Future of work Kenya

The Future of Work for Kenya: How to Find and Keep the Best People


The future of work has arrived in Kenya!

We often hear people say we must prepare for the future of work. But what does this actually mean for companies based in Kenya?

In the same context, we often hear buzzwords such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, block chain, big data etc. However, these are not really future concepts. They are already being used in forward-thinking businesses.

In fact many global business have been using these technologies for many years now.

But all this can be very confusing for business leaders. With so much happening in the world around us, it can be difficult to know what we should be doing.

The focus seems to constantly be shifting. So what are the right things for you to be doing in order to properly prepare for the road ahead?

Actionable knowledge


One thing keeps coming up when I speak to HR leaders in Kenya. That is they do not want hypothetical talk about the future of work. They want actionable knowledge, which can be used to prepare their business for success.

This is exactly what you will get from this guide.

So in this post, I wanted to write about how you can tackle some of the main challenges for Kenya’s HR leaders today.

I’ve used my knowledge of the global HR industry, Kenyan market and my connections locally to compile 10 actionable tips, focused on how to find and keep the best people.

You can start applying these strategies in your business today.

This post also builds on a HR workshop that I ran in Nairobi, Kenya back in August 2018. At this event I spoke about some of the skills required for the future workplace.

Since then, I have also spoken at a number of conferences across Africa about preparing for the future workplace.

I am sharing all this relevant content and as well the most up-to-date thought leadership with you right here.

HR Tech Africa

Talent Secrets, East Africa, Nairobi, Kenya

The future of work is already upon us


That’s right, the future of work we often hear about is already here!

This was the theme for the East Africa HR Symposium two years ago. So, the fact the future of work is upon us should not come as a surprise to HR leaders in Kenya!

And what’s more, if we think that technology is moving quickly now, we should brace ourselves, as it is not going to slow down.

Companies simply cannot ignore or avoid technology any longer. It has already become so deeply ingrained in all areas of our daily lives. From smart phones and smart watches, to smart homes and smart cars.

Technology has effectively become part of our DNA.

M-PESA digital banking for example, is no longer the latest thing. It’s now become an expectation in Kenyan society today.

As humans, we expect to have similar experiences in the workplace that we enjoy in our personal lives.

Therefore, to now compete effectively in the market, this takes technology off the ‘nice to have’ list for businesses.

Most businesses have woken up to this fact over the past few years. Many have started seriously planning for how they can develop technology-driven workplaces.

For those who were still half asleep or dragging their feet, the recent COVID-19 situation may have convinced them to start thinking differently.

So, how can you prepare? 10 actionable tips you can start applying today.


1. Create a vision and inspire your people


The next decade will most likely bring about the most significant changes we have seen in society and the workplace in the last century.

According to PwC, by the mid-2030s, up to 30% of jobs could be automatable. The changes are likely to come about in several phases over the next 10 years, as technology evolves.

Naturally, people have different reactions and feelings to what the future may look like. They may feel excited but many people feel slightly unsure of how the rising level of technology and automation will impact their lives. The various speculations out there surrounding this, just adds to fear of the unknown.

HR and business leaders have a responsibility to plan how to navigate their businesses and people through these uncertain times.

While redundancy will become inevitable for some, you can help your people by:

  • Setting a vision and clear narrative for how the business plans to prepare for the future
  • Outlining an approach for how the business will provide support
  • Upskilling teams and developing the right skills for their people
  • Listening to fears or concerns and responding in the right way
  • Investing in technology and embracing the digital agenda.

These actions, especially the vision must be set at the top of the business. However, it must be understood that without everyone on board, the vision cannot be realised. This makes it a top priority HR agenda item.

As business partners, HR must accept and take ownership of driving these conversations with their business leaders.


HR Tech Africa - Future of Work Kenya

HR and business leaders have a responsibility to plan how to navigate their businesses and people through these uncertain times (image by Jonathan Erasmus, 123rf.com)


2. Focus on upskilling and building capability from within


It may seem like the obvious place to start would be to hire fresh new talent.

