How African Companies Attract, Retain And Manage Talent

Written by Dana Sanchez

African companies seeking employees face large pools of candidates who require significant training, but who also have very different expectations of the workplace and their employers than older generations.

The Africa Business Agenda, a new report by professional services firm PwC, looks at how African companies are attracting, managing and retaining talent. Here are some of the key findings, according to HowWeMadeItInAfrica.

1. Training new employees

A number of companies in Africa invest heavily in the initial training of new management staff. Mobile telecommunications operator Orange has established a campus in Senegal aimed at training managers for operations across Africa.

Nigeria-based Dangote Group established Dangote Academy to develop the technical and vocational skills of recent graduates.

“Skills shortages is one of the major problems that we face in Africa,” said Aliko Dangote, president and CEO of the Dangote Group. “Having comparative advantage is no longer enough. You need a superior talent pool.”

2. Attracting candidates from the diaspora

Some companies see value in attracting talent from the diaspora, who are accustomed to global standards but have a connection with the local culture.

“There are real benefits to someone coming home from the diaspora,” said Anita Omoile, CEO of Nigeria-based Deep Blue Energy Services. “Not only have companies invested in world-class talent but they’ve gotten someone who has a connection to the culture. You can’t put a price tag on that value.”

“Many CEOs looking for well-qualified candidates reach into their diaspora and engage in global searches with focused search companies who assist them in identifying talent that may wish to return home,” said Daniel Giffard-Bouvier, a partner in human resource advisory services with PwC France and Francophone Africa.

3. Retaining talent

Competition for top talent in Africa is fierce. Companies often face the dilemma of training an employee, only to see him or her scooped up by another company offering a better package.

“Several CEOs told us how they work hard to develop a corporate culture that encourages a culture of belonging, thus improving retention. Salary and benefits, career plans and a participative social climate are elements widely mentioned,” says Giffard-Bouvier.

At upper management levels, it is an employees’ market and they hold significant leverage, said Kuria Muchiru, human capital leader for PwC Central and Southern Africa.

4. Leadership development

Housing Finance, a mortgage provider and property company in Kenya, invests in ongoing training and gives its senior managers more responsibilities around the company’s strategic projects, in addition to their day-to-day jobs. This is so they can learn by experience.

“Affordable housing is integral to our growth strategy and a lot of these solutions in the mortgage banking industry are found in India, for example. So, on an annual basis, we send out at least three of our senior leaders on assignment for exposure to markets like India,” the company’s managing director Frank Ireri told PwC.

5. Benefits and rewards

Housing Finance also allows its workers to pick the benefits that are important to them. “We find that benefits like medical cover, employee pension or mortgage loans are not as important to our younger workers, so we’re working on what you might call a total compensation cost, but with a list of options so that employees can tick the boxes that are important to them,” Ireri said.

PwC has found that more companies are now talking about change management and a vision aligned with employees’ needs and priorities.

New graduates are hard working, but want to be rewarded for going the extra mile, according to Pascal Lesoinne, managing director of Tanzania Portland Cement Company. “This is different from the older employees who think that one size fits all for rewards, as in everyone should be rewarded the same. Every year we reward the top employees during the annual family day in which the winners feel proud to receive awards in front of their families,” he said.

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About Dana Sanchez
Dana Sanchez was born in South Africa and is a U.S. citizen. After working in advertising, she went back to school and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida. As a business writer, she won regional and national writing awards. As editor of a daily newspaper, she coordinated staff writers, freelancers and photographers in the fast-paced environment of daily news. Dana was an editor at Moguldom Media Group for four years, helping to build and manage a team of staff and freelance writers. She works now on Moguldom.com for Nubail Ventures. A long-distance hiker and cyclist, she writes about the business of technology.