SHRM Collaboration Across Africa Reveals More Shared HR Challenges Than Differences!

SHRM Collaboration Across Africa on Membership Engagement & Promotion of HR Certification Reveals More Shared HR Challenges Than Differences!

I had the privilege recently of visiting three African countries – Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa – to support the efforts of SHRM’s member engagement groups and licensed delivery partners. While SHRM doesn’t have full chapters outside the US, our experiment with informal ‘SHRM Forums’ has proven quite successful, creating local opportunities to engage and network with other SHRM members in the same country and boosting membership. And our delivery partners are promoting an awareness of the SHRM HR Competency Model, SHRM Certification, and the formation of group international delegations to the SHRM Annual Conference.

A partial view of attendees at the SHRM Forum/Ghana – CITAM event
at the Best Western Hotel, Accra, Ghana.

The most vibrant expression of this was at an event organized by the SHRM Forum/Ghana and CITAM, an HR training company, that together attracted 167 HR professionals, CEOs and other managers from MNCs and Ghanaian companies to an half-day session at the Best Western Hotel in Accra. Focused on the theme, “Global HR Trends and Competencies Required for Organizational Success”, I shared the podium as a speaker with HR leaders from Sandvik and Tullow Oil who shared perspectives about their HR operations, which was followed by a panel discussion of nine CHROs, CEOs, and the Deputy Chief of Mission from the US Embassy who commented on all three presentations, sharing insights into what they expected from HR.

One creative facilitation tool that I had never seen before elsewhere was the SHRM Forum/Ghana’s creative use of the SHRM slogan “Advancing the Profession and Serving the Professional” as a pick-me-up and transitional element between speakers; using a call-and-response technique that they appropriated from music and song, whomever was serving as master of ceremonies at the time would shout out loudly “Advancing the Profession!” and the whole gathering would respond thunderously with “Serving the Professional!” They told me they use it in all their meetings as an ice-breaker. 

It still rings in my mind well after the event and served there to energize people and get them back from breaks and focused on the program, and was a constant reminder of why they were all there. The next morning, SHRM Forum/Ghana President Kojo Amissah and I were interviewed on New Day, one of the country’s morning talk shows on TV3, on the challenges of HR in Ghana, elsewhere in Africa, and around the world, which provided a unique opportunity to promote professionalization of HR in the country and the SHRM brand at the same time.

Representatives of Skills-Farm and SHRM after a session with the HR team
at Stanbic ITBT, Lagos, Nigeria after a session on engagement and retention.

A few days later I was in a similar situation in Lagos, Nigeria at the Institute of Directors, where the SHRM Forum/Nigeria and Skills-Farm, the local certification prep delivery partner, held ‘Future Ready HR’.  We heard two local senior-level and very insightful speakers: Michael Ikpoki, past-CEO, MTN Nigeria sharing “What the CEO Wishes HR Knows & Does” and Funke Amobi, CHRO, Stanbic IBTC, discussing “What Your HR Management Toolbox Should Look Like?”

I presented on “Emerging Strengths & Success Competencies”, with an emphasis on global HR and the global and cultural effectiveness competency in our model.  As a result, I was invited to both Stanbic and Nigerian Breweries (Heineken) to interact with their HR teams and share more SHRM content, and also visited Chevron to have a focus group with the more than 30 SHRM members in that company.  As a result of the cumulative activities of the SHRM Forum/Nigeria and Skills-Farm over the past few years, membership there has risen to the fourth largest country for SHRM– after the US, India, and Canada!

The HR team at Nigerian Breweries (Heineken), Lagos, Nigeria after a
session on global HR challenges and being effective across borders.

The end of my trip took me to Johannesburg, South Africa, where delivery partner Emergence Growth is promoting an awareness of HR certification, and had the opportunity to interact with many senior-level HR directors at an invitation-only event, along with corporate visits to Rand Merchant Bank, DHL, and others. I also helped Emergence Growth to inaugurate their first in-company SHRM cert prep program at Sasfin, a local investment bank: Sasfin’s CHRO, Naseema Fakir, Group HR Manager, is using certification training as a teambuilding and professionalization tool for her HR managers, and serving as a strong role model for her team by going through the program herself.  

The first day of SHRM cert prep delivery by Emergence Growth at its
corporate client, Sasfin investment bank, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The three countries are unique and face different circumstances. Ghana, with the lowest per capita GDP of the three countries at US$1,442 is growing but at a slower pace than in recent years. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy with 186 million people and per capita GDP of US$3,203, is a major petroleum producer and exporter being squeezed by the global drop in oil prices. South Africa, the second largest economy on the continent though most affluent with per capita GDP of US$6,464 is still trying to build its ‘rainbow nation’ amid the political turbulence of its president having been recently convicted of abusing the Constitution and threatened with impeachment. And all three countries have felt the contraction in demand from China, too. Nonetheless, generally HR professionals in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa share the same general challenges, and the topics cited of most common concern in all three countries are: engagement, ethical standards and practices, globalization, performance management, retention, succession planning, talent management, and training and development.


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