African companies seeking to drive sustained high performance have the unique opportunity to define the future of work and use the underlying themes as differentiating factors on how they attract, identify, develop and deploy their most valuable asset: their talent.
Increasingly, across Africa, conceptions of the future of work are mostly centered on the rise of artificial intelligence and its impact on jobs and the work environment. While these trends, which are driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, are real, African leaders seeking people-driven strategy execution need to demand solutions to address the other side of the coin and ask how their companies can transform and emerge stronger and better in this new era. What will they need to stop, start or continue doing to reach their goals? For one, we already see that the highest-performing companies in Africa have a more active approach to talent than their rivals do.
The need to focus on the future of work and what it means for Africa is vital, as the continent offers exciting opportunities for growth for both global and local companies. Given the role talent is expected to play in the achievement of this growth, thoughtful strategies and fluent execution approaches are needed to translate Africa’s long-term growth trends into profitable and sustainable businesses. We also need a deliberate focus on ensuring the continuous readiness of organizations and their talent – the Savannah’s game-changers.
Continuous Learning as a Mindset
Continuous learning, a characteristic that differentiates the best employees from the average ones, is highly underrated. This statement may seem paradoxical, as the continent is still facing challenges in delivering quality education. While the education challenge must be addressed head-on, we must also change the mindset of young and old students to embrace continuous learning: the lifelong, self-motivated pursuit of knowledge.
This change in approach is critical. The traditional education curriculum is centered on preparing students for routine or codifiable jobs, but computers and robots are expected to replace routine jobs and complement non-routine ones. Inculcating the habit of continuous learning is necessary, because human beings are still needed for those jobs.
To remain relevant in the market, young African professionals must embrace critical thinking skills, complex problem-solving skills, design thinking and emotional intelligence – skills that will become career game-changers while keeping professionals from becoming irrelevant.
Continuous Learning as the New Compensation
In the future of work, continuous learning will be invaluable to all African companies, so it must be added to the total compensation map. According to the World Economic Forum’s recent “Future of Work” report, on average, employees around the world will need 101 days of re-training and upskilling between now and 2022. This level of training is not just for the junior staff. All employees must participate, because skill gaps obstruct progress. The exact amount of training needed will vary, but everyone must learn to develop the skills that will never become obsolete.
Continuous Learning as a Business Capability
Continuous learning is a capability all business organizations must embrace. Business leaders must steer their people toward continuous learning to remain relevant and ready as they execute their strategies across the region. As the continent is poised to be one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, the key action that will drive growth over the next 20 years is the adoption of digital technologies, followed by the demand for basic services and infrastructure. These are the region’s biggest opportunities. Disruptive technologies are changing industries from telecommunication to energy to agriculture. This continuous change is permanent, so continuous learning must become a staple in every organization’s strategy execution framework.
Continuous Learning as the Core Leadership Capability
In the future of work, leadership capability will play a crucial role. In this era, more than ever before, leadership skills must be continuously developed for leaders and their companies to remain relevant. As Marshall Goldsmith wrote, “What got you here won’t get you there.”
Leadership is a continuous journey of improving on core competencies such as self-awareness, communication, influence and learning agility. African business leaders must continuously develop these four qualities, because they will prepare them to lead our grand transition.
With more than 400 companies worth over $1 billion dollars each, Africa has clearly positioned itself on a path of extraordinary growth over the next 20 years. Leaders must embrace continuous learning in order to outlast the digital innovations that will sustain this growth.
The constantly growing African economies require a development of the right mindset, including an attitude of continuous learning. These must-haves will expand business and leadership capabilities for companies to go beyond their potential. The required workplace transformation is a leader-led exercise and must be addressed with rigor and sense of urgency. The wait-and-see approach puts companies at risk of being left out in the highly competitive future of work.