Hiring the Right Skills for the Future Workplace in Kenya
The technology revolution and future of work has arrived! But how do businesses adapt? What skills will be needed to support the future workplace in Kenya?
In recent years, there has been a major shift in the way people think, behave and act in both their personal and professional lives. As a result, companies are being forced to adapt to these changes just to stay in business.
I recently conducted a survey with a cross-section of 40 East African companies (mainly from Kenya). Acquiring the right talent came out in the top 3 most pressing challenges for HR professionals in the country.
I have discovered similar challenges in other East African countries, through discussions with various HR leaders. Rwanda and Tanzania are two such examples.
The main reasons for this are:
- The skills gap. There is a mismatch between skills and the employment opportunities available
- A growing war for talent in a highly competitive market
- Companies struggling to adapt to the changing environment and expectations new generations.
There’s much more to the topic of talent in Kenya that meets the eye. It would be easy to write an entire book on the subject. For the context of this post, I am focused on the overall theme of the changing workplace. Specifically, I will be looking at key skills required by businesses as they navigate their organisations into the next generation.
During my visit to Kenya in August 2018, I had some engaging discussions with HR professionals about this topic in my live training session. I also spoke briefly on the K24 Inside Business show.
10 core skills for the future workplace in Kenya
While in Nairobi, I asked the group what they thought the key skills for the future workplace in Kenya would be. Soft skills, creative thinking, analytical skills, leadership skills, IT skills, being goal-oriented, team building, and critical thinking were all put forward. These are indeed all very relevant and show that HR leaders in Kenya are already thinking towards the future.
However, I’d like to expand on that list by highlighting some additional skills.
The following list, I believe, will be crucially important for individuals to thrive in the new generation workplace.
1. Digital collaboration
Virtual video or teleconferencing has become fairly common in business these days. However, it requires a different approach to being physically in the room. I’ve been in many conference meetings where the person on the conference line has been pretty much ignored. On occasions, the people meeting in the room have even forgotten to dial in to the conference call before starting the meeting.
Running virtual meetings takes disciple, skill and awareness. And virtual meetings is something we will no doubt be seeing a lot more of in the future.
Likewise, the increasing use of e-mail requires certain disciplines to avoid it becoming a severe drain on time and productivity. A recent Forbes article highlighted that 2.5 hours each day are spent reading and writing e-mails. This is approximately 12.5 hours in a working week.
I wonder how much of this time is productive?
I often witness the ineffective use of email. Often – especially in western countries, email is used as opposed to telephone. In many situations, it is actually much more efficient to use a phone, as you can ask a few quick questions to get all the answers you need. When using e-mail, it is very easy spent a great deal of time going back and forth. Many time, you may not even realise how inefficient it is.
It is crucial to develop skills for using the various solutions we have available to us in the right way. Equally important, is being able to choose the best solution for the situation.
2. Digital mindset
There’s no getting away from technology in the workplace. Those already in the workplace must become accustomed to using digital tools.
For new hires, the ideal candidate may be someone who is already comfortable with using and embracing technology. This is not to say you are looking for technical people. But those who fear technology or seem resistant to adopt it will struggle as it evolves further.
Technology will be (if it is not already) be at the heart of your business at some point. Seek out those individuals that are passionate about change and adopting digital solutions.
3. Dynamic problem solving
Thriving in a constantly changing environment requires the ability to solve challenges dynamically. It also brings about the need to innovate new ideas, rather than trying to apply traditional thinking.
When hiring new employees, the ability to think outside the box and generate new ideas will be a top of the list item.
4. Dynamic learning
Learning a set of skills and allowing that to take you through your entire career is a thing of the past. It’s not going to be like that any more. With so much change happening globally, companies will seek out those who are willing to continuously learn new skills.
The ability to learn, unlearn and re-learn is a crucial skill for the future workplace in Kenya.
5. Human-digital relationships
The rise of smart machines and automation has permanently altered the nature of work. Although technology has not yet replaced human workers, a workplace made up of both humans and machines will become more common.
Human-machine collaboration refers to the need for human to develop a harmonious coexistence with their technology counterparts. Businesses will look for people that are comfortable seeking ways for humans and machines to work together in the most effective and efficient way possible.
6. Learning from failure
Many humans today have been conditioned to see failure as a negative thing. This often stems from their childhood, when making mistakes and getting things wrong was seen as a bad thing.
This conditioning has prevented many people from trying new things or experimenting.
Learning from failure and seeing it as an opportunity rather than a setback will be increasingly critical to success.
