Africa’s Top Em­ploy­ers give power to their peo­ple

Peo­ple de­vel­op­ment is a part­ner­ship be­tween em­ployer and em­ployee

Mail & Guardian - - Top Employers -

In­sights from the Top Em­ploy­ers 2018 Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gramme show that Africa’s lead­ing em­ploy­ers are ce­ment­ing their com­pet­i­tive edge by giv­ing their em­ploy­ees the tools and sup­port to take own­er­ship of their de­vel­op­ment. As the proverb goes, if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go to­gether. And it is a mantra that Africa’s lead­ing em­ploy­ers are tak­ing to heart. This year’s African Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gramme, fa­cil­i­tated by global HR Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion com­pany the Top Em­ploy­ers In­sti­tute, show that when it comes to hon­ing com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage on the con­ti­nent, putting peo­ple first is key.

At­tract­ing, re­tain­ing and de­vel­op­ing tal­ent has al­ways been a pri­or­ity for em­ploy­ers, says Billy El­liott, Top Em­ploy­ers In­sti­tute coun­try man­ager: Africa. Grow­ing skill short­ages, brain drain and a rest­less­ness among a new gen­er­a­tion of younger work­ers makes this a peren­nial chal­lenge.

But what sets Africa’s Top Em­ploy­ers apart is a grow­ing recog­ni­tion that peo­ple de­vel­op­ment is not a top-down strat­egy, but a part­ner­ship be­tween the em­ployer and the em­ployee.

“Em­ployee de­vel­op­ment is a joint ef­fort,” says El­liott. “Over re­cent years, we have seen a tremen­dous growth in the ma­tu­rity of HR prac­tices that these em­ploy­ers de­ploy. We have seen how African em­ploy­ers are con­tin­u­ously work­ing to op­ti­mise their em­ployee con­di­tions and put the de­vel­op­ment of their peo­ple first.”

The Top Em­ploy­ers In­sti­tute high­lights three trend­ing strate­gies from Top Em­ploy­ers that are keep­ing em­ploy­ees en­gaged and in­creas­ing the prob­a­bil­ity they will re­main with the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

1. Man­agers as coaches

Or­gan­i­sa­tions are shift­ing from man­ager-driven de­vel­op­ment plans to em­pow­er­ing em­ploy­ees to take own­er­ship of their own ca­reers and de­vel­op­ment, says El­liott. “Ideally em­ploy­ees should have the in­trin­sic de­sire, drive and as­pi­ra­tions to con­tin­u­ously de­velop them­selves. But to em­power em­ploy­ees, the or­gan­i­sa­tion must pro­vide the right pro­cesses and struc­tures, in­clud­ing peo­ple de­vel­op­ment prac­tices and tech­no­log­i­cal sup­port. Man­agers are still in­te­gral — in fact 96% of Top Em­ploy­ers hold line man­agers ac­count­able for tal­ent man­age­ment prac­tices — but they must lead by ex­am­ple and coach their team.”

Sameera Mo­hamed, HR man­ager of Mi­crosoft, a cer­ti­fied Top Em­ployer in 2018, agrees: “One of the most im­por­tant roles of our man­agers is to cre­ate an in­clu­sive work en­vi­ron­ment where every em­ployee can ef­fec­tively en­gage, learn, grow and de­velop. Line man­agers work to pro­vide timely, ac­tion­able feed­back that en­ables each em­ployee to learn, ad­just, grow, and de­liver in­creas­ingly greater im­pact.”

Sig­nif­i­cantly, 92% of Top Em­ploy­ers line man­agers are in­structed and trained to pro­vide em­ploy­ees with open and con­struc­tive feed­back on their per­for­mance on an on­go­ing ba­sis. And 100% en­sure that em­ploy­ees, in their turn, play an ac­tive role by pro­vid­ing in­put for their per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion.

2. In­spir­ing a thirst for knowl­edge

Con­struc­tive feed­back and clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key, says El­liott, who be­lieves that many em­ployee de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives floun­der be­cause of a lack of clar­ity over who is re­spon­si­ble. He cites a joint re­search study con­ducted by EdAs­sist and the Univer­sity of Phoenix that found, alarm­ingly, most em­ploy­ees think that it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of their man­agers to en­sure they are “de­vel­oped”.

