Employer challenges: The trends

Chief HR officer at Vodacom Group, Matimba Mbungela

Chief HR officer at Vodacom Group, Matimba Mbungela

Being a Top Employer implies a clear human capital strategy with consistent delivery on that strategy, but leading organisations are facing a number of challenges in today’s demanding business environment — and embracing and adapting to these trends is key to their survival.

“The demand for skilled resources is exponentially higher than the supply, making the identification of right talent a challenge for performance-oriented organisations like ours,” says Antony Dinesh, regional HR head, Tata Consultancy Services Africa (TCS Africa). “The skills gap is not limited to the technical competencies, but also managerial and leadership capabilities.”

David Moloto, human resources director at Nestlé South Africa, agrees. “One of our biggest human capital challenges is the widening gap between company needs and skills available in the market.”

Moloto adds that the challenge presents an opportunity for industry and institutions of higher learning to collaborate closely, to ensure that what the latter produces is commensurate to what companies require. “The country needs relevant skills to drive sustained economic growth. This speaks to an urgent need for a curriculum change and for education to be futuristic in approach so that we develop graduates with complex problem-solving and critical thinking skills,” he says.

However, TCS Africa has noted that this is a global challenge, and not one unique to the South African market. The company has a global strategy of grooming locally available talent to meet skill requirements, and this has worked well for it in the major markets it operates in, including the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Matimba Mbungela, chief human resources officer at Vodacom Group, concurs, noting that the supply of top talent with deep telecoms and information and communication technology (ICT) industry knowledge and skills remains an ongoing challenge, coloured by local market conditions.

“Within this challenge of limited supply of top talent, we also have to ensure that we deliver on our goal of building a diverse and inclusive workplace, where diversity and inclusion is celebrated and embraced as our competitive strength,” he explains.

Attracting and growing talent

Dinesh explains that TCS Africa invests heavily in learning and development initiatives by hiring graduates from local universities, increasing the talent pool. It also engages with students in higher education to encourage them to take up careers in ICT fields, often by organising workshops within schools and colleges.

It also organises global coding competitions to bring young inquisitive minds together, and trains local resources by taking them to training programmes in India for nine to 12 months.

“By way of creating successful associates within the information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services (ITeS) spaces, we aim to promote it as a potential and attractive career path for students and colleges in South African schools,” he explains.

Mbungela explains that graduates form an integral pipeline to help Vodacom meet the future core needs of its business, and the company has a robust Discover Graduate programme, which covers a wide range of skills and work experience across the business’s value chain.

“Discover Graduate responds directly to talent supply shortage and our intent to build an inclusive workplace — 90% of the 75 graduates we bring to the South African business each year are from previously disadvantaged sectors, and more than 60% are women,” Mbungela says.

The strategy is paying off, as some of the graduates from this programme have moved into positions of greater responsibility in the business. Furthermore, the increased diversity of the business, and its investment into the Discover Graduate programme, has contributed significantly to Vodacom’s current level 2 rating in the broad-based black economic empowerment evaluation structure.

Vodacom is also responding to the particular challenge of gender parity within the ICT sector, and has launched various programmes to ensure that women have the support that they need to take up leadership positions. Its Female Leaders programme, in partnership with the Gordon Institute of Business Science, is a one-year programme that builds talent by supporting black women with high potential within and outside the company.

According to Moloto, globally, the disjuncture between demand and supply of skills puts additional responsibility on companies to train and build the capacity of graduates and interns to ensure a pipeline in line with their growth and succession strategies.

Nestlé has developed a robust and integrated graduate and skills development programme — with an intake of 24 graduates annually and 100 interns across the company. It aims to groom young people in functional competencies as well as leadership. While its immediate objective is to close the skills gap, the long-term goal is to ensure retention of talent.

Moloto says, “We believe the process should start with having a strong employer brand that will enable Nestlé to attract potential employees with ambition, drive and a passion to succeed. We are looking for entrepreneurial people with a high innovation drive and wo are able to think beyond the obvious. As a company, we then commit to creating an enabling environment for career and personal development and a clear reward, recognition and compensation plan.” 

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