With over 20 years of diverse experience ranging from legal practice to HR consulting, Omon Odike’s journey is an inspiration in itself. As the CEO and managing consultant of U-Connect Human Resources Limited, one of Nigeria’s foremost HR solutions companies, she has steered the company’s growth at an astounding rate of over 100% annually. But her impact doesn’t stop there. Omon’s brainchild, Gr8jobsng, Africa’s pioneering digital HR recruitment platform, stands as a testament to her innovative spirit. Beyond accolades and recognition, Omon’s true passion lies in youth empowerment and employability enhancement. Having placed over 20,500 jobseekers in diverse local and international firms, she continues to bridge the gap between potential and opportunity. Her dedication extends to training and upskilling initiatives, collaborating with global partners like the UN Global Impact and aligning corporates to drive her vision. A multi-tasker, she is also the host of “Omon’s Couch,” a captivating YouTube talk show where she ignites the spark of entrepreneurship and imparts wisdom to professionals, helping them flourish in their careers.
Your career journey has seen a transition from legal practice to HR consulting. What pivotal moment influenced this shift and led you to become the CEO of U-Connect Human Resources Limited?
The momentous shift from a thriving legal practice to spearheading a prominent HR company was not an elective decision but a compelling necessity that arose from the intricate balance between professional commitments and the pursuit of building a fulfilling family life. This pivotal juncture was marked by a compelling realisation that the pressures and demands inherent in legal practice conflicted with my aspirations of nurturing a harmonious family life.
As an ambitious and driven individual, I grappled with the desire to excel in my legal career while also tending to the responsibilities of a growing family. The aspiration for work-life equilibrium prompted me to take a transformative step: the leadership role at U-Connect Human Resources Limited. At the time, this move offered the prospect of achieving a better equilibrium between personal and professional obligations, with the anticipation that I could direct more time and energy towards my family.
Regrettably, the transition to the helm of U-Connect presented a reality distinct from my expectations. As I discovered, the realm of entrepreneurship in Nigeria was far from the envisioned oasis of leisure and family-focused time. Instead, it unravelled as an arena of formidable challenges where entrepreneurial demands intersected with the intricate landscape of managing a family.
Despite these unforeseen challenges, this transition unfolded as more than just a change in professional trajectory. It evolved into a profound realisation of my life’s purpose, one that transcended my legal background and ventured into the realm of HR consulting. This newfound path provided an avenue to make an indelible impact on lives through innovative employment and employability initiatives.
It became evident that the decision to delve into HR consulting was a manifestation of destiny. With each stride forward, the corridors of U-Connect opened up new horizons, allowing me to wield a transformative influence on countless individuals seeking employment opportunities. The employability programmes championed by U-Connect turned out to be more than a professional pursuit; they became instruments of change within our communities. Leaving the familiar territory of legal practice behind, I embarked on a journey of empowerment, facilitating pathways for numerous job seekers to secure meaningful positions within various local and international companies. Over time, U-Connect’s imprint extended beyond mere job placements. Our initiatives encompassed training and development, pre-assessment testing, verification and background checks, and comprehensive HR consulting services. This multifaceted approach bridged employability gaps and positioned the U-Connect brand as a pioneering force in the HR consulting industry.
Reflecting on this trajectory, it’s evident that my destiny played a pivotal role. What initially seemed like a transition triggered by personal necessity ultimately unfolded as a vocation to enrich lives and communities. The impact was not confined to singular accomplishments; it radiated through collaborative endeavours with notable organisations like UN Global Impact, Unilever, Nestle, LSETF, etc., collectively forming the Alliance for Youth NG.
The narrative of my shift from legal practice to HR consulting underscores the profound transformative power of life’s unexpected turns. Amidst the challenges and uncertainties, I discovered my true calling—a role that has empowered thousands by transforming aspirations into achievements and turning potential into progress. The terrain might have shifted on this journey, but the destination was etched with the enduring promise of purposeful impact.
So it really wasn’t an easy transition?
