Award-winning HR: Transformation at work

What does it mean to truly transform your business? In this short series, we take you through past winners of the HR Excellence Awards, and how they impressed the judges.

Backing up fantastic strategies with rock-solid figures, each winner has managed to persuade judges of their team’s impact on business.

In part five of the series, we look at 2022's winner for the Best Transformation Strategy, for organisations that have worked thoughtfully to embrace radical change.

Not yet started your entry? View 2023's categories now.


Best Transformation Strategy: Vodafone M-Pesa Africa

Africa is a continent undergoing rapid evolution. A febrile, electric atmosphere holds the business world, where start-ups can spring up in a matter of weeks to capture multinational markets.

Wholesale adoption of mobile technology has been behind this boom. By 2025, there will be 615 million mobile service subscribers across sub-Saharan Africa, equivalent to half the region’s population.

In this environment of rapid change agility means survival.

A joint venture of Vodafone partnership Vodacom, M-Pesa Africa (MPA) is a mobile banking money transfer service, and was the first to gain a toehold in the continent.

Now serving over 50 million customers, directly and through partners, it is the largest fintech company in Africa. It therefore, had a choice: to fall prey to smaller, more agile disruptors, or to disrupt itself.

The Pamoja (Swahili for 'together') cultural transformation programme was born.

An HR-led initiative, it would see agility instilled throughout the organisation.

The MPA HR team had clear ambitions to bring the company over to an agile operating model and align their own HR practices with agile principles.

It therefore built and adopted its Scaled Agile Framework (SAF) - a schema for work that gave employees a common language and method of working. By aligning employees to this common framework, MPA suddenly freed itself up to implement big gains in agility.

So far, MPA has trained more than 650 people in SAF, including hundreds of partners across the supply chain to help enable cross-organisation agility.

When it came to hiring too, MPA switched things up. The team redesigned job descriptions to focus on potential and attitude rather than experience.

It also changed its talent acquisition strategy to find and grow new talent directly within the markets it was serving, as MPA scaled up from 70 to more than 150 staff.

The most significant change was a radically new approach to leadership. HR cleared out the hierarchical structure.

It reduced band-on-band reporting structures, where managers and team members had overlapping responsibilities by 50% and brought the executive team closer to project work by reducing the number of organisational layers from five to four.

It reduced the management ratio from 52% to 28%, providing a significant boost to teams’ autonomy.

The Pamoja programme delivered. MPA has achieved a tenfold improvement in time to market that could never have been achieved with its previous model. Development times for new features have been reduced from more than 40 weeks to four or fewer.

This profound difference in MPA’s operating model has ensured its survival amidst a multitude of small but fast-moving competitors, allowing the organisation to take full advantage over its superior market share.

Perhaps most significantly it has meant a real difference in how MPA is run. Executives for the first time were subject to 360-degree feedback.

Employees were pleased to see their leaders clearly articulating the mission and values, explaining the strategy, and living agile practices with regular communication, acceptance of feedback, and being visible.

The strategy’s effectiveness was clear to the judges, who praised MPA’s “compelling story of success.”

Enter the HR Excellence Awards 2023.

View the full list of categories here.

The deadline for entries is 31 July 2023.