But the world has shifted. Organisations are being challenged to get ahead of the game. So, to prepare for further digital disruption and workplace changes, you must bring your people with you on the journey.

So, everything starts with getting your employees on board, inspiring the change and developing capabilities from within.  

In 2019, PwC’s Talent Trends report revealed that global CEOs put the most focus on significant retraining and upskilling of their existing workforce (46%). This was well above hiring from outside the industry (18%) and hiring from competitors (14%).

The global professional services firm have themselves committed to investing US$3bn over a four year period for upskilling. This will be done through a combination of training, technology, support and initiatives such as the company’s Digital Accelerator programme. The programme is designed rapidly deepen skills such as data, automation, AI, and digital storytelling and then applying these skills across the business.

In addition to digital skills, soft skills are equally important. Leadership, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and emotional awareness are all vital to the future success of every business, in such a rapidly expanding technological world.

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Evaluate your skills gap by assessing what skills exist against skills that may be required in the future
  • Create an upskilling strategy
  • Develop a plan for how new skills can be developed over a period of time
  • Focus on providing opportunities to build experience
  • Develop a self-driven learning culture – see the next point.


HR Tech Africa - Future of Work Kenya

Create an upskilling strategy that focuses on digital and soft skills for the future (image by iakovenko, 123rf.com).


3. Develop a learning culture


To execute your strategy for upskilling and building capability, you must nurture a sustainable, self-driven learning culture.

Deloitte cited in their 2019 Global Human Capital Trends research 3 major trends for how learning is evolving:

  • It is more integrated with work
  • It is becoming more personalised
  • There is a a shift towards a lifelong, continuous learning approach.

This culture goes well beyond one-off training. You need employees to have have a hunger to learn and to focus on continuously developing the right skills mix across your business. 

Research conducted by LinkedIn, highlighted that 68% of employees prefer to learn at work. A massive 94% would stay with a company longer if it invested in their career. That should tell you something.

Here are a few ideas of things to help you start developing a learning culture:

  • Invest in digital learning solutions to develop core digital and soft skills (e.g. LinkedIn Learning)
  • Deliver learning through engaging experiences
  • Free up time for learning and upskilling
  • Embed digital awareness at the core
  • Target personalised learning
  • Provide experiences and opportunities to complement the learning process.

HR Tech Africa - Future of Work Kenya

Deliver learning through engaging experiences (image by Aleksandr Davydov, 123rf.com)


4. Create a compelling brand


Safaricom have strategically positioned themselves as a premium, innovative and trusted brand in the Kenyan market. People see Safaricom as successful and ambitious. Because of this, it is a brand that employees feel proud of and the prospective candidates are attracted to.

Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft have also achieved a similar kind of appeal on a global level.

Brand building is may not be seen as a HR responsibility. But as it touches on the people agenda, HR should be responsible for driving conversations around it. After all, it has a direct affect on how current employees feel towards their workplace.

Equally, top candidates in the marketplace are more likely to be attracted to a company who has invested in building a very strong brand.

Not everyone has Safaricom size budgets. However, the point is that there needs to be a desire to compete. Otherwise, how can you expect to attract the best people, if you are not investing in your business?

Here are a few ideas to help you develop a stronger brand:

  • Be clear about your purpose, vision, mission and values. Publish these on your website and make sure your people are aligned to them.
  • Use social media to raise awareness and build a positive image. Be active and highly engaging on all social channels.
  • Get control of your brand on sites such as Glassdoor and respond to criticism in a positive way. To develop a balanced profile, encourage employees to provide positive feedback to counter-balance anything negative.
  • Invest in corporate social responsibility to create a positive impact in society. This will help you build a good reputation.


HR Tech Africa - Future of Work Kenya

Strong brands make employees feel proud and prospective candidates are attracted to them (image by Xavier Wendling, Unsplash.com).


