Q&A with Deloitte's Anneke Andrews

Anneke Andrews, Human Capital Director at Deloitte, has been leading the company's talent solutions division for over 10 years.

She began her career as a chartered accountant and has been with the firm for more than 25 years. She’s certainly been around the block a few times but still looks forward to ushering in a new era of digitisation within the talent management space. CHRO SA sat with Anneke to pick her brain about the future of HR, among other things.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of being at Deloitte for so long?

Helping to fast-track the careers of young talented people is, without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of my role in Deloitte. This covers the entire spectrum of injecting people into challenging projects and engagements where they experience enormous personal growth, to finding the next springboard opportunities for their career growth. 

Q: How has HR evolved in the years that you have been a part of the profession? 

When I started my career at Deloitte, people tended to seek long-term employment opportunities where they might only change employers a few times in their entire careers, if at all. As a result, the HR role was very much designed to support people for a “long-term permanent career”. 

These days, especially amongst professionals, we see a growing trend towards people seeking shorter-term employment opportunities for their personal growth and it is rare to be able to meet these needs within one employer organisation.  Today the challenge for HR is very much to attract and work with this mobile talent. There is, therefore, an increased strategic need to design and support flexible staffing solutions to access this growing portion of the talent pool. 

More and more we are starting to see organisations becoming more comfortable with the idea of a contingent workforce, where talent is sourced as and when it is necessary.

We have also moved from a paradigm where we were probably guilty of thinking about our workforce simply as resources, to one where it is a necessity to consider the complexities of the employee value proposition to ensure the right people are attracted and retained in our organisations. Defining an organisation’s employee value proposition is a complex matter, that requires insight into a plethora of factors from personal identification with organisational culture and values, to feeling part of the overall business mission and strategy. It has certainly become more complex a task to ensure people feel engaged and feel that they are making a positive difference within their organisations and society.

Q. In 1985, you were the first female matriculant to get a bursary from the Deloitte Pretoria office. Since then, Deloitte and many other corporates have tried to improve the diversity of their workforces. Why do you think organisational diversity is important within the organisation and do you think companies nowadays are diverse enough?

There is no doubt in my mind that diversity is key to organisational success and sustainability. I really believe the best solutions are always found in organisations that have a diverse set of individuals who can contribute and come up with ideas in the context of their own backgrounds, experiences, strengths and perspectives.

We are blessed to live in a country of such rich diversity and I believe very few people are aware of the massive role large organisations have played over the last couple of decades to embrace this diversity and transform South Africa for the better.

We have certainly come a long way, but it is a constant challenge to embrace diversity and to engender a culture where diversity is celebrated and appreciated. 

Q. What are the challenges that you are facing now and how have you overcome them?

Connecting the new flexible and mobile talent pool with the opportunities that excite them presents a whole set of new challenges in a world where our structures and laws just don’t encourage and facilitate this new paradigm. 

For example, protectionist employment policies mean it is very difficult or just takes too long to take advantage of many career opportunities, especially if it means travelling across borders.

Increasingly we are seeing the use of technology to overcome these challenges by enabling people to work remotely and connect with their team members and employers seamlessly around the world without needing to be in the same physical location. The younger generation is also very comfortable with delivering services using this engagement model.

Q. What are some examples of technologies that are changing the world of HR?

To quote from our Global Human Capital Trends and latest Tech Trends reports:

HR is undergoing rapid and profound change. Once viewed as a support function that delivered employee services, HR is now being asked to help lead the digital transformation sweeping organisations worldwide. Digital HR requires digital technology expertise. A new breed of HR products and solutions is coming to market, many built around mobile apps, Artificial Intelligence, and consumer-like experiences. These tools are enabling HR to become near real-time. 

Artificial intelligence capabilities such as machine learning, deep learning, cognitive analytics, robotics process automation (RPA), and bots, among others constitute algorithmic capabilities that can augment employee performance, automate increasingly complex workloads, and develop “cognitive agents” that simulate both human thinking and engagement.

Q. But what do these technological advancements mean for the people that are currently in those roles that will soon be replaced by robots? if one robot is going to be able to replace ten people, what do you do with the 10 people? 

Machines have been taking over jobs that used to be performed by people for more than a century, and robots are nothing more than an extension of this trend, albeit that the pace of this change is getting faster and faster. However, the reality is that in the process new and different jobs are created. The real challenge is for people to remain relevant by learning the new skills that are demanded by these new jobs.

Increasingly the mundane, repetitive administrative functions will be taken care of by a machine. Automation is an opportunity to maximise the collective intelligence of the organisation by encouraging people to use their skills in a more meaningful way. It is our creative capacity that will increasingly be valued and that is the world I look forward to living in, collaborating to achieve optimal outcomes and making an impact that matters.