Country snapshot: aBi’s HR generalist Donna Alum discusses Uganda’s HR focus

CHRO SA interviewed Donna Alum to discuss HR issues in Uganda, and her journey in HR.

Donna Alum of Agriculture Business Initiative Development, a company based in Uganda, says her journey in HR has been a worthwhile experience.

After studying a bachelor’s degree in human resources she was fortunate to get a job in the HR industry about 11 years ago.

Donna says she started her career in a recruitment company and has never looked back. “After graduating I started in an HR recruitment firm, and after that I moved through HR roles in different organisations such as NGOs, business entities and social enterprises.”

Donna says she is now a journalist, but is still in the HR industry. “I am currently working as an HR generalist for aBi Development, working closely with technical teams to support the strategy implementation of the business, and I am trying to grow my career into an executive role where I can participate more in shaping the strategic direction of the organisation.”

aBi Development was founded in 2010 and is a project of Danida, the Danish government’s development arm. aBi deals with the development of agriculture businesses.

“We work with the private sector and give grants for agriculture development because agriculture is a big deal in Uganda. The majority of our people work in agriculture and it's what brings a lot of revenue for us.”

Asked if she’s always wanted to be in the HR field, she said at first she wanted to be a doctor. “Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor because I knew they make a lot of money, but when I went into high school, I didn’t study sciences but arts. But in varsity when I studied HR, I fell in love with it.”

She adds that after falling in love with HR she told herself she would never leave it, and all the jobs in her future would be in the HR field.

Donna shared some of the issues high on the HR agenda in Uganda:

Performance management
“In Uganda, HR focuses on how we can get the best out of people. People have been learning and upskilling and now are competing with the global market. So for one organisation to remain sustainable it should be able to deliver and put up good performance and create an environment where people can perform to the best of their abilities to produce the highest-quality work most efficiently and effectively,” she says.

Change management
“Because Uganda is a very dynamic country changes are inevitable,” says Donna. “People, the work and the skillsets are changing. And working in HR, our role is to ensure that our workforce is really ready and can adapt fast to changing environments. We are also trying to find ways to make sure the workforce is more agile and be effective in our communication.”

Talent management
“Currently, we are operating in a global market and the customers that we are targeting to buy our products and use our services are global,” Donna says.
“And if we are to attract and ensure that our staff are able to deliver for these global markets of different people, with different needs, tastes and preferences, we need to manage our talent effectively, making sure they are developed and have the skills to compete globally, and are happy and fully engaged.”

Organisational culture
“Organisational culture, when understood and used well, is an aspect that can be used to act as a competing edge for development and businesses around Uganda,” says Donna.
“We have an HR association in Uganda where organisational culture is top on the agenda, and we are trying to engage with HRs in poor practices in the country to see how we can conduct culture audits so that even people at the bottom know what’s expected of them, and know the the values in the organisation, and also be aware of their contribution in the workplace.”