5. Hire the right skills for the future


According to a 2019 report by PwC, 79% of global CEOs worry about the availability of key skills.

We have discussed the importance of upskilling your existing workforce. That should certainly be the starting point.

However, how about new employees that will walk through your door?

When everything around us is changing, we must adapt our thinking and approach. Doing things in the same way as they have been done in the past is not going to be effective any more. With this in mind, it makes sense to rethink what skills and capabilities you will look for as part of your recruitment process.

In a past post, I discussed some of the key skills for the future.


HR Tech Africa - Future of Work Kenya

Hire the right skills for the future (image by milkos, 123rf.com)


6. Upgrade your recruitment processes


Thinking about hiring for the future a little more, it is likely that at some point you will also need to enhance your recruitment processes.

This is one area where you should think about leveraging technology, sooner rather than later.

Here are some ideas on things that you will need to think about:

  • Think about what your recruitment goals are first. Do this before you start investing in any technology!
  • Map our what your ideal recruitment process would look like to allow you to meet these goals
  • Now plan out some ideas for how you can creatively incorporate technology into this new recruitment process
  • Think beyond an applicant tracking system – digitising a recruitment process goes beyond that
  • Leverage social media channels to generate interest in your brand and portray the right image
  • LinkedIn should be included in your recruitment strategy – think about how you might use it to maintain a strong brand presence and engage with potential candidates
  • Think about how you will manage your entire online presence – including controlling the profiles of sites such as Glassdoor
  • Build a compelling careers site to visually tell your brand story
  • If you are planning to use job boards or agencies, think carefully about how these will fit into your recruitment strategy
  • Look at digital tools available to assess that your candidates have the right skills – one example is  KnackApp
  • Create virtual talent pools and build a pipeline based upon skills, interests and experience
  • Keep your talent pipeline engaged and interested in your brand – leverage social channels, blogs, e-mail updates etc. to help with this.


HR Tech Africa - Future of Work Kenya

Leverage social media channels and digital tools to assess your candidates (image by Christina@wocintechchat.com, Unsplash.com).


7. Focus on the people experience


An emerging and fast-growing trend in the global market is the people experience.

This is not just about technology. It is about focusing on moments that matter for your people. When we spend the majority of our week in the workplace, it should be an enjoyable experience. 

By focusing on these important aspects of the working day, challenges such as low engagement, lack of motivation and low productivity become much easier to address.

The key to getting this right is igniting a spark within the hearts and minds of your people and showing that as a company, you care about how they feel.

To start enhance your people experience, consider the following 5 factors:

  • Cultural
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Physical environment 
  • Technological.

Here are a few ideas that should be easy to get started with:

  • Define the key moments that matter for your employees. Then focus on creating a better experience around these.
  • Involve your employees in the journey. Getting their input and testing out ideas with them will be appreciated.
  • Think about the how your physical office space could be improved.
  • Even small touches, like USB charging points, complementary refreshments or fresh fruit go a long way.

When it comes to technology, always design solutions with user experience in mind. For example:

  • Collaborate with other business teams to streamline solutions into a digital ‘workplace portal’ as opposed to ‘the holiday booking system’ or ‘the HR system’
  • Take user-friendly design into account
  • Design for mobile and ‘on-the-go’ use
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify.


HR Tech Africa - Future of Work Kenya

Physical environment forms part of the overall people experience (image by Christina@wocintechchat.com, Unsplash.com).


8. Engage with your people on a regular basis


Disengagement and lack of motivation is one of the most pressing issues in the Kenyan business world.

Here are a couple of statistics based on the a study conducted by Brighter Monday in 2018:

  • Only 23% of male employees and 21% of female employees said they are satisfied with their place of work
  • Up to 50% of employees would not recommend their current employer.

According to Gallup, 85% of employees globally are not engaged at work. The economic impact of this is somewhere in the region of US$7 trillion in lost productivity.