“To over­come this in­er­tia, em­ploy­ers need to find ways to in­spire their peo­ple to want to learn and to let them know that the op­por­tu­ni­ties are there for the tak­ing,” he says. A great work­place must of­fer em­ploy­ees the op­por­tu­nity to ac­cess and en­gage in learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment and it must make it easy and as­pi­ra­tional for them to ac­cess these.

Top Em­ploy­ers have found var­i­ous cre­ative ways to do this. Old Mu­tual, for in­stance, gives em­ploy­ees ac­cess to on­line Har­vard tools and an on­line learn­ing plat­form where they can do book learn­ing work­shops. This is linked to per­for­mance and tal­ent man­age­ment on­line pro­cesses that prompt em­ploy­ees when they need to take ac­tion with re­spect to their learn­ing and growth.

Old Mu­tual is not alone: 91% of Top Em­ploy­ers on the con­ti­nent pro­vide guide­lines and steps for en­try cri­te­ria on how to ap­ply for train­ing. A fur­ther 88% help em­ploy­ees iden­tify their learn­ing needs, and 66% sup­port learn­ing pro­grammes dig­i­tally.

3. Climb­ing the lad­der

Ca­reer and suc­ces­sion man­age­ment is also a key con­cern for Top Em­ploy­ers, with 95% hold­ing per­sonal ca­reer de­vel­op­ment dis­cus­sions be­tween em­ploy­ees and their man­agers.

It is cru­cial, says El­liott, that de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives have an ex­plicit em­pha­sis on ca­reer ad­vance­ment. “The best and bright­est em­ploy­ees will be drawn to where they can shine, and Top Em­ploy­ers pro­vide that en­vi­ron­ment,” he says.

To fa­cil­i­tate this, all Top Em­ploy­ers pro­mote and en­cour­age em­ployee mo­bil­ity across the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Some have taken this to new lev­els. Top Em­ployer Or­ange Busi­ness Ser­vices, for ex­am­ple, has launched a novel group-wide plat­form for in­ter­nal col­lab­o­ra­tion called Plazza. To make dou­bly sure em­ploy­ees are play­ing to their strengths, the com­pany has de­vel­oped a dig­i­tal tool called Skills Drive, which com­bines skills an­tic­i­pa­tion with data in­tel­li­gence to en­sure the com­pany has the right peo­ple with the right skills in the right lo­ca­tion.

At Top Em­ployer EY, the per­for­mance man­age­ment pro­gramme is con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing. “In Septem­ber, we launched LEAD, our trans­formed ap­proach to per­for­mance man­age­ment. LEAD fo­cuses on fre­quent, qual­ity con­ver­sa­tions that drive ca­reer con­ver­sa­tions and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment rather than ide­al­is­tic per­for­mance ex­pec­ta­tions. Em­ploy­ees use con­tin­u­ous feed­back in their day-to-day work to grow and de­velop,” says Jo­hanna Maphar­isa, Africa tal­ent leader.

African brain gain and re­tain

This year a record 200 African em­ploy­ers span­ning 33 coun­tries and 24 in­dus­try sec­tors achieved Top Em­ploy­ers Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sta­tus. Col­lec­tively these world-class em­ploy­ers pos­i­tively im­pact the lives of ap­prox­i­mately 541 000 em­ploy­ees on the con­ti­nent.

“It is hugely ex­cit­ing to see how ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment and line man­agers in these or­gan­i­sa­tions are com­mit­ted to creat­ing the right en­vi­ron­ment by pro­mot­ing a cul­ture of de­vel­op­ment and own­er­ship that is im­pact­ing mean­ing­fully on the lives of so many peo­ple,” says El­liott.

“This sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship will lead to bet­ter em­ployee en­gage­ment and im­proved busi­ness per­for­mance. And with grow­ing fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing their work­force, Africa’s Top Em­ploy­ers can ex­pect to reap the re­wards of a brain gain — and re­tain [their best staff].”

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