Yolanda Manganye on aligning purpose, African talent and growth

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Yolanda Manganye, Momentum Metropolitan’s human capital executive, discusses aligning organisational purpose, leveraging Africa’s youthful talent, and bridging the skills gap.

Managing a diverse workforce across Africa is no easy feat as one has to consider the different countries and their cultural nuance, different demographics such as age, as well as different views and beliefs within the workforce.

This is something Yolanda Manganye grapples with as the human capital executive for Africa and Asia at Momentum Metropolitan.

“The ability to ascertain which aspects are important and need to be focused on and which are perhaps not a priority, can be challenging. We have recently shifted our approach as a business, choosing to have our purpose at the core of everything we do, which has informed the culture we believe we want to cultivate within our businesses, which then drives all other aspects pertaining to our people’s decisions.”

Yolanda explains that the organisation has been on a journey to align the organisational purpose: “Our purpose has become our ‘true north’, guiding us in decision-making, where our people and clients are concerned, allowing us to identify opportunities better, selecting only those that align to our purpose. From a people perspective, we see this helping us connect to our people better, attracting and retaining individuals who resonate with our purpose. We see this being key in igniting people’s passions in their work, as they see how they add value in the lives of our clients and the communities in which we operate, thereby encouraging our people to go beyond and give discretionary effort when doing their work.”

Together with this organisational alignment, Yolanda believes Africa is also opening up to the realisation that it can be a leader and not necessarily follow the rest of the world when it comes to unearthing talent.

“This is opening up massive opportunities to be leaders in the world. With the youth population in Africa being said to be one of the highest in the world, and with such opportunities being presented in the continent, I am optimistic that the calibre of talent to emerge shortly from Africa will be sorted out the talent gap in the rest of the world,” she adds.

Yolanda also believes that Africa’s advantage lies in the people of the continent being adaptable: “I believe because of the challenges we face on the continent, we have been able, through the rise of technology, to identify and take advantage of opportunities that are already seeing us leapfrogging the rest of the world. An example of this is how the continent has adopted the use of mobile money to overcome the challenge around the unbanked and how it has advanced on the continent compared to the so-called developed countries, contributing to the economic growth across the continent.”

Addressing key trends shaping the future of work in Africa, Yolanda says the increase in the rate at which change is happening at work as a result of technology is a key factor.

“As organisations shift and adopt various technologies to enable them to remain relevant, employees need to learn to be comfortable with change, so they can adapt quicker, and move on quickly to settle after the change has occurred. Currently, this is a challenge that we see, and we have started work to help build capability in this area by ensuring that as we innovate and use digital technology to solve our clients’ problems, we also look at how we also adopt digital solutions internally across our various people processes, to build comfort and drive adoption of technology by our people.”

Technology, she notes, has also enabled talent to be able to work from anywhere in the continent, opening up an opportunity where talent is concerned.

“Where and how an organisation sources for its talent is no longer limited by geography. This does however come with some challenges, one being how organisations can effectively drive performance within such organisational structures. For example, we are currently focusing on building the capability to upskill leaders to be able to effectively lead and manage remotely, enabling our leaders to continue providing the right level of support to enable our people to thrive in their work and careers within such structures.”

Closing the skills gap in Africa

In a bid to bridge the gap between academia and industry, particularly in developing relevant skills for the future, Yolanda says Momentum Metropolitan is collaborating with educational institutions on initiatives on the continent.

She recalls a recent incident where regulatory legislation was passed in Lesotho making it a requirement for all individuals who provide insurance advice to be accredited through an academic institution.

“However, no institution in Lesotho provided this accreditation and every employer was addressing this requirement through a Zimbabwean institution. Our business saw this as a gap and has partnered with the University of Lesotho to address this gap, and has established a certificate of proficiency in long-term insurance and also started sponsoring the postgraduate diploma in pensions which was already being offered by the university. Aligning to our purpose, this is to ensure that we support the increase in the number of accredited individuals in the country, growing the talent pool, not only just for our business but the market as a whole.”

Furthermore, Yolanda speaks of how their business has also come to recognise that the opportunity to move talent around across diverse markets provides them with a platform to share and transfer skills and knowledge across their business.

“This also helps to create for us a great compelling EVP for our people, allowing them to grow their careers, providing them with skills and experience from these different markets.”

Momentum Metropolitan also encourages and drives a learning culture, she says, where employees continuously learn. This helps with ensuring the gap isn’t too wide.

“By employing technology, we also encourage peer learning, through virtual-enabled master classes that are accessible across the various countries, allowing for employees to learn and share knowledge across geographies. Another way has been through ‘our way of work, in adopting the use of work streams that comprise a diverse group of people from different countries, creating working teams when executing projects. This has helped us by allowing for transfer to take place organically as people execute on work.”

Going against the curve

A continuous culture of learning is something dear to Yolanda’s heart and upbringing.

Born in Johannesburg to a Tsonga father and a Xhosa mother, Yolanda’s upbringing was marked by diversity from the start. Raised alongside her two younger brothers, she spent her early childhood years in a vibrant community of doctors and their families in Limpopo. However, it was her exposure to her mother’s work in a paediatric ward that ignited her interest in psychology and, ultimately, led her to pursue a career in human resources.

“Both of my parents are in the medical field, and I guess growing up the expectation was that I would probably follow suit. I have always been moved by the idea of helping those in need, however as I grew up, I didn’t see myself working in a hospital. Psychology became an interest as an alternative, and in exploring that, I discovered the field of industrial psychology, which sparked my interest. I liked that it allowed for an opportunity to work in corporate but still work with people within this context.”

Yolanda went on to pursue her interest and now holds an honours degree in industrial psychology, an honours degree in practical psychometry as well as an MCom in business management from the University of Johannesburg.

Her professional trajectory has been nothing short of remarkable, with stints at leading global organisations such as Procter & Gamble, Standard Bank, Discovery and FNB. Each role has equipped her with invaluable experience, from managing graduate recruitment programmes to spearheading talent management initiatives across diverse markets.

“All these roles together have helped grow capabilities that are enabling me to traverse through most challenges that I encounter within my current role, having prepared me for the different challenges I have faced and continue to face in this role.”

One of the highlights of Yolanda’s career, she says, has been leading Momentum Metropolitan Africa’s transition to a purpose-led organisation. By integrating HR strategies with broader business objectives, she has played a pivotal role in shaping the company’s future direction. However, she acknowledges that shifting mindsets remains a significant challenge in the HR industry, as many still perceive HR as a peripheral function rather than a strategic imperative.

“I am excited and energised by finding solutions for people’s problems in the business that allow for the time people spend in the office to be most satisfactory. Organisational effectiveness is therefore where I find the most fulfilment. I best execute this by being a business leader first before an HR leader, and ‘think people first’ in all solutions that are aimed at driving key strategic business focus.”

Outside of just being excited about finding solutions at work, Yolanda says she is also inspired by seeing the good that continues to exist in humans despite the harsh world we live in.

“This inspires me to do my part to strive to have a positive impact on the lives of those I get the privilege to interact with. The story of the starfish and the boy has always stuck with me, it talks about a boy walking along a beach after a storm had washed up thousands of starfish on the beach. The boy runs along picking up the starfish and throwing them back into the sea, when a man comes along and rebukes the boy telling the boy that he cannot possibly save them all and will not make much of a difference.

“The boy picks up another starfish, throwing it back into the water, and replies to the man, ‘I made a difference to that one.’ This story reminds me that my efforts can mean everything to someone, no matter how small the action,” she concludes.

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