No. Transitioning from legal practice to running an HR company was far from easy. In fact, it was anything but easy. Leaving the familiarity of legal practice, I found myself without a clear direction and lacking relevant skills for the new path. Those initial six months were marked by tears and uncertainty as I grappled with doubts, even yearning to return to my legal roots. The feeling of being lost and unsure of my decisions was overwhelming, and the thought of making a huge mistake haunted me.
Amidst this struggle, a certain encounter became a turning point. It ignited a realisation that I had indeed made the right choice, prompting me to surrender control and seek divine guidance. Placing my trust in God, I implored for blessings upon my business. Miraculously, that cry was heard and answered. From that moment on, I felt a sustaining presence, an assurance that I was not alone on this uncharted journey.
To get a grip on my new role, I embarked on a journey of relentless self-training, exhaustive research, and on-the-job learning. This was my steep learning curve, a path carved through persistence and resilience. Slowly, I began to grasp the intricacies of running a business and started to define the direction I wanted to take the company.
This journey was marked by uphill battles, but it also symbolised triumph over adversity. It’s a testament to the power of faith, determination, and the relentless pursuit of growth. The transformation from a lawyer to a trailblazing HR entrepreneur was marked by the willingness to learn, the courage to adapt, and the faith to let go and trust the process.
The company’s growth rate has been impressive, boasting leading international and multinational clients. What strategies have you implemented to make this possible?
The remarkable growth rate of U-Connect, accompanied by its association with esteemed international and multinational clients, has been achieved through a blend of strategic approaches. A client-centric philosophy lies at the core, ensuring a deep understanding of their unique needs and challenges. This is coupled with a commitment to innovation, allowing the company to adapt and evolve its services in response to changing market demands. The emphasis on quality, excellence, precision, and consistently high service delivery standards has cultivated a reputation that resonates with top-tier clients. Strategic partnerships with industry leaders and institutions have expanded the company’s reach and brought cutting-edge technologies to the forefront.
At U-Connect, our distinctive approach is to offer services and VALUE to our customers. Recognising the saturation of similar services in the market, we focus on delivering a superior and enriched experience to our clients, setting us apart. Also, technology is the backbone of our operations, as most of our processes are driven or enabled by technology, ensuring efficiency and aligning with the demands of the modern world.
Finally, offering a comprehensive suite of services, community engagement initiatives, thought leadership activities and a focus on continuous improvement have collectively contributed to attracting and retaining a roster of international and multinational clients.
With over 20,500 jobseekers placed, which success story stands out as a testament to U-Connect’s impact?
Within the first six months of establishing U-Connect, I encountered a truly unforgettable experience. This transpired during the initial phases when I began running the company. At that point, I had ventured into recruiting, and you know, during the early days, you were the MD, secretary, receptionist, and all, and I had a small recruitment brief from a client. During this period, I successfully placed ten individuals into positions with a client. Yet, despite the outward appearance of success, I grappled with lingering uncertainties. The decision to transition from my prior job and establish an HR company was significant, and moments of doubt surfaced. It was during one of those contemplative times that something remarkable occurred. After conducting interviews and making decisions, one of the candidates contacted me via text message. This message proved to be a profound turning point. The candidate conveyed his sincere appreciation in words that dripped with gratitude and emotion. He thanked me earnestly, expressing that my actions had changed not only his life but also the lives of his family members. The job I had secured for him meant more than just employment; it meant sustenance, security, and hope. The very act of providing for his family’s needs through the opportunity I presented moved him to tears. This heartfelt message served as a transformative revelation. It illuminated the impact my work as an entrepreneur had on real people’s lives. It was an affirmation that my decision to establish U-Connect was aligned with a greater purpose. This interaction resonated deeply within me, igniting a renewed determination to pour myself wholeheartedly into the business.
Let’s also talk about Gr8jobsng; the concept is quite innovative. Did you face any challenges introducing a digital HR recruitment platform to the African market?
Absolutely. Launching came with its fair share of challenges. The concept of a digital recruitment platform was relatively novel in the region, presenting various obstacles that needed to be addressed.
Shifting mindsets and behaviours posed one of the key challenges. Traditional recruitment methods were deeply ingrained, making it essential to educate stakeholders about the benefits of a digital approach. Convincing them to embrace this new paradigm required dedicated efforts and costs to overcome scepticism and demonstrate the platform’s effectiveness.
