Globally, there has been a shift in the importance businesses place on talent and people management within company structures – and this is very evident in businesses operating in Africa, according to to a report in AfricanBusinessReview.
Companies that want to show the world how successful they’ve been managing employees in Africa can pay to be certified with an organization that ranks them based on excellence in human resource management.
Many big companies and corporations extending their reach into Africa stumble because they fail to adapt their business strategies and operational models to uniquely African circumstances, the report said.
“There is a great demand for talent and human capital (in Africa) and companies find themselves competing for the most experienced and skilled staff,” said Samantha Crous, Top Employers Institute regional director. “We are seeing companies spend more on developing local expertise through employee training and education. Benefits like child care and special working conditions as well as internal communication platforms are also evident.”
For 2014, eight companies have been identified as top employers in Africa, based on certification by Top Employers Institute. The organization, based in Netherlands with offices in South Africa, certifies excellence in the conditions that employers create for their people. Prerequisites for continent-wide certification included a minimum 250 employees in Africa or 2,500 employees worldwide, and a fee.
The top companies for 2014 include SAP, which operates in Cóte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria; British American Tobacco (South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe); EY (South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria); G4S (Botswana, South Africa, Cameroon, Cóte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zambia); Microsoft (Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria); Old Mutual (Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe); Orange (Senegal, Uganda, Cóte d’Ivoire, Mali, Business Services Egypt) and Unilever (Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria).
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Researchers assessed HR management and employee conditions within the organisation. Following validation and an external audit, performance scores were rated against an international standard. These include evaluating strategy, policy implementation, monitoring and communication of employee conditions and development.
SAP, named the No. 1 company in the Top Employers Africa 2014 Certification Program, is a business management software company operating in 130 countries across the globe.
Its HR manager for Africa, Queen Mokonoto, said taking care of employees and ensuring they are developed efficiently is a crucial part of SAP’s vision.
“SAP is well known as a brand but less so as a company,” she said. “We drive diversity, we don’t discriminate based on gender, age or color and we encourage innovative thinking.”
She acknowledges that working in Africa is often challenging.
“If you want to do business in Africa you need to understand the individual countries, cultures, languages, politics and economic models and obviously unique business and people challenges,” said Elanie Kruger, HR director of G4S Africa. “Legislative requirements as well as cultural differences do require businesses to be flexible and innovative.”
Seshni Samuel from EY agrees. “Working across Africa is not always convenient, for example we struggle with network connectivity, transport, electricity and so on,” he said. “However, you also learn to adapt, improvise and move on. Our employees in some of the most difficult environments, are often the most engaged because they appreciate working for an employer that cares…We are also continuously impressed with the caliber, dedication and commitment of our staff.”
Fierce competition in Africa is the main challenge facing employees at telecommunications company Orange, said Clotilde Boury, HR vice president. “It is this competitive market that requires our people to be agile and highly responsive to the market evolution and customer expectations.”
The company’s actions are guided by the Orange People Charter to ensure that it has the right people and expertise at the right time and in the right place.
Caring for employees and offering them consistent opportunities for growth is key, said Cherise Mendoza, HR leader for Microsoft Africa. “No matter where you are in the world, our brand needs to stay consistent,” she said. “This means that what is available to employees in the U.S. or Europe is available to employees in Africa. We strive to make our programs, processes and overall way of working with our employees first class.”
The competitive landscape has intensified as more companies try to leverage growing opportunities in Africa, said EY’s Seshni Samuel. “Across Africa companies need to quickly catch up and meet the same high standards required to compete and operate in any other market. There is also a need to be more innovative, more nimble, more adaptable than ever before.”