7. Critical thinking
The increasing access to data and information can be overwhelming. The data-driven world we live in requires a higher level of interpretation, filtering and processing than before.
Being able to correctly understand information and use it to make key decisions requires a different perspective.
8. Emotional intelligence
It is true that technology has enabled the world to be more connected. But remaining human in a world full of technology is more important than ever.
It’s easy to let technology take away this human connection that we have always known. So, knowing how to build authentic relationships with people is even more important as technology develops.
Building an inclusive and supportive environment for those who are still developing their digital mindset is also important.
9. Multi-cultural intelligence
Business is becoming more global each day. Being able to appreciate the benefits of doing business globally and working across geographies is increasingly more important.
This requires an appreciation and respect for different cultures and working environments.
10. Functional agility
A job for life and the proverbial ‘career ladder’ are becoming concepts of the past.
Employees today must be able to show agility and success across different roles, responsibilities and businesses areas.
The rise of the “gig” economy also means there is a new dimension to consider too. This creates a paradigm shift from traditional employment and brings higher levels of change, uncertainty and flexibility.
6 steps to attract the right talent for the future workplace in Kenya
1. Build a strong, compelling brand
A company brand must be both attractive to new talent and make current employees feel proud. Consider Google or Facebook. Many people have a positive impression of what it may be like to work for Google or Facebook. They may never know what it is actually like – but it comes from a positive perception of their brand.
For a similar regional example, consider how Safaricom have strategically positioned their brand in the market. This demonstrates the power of having a strong brand.
Does your business create the same impression? Do people recognise your business and know what it is about?
2. Social media
Leveraging social media is becoming increasingly more powerful way to position a brand. A strong social media presence will allow you to build a talent pipeline and establish a platform for communicating with the relevant people in the marketplace.
Spend time creating a social media strategy for your business, to ensure you are leveraging the tools in the right way.
The well-known network of almost 6 million users is fast becoming an end-to-end talent solutions company. They have recently announced many exciting developments planned ahead. You can read more about what they have planned here.
The site has become increasingly popular with both candidates and companies looking for talent. Creating a company page as part of an online brand and hiring strategy is the first step here. Prospective candidates that resonate with the brand and vision will be able to follow the company page. This enables companies to communicate and engage with them and continue to build their trust.
There is a wealth of opportunities for those who are open and willing to use LinkedIn to its full advantage.
Technologies such as Glassdoor now allow past and present employees to provide insights into what it is like working for their employers.
This can either be seen as a problem or an opportunity. The positive spin, is that companies can use it to their advantage. They can take control of their presence on Glassdoor by adding information, updates, photos and responding directly to reviews in a positive and constructive way.
Many companies now actively encourage employees to post positive reviews about experiences they have. This may well include exciting projects they may be working on, positive aspects about the culture, working environment or career opportunities.
Using such platforms in this way can help to counter any negative opinions that may be posted. It is an effective way to present a more balanced picture of the company.
5. Visually tell your story
Through a compelling careers site, social media, talent pool database and other channels companies can speak directly to their target candidates.
These channels can be used to send messages about the company vision, new initiatives and opportunities. Because they know who they are targeting, messages can be presented in a personalised way. This reinforces the positive impression of the brand.
6. Incorporate technology into your hiring process
There are many exciting new technologies being developed each day.
At the basic level, introduce an Application Tracking System (ATS), in conjunction with a well-crafted careers site. This will make it easy for candidate to apply and helps to control the process flow.
Gamification technologies are also an excellent way to engage candidates using games. At the same time, they assess and analyse core skills the company are looking for to create the right ‘fit’. As many of the skills outlined above cannot be easily assessed through the traditional application and interview process, game-based candidate apps provide an ideal solution.
There is a pressing need to both up-skill current teams and adapt recruitment techniques to seek out candidates with specific skills. Skills that will serve them and the companies well in the future.
Although technology is still evolving, this change must happen sooner rather than later. Leaders must appreciate the speed at which technology is having an influence on both society and the business world.
It is time to change the game. We must think differently to succeed. Let us move away from the traditional ways of hiring, which are going to be more and more unsustainable.
Leaders in Kenya and indeed across the world, have a unique and one-time opportunity to act now. The future of work is already here and the pace of change is going to get much faster.
Are you prepared for it? Do you have the right skills to thrive and stand up tall against your competitors?
Are you a HR professional in Kenya?
I would love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. I invite you to add your comments below.
If you would like more information on how you can prepare for the future workplace in Kenya, please reach out to me here.