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Start-up to bridge gap between South African enterprises and frontline employees 

Start-up to bridge gap between South African enterprises and frontline employees 

AfricaHR SolutionsTop StoriesWorkforce Management

SmartWage, an innovative HR and communications technology start-up, has raised USD$2 million. The oversubscribed seed funding round was raised to support SmartWage’s vision of transforming Africa’s workforce through digital inclusion, particularly for frontline employees like cashiers, restaurant staff, security personnel and healthcare workers. 

SmartWage is giving enterprises a simple yet effective way to digitise their most time-consuming HR processes, helping them save time and money to focus on what matters most: People. The product gives employees without email the ability to receive company-wide communication, access their payslips, request leave and get access to financial wellness products, all via WhatsApp. 

The majority (90%) of frontline employees don’t have or don’t use email, while 97% of formally-employed people in South Africa use WhatsApp. In a country where most people have less than five apps on their phone, engagement is best when using an existing distribution channel like WhatsApp to reach employees. No solution, however, adequately addresses the challenge of communicating with a distributed workforce, leaving employers unable to digitally transform.  

“There is a communication gap. Frontline employees don’t feel part of a company’s brand and its promise,” said Simon Ellis, CEO, SmartWage. “Payslips and leave are still done manually with paper printouts, while employee communication is done using notice boards or apps, which have huge usage drop-offs. Onboarding and disciplinary procedures are still paper-based, costing businesses precious time, money and resources”.  

But it’s not only about driving efficiencies for employers. SmartWage has developed a host of financial wellness products that give employees the financial lifeline they need. These include access to free financial education and on-demand pay.  

“We have learnt through our process that employees need access to cash more than ever before. A total of 80% of South Africans struggle to make it to the end of the month without relying on some form of short term debt, and the payday loan industry is booming,” added Ellis. “If we can save employers time and money through digitisation, we can bridge the gap between South African enterprises and their frontline employees, helping enterprises connect clearly and dynamically with their employees while offering financial wellness tools at the same time. By offering tools that benefit both employers and employees, we have a powerful value proposition.” 

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