Abubakar Suleiman, GMD, Sterling Bank Plc.

Sterling Bank Plc, emerged big winners at the 2020 CIPMN Fellows’ Award and HR Recognition Ceremonies held in Abuja recently. CIPM, Chartered Institute of Personnel Managers of Nigeria, is the umbrella body for the country’s human resource professionals.

The Bank picked up two coveted awards, the ‘People First CEO Award’ and the ‘People First Health and Safety Award’, at the high-profile recognition ceremonies regarded as the “Oscars” of Nigeria’s Human Resources industry.

Both awards celebrate Abubakar Suleiman, Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank and the leadership of the Bank’s Human Capital function, for putting employees first following the outbreak of the pandemic last year by ensuring a strong focus on the physical and mental health, welfare, and safety of employees.

CIPMN presented the awards in partnership with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the chartered body and leading global membership organisation for safety and health professionals. IOSH is a champion, supporter, adviser, advocate, and trainer of those who protect the safety, health, and wellbeing of others.

Commenting on the awards, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Sterling Bank, Temi Dalley, said, “Navigating an unprecedented and globally challenging crisis such as the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was a defining moment for organisational leaders in 2020. We are favoured at Sterling to have an ingenious leader who operates with a remarkable balance of wisdom and empathy.

Our CEO displayed an exemplary range in how he led Sterling through the abrupt and relentless changes that the pandemic heralded. He acted beyond the role of a Chief Executive Officer in this period and was our Chief Humanist Officer, Chief Protection Officer, and Chief Motivation Officer. He tasked himself with the overall wellbeing and continued productivity of over 4,000 employees that constitute the Sterling workforce through a difficult time, never navigated before.”

According to Dalley, in the immediate outbreak of the pandemic, Sterling Bank’s first response was the “go home, stay home” advisory to employees regardless of role or essentialism of function. Constantly, communication of the “Safety before Service” mandate set for all employees occurred through multiple channels, with leaders bringing its true meaning alive by example.

The Bank did not leave employees to deal with problems arising from the pandemic alone. Avenue was created to report perceived exposure or symptoms of COVID-19 to the Wellness Desk for advice on further actions, including isolation and testing at the Bank’s designated centres with costs borne by the Bank.

Apart from tailoring its policies to protect pregnant employees, nursing parents, and those with underlying illnesses, the Bank also factored in the health, safety and wellbeing of their aged parents and relatives.

Sterling’s response to the pandemic placed its people first and adequately created a balance between employee safety and continued optimum performance. Its mentally and physically healthy workforce, working either fully remote, shift, or on-site, is a testament to that. Additionally, the Bank’s employee engagement trust index increased from 81% in 2019 to 87% in 2020 with no life and job loss due to the pandemic.