The modern workplace has become a beehive of activity where innovations that spur digital disruptions gain a footing every day. Speaking to a leading newspaper in Kenya, The Standard, ROAM Jobs Managing Director Hilda shared incredible insights on the modern workplace:
How do you handle millennials at the workplace? They seem to be changing jobs often.
Hilda: Today’s workplace is changing rapidly and this is largely due to the evolving demands of today’s employees, especially millennials. According to the BMKE Millennials and the Digital workplace a well-defined organizational mission and purpose appeal to Millennials on a social and emotional level. It also reveals that 63.3% of respondents said flexible working hours is a factor that motivates them the most to accomplish their tasks at work.
I believe that understanding this is the crux of retaining millennial talent. Unlike Gen X and baby boomers for whom job security was paramount before their passions and their mental health and work life balance. Growing up in the digital era means millennials are more confident of their ability to generate an income outside the formal workplace and additionally, they are loyal first to themselves before a given company, so if you are not deliberate about developing an employee value proposition which speaks to the millennial mindset, you will lose them.
Millennials are also big on personal growth and self-development. More than ever, we are seeing a large number of young people be successful in areas where they are 100% self-taught. This means businesses must align their work policies to accommodate them and train them in the skills required for the future workplace.
On the flip side, as businesses work on ways to create the right kind of environment, millennials must understand that it takes time to grow skills and experience and be careful about career planning such that every role they take on serves as a building block for specific aspects of their career goals as opposed to jumping from employer to employer without a solid strategy.
Digital disruptions and their effects at work. Employees have lost jobs because of this. How do you handle it?
Hilda: Experts expect digital technology to transform the way they work over the next several years. As businesses evolve and adapt to the changing work environment as a result of the pandemic, digital disruption is unavoidable. We see repetitive roles being automated and replaced with technology as this improves the speed of delivery for roles, increased speed with greater efficiency and accuracy to improve productivity and serve customers more effectively.
The other side of this is that new jobs are being created in an ever- demanding market every day.
According to research by ROAM Africa jobs board, digital transformation has led to emerging roles such as Content creators, digital marketers, AI experts; data scientists, cybersecurity experts; virtual reality professionals, among other ICT-based roles. There are jobs of the future and as a result, today’s employee needs to reskill and upskill so as to thrive in this changing work environment. There is a need to accept the digital transformation in the workplace and align to it by gaining the skills and knowledge to shift to new roles or advance in current roles.
In the next 15-20 years, the international organization estimates that 14% of existing jobs could disappear as a result of automation. Should this have to worry the modern employee?
Hilda: As redundant roles are replaced by automated systems, digitisation brings with it a whole new untapped market for career and business prosperity. For example, according to Globe News Wire, the global Digital Content Creation market size was estimated to be worth USD 11 billion in 2019 and expected to reach USD 38.2 billion between 2020 and 2030. In East Africa, the digital content industry has only but touched the surface.
This means that today’s employees must be swift to study the future workplace and acquire trending skills that will ensure they secure and maintain employment. This includes understanding how to be productive in a remote working environment because as a result of technology, people can work-from-home anywhere in the world and this creates more opportunities for work.
At ROAM Africa, through our online jobs platforms and research, we continually share relevant content and data to help jobseekers and employees expand their skills and knowledge and gain an understanding of the future of work so that they can adjust accordingly.
Covid-19 brought us the concept of “remote working”. Do you think this concept is sustainable even as we move into the post-Covid era?
Hilda: Business leaders can agree that from a talent vantage point, the greatest impact is the monumental shift to remote working driving global recruitment. This has expanded the talent pool and due to the impact of technology today, professionals can work anywhere in the world, at home.
Global technology giants like Twitter and Dropbox announced their shift to permanent work-from-home setups and Facebook declared remote working for 50% of their employees for up to ten years. Locally, businesses are appreciating that remote working is effective as it can reduce employee-related fixed costs and provide diversity and inclusivity which are necessary for business growth.
