Exploring Afreximbank's Employer/Employee Value Proposition
In the following interview, Tadiwa Mandivenga sits down with Stephen Kauma, Director of HR at Afreximbank to discuss the Bank’s performance this year. Stephen shares insights on some of the key strategies, initiatives and programmes that helped them to successfully navigate 2021. They also discussed how the Bank attracts and retains its unique and highly skilled male and female African talent.
Has Covid fundamentally changed the bank in terms of what it does and how it works?
Like other institutions, COVID changed the bank in more ways than one. Some of the changes were positive, others were negative but there have been many more of the former as a result of the pandemic.
The first is that it has changed the way that we work. For the last 18 months, we have had to work from home (virtually) as opposed to working in the offices. Managing teams on a federal basis, dealing with people that you supervise and managing on a remote basis is very different from managing them in person. We had to change the way that we manage, reach out to and empathise with our teams from a distance which was difficult in the beginning but this worked eventually because it showed in the results and performance of the bank during 2020.
The second thing was the manner in which we respond to our clients and how we ensure that we are responsive to them. We are a market failure bank by definition need to ensure that our shareholder member states and the private sector in those member states are able to access financing and advisory services even when going through economic downturns. Typically, private sector finances withdraw when there is an economic downturn to protect their shareholders’ interests due to the risks being much higher. COVID helped us to prove that we are still relevant to our shareholders just as we were in the past (economic crisis in 2000 and financial crisis in 2008). We had to ensure that we provided the required liquidity to them, which would not have been available to them otherwise.
We have also been part of the African Union's task team for the acquisition of vaccines - helping African countries to access them while also dealing with the inequity associated with them. The Bank’s role in the task team is to provide advice and finance the countries to be able to fairly distribute the vaccines.
The pandemic is a test of business continuity, management, procedures and systems. We were able to deliver products to our shareholders and clients in an environment which was very difficult. This proved the resilience of our institution and our processes.
Have businesses’ EVP fundamentally changed, and if so how is Afreximbank adapting?
Our E2VP (employer/employee value proposition) was a useful tool in realigning our internal processes during the pandemic. It has 5 pillars: selection, development, performance, work and awareness.
In terms of recruitment and selection, we switched to a virtual process which has successfully helped us to bring in more people at a lower cost.
Regarding performance, our management system was already online, but we had to adjust to having performance feedback conversations virtually and making sure that our system was updated and easier for people to use.
When it comes to development, prior to the pandemic we had been working on a process of deploying a digital learning system and just as lockdown began we launched our Digital Learning System which enabled our staff to continue learning and training. The system has integrated courses from different platforms with almost 15,000 from LinkedIn and almost 20,000 from Coursera for example. Our staff have access to all these courses catering to different specialisations and have been taking advantage of this platform.
For the wellness aspect, we had to focus more on mental health. With all the emotional challenges posed by the pandemic, we needed to ensure that our staff were supported. We trained line managers on how to deal with people’s mental health as well as arranged sessions with our medical insurance providers and our retained doctors to reinforce the message to our staff that there is help and support available for them and that we care.
In terms of talent development and mobility, what programs or initiatives have been implemented to ensure that employees have opportunities for growth?
We have leadership programmes for our staff to attend in groups which help them to develop their skills as new managers and leaders supported by different universities across the world.
We were also able to continue with our internship programme by running it virtually. In addition to this, we have a junior professionals programme and we also offer a research sabbatical programme (virtually) for which we were able to recruit our inaugural research fellow.
What kind of talent would you say there is a shortage of in the industry; and how is the bank targeting this talent?
The talent that we look for is unique and specialised so we typically focus on mid-career professionals. When we bring in staff at a junior level, we train them in the programmes we offer to develop the necessary skills. At junior level, we focus on attributes that we think a person should have in order to be able to learn and develop themselves. Because of this, we do not necessarily have issues finding the talent that we need. There is so much excellent high-potential African talent out there who are at a junior level but have the right attitude and learning aptitude so they will be able to grow into the roles that we need them to fill.
At mid-career level, there is a huge amount of talent available across the continent and in the diaspora, so we go through a rigorous assessment process to ensure that we get the right ones on board. When we go out into the market, around 90% of the talent that we recruit is made up of people that have had their education and worked in the continent which is proof that talent within the continent exists. However, there are some specific areas where it can be challenging to find talent because the nature of the skills required are such that they can only be built when working in a particular market. For example, when looking for strong equity trading skills, we would need people with experience in developed financial markets. This is where we engage with our partners like Global Career Company to help us identify African talent in the diaspora, whose skills and experience have been built up in developed financial markets to fill treasury or capital market related roles.
You developed an interesting way of assessing and monitoring performance…is it still relevant today, and what is special about it?
Over the last 5 years we have implemented the Balanced Scorecard as a method for strategic performance monitoring and execution. We have made improvements and tested it in different ways, and we are proud that the system is working for us to ensure that we can monitor how we are doing as an institution.
We have a monthly dashboard that shows how we are performing in different areas in terms of organisational capacity, business processes, financial results and stakeholder satisfaction making it a very powerful tool for us. We look at our performance as an institution at three levels: enterprise, functional and individual and make sure that there is a line of sight across each of those levels at every moment in time.
From what we have heard from the market, positive strides have been made to increase diversity and inclusion, mainly in terms of gender representation. What efforts are being made to increase other types of representation and inclusion within the bank?
When we talk about representation in the bank, we take into account the fact that we are a multicultural institution, and we recruit people from across all African countries. We try to ensure that when we are recruiting, we reach out to as many people across the continent as possible through media, headhunting and other efforts. We also pay attention to the current representation across different genders. We have done very well when it comes to recruiting women, especially into mid-career level roles. Our female talent has demonstrated that women are just as capable of excellence as men.
We are always exploring what else we can do to ensure that representation is present across the whole structure to make sure that we reflect the diversity in the markets we serve across the continent.