Furthermore, technological readiness and infrastructure disparities were significant hurdles. While digital adoption was on the rise, varying access to technology and the internet needed careful consideration. Ensuring that the platform was accessible and usable by a diverse user base demanded creative solutions.
Building credibility in a market where digital recruitment was nascent presented another obstacle. Gaining the trust of both job seekers and employers for such a critical process required robust validation and establishing a strong reputation.
Additionally, the lack of local technical expertise to build the platform led to the involvement of international developers. While this step was necessary, it incurred substantial costs that strained the company’s liquidity. Despite these challenges, the innovative nature of Gr8jobsng generated excitement and interest. As the platform showcased its effectiveness, positive word-of-mouth and success stories contributed to its growing acceptance.
Hosting over 35 career fairs is impressive. What role do these events play in bridging the gap between job seekers and employers, particularly in a dynamic market like Nigeria?
Hosting and collaborating on over 35 career fairs was indeed an impressive feat for U-Connect and Gr8jobsng. These events played a pivotal role in bridging the gap between job seekers and employers, especially in a dynamic market like Nigeria. Generally speaking, career fairs serve as essential platforms for connecting job seekers with potential employers. They provide a unique opportunity for direct interaction, allowing job seekers to showcase their skills, qualifications, and aspirations face-to-face. This personal connection goes beyond what a resume can convey and enables employers to gauge candidates holistically.
Youth empowerment is a central theme in your work. What inspired you to focus on upskilling initiatives and employability training for Nigerian youth?
Indeed, my emphasis on youth empowerment in Nigeria, particularly through upskilling initiatives and employability training, stems from a pressing need to address the challenges of bridging the gap between the growing demands of employers and the shortage of young, employable talent.
The job market landscape is rapidly evolving, and as companies expand and industries diversify, the demand for skilled talent is consistently on the rise. However, a significant disparity often exists between the skills possessed by young individuals and the skill sets sought by employers. This gap has resulted in high rates of youth unemployment or underemployment in Nigeria, and this gap has widened in the last three years due to the rapid disruptions in the tech space.
I was inspired to take action by recognising this mismatch between employers’ needs and young job seekers’ capabilities. By focusing on upskilling initiatives and employability training, I sought to address this critical issue head-on. I realised that empowering young individuals with the right skills, knowledge, and training enhances their chances of securing employment and equips them to thrive and excel in their chosen fields.
Through targeted training programmes, both online and in person, I aimed to provide young people with the practical skills, soft skills, and industry-specific knowledge that employers are actively seeking. This strategic approach not only benefits the youth by making them more employable but also benefits employers by supplying them with a pool of talent that aligns with their requirements.
With your extensive experience, what trends do you foresee in the Nigerian job industry in the next few years, especially considering the evolving role of technology and social media?
I believe the evolving role of technology and social media is expected to significantly drive the trends likely to shape the Nigerian job industry in the coming years. From the adoption of digital solutions in recruitment to the emphasis on skills and the rise of remote work, these trends reflect the industry’s dynamic nature. The focus on upskilling and reskilling is particularly crucial as technology continues to reshape job roles and demands.
Additionally, the growing importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion and the expansion of the gig economy showcase the evolving nature of work and the need for adaptable approaches. The emphasis on employee well-being is a welcome development, acknowledging the importance of creating supportive and balanced work environments. Overall, there is a need for both job seekers and employers to embrace these trends to navigate the changing landscape successfully.
Your talk show, “Omon’s Couch,” recently launched. Could you share the driving force behind this initiative?
“Omon’s Couch” was born from a deep aspiration to inspire, empower, and offer valuable insights to entrepreneurs and professionals of all generations. This initiative emerged from my unwavering commitment to extend meaningful impact beyond my business endeavours.
The core objective is to provide a platform where guests can share their inspiring stories, shedding light on their career or entrepreneurial journeys. By imparting practical business and career tips, ideas, advice, lessons learned, and keys to their achievements, I aim to cultivate a wellspring of wisdom. “Omon’s Couch” also strives to be a trusted reservoir of guidance for both budding and established entrepreneurs, guiding them through the dynamic business realm.