In my view, most organisations are adopting a combination of remote and onsite working, allowing more flexibility for their employees. Ultimately, flexible working improves motivation, increasing employee retention, loyalty and happiness.
However, we have seen remote work greatly increase talent availability in the job market which affects today’s employees. Employers are no longer seeking the best talent within a localised region, instead they opt for the best globally. This means businesses want to hire experienced, highly-skilled individuals from anywhere which puts pressure on professionals to increase their scope and get as much relevant experience and skills as possible.
Adding to this pressure especially in our markets where infrastructure remains poor and data is expensive is the fact that most small businesses simply cannot afford to keep their employees remote. With issues such as inconsistent power supply, poor internet connectivity etc, ensuring a productive remote workforce is still quite expensive and most sub-Saharan Africa businesses simply can’t afford it right now.
Research shows employers across the region already identify an inadequately trained workforce as a major constraint to their businesses. Some 41% of all firms in Tanzania, 30% in Kenya, 9% in South Africa and 6% in Nigeria have cited this challenge. What training requirements do you think employers need to address to handle this situation in future?
Hilda: Yes, the Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa report indicated that the skills gap is a reality and states that many jobs in the region are becoming more intense in their use of digital technologies. It adds that the average ICT intensity of jobs in South Africa increased by 26% over the last decade, while 6.7% of all formal sector employment in Ghana and 18.4% of all formal sector employment in Kenya occurs in occupations with high ICT intensity.
There is a need for employers to take the lead in creating training and development initiatives in collaboration with relevant partners and Government to close this gap. HR managers can also consider inter-departmental trainings, job shadowing as well as global recruitment to supplement or train their workforce;
For Jobberman Nigeria for instance, we launched the Alliance for Better Work initiative, as part of our longstanding partnership with the Mastercard Foundation to improve job retention, workplace productivity, business development and help employers tackle challenges such as cost for training new employees, a flood of unfiltered applications, and wide skills gap. The campaign is an addition to a successful soft skills training program, which has already equipped 190,628 young people between the age of 18-35 for the workplace, as well as placing more than 82,600 in dignified employment.
BrighterMonday has partnered with various like-minded industry players to equip young professionals seeking to join the job market with the soft skills they need to succeed in their future roles. This has greatly increased their chances of getting a job and set the tone for success in their career.
As employers are keen on additional skills to support the evolving business environment, I encourage them to provide an environment where employees can sharpen relevant soft skills and hard skills. I also encourage professionals to find a balance between their career development courses and attaining these skills to remain competitive within the fast-evolving workplace environment.
What is the role of data and technology in building a skilled workforce for business growth?
Hilda: Adopting technology and digitalisation is the most obvious catalyst for both organisations and professionals seeking success in the current environment. Technology and data can boost continuous, structured training and development programs to up-skill staff, preparing them for cross-functional roles and responsibilities, businesses can be better prepared for the future of the workplace.
Additionally, smart hiring will become more difficult with strategic uncertainty. To manage this, businesses can leverage technology, going above and beyond the contents of a CV, to make effective hiring decisions. This can be achieved simply through evaluating applicants for both soft, futuristic and hard skills – using big data where there is a large pool of applicants.
At our online job platforms, we qualify, test and rank the best applicants using a combination of a world class skills assessment solutions and an artificial intelligence (AI) engine to pick out the best-of-the-best candidates. This helps employers identify and hire the right skilled workforce for their business
Finally, I believe businesses can make SMART decisions by paying more attention to research and data analysis. BrighterMonday, for instance, provides regular, updated market research to help businesses better understand the needs of jobseekers, and vice versa, helping all parties navigate the demands of the evolving workplace.
The recent 2021 BrighterMonday report on employee satisfaction among Kenyans shows that training and development and access to effective working tools are among the top overall top 5 external traits employees value in a company. This will translate to a better skilled and satisfied workforce.