HUMAN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT IN EMERGING ECONOMIES: A CASE STUDY OF AFRICA


Emerging markets have become increasingly prominent and at times controversial within the developed and developing world based on current political, economic, social, technological and legal forces within this market. This poses a serious challenge for Human Capital Management for large multinational companies in terms of managing staff expectations, improving efficiency and productivity to drive profitability for organisations. 

The world has embraced the concept of HR business partnering and traditional functions like recruitment, payroll administration and personnel management have been simplified due to a growing application of technology.  Payroll now runs at the push of a button and recruitment processes can operate like clockwork. There is however a lot more that needs to be done because the global business landscape is ever so dynamic.  The war for talent continues globally, especially in fast growing business areas spurred by digitization.  The paradox for Africa is that there is high unemployment rate while companies complain about difficulties in finding skills. This emphasizes the fact that skills and talents, are what employers are interested in, not just headcount and collectively, the continent has a dearth of marketable human capital. Given this paradox, skills development and talent building remain major challenges HCM should address. Leadership development and engagement are also areas that require attention. 

In addition, it is paramount to note that companies, governments and institutions operate within an ecosystem. As such, whatever affects that ecosystem will ultimately affect human capital development.  The flow of foreign investments, level of technological adoption, innovation, competition, economic policies, market forces, labour and immigration laws are factors that will continue to impact human capital development within the continent.  The more capital we have within the system, the greater the possibilities.  In a capital, starved environment, human development initiatives are typically the first to be cut down. Training budget is one of the usual suspect in this category.

Furthermore, culture also affects HCM. Culture is an aggregation of the behavior of people, the environment they operate in and communications within.  It directly affects HCM because if any of these three elements are in any way negative, performance, productivity and brand of the organization begin to suffer.  Culture is like the cocoon that surrounds a larva.  If the balance of elements therein is not right or jeopardized in any way, a beautiful butterfly will not be birthed. However, a major role of HCM is to act as custodians of culture by ensuring that desired attributes are promoted and rewarded while the negatives are addressed. There is some element of mutual causality between corporate culture and HCM.

How then can we address HCM issues? The way we attract, hire and retain employees need to change significantly.  A healthy pipeline may have to be dependent on how HR practitioners build and collaborate with their own network of colleagues, market orientation or even social media savviness.  HR needs to get rid of the proverbial ‘box’ and not just think outside it.  Innovative collaboration will be key.

Regional integration in terms of capacity development, e-learning, talent sharing are also areas that can be explored especially by multinational companies, to benefit from economies of scale and support weak or slow markets. There is also a need a for much closer collaboration between the employers and the skills building infrastructure to ensure output of educational systems are a better fit for the market. 

Furthermore, organizations should look towards the future. Institutions that thrive and deliver high performance are those that plan their tomorrow today.  We should start to build leaders today by developing leadership skills across all cadres of the organisation. Organisations need to continually improve their capability to profile and match skills and talents with their aspirations and culture. High performance is not possible without the right number and quality of talents working in environments conducive to high productivity. The whole process must be subject to connected thinking-through.  

The future of talent management is about new knowledge, new horizons.  It is about being innovative and leveraging technology to do more. HR teams must proactively lead their organizations forward. HR is about the person; focusing on the people, one person at a time. Africa needs an HR practice that will rise to the huge challenge of meeting Africa's need for talent in a brave new world.

Written by: Partricia Aderibigbe, Director, Group Human resources at United Bank for Africa 



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6 comments:

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