Companies need to look beyond qualifications to gear up for our new world of work.

According to a new IBM Institute of Business Value (IBV) study in the next three years, as many as 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained or reskilled as a result of AI and intelligent automation. In the study, 5670 global executives in 48 countries confirm that companies will need to make a fundamental shift in how they meet and manage changing workforce needs across all level of the companies.

With the digital revolution now upon us, companies face the ongoing challenge to reinvent human capital to address the skills gap and mismatch of skills, with them turning to implementing different strategies.

1   Contract, freelance and gig employment 

The usage of “alternative workforces” (viewed as contract, freelance and gig employment) where companies are needing to fulfil their on-demand business requirements through tapping into high demand skills, without binding themselves permanently to a resource, is becoming increasingly popular. Statistics SA’s employment outlook confirmed that temporary employment rose from 2.6 million in 2017 to 3.9 million in 2018. However, Marc Kahn, Investec’s global head of Human Resources and Organisational Development confirms in this article that the gig economy can present a threat as well as an opportunity for both employers and gig workers.

2   Turn to the insurmountable knowledge of retirees

Companies are rapidly recognising that they cannot afford to lose the depth of knowledge when retirees exit the workplace, with them now looking towards extending the retirement age of employees. At the same time retirees are being called back into the workforce to impart their wisdom and skill to entry-level professionals. The 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report outlines a good example of how German company Robert Bosch GmbH created a subsidiary Robert Bosch Management Support of 1700 former and retired Bosch employees worldwide. As senior experts, they were brought in to consult and work on projects on an as-needed basis, in functions such as research and development, production, purchasing, sales and marketing. They had a 92 percent satisfaction rate as they perform coaching and development for younger Bosch associates.

3   Not rehiring, but reskilling and inspiring

Companies are also looking towards future-proofing their employee workforce through developing their respective skills sets and experience. A deliberate strategy on the part of companies to equip individuals with ongoing training and development not only provides them with career growth, purpose and inspiration, but it assists companies in gearing up for the forthcoming digital and automated revolution. This was confirmed in the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study, where “the core recommendation is to take a holistic approach to closing the skills gap that is focused on reskilling our workforce through development that’s multi-modal, personalised to the individual and built on data.  This means creating educational journeys for employees that are personalised to their current experience level, skills, job role and career aspirations.”

To do this, employees need the right competencies and behaviours to sustain them on the company’s growth path into the future and for this reason, organisations are conducting behavioural assessments to test for competencies such as agility, critical thinking, decision-making, communication, adaptability to change, to name a few.

4   Growth mindset and learning agility over qualifications and experience: A South African Case Study 

I had an informative discussion with Linda Roos, Head of HR for the ooba Group, who provided me with a practical example of how ooba blends learning agility and a growth mindset as part of their hiring and talent management strategies. She said ooba had adopted a “growth mindset philosophy” and have been working to assess the link between having a growth mindset and learning ability. With a growth mindset, individuals believe that they can improve and get something right next time, versus a fixed mindset where the individual foresees no room for improvement. Linda believes that even with a low learning agility, one can still cultivate a growth mindset.

Whilst Linda acknowledges certain specialist roles require a unique degree of technical competence, she believes in first hiring for potential, learning agility and self-awareness. Where competence is average but learning ability is high, she will hire for these qualities, knowing that the person will have the ability to effectively develop the skill and behaviour required to do the job – now and in future. She highlights that hiring for learning agility and willingness to learn from outcomes and from others becomes particularly relevant when it comes to selecting leaders for ooba, as they are ultimately responsible for influencing the performance, and the culture of the organisation.

To promote a growth mindset, one needs to get a few basic things right. Linda firmly believes that organisations that treat their people as “whole” human beings are the ones who will thrive into the future.  Questions that are important for her include the following;

  • Are people seen and appreciated as a whole person with a physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and social domain of being?
  • Are we creating an environment in which people can perform to their full potential, and achieve balance between ‘mind, body and soul’?
  • Are there competent, high EQ leaders and mechanisms in place to provide employees with the opportunity to learn, grow and be intellectually stimulated?

Linda says ooba’s performance philosophy acknowledges the technical aspects of management but requires their leaders to take on the role of ‘partner’ when it comes to driving performance. The employee is the driver; the manager the navigator. The manager does not determine the level of performance, s/he partners to drive it. This shifts the power dynamic in that performance is self-directed by the employee with the manager supporting as coach and facilitator (situational leadership). That said, Linda acknowledges that you need a competent leader in place (high emotional intelligence and self-awareness). Currently in the process of hiring a future ooba leader, Linda will look closely at the candidates’ degree of self-awareness, learning agility and potential for self-development. For ooba, self-development i.e. an openness to developing yourself, is critical.

Linda believes that in order to see people perform to their optimum potential, one needs to look at the individual, the environment, the quality of the leader, and ultimately, the way you integrate them into the organization. At ooba, they want their people to feel that they are receiving a meaningful return on their investment (of themselves) into their work. The goal of their current strategy is to enable people to influence the rewards they receive.

Global surveys site that the need to reskill people, restructure work and improve on the workforce experience is becoming of paramount importance. It is easy to hire new individuals aligned to this profile, but the challenges come in when having to work with an existing employee base.

Worldwide, executives acknowledge the severity of the widening skills gap and tightened labour market, yet many confirm their lack of a strategic recruitment and skills development plan. Do you have the right plan comprising a workforce equipped with the right attitudes, behaviours and competencies to ensuring that you succeed into our new automated workplace?

(first published by CHRO SA on 14 September 2019)