as the next big goal?
As AZA Finance has grown, Ojokojo’s focus has been on helping employees across the company answer those questions for their specific roles, tasks, and career trajectories.
“If [a team member] doesn’t know where they’re going and why…you will lose them along the way,” Ojokojo said. For her team, she has a clear goal in mind: “As we’re growing rapidly, you are growing with us. You see where you’re going.”
Tech has enabled AZA Finance to be as transparent as possible. Through Lattice’s platform, employees can track their progress through growth plans, career tracks, and performance reviews — measured in terms of individual career development and contribution to company initiatives. Ojokojo said that these tools are crucial for team members in times of change.
“They wanted to understand what their part was in achieving our results,” Ojokojo said. “Partnering with Lattice has helped us do that.”
Good People Strategy Builds On Itself
Over the course of Ojokojo’s tenure at the fintech company, AZA Finance has invested in its people, turning a diverse team into a unified force. Building company culture is intentionally baked into different areas of the company — from everyday processes like onboarding, training, and promotions — to semi-annual events, such as company-wide retreats. And the HR work is still ongoing.
Ojokojo has developed company-wide standards to encourage constant communication and has placed importance on in-person and virtual connection. Executive buy-in is crucial to truly deliver on people programs — for AZA Finance, the drive to consistently improve company culture “is luckily driven, by our founder Elizabeth [Rossiello],” she said.
But even with a solid foundation in place, it’s important to stay hands-on and nimble — to try many different approaches and pay attention to what people like.
“What works, we keep and maintain. What doesn’t work, we scrap,” she said. The path to success is rarely a straight line, and learning from mistakes is a critical part of the journey.
For Ojokojo, a high-performance culture means enabling employees to do their best work — to feel like they can show up every day as their best selves.
“Our goal as a company is to ensure that we provide our employees with the tools to succeed not only in their roles, but also in their personal lives.”
Keeping The Door Open
A point of pride for Ojokojo is that even when top performers leave the business, they know the door is always open. In the past year alone, AZA Finance has seen three employees come back to the business after a short stint taking on a new challenge elsewhere. She said she is proud to know that staff who have moved on feel they can “come back home” and views this as a testament to the quality of the culture they have created.
For more advice, watch the full episode to hear Ojokojo’s initiatives and lessons on culture at AZA Finance. Register for the next episode in our webinar series, For the Love of People, or visit our library of on-demand webinars.