Another study by Gallup quantifies the benefits of highly engaged businesses:

  • 41% reduction in absenteeism
  • 24% – 59% less turnover
  • 17% increase in productivity
  • 20% increase in sales
  • 10% increase in customer ratings.

These figures show that engagement is not just a problem in Kenya. It also very clearly highlights that driving better engagement needs to be taken seriously.

So, let’s think about a few things that you can do to boost engagement:

  • Make it a top business priority
  • View it as an investment and not a burden
  • Create a strategy for driving better engagement across the business
  • Ensure all leaders and managers are onboard with your plans
  • Make engagement a continuous conversation with your people
  • Coach managers to engage in the right way with their teams
  • Take regular ‘pulse checks’ to gain feedback. You must show that action is being taken from the feedback, otherwise it will not have the desired effect
  • Focus on the other points mentioned in this post. Collectively, they contribute towards better engagement.


HR Tech Africa - Future of Work Kenya

Delegates engaging with Kahoot during my session in Nairobi in August 2018.


HR Tech Africa - Future of Work Kenya

Delegates engaging with Kahoot during my session in Nairobi in August 2018.


9. Show your people that you care


To build on the last point, showing that you care will go a long way to boost engagement levels in your organisation.

Here are a few things to think about and incorporate into your engagement and people experience planning:

  • Upskill leaders and managers to drive this strategy and promote the right behaviours
  • Recognise and support emotional and physical wellbeing
  • Make work a fun, enjoyable place to be
  • Provide regular feedback through conversations
  • Develop  mentoring and coaching to help employees grow in the careers
  • Consider people’s career development – show interest, provide opportunities and advice to support personal ambitions
  • Recognise and celebrate successes, even small things like a congratulations in a team meeting will make the person feel valued
  • Reward employees – recognise achievements, progression and promotion
  • Show respect, trust, empowerment and emotional sensitivity.


“Clients don’t come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”

~ Sir. Richard Branson.

10. Create and show opportunities for career progression


In the PwC Millenials at Work (2018) report, over half (52%) of all respondents cited opportunities for career progression as the factor that most attracts them to an employeer. This means that building a career is more important to many people that just monetary reward.

By demonstrating that there are opportunities to progress, you will put yourself in a strong position. Not only will current employees be more likley to stay with you, prospective employees will be more attracted to your brand as well.

Career progression is as much about gaining exposure and varied experience, as it is about promotion.

Therefore, this also goes hand-in-hand with upkilling and building capability within your business.

PwC Millennials at Work

PwC Millennials at Work. Source: PwC.


Bonus tip! Download the PwC Digital Fitness app


To help you assess your level of digital fitness and develop skills for the future, you should take a look at PwC’s Digital Fitness app

For a limited period, PwC have made their global Digital Fitness app available for everyone to share with colleagues, family, friends and the broader community.

‘Digitally fit’ individuals will have the skills to create and implement digital solutions, a curious mindset, the ability to collaborate and strong online relationships.

How digitally fit are you? Find out more about the app here.

PwC's Digital Fitness app. Source: PwC.

PwC’s Digital Fitness app. Source: PwC.




If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it should be that some things are just beyond our control. Change will come, whether we are prepared for it or not.

If you are prepared, there will always be a few unexpected bumps in the road. But, you will be ready to adapt quickly and continue to thrive, riding the waves towards the future workplace.

Unfortunately, If you have failed to prepare you will be in for a much tougher time.


“Change before you have to.”

~ Jack Welch


During the next decade, we will continue to face further change and rapid digital evolution. Society, jobs and workplaces will change immensely. Perhaps in ways that we are not able to fully comprehend today.

However, there are things we can be doing to prepare as best we can, right now. As business and HR leaders, we must own the people agenda and drive the right action across the business.

I hope that these tips have given you some inspiration for what you can start to take control of.

Welcome to the future!


Thanks for reading


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Are you a HR professional in Kenya?


If you would like more information on how you can prepare for the future workplace in Kenya, please reach out to me here.


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