As an individual with extensive experience spanning entrepreneurship, law, and HR consulting, I acknowledge the transformative potential of sharing narratives, knowledge, and perspectives. Establishing a space where a wide audience can access practical advice, insights, and lessons from my journey and those of my esteemed guests was a pivotal aspiration.
Entrepreneurship and career talk shows are gaining popularity. What unique elements does your show bring to the table, and how do you plan to expand its reach?
Absolutely, the rise of entrepreneurship and career talk shows is noticeable. What sets “Omon’s Couch” apart is its distinct focus on entrepreneurship and career insights, particularly in a space with limited players.
My show is unique because it’s a platform where entrepreneurs and professionals of all ages can gather to gain practical knowledge. I make sure to share real stories, useful tips, and lessons learned that can truly benefit the audience. The conversations are relatable, and the advice is down-to-earth, making it easy for viewers to understand and apply to their own lives.
Moreover, my extensive experience in entrepreneurship, law, and HR consulting brings depth to the discussions. I share my journey and bring in accomplished guests who have excelled in their fields. This blend of personal experiences and diverse perspectives creates a well-rounded learning experience.
To expand the reach of “Omon’s Couch,” I’m actively leveraging social media platforms and technology. I understand the importance of being where my audience is; social media provides a direct way to connect with them. I’m also exploring collaborations and partnerships to tap into different networks and reach a wider audience.
Furthermore, I’m looking into innovative formats and topics that resonate with current trends and the needs of my audience. This keeps the content fresh and relevant.
Could you share a memorable piece of advice from one of your guests that profoundly impacted your audience?
“Don’t focus on the problem; instead, focus on the opportunities within the problem,” – Tara Durotoye.
Balancing a full-time HR job, a YouTube channel, family, and a social life sounds quite demanding. How do you manage your time effectively?
Being an entrepreneur has had a significant impact on my life in general. I start my day with a moment of reflection with prayer, diving deep into work, and an hour’s break. Over the years, I have developed the habit of reserving my brainstorming tasks for late at night, when the surroundings are serene and everyone is asleep. Balancing work and personal life can be challenging, necessitating meticulous prioritisation and effective time management. However, this balance has become more manageable as my children have grown older.
Despite the passage of time, time constraints remain a consideration. Juggling business responsibilities with family commitments continues to be a balancing act. This aspect has prompted me to refine my time management skills. Balancing a full-time HR job, managing a YouTube channel, tending to family responsibilities, and nurturing a social life may seem demanding, but I’ve developed effective ways to manage my time. I prioritise tasks, allocate specific time blocks, plan my week ahead, delegate when possible, set boundaries, and ensure self-care. Flexibility, technology tools, and the ability to say no are also key aspects of maintaining this balance. By focusing on quality rather than quantity and regularly reviewing my commitments, I navigate these responsibilities while maintaining my well-being.
What role does networking play in your HR career, and how has social media contributed to expanding your professional connections?
Networking is pivotal in my HR career, serving as a multifaceted tool that drives business growth, fosters continuous knowledge expansion, and aids in successful placements. By connecting with industry professionals within and beyond my immediate sphere, I’ve been able to tap into a wealth of insights, innovative practices, and diverse perspectives that enrich my understanding of the ever-evolving HR landscape.
Furthermore, networking has proven to be instrumental in expanding the reach of my business endeavours. Building relationships with fellow entrepreneurs, business leaders, and potential clients has opened doors to collaboration, strategic partnerships, and new opportunities. These connections have been instrumental in driving the growth of my company and solidifying its position as a trailblazer in the HR consulting industry.
What’s one key piece of advice you’d offer young women aiming to excel in their professional HR roles and personal brand online?
Cultivate a strong sense of authenticity and consistency. In HR, authenticity is essential for building trust and credibility among colleagues, clients, and team members. Strive to lead with transparency, honesty, and a genuine commitment to making a positive impact.
Similarly, when developing your personal brand online, authenticity remains paramount. Present yourself in a way that reflects your true values, passions, and expertise. Consistency is also key—align your online presence with your professional identity, ensuring that your digital persona accurately represents who you are and what you stand for.