People & Leadership

Guide to human resource management for African businesses

The market for top talent in Singapore is tougher than ever. So, what is human resource management and how can it help you attract and retain staff and prepare for the future? Read our guide to find out.

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Gartner recently identified the top three priorities for human resource leaders in 2019. These were:

  • Building critical skills and competencies,
  • Strengthening current and future leadership, and
  • Improving the employee experience.

These trends are driving massive change within organisations across the globe. Yet change management is one thing African organisations have found challenging to get right. This guide aims to help you get started. But before we get into that, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture of human resources.

What is human resource management?

Human resources involves responsibilities around recruiting and training employees, paying staff and organising benefits, resolving conflicts, and ensuring compliance with labour laws. You don’t need a fully-fledged human resources department to carry out these activities – you might choose to do them yourself or outsource to a specialist partner.

However, many businesses are starting to see HR as being about more than just recruitment and admin. With the right approach, human resource management can help you grow your business sustainably, avoid staffing crises, and improve profitability.

Let’s look at how your business can implement an HR strategy that will set you up for success.

What does an HR department do?

Traditionally, HR departments were responsible for the essentials of recruitment and payroll. Many businesses are now outsourcing or automating these routine HR functions. This is because the role of a modern HR department has expanded to include higher-value activities – like those related to company culture or legal compliance – and human resource strategy.

Let’s look at the essential human resource functions, before exploring how you can get more value out of HR:

  • Recruitment
    This involves defining job specifications for a vacancy, advertising the position, interviewing candidates, and helping with new employee orientation.
  • Training
    Working with staff and managers to choose training opportunities that will help staff improve their skillsets and benefit the business.
  • Employee development
    Use staff surveys and performance reviews to help identify employee strengths and weaknesses and resolve problems.
  • Drive company culture
    The human resources department can help organise staff events and provide internal training on the company’s values and acceptable behaviour.
  • Conflict resolution
    From disciplinary hearings to complaints of bullying, conflict resolution is one of the key HR functions.
  • Compensation and benefits
    This includes payroll, benefits, sick pay, paid leave, and bonuses.
  • Compliance with local labour laws
    Your HR team will revise your HR policies to make sure you are compliant with the latest labour laws in your country. For example, the Employment Act introduced in Kenya in 2007 – which replaced an older set of regulations – outlines employees’ rights around areas like sexual harassment, forced labour, discrimination, and fair wages.

While these responsibilities are still at the heart of what an HR department does, leading companies are adopting human resource planning to maximise the benefits of their in-house HR teams.

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What is Human Resource Planning (HRP)?

Human resource planning (HRP) is a process that connects a business’s human resource needs with its overall strategy. This process ensures that the HR department understands the goals of the business, which helps the organisation to make better decisions and prepare for resource requirements in advance, rather than reacting to staffing situations the moment they arise (which can often be too late).

Here are six essential steps for human resource planning:

  1. Understand organisational and departmental objectives

    Your HR department should regularly liaise with other business units to help understand their goals.

    For example: Let’s say your marketing team is planning a new campaign in Nairobi but you realise that they haven’t clearly communicated this to the sales team, who will almost certainly be inundated with customer enquiries from many different countries.

  2. Complete inventories of current human resources

    Next up, you should create an inventory of your current human resources. Compile a list of job titles, skills, performance requirements, and employees’ current capacity to take on more work. Tools like Sage 300cloud can help you to create these kinds of reports in seconds.

    For example: Review how many members of your sales team are currently available, what products they know about, and what languages they speak.

  3. Forecast human resource demand and supply

    Estimate how your current list of resources maps to your organisational plans. How many different resources will be required, and in what positions?

    For example: Look at the data from past campaigns your company has launched and work out how much time your sales team spent talking to new leads. You then project this to estimate the effects of the new campaign on sales staff capacity.

  4. Estimate manpower gaps

    Compare demand and supply for your resources and identify any gaps that need to be filled – either from outside the organisation, or by retraining staff.

    For example: You employ only one salesperson who can speak fluent English, but most of your customers communicate in French – you realise you have a manpower gap.

  5. Formulate your HR plan

    Whether you need to hire hundreds of new resources, or make one of your offices redundant, your HR action plan will explain the rationale and steps for doing so.

    For example: A few weeks in advance of the campaign launch, you begin the recruitment process for French-speaking salespeople, so you have time to train them.

  6. Monitor progress

    Monitor your human resource plan: is it having the desired effect?

    For example: After the launch of the marketing campaign, you might get a lot of interest from Francophone markets, as predicted. By talking to the head of the sales department, you can find out if the new hire is closing enough deals, or if they have cost more than the value they’re bringing in. 

Using HR metrics to measure success

Investing in an HR function can bring huge benefits to your business. But how do you know if it is achieving what you want? HR metrics help you monitor the impact that your HR team is having on your business objectives.

Here are some of the most common HR metrics:

  • Cost per hire: How much do you pay in recruitment or advertising fees?
  • Time per hire: How long does it take to get a new employee onboard?
  • Employee turnover rate: How often do staff leave the company?
  • Length of employment: How long do people work for you, on average?
  • Health and safety: Have you failed any workplace safety tests?
  • Employee satisfaction: Are your staff happy?

Every organisation is different, so the HR metrics you choose will be specific to your business objectives. By choosing two or three metrics that you can consistently monitor, you can understand how the HR function is performing and identify areas for improvement.