One of the biggest outcomes of the slowdown that hit East African economies two years ago has been shifts in human resource strategies among companies — which has left employees and businesses alike nursing losses.
The regions’ chief executive officers now see talent management as a priority this year, as firms lay out strategies to drive growth and meet targets against a backdrop of an uncertain economic future.
A new survey by advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers shows at least 86 per cent of CEOs polled in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda planned to change their firm’s talent management strategy over the next 12 months.
[box type=”info”]The next priorities are risk management and investment, with 91 per cent and 87 per cent of Kenyan CEOs respectively anticipating changes in these areas — compared with 77 per cent and 76 per cent of global CEOs.[/box]
Still smarting from strained mutual trust between them and workers following cost- cutting measures introduced by firms in the wake of the biting economic slowdown since 2009, CEOs and HR managers have had to shift gears yet again in managing employees as economies gradually recover.
Over the past two years, most regional firms found themselves fighting for survival by slashing costs rather than racing to meet targets. Pay and promotion freezes, changes in pension schemes, cuts in recruitment and lower training budgets were prevalent.
However, HR experts said employees interpreted these measures as a breach of trust, making it more difficult for firms to retain key talent.
The CEO views, experts said is a reflection of the cautious approach business executives are taking in 2011 amid an increasingly gloomy economic outlook as rising inflation, political tensions and weakening currencies look set to hurt growth in the region.
But while the regional economic outlook remains strong for the second quarter of 2011, analysts at Pine Bridge an investment firm, and those of British American Asset Managers said an array of issues from drought and food scarcity to escalating oil prices would continue to pile pressure on household expenditure both in Kenya and other EAC countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.
According to the survey, the majority of CEOs do not plan to increase staff wages, but rather offer non-cash rewards to cushion them from inflation and to remain competitive in the labour market, setting the stage for employee unrest.
“CEOs are confident of revenue prospects over the next 12 months and three years. To meet these targets and address challenges along the way, they are focusing on their people,” said Kuria Muchiru, country senior partner, PwC Kenya.
“Competition for talent is intensifying as recruitment activity picks up in some sectors and there are increasing difficulties finding staff with the right skills,” he added.
According to the PwC survey, 85 per cent of CEOs in Tanzania say that availability of skills is a threat to growth with 80 per cent of them saying they planned to work with governments and education institutions to improve skills in the talent pool.
“In Tanzania, 95 per cent of CEOs are committed to creating and fostering a skilled work-force to improve national competitiveness with many of the executives saying they will incentivise younger workers differently and change policies to attract and retain more women,” said the survey.
Comparatively, 80 per cent of their Ugandan counterparts cite availability of key skills as a threat to growth in 2011. All those polled said they were focused on fostering a skilled work force in order to improve national competitiveness.