Milicom's Yvette Mujinga on managing HR during a takeover

Implementing HR strategies during a company's sale can be problematic

When she moved to Milicom as the Human Resource Director overseeing Tigo, a competitor to her previous employers, Vodacom, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yvette Mujinga found a very different challenge to what she had ever experienced before, having to develop and execute an entirely new human resources strategy for the company, integrating transformation of making HR valuable to the organization. All the while, one of the competitors in the DRC had been in the process of buying Tigo, a transaction, which was completed in 2016.

The People Project for transformation’ – where she oversaw everything from top-down, from the implementation of new Benchmark for salary to the implementation of new policies and processes. In term of talent and resourcing, she supported the CEO with the appointment of senior management team most of them local or African Senior Leaders with 40% of female - which was so successful, it was also part of the Group Strategy.

The people project was completed within 12 months whereby, among other things, the company did a review of policies and procedures, salary review, redesign the structures and ensure that people understand their role, review of job descriptions, Grading of positions base on the existing structures.  This was applicable from the Top - Management, all the way down throughout the company

“I found people with different salary for the same role without any reason. The first objective of the salary survey was to build a new benchmark model within the company, reduce the gap. For this purpose we need to compare ourselves to the local and global market,” says Mujinga.

“The support from the CEO was very important to deliver the project especially in term of communication, with a regular update to the staff to explain where we are and show the company how we were progressing in terms of our HR objectives.”

The takeover

Unbeknown to her, while she was implementing the turnaround strategy at Tigo, Orange had also begun the process of acquiring the company from Milicom. She didn't know that the company will be acquired by another competitor but she delivers her full potential to run this project of transformation with the support of the CEO and all Exco Members.

“Before the transformation, maybe there had already been a decision to sell the business that was taken?  That's a challenge when you are planning the future without the assistance of whoever is going to take over.

Amidst the transformation plans, and the work being done to sell a business, the company indicated they were looking for some people to oversee the integration plan, while others would have to be let go. She says it was a period in which many people would felt insecure.

It was a process from which she learned many lessons in diplomacy as she had to manage the preparation of all HR data required in merging of staff from each organisation.

“In that circumstance, one plus one does not equal two,” she says, adding, however, that she navigated the process well, given that her two senior that most human resource subordinates were critical to the acquisition and remain at the company to this day.

Navigating Integration

After the company was bought, she had a short time to terminate contracts for the people, most of them senior who were not part of the deal and she did with tact, diplomacy, confidentiality and trust for the Millicom side. It was rather complicated because she needed to establish short-term contracts with some key people identified to support the business during the time of integration and merge.

“I was in the DRC, but working with the lawyer from the Group and I learned a lot on how to terminate simultaneously contract between DRC law, some countries in Europe and Africa.

It was all about integration whereby every individual had a different timeline. Mujinga says it was very difficult because it's not a situation of a dismissal or retrenchment or resignation but redundancy and we need to find the way to do it and avoid any future risk for the business and the individual as well.