Vodacom CHRO Matimba Mbungela: Digital skills key for a brave new world

Vodacom reveals master plan to upskill its workforce for the future at HR Indaba Network.

Award-winning Vodacom CHRO Matimba Mbungela said at an HR Indaba Network session today, that this business models have been tested in extreme ways in agility and flexibility as businesses scrambled to get themselves connected to work from home. He said that reskilling organisations can no longer wait, and CEOs are looking to the HR departments to lead the way

“I think we have a responsibility as an HR function to scale up in our reskilling journey to make sure that people are not left behind in the organisation,” said Matimba.

Twenty-six years ago, Vodacom began as a telco business, but it’s rapidly evolving into a tech-coms business. Vodacom has identified 14 core new skills for the future: blockchain, AI, RPA, digital media, cybersecurity, machine learning, cloud computing, software engineering, fintech, internet of things, UI/UX design, big data analytics, agile, and digital services (lifestyle content). Of the 14, Matimba highlighted fintech as one of the most in-demand skills and biggest growth areas for Vodacom.

Vodacom Financial Services recently announced its ground-breaking technology partnership with Alipay, to bring inclusive mobile solutions to South African consumers and merchants, especially small businesses, through innovative digital technologies. “That requires fintech skills, said Matimba. “As a tech coms company we need to have core capability in that space.”

Vodacom’s immediate prioritised digital capabilities are in cybersecurity, big data analytics, and cloud computing. Reskilling the workforce will not happen overnight and the tech coms company wants to be able to upskill its current workforce to handle the demands of the future. Vodacom has launched a tech university of sorts, through strategic partnerships with big tech companies like Amazon Web Services and cybersecurity giant McAfee, who’ve been enlisted among countless new learning partners.

New learning is not restricted to employees. Matimba said specific leadership capabilities are needed to steer the transformation to digital: “The fundamental part is that you have to realise you don’t know what you don’t know, and realise that by hiring experts.”

One of the most important tools for surviving upskilling for the digital new world is a shift in mindset. Matimba said it is not about annual reviews anymore, but agility within the new core capabilities. “Most teams with these new skills thrive in new agile ways of working.In this way you create instantaneous performance feedback,” said Matimba. Vodacom has also revised its approach to failure: teams celebrate failures with the aim of learning from their mistakes as part of the company’s core learning principles.