HR Tech in Africa – Part 1
HR as a strategic business partner
Whenever I describe how I believe HR technology should be positioned for a business to reach the maximum benefit and ROI, I often use the analogy of building a house; the plan or blueprint always comes first, followed by strong foundations. Both of these are critical to the success of the final outcome. The same is true for HR technology. The first step in defining how HR technology can support HR and the business is to start with a clear strategy (the blueprint); how are HR themselves intending to add value to the business and support their strategic initiatives? Once this is defined, HR technology can be deployed as an enabler (rather than the driver). Technology also acts as the foundation to support the overall structure. However, without strategic direction, HR technology will not demonstrate its true power and in some cases, may even fall flat, much like trying to build a house, without first making a solid concrete foundation.
In Kenya, the idea of Business Partnering in HR is already in place but there’s often a disconnect in expectations between Senior Business Leadership and HR teams; from a leadership standpoint, there is certainly an expectation on HR to support the business more strategically, provide greater value and offer data-driven insights. With this expectation comes a significant opportunity for HR to step up to the mark and elevate their profile.
Emily explained to me “organisations that value HR have been able to make milestones; that’s how we were able to succeed in a lot of things at Jubilee. A business that moves hand in hand with HR will find they will make more milestones than those who don’t.”
Emily also adds that “the other challenge is HR themselves stepping up to the mark; we have come a long way and made some progress from 4 – 5 years back. Rise and Learn have been organising a lot of conferences around strategic HR and how technology can change HR”
Stewart also echoes the same view and mentions “businesses that are awake are beginning to see that roles such as HR Business Partner are beginning to work. The demand from organisations is much more than simply processing leave forms and those types of things. Business Partners are beginning to realise their role is not just transactional HR but to understand the dynamics and be able to help run the business. That wakeup call is definitely hitting and leaders are beginning to put pressure on HR to make them accountable.”
The hot topics at a global level are AI, machine learning and blockchain – is there any hype on this in Kenya and are there any opportunities?
Stewart explains that “there are certainly people talking about the next level digital agenda but perhaps more as a personal interest, rather than these concepts attracting any business airtime.”
I refer to my point earlier about getting the foundations in place, which is crucial to the success of digital HR. However, does this necessarily mean these concepts need to be in the distant future or are there opportunities to skip a generation and build implement HR technology capabilities that rival or exceed even the most forward-looking organisations in the West?
During my time on the ground in 2016, I concluded that Kenya had a genuine need for technology to support and drive HR forward, yet the market had not yet seen or acknowledged this need. Whilst there has been some increased interest and awareness in the last two years, it still seems that there is a huge potential that has not been fully acknowledged or embraced.
However, as businesses face growing pressures to develop and retain top talent, provide more strategic HR support and meet expectations of an increasingly younger workforce, they must respond and start to think differently. In addition, as technology is beginning to have a major impact on all areas of people’s daily lives in Kenya, there is curiosity about how technology can bring real benefit and value to all areas of business. To this end, there is, without doubt, growing interest in exploring and investing in digital HR solutions.
There are a host of opportunities for those willing to challenge the status quo, break through the barriers and take a giant leap forward to fully utilise technology to help address the challenges discussed above. Combined with an effective HR strategy, technology can be immensely powerful in enhancing operations, engaging the workforce, identifying top talent and delivering powerful, real-time insights to business leaders. These benefits can also be realised while reducing overall operating costs and enhancing productivity over a reasonable time period.
Emily explains that “technology has pushed businesses to really do things differently and effectively that means those who are leading Human Capital should align themselves, so they can understand how to help the business reach their objectives using technology, to report on time, manage talent and manage a diverse workforce in different locations and really deliver to create an impact. That can only be done using technology and it’s not something that organisations can run away from”
With this said, Emily also explains that “there is a lot more education that needs to be done.”
Considering the country’s strategic presence in the region, investment and innovation in groundbreaking technology and fast connectivity, there is an opportunity for Kenya to lead the way, certainly within East Africa, if not the wider continent. The big question is, will Kenya take up the opportunity to become a leader within this space or let another nation take the spotlight?
HR Tech in Africa, Part 1.
About the Author
Ayaan Chitty is a leading international HR systems expert. Having gained 12 years of experience with global, world-renowned blue-chip companies, he has built strong and successful global teams and led many strategically aligned HR technology projects. Ayaan currently partners with many clients in the EMEA region and is building HR Tech Africa, a new and exclusive online network for HR professionals & business leaders in Africa. Ayaan’s mission is to encourage companies to create the ideal workplace through unleashing the transformational power of technology to maximise talent, support strategic decision making and improve the efficiency of the HR practice in organisations across Africa. HR Tech Africa aims to connect and build lasting relationships with professionals across Africa and beyond. For more information on HR Tech Africa, you can register interest at Discover HR Tech Africa.
A special thanks to:
- Emily Kamunde-Osoro, Leadership Coach & Director at Rise and Learn
- Stewart Samkange, East Africa Director at SAP SuccessFactors.