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Although the West African region has shown a rapidly growing technology ecosystem, internet penetration is still low. Technological advancements......
West Africa is one region with rapidly growing economies and populations. With that, the human resource (HR) management industry in this region has also experienced a shift or transformation: organizations have been striving to improve their HR practices to match global standards. Also, most organizations recognize the strategic importance of HR in driving business success. However, organizations and HR teams in West Africa face several challenges that hinder their effectiveness and efficiency. Most of these HR challenges have proven to have significant business impacts.
This post discusses HR challenges in West Africa. It further outlines their effects on organizations and practical solutions to address them.
Despite West Africa having one of the largest populations in Africa (approximately 401 million people with a median age of 18), it still struggles with the issue of skill gaps. For instance, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country (approximately 210 million), has a labor market characterized by a notable lack of skills and a large skill gap, which is primarily a skill mismatch between what employers require and what job seekers have.
While education and training systems in West African countries have continuously put effort into meeting industry needs with what they offer, there is still much work to be done, especially in certain sectors.
HR professionals and employers in West Africa find it hard to attract and retain highly skilled employees. Generally, the competition for the best talent is high. According to WTW, employee attraction and retention are two of the most pressing challenges employers across Africa face during volatile economic and labor markets.
Employers in Sub-Saharan Africa cite that remote work growth has resulted in an exodus of experienced talents from the region to other developed economies, leaving them with an urgent need for particular skills.
Labor laws and policies in West African countries tend to change regularly, affecting human resource planning in the long run. It’s often a result of constant change in leadership and political instability. Overall, ever-changing legal and regulatory requirements can be challenging for HR teams.
Also, some labor laws are complex; thus, compliance becomes challenging, especially for foreign employers who want to hire from the West African region.
Overall, the African workforce is quite diverse, with various ethnic groups holding different social values and speaking various languages. Managing diverse cultures in the workplace is not easy for HR professionals. For instance, cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts among employees; therefore, it calls for HR teams to effectively resolve conflicts while being culturally sensitive. Also, with a diverse workforce, communication can be challenging, especially where most employees’ first language isn’t English; team members may struggle to understand each other.
Currently, most of West Africa’s workforce comprises young people, and their aspirations differ from those of older generations. For instance, the new generation of employees believes in the value of their work and seeks jobs with a higher purpose. They also have a workplace where they can express their opinions more freely and have a personalized work experience.
It calls for HR teams to adopt different management styles and techniques that accommodate these types of workforces and meet their aspirations.
Although the West African region has shown a rapidly growing technology ecosystem, internet penetration is still low. Technological advancements are driving significant changes in how business functions such as HR and payroll management are completed. However, some organizations in this region have yet to embrace technological solutions in their HR processes.
HR challenges in West Africa profoundly affect employees, HR departments, and other business aspects. These effects include:
Organizations that cannot retain employees because they’re unable to meet employees’ aspirations and needs or lose the best talents to more developed economies often end up dealing with high employee turnover rates. As a result, the HR team is more likely to spend a lot of time recruiting, onboarding, and training employees, which is also costly. Above all, a high employee turnover rate can damage an organization’s reputation.
When an organization cannot meet its employees’ needs, aspirations, and expectations, it decreases morale, ultimately negatively affecting productivity. Skill gaps in the workplace are also likely to harm firm-level productivity, as average worker productivity is expected to be lower.
The ever-changing labor regulations and complex HR policies in West Africa put organizations at risk of getting involved in legal and compliance disputes. Consequently, this could damage their reputation and affect overall business operations. Non-compliance issues could also hurt the organization’s finances while settling fines, penalties, and lawsuits.
If cultural differences between individuals within an organization aren’t appropriately managed, it could lead to conflicts, especially when communication is poor. In the end, such conflicts significantly decrease employee productivity and morale.
Organizations invest in talent development and training and encourage their employees to participate in these programs to bridge the skill gaps in West Africa. Also, employees broaden their skills, training, and development opportunities, which may boost employee morale in an organization, and it’s easy to retain employees.
Organizations can also partner with learning and training institutions to curate the courses offered and align training with market needs.
West African organizations should embrace diversity and inclusion in workplaces to help curb issues such as workplace conflicts fueled by cultural differences. Creating an inclusive environment also helps build a strong, engaged, and productive team.
Among the practical ways of building inclusion in workplaces are by fostering cultural awareness, implementing diversity policies, practicing inclusive leadership, and offering equal opportunities to all employees.
Businesses should hire compliance and legal experts who understand this region's labor laws and regulatory landscape to help them remain compliant and address other critical legal hurdles.
Employee engagement is an essential factor in determining an organization's productivity and success. High employee engagement means high productivity, and vice versa. Some of the best ways to improve employee engagement include:
Organizations should embrace and adopt various technological solutions to help them streamline HR processes, enhance efficiency, and increase productivity. For instance, HR management software can automate most HR operations, from recruitment and performance management to record-keeping.
A good example of HR and payroll management that businesses in West African countries can use is Workpay. It’s a cloud-based solution enabling businesses to hire, pay, and manage employees (including remote workers) across Africa compliantly on a single platform. It also supports Employer of Record (EOR) services.
Most of the HR challenges organizations face in West Africa are also common across most parts of Africa and the rest of the world. However, the best part is that there are practical solutions that help organizations address them and minimize their impacts, as discussed above. For instance, upskilling employees could help address skill gaps and reduce employee turnover. Also, building a culture of inclusivity can significantly help HR leaders manage cultural diversity and reduce some workplace conflicts.
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