A Thirst for Talent in Africa

As part of its “manifesto for growth” across the entire African region, the admittedly conservative Coca Cola Company says it looked into a new business plan with fresh ideas to promote effective employee development.

Part of the challenge for the world’s largest non-alcoholic beverage company was determining how to transform and grow its service delivery model consistently, from Cairo to Johannesburg, and everywhere in between.

“We wanted a quick, low-cost implementation, simple design, and ease of use,” says Valerie Kennerson, director of strategic talent sourcing and selection. “We needed sustained administration and accessibility across the entire continent.”

So earlier this year, the company chose to implement a new recruiting-technology system in its Coca-Cola Africa human resources functions. It also established the Coca-Cola Africa talent acquisition group in the company’s newly created Center of Excellence.

“It’s all about profit, people, and portfolios,” says Kevin Shigley, HR manager of technology and metrics. He notes that the company’s main objectives in Africa included:

  • Accelerating the growth of the brand
  • Developing and investing in the people
  • Keeping products affordable
  • Giving back to the communities

The Results

The Coca-Cola Company says it completed the implementation (using Peopleclick’s RMS product) on time and on budget.

“We did it all under three months and it cost under $20,000. We were psyched about that time and price, and what we were able to develop,” says Shigley.

The company now uses the system to manage the acquisition of salaried and hourly employees from four divisional offices in Cairo, Egypt; Lagos, Nigeria; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya.

With 40 bottling partners on the continent, and more than 170 bottling plants, it also uses the system to manage the entire employee recruitment process, from candidate identification and pre-screening to qualification and selection.

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“I was struck by how fast the system worked there; in fact, sometimes it worked faster than at our corporate headquarters [in Atlanta],” says Shigley.

There were minor bumps in the road assimilating all users and moving them from paper-based applications to electronic applications, though “that is a challenge of the first, second, and third worlds. We have been there since February 2006, so it’s still a journey for us,” Kennerson adds.

A few things that Shigley says he noted while spending time implementing the solution in Africa was that the workers were disciplined but entrepreneurial and also highly collaborative. He says he sensed that although they are global in scale, “everything they do they do at a local level.”

The company, which notes a 60-to-90-day improvement in days to fill, deployed in English only.

“Because of the large number of African languages, we chose English. We could not justify, on a return-on-investment basis, to use Swahili and a host of other languages,” says Shigley.

Meanwhile, the company’s deployment in China, which started about two weeks ago, will be in English and Chinese. The company says it anticipates completing the design and requirements with Peopleclick early next year, with deployment at some time in 2008. The Olympics are in Beijing in 2008, and as Shigley says, “Coke is a major partner with the Olympics.”

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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