Webinar unveils winning tactics in the war for talent – amidst a pandemic

Technology that uses a people-first approach for a new social compact will distinguish leading organisations during and post-Covid-19.

CHRO recently hosted a webinar, as part of the HR Indaba network, with Old Mutual to get more insight into how technology is enabling organisations to deliver on employee value propositions and better manage talent in a rapidly changing work landscape.

“COVID-19 has resulted in a massive workplace reboot. We are seeing the rise of social enterprise and top talent expects business to play a pivotal stewardship role. To stay competitive, there is a need to strike a new social contract to win the war for talent. This is forcing organisations to put humans back in the centre of business. This is not just with COVID-19 but will continue beyond the pandemic,” explained Old Mutual’s Director for Human Capital, Celiwe Ross.
Old Mutual started with the concept of empowerment as a key ingredient to drive the social compact.

“It was about truly empowering employees to work wherever they may be. The conversation around empowerment was between leaders and the rest of the employee base. It was about providing employees with the right tools to collaborate and giving them a sense of satisfaction. From an employer perspective, it’s about pivoting to understanding the talent base, the personal needs support, the work volume and how it is evolving,” Celiwe said.

The social contract looks at expectations, explicit and implicit. It communicates values and purpose.

“Change is difficult for people. Workday not just a system. It is helping Old Mutual, which is a pan-African company, focus on diversity and inclusion. Data is collected and that allows for things to work the way they should,” she said.
Zuko Mdwaba, Workday SA Country Managing Director, added that Workday was used by a number of companies throughout the world, including Walmart which has over 2 million employees.

“When I heard Celiwe say, it’s not just a system – that’s what makes the journey really worthwhile for us. Companies have values and a vision, and we want to help organisations achieve their aspirations,” he said.

Distributed workforce pilot

During the webinar, Celiwe revealed that Old Mutual is currently running a six-month distributed (remote) workforce pilot with over 4 000 employees, following the full deployment of Workday, to measure and monitor the employee experience and value proposition as well as the IT and Human Capital processes that will support the future workforce strategy.

With almost two months into the pilot, the data has already revealed useful information around barriers to productivity and empowerment.

“The pilot is running at different levels and locations. So far it shows that not everyone’s home is created equal. Inequality exists in the homes. For example, mothers are getting the short end, managing household and work. Then there are practical issues like power supply and load shedding in a South African context, as well as the cost of data and lack of physical space. Some employees were working from their cars. Many younger employees who were living in apartments have gone back home. They just need the social connection,” Celiwe highlighted.


The data helps to debunk myths and provide the organisation with important questions that need to be asked. Can people really work from anywhere? Is there a way to deploy branch infrastructure more effectively? Can any employee now work from branch? Should offices become branches?

“There is no silver bullet, but human capital can unlock business value and we can use this data to inform future business space. With the data, we can build as we fly and provide the best support to line managers and their teams. We can reimagine the office environment by understanding what can and should be done remotely and what needs to be done together in-person,” she said.

Transactional and transformational

According to Celiwe, the full human capital solution deployed by Workday has democratised the employee experience.

“All employees have to do is download the app. Transactional processes, like leave applications, can all be done remotely. We have also been able to take a blended approach to learning and upskilling. Content has been digitised, and there is curated content and own growth options.

“We run the full talent and career development cycle on Workday – from our homes. Recruiting, appointing, on-boarding new employees is all self-service. Payslips, benefit changes, leave applications and approvals can all be done remotely.

“In future, we can target development strategies and enable career mobility and growth. In this way, we can build our own brand as an employer of choice and match employees to business opportunities. The most talented people will respond when we bring purpose and meaning into the workplace. It’s time for HR leadership to step up,” Celiwe said.
She also had some parting advice for HR professionals who were facing resistance to technology implementation within their organisations.

“Employee value proposition (EVP) is not a one size fits all approach. It’s hard. It involves people and support must come from the board and executive. There will be resistance from employees too. But this is more than an HR and technology transformation – but it’s all for the greater good. This is the journey to go on.”