Webinar by Mercer discusses how companies are upskilling and reskilling for the future


One of the trends seen in 2021 is the need to build and acquire new skills in digital competence.

In a CHRO SA webinar, sponsored by Mercer, four experts gathered to discuss how organisations are tackling the urgency to build and acquire the new skills required for the future.

Tesantha Naidoo, a career consultant at Mercer, Njabulo Mashigo, the HR director at Vodacom, Elizabeth Rachidi, HR director at Tiger Brands, and Elizabeth Waititu, the head of HR at Jubilee Insurance (Kenya), spoke about the fast-growing need to build flexible work models due to expense control and increases in project work, talent sharing and contingent workforces.

Tesantha said last year companies entered a new world of transformation. “If we look at how we did things in the past versus how we do them now, we can no longer embark on transformation in isolation, as it has become an interconnected imperative.”

She added that Mercer partners very closely with the World Economic Forum, and skilling and reskilling across the world are very high on their agenda.

Tesantha shared that one of the statistics that came from Mercer’s Race to Reskill report was that more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25, making it the world’s youngest population, “And what that means for organisations, is that they need to start investing in development much earlier on.”

“When we talk about accelerating this new shape of work, you will see by 2025, 85 million jobs will be displaced by the shift and division between the labour of humans and machines,” she said, pointing out that this was not necessarily a negative statistic, because 97 million new jobs will be created and organisations will need to reskill 50 percent of their employees.

Tesantha added that the number one challenge of transformation is the lack of workforce capability and skills.

Mercer runs a global talent transformation survey annually which revealed that, “Globally only two in five HR professionals know what skills exist in their organisation today and nine percent of organisations are making an effort to monitor the supply and demand of skills in the market.”

In 2019 it was estimated that $900 billion (R12.65 trillion) was lost in revenue as a result of failed digital transformations.

How they plan to define future workforce needs and reinvent sustainability
Tesantha explained that when HR talks about reinventing sustainability it’s no longer just a case of doing things that are good for now, it’s what’s going to keep you relevant in the future. The number one priority is defining future workforce needs, restructuring, reinventing sustainability, and energising the employee experience, which is very high on the agenda.

She shared some of the questions organisations should be asking themselves in order to address the skills based approach to the new world of work:

1. How do I identify the skills I need for the future?
2. Where should I prioritise my L&D spend to build capacity in core areas?
3. How can I facilitate flexible careers across my organisation?
4. How can I build a more agile organisation?
5. How do I restructure jobs around automation and refocus work?

How companies are racing to reskill in 2021
Tesantha says the trends that have accelerated in 2021 are the urgency to build more flexible working models, the need to build and acquire new skills in digital competence and the increase in skills-driven hiring, which is often unhooked to prior location strategy.

“On the other hand, leading companies are building a skills infrastructure and learning culture, creating transparency into the evolving nature of work and the implications of upskilling and reskilling, and they are also rethinking how they recognise and reward skills and non-traditional qualifications.”

Vodacom’s Njabulo Mashigo says at its core the company’s reskilling philosophy and agenda has been driven by an attempt to future-proof their employees’ potential. “So, definitely a big focus on reskilling and upskilling to prepare for the changes that we see in our industry and organisation.

“Globally across Vodafone we are really looking at the transformation from being a traditional telecoms organisation to being a technology company. So we had to rethink and relook at the skill set that we have now, versus what we will need in the future.

“We implemented phase one over a year ago, where we focused on what we called #OneMoreSkill, and it was about looking at the gaps that we have now and taking a deep dive at a systemic level to find out which jobs are impacted and which will disappear in the future.”

Tiger Brands’s Elizabeth Rachidi said, “Our journey with upskilling and reskilling started about three years ago where we had to define the ‘Tiger Brands of the Future’ and in doing so, we needed to be deliberate in saying, if we need to achieve that ambition, what kind of leaders are going to drive that change for us?”

She says they also asked themselves how they could rewire the mindset of their leaders to help them in defining the Tiger of the future and help them identify the skill sets they will need in the future.

Adding that innovation is core and pivotal as a differentiator to their strategy, she commented, “We wanted leaders who would drive innovation in our environment, leaders who would support our teams in driving winning performance, most importantly, leaders who would be able to leverage the power of cross-functional collaboration through partnerships and leaders that have quite a high sense of mastery and self-awareness.

“In the journey of defining the Tiger Brand future we supported it with our leadership and development programmes.”

She added that the business has different tiers of leadership programmes that seek to address and support their leadership framework. “We have leadership programmes that are pegged at young leaders, frontline leaders, leaders who are managing the enterprise, and all the way up to the exco.”

Elizabeth Waitutu from Jubilee Insurance also said a mindset shift was high on their agenda: “One of the biggest things that we immediately realised during the pandemic was that our challenge was shifting our mindset both at the level of leadership and everyone else individually.

“Leaders needed to shift their minds to see the workers as people who would be able to work independently and remotely without someone looking over their shoulder.” She says the false sense of comfort that leaders had, that when someone is working from their office desk, they were productive, needed to be quickly addressed.

“So, we started reskilling our leaders, taking them through forums and sessions to address their fears and identifying practical ways of supporting them through the change and also finding the right tools to measure productivity and increasing the frequency of meeting with teams.

“We also ensured that our leaders had the skill of empathy, keeping in mind that everyone was going through change, the leaders were also going through change, but also needed to provide change leadership.”

Elizabeth concluded that Jubilee Insurance created partnerships with organisations that had experience in managing people remotely to guide them on the new journey they were embarking on.


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