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By Bruce van Wyk, Director, PaySpace

According to the Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, digital HR is a growing business trend. As organisations digitise their operations with increasing speed, HR departments are being called upon to lead the process. This requires a holistic view that goes beyond implementing a couple of digitised HR platforms. The focus now is on creating digital workplaces and workforces that use advanced business tools to interact.

New technologies are already changing how people work, and the way they relate to each other: 56% of the companies featured in the Deloitte survey are busy redesigning their HR programs to leverage digital and mobile tools. In terms of HR service delivery, 41% are building mobile apps and 33% are already using some form or artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

It’s an exciting and globally transformative trend that is moving quickly – but the question is, is Africa ready for digital HR?

Digital HR in Africa

The Deloitte report shows that 79% of respondents in Africa rate the digital HR trend as a priority business area. However, does Africa have the necessary infrastructure to support businesses interested in digitising their processes?

As of March 2017, the percentage of internet users in Africa stood at 27.7%. The majority remains unconnected, but this will change as digital infrastructure grows and access to affordable, smart devices increases.

In fact, according to McKinsey, the number of smartphone users in Africa could increase from 5% to 30% of the population by 2025. This incredible growth means that 300 million new smartphones will hit the continent’s streets over the next 10 years.

What’s more, Cisco Systems predicts that as connectivity strengthens, cloud adoption will increase – with the fastest growth taking place in Africa and the Middle East over the next five years. Cloud computing infrastructure is expected to grow at 42% per year in the region – outstripping the global average.

While some parts of the continent do not yet have the infrastructure to support digital business processes, some countries are connected and ready to make the shift. One example is Kenya.  With an average speed of 15 mbps, it has the fastest internet in Africa and the Middle East – and ranks as the 23rd fastest internet in the world. It’s important to note that this is largely due to the country’s impressive National Broadband Strategy.

There is a lot of development and digital activity in Africa. However, to successfully implement digital HR, Africa-based organisations must embrace the following:

A diverse workforce

To effectively make the move into digital HR, your company needs to employ a digital workforce that is tech-savvy and not afraid of change or innovation.

This may mean recruiting more millennials – a generation known to be highly adaptable and collaborative. Don’t forget your existing employees though. They have a wealth of company experience and can benefit hugely from a digital skills training programme. You could even pair a millennial employee with a more senior colleague to help your valuable staff adapt to new ways of working quickly.

A flexible workplace

A workplace that has embraced digital HR typically enables its employees to work remotely. This flexibility to work when and where it suits them, is a key factor for many millennial employees when deciding whether to accept a job offer.

Companies that embrace a flexible, digitally-driven working environment will employ relevant software to support collaboration and productivity. Mobile apps such as Asana and Minutedock, for example, can manage team projects seamlessly and track billable hours.

Efficient processes

Most importantly, digital HR relies on efficient digital processes. An investment in cloud-based software and automated HR and payroll tools will help your company make the digital shift. With administrative HR processes, including recruitment, onboarding and payroll taken care of, your team can focus on more strategic and business-critical work like succession planning.

Connectivity across the African continent is improving. Businesses in Africa need to work on their digital HR strategies now or risk getting left behind. HR leaders will play a key role in helping companies enter the digital age, and lead the necessary investments in people and technologies.

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