Your team should work smarter, not harder, says CHRO Summit panel


At the recent CHRO Skills Summit, HR leaders discussed talent management hacks that enable HR practitioners to operate more efficiently and effectively.

HR leaders need to think out of the box and be innovative if they are to overcome the looming talent and skills crunch in the country.

This was the consensus of a gripping panel with Enid Lizamore, HR director, Heineken Beverages; Portia Thokoane, Nestlé’s HR director for East & Southern Africa; and the head of delivery enablement at Sasol, Bramley Maetsa.

Moderated by Lindiwe Sebesho, managing director: Remchannel at Old Mutual, the discussion held at the recent CHRO South Africa Skills Summit, saw leaders sharing how they have implemented a few tricks of the trade to try to mitigate the harsh consequences of the skills crunch in their organisations.

Creative solutions

Enid gave context on how the acquisition of Distell and Namibia Breweries by Heineken was a big challenge, as staff had to reapply for their positions, but it simultaneously gave the business a chance to learn a bit more about its workforce.

“We came up with a crowd-sourcing strategy where challenges were posted and any member of staff who wanted to be part of the 72-hour hack could join in to come up with a viable solution. This allowed staff members to engage in other problems outside of their departments and furthermore stressed the importance of cross-functional collaboration and talent development in driving business success.”

Portia shared her perspective on the impact of AI on workforce dynamics, noting that Nestlé is investing heavily in automation and AI, but also developing untapped skills.

“The really smart people have realised that the edge they previously had is lost because AI evens the playing field, so they have had to think outside the box in terms of how they excel within the business and realise that their key value-add lies in the strength of their human connections.”

She highlighted that Nestlé has partnered with OpenAI globally and launched their own ChatGPT called NesGPT in June last year. “It is accessible on both Teams and a web interface, allowing employees to use it for business purposes without risking the security of our data.”

Bramley highlighted the transformative power of AI in streamlining processes and enhancing efficiencies. He emphasised the need for a more symbiotic relationship between IT and HR to drive innovation. Bramley stated, "Employee total experience is about extreme alignment between IT and HR. HR should not be sitting in a cubicle waiting for someone’s email to troubleshoot a problem. HR needs to be a lot more proactive in engaging with IT to enable the technology to be driven by people-first principles.”

Cultivating the right type of skill

Lindiwe underscored the critical role of upskilling and reskilling in preparing the workforce for the future. “We need to move beyond theory to practical application. It’s not an innovative solution, but I think we need to prioritise practical training over the glamorisation of theoretical knowledge and degrees.”

She added that companies need to come to the party in order to achieve this goal: “Skills development is crucial in ensuring that employees are equipped to leverage AI technologies effectively. Companies need to invest in training programmes that focus on developing skills that are not easily automated, such as creativity, emotional intelligence and complex problem-solving."

Enid added that companies should have foresight when it comes to talent acquisition and strategy.

"Retention is about keeping your best people engaged and stretched. Put your best people on the biggest business challenge and allow them to develop and grow. We are not afraid to take chances on our talent,” she said.

She added that Heineken’s people practices are built on four tenets: shape, deliver, connect and develop. “Everything we do depends on these four behaviours and that’s what gives our people an edge in terms of evaluating and elevating talent.”


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