HR must help elevate employee skills to stay relevant

JSE's CFO Aarti Takoordeen and Old Mutual's HR boss Celiwe Ross discuss the relevance of HR.

During an insightful discussion, “How to be more relevant – executive perspectives”, at the HR Indaba on 4 October, JSE CFO Aarti Takoordeen and Celiwe Ross, human capital director at Old Mutual debated the value HR brings to an organisation now and into the future. 

Both speakers agreed that the workplace is changing rapidly and will continue to do so for many years because of the rapid adoption of technology. Aarti believes as a result, the skills of all human employees will need to be elevated. 

“What I need from the CHRO is a balance of understanding of our business and our strategic challenges going forward and the challenges around being relevant. Every organisation is faced with challenges around being relevant, upskilling, re-skilling, technology displacing and the different skills we require. Growth is going to come from our people being a lot more agile and a lot more effective within a changing dynamic in the country,” said Aarti.

In line with this, she said she expected the CHRO to be aware of these factors and to understand what the business needs to remain relevant within the commercial constraints that exist. “The CHRO must help me prioritise where is it we should spend our efforts. We can’t solve everything in one go, but where is it that we can be most effective in rolling out different programmes within the organisation and be able to support and enable the business for the growth?”

According to Aarti, learning and development (L&D) is a space where the business underspends. She said: “I put that squarely on the CHRO’s doorstep to say, ‘Help me, it’s not useful when we know we have to be relevant and have all these constraints, but we underspend on L&D.’ We know growth is going to come from upskilling and reskilling. How do we help the workforce? I lack the skills to bring them along that journey and that’s what I look to the CHRO to partner on.”

The first thing to get a company to a level of maturity to adopt future technology is understanding the people you have, who are they and what they do, said Celiwe. “A lot of where we go and what we’re going to develop is driven by our strategy for the future. Once we understand where it is we’re going as an organisation and how we want to present ourselves, then we can look at whether we have the people who are going to get us there. Certainly in financial services, the game is all about people – they enable us to do what we do. So, we need to look at the people we’ve got – can they get there and how do we enable them to get there?”

Celiwe agreed with Aarti about L&D lacking understanding and investment. She added that it is going to become increasingly important for people to be able to self-learn. “In the future, it’s not just going to be about reskilling, but rather the ability to multi-skill yourself and unlearn and relearn new things because change is going to be a permanent. Organisations need to consistently keep up with that change to remain relevant. People’s ability to reinvent themselves and to learn things quickly, and our ability to create the environment for them to learn is important going forward,” she said.