Agility, digital expertise is what the future worker needs to survive

Safaricom Chief Human Resources Officer Paul Kasimu (left), Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui (second left) and Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomu (right) having a light moment during the Transform Kenya event at the Standard Group Centre, Mombasa Road on January 27, 2022. [Joshua Agwanda, Standard].

Future employees will need to be agile, with the ability to reskill to fit into a constantly changing workplace. They will also need to adapt to new careers. However, no one sector will spearhead this transformation.

The government, the corporate space and academia will need to collaborate.

This was the dominant view of panellists at the Transform Kenya: Future of Work Post Covid-19 workshop that was organised and moderated by The Standard Group on Thursday last week.

Representatives from the three sectors, who were the panellists, said a shift to the digital ecosystem is inevitable.

Conversations around the future of work have increasingly become important due to the disruptions to the workplace brought about by Covid-19.

The economy shed lots of jobs at a tremendous rate that also saw some companies adopt a work-from-home model. “The workplace was no longer a place; it was a space and the workforce. Digital skills were emerging with people redefining work and the gig economy,” said Paul Kasimu, Chief Human Resources (HR) office at Safaricom.

And now, offices have to adopt a hybrid system of work, where some staff can work remotely even as some functions remain in the office.

“The workforce does not want to go back to working full-time in the office. Organisations must embrace hybrid ways of working. Digital technology will be at the centre, and front, of that conversation. Talent development has to be a team sport. We must partner for good; corporate, academia and government,” Kasimu said.

Social Protection

The future worker, in preparation for a dynamic workplace, will need to be equipped from a tender age. Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said learners will need to be shaped from the formative stages of education.

The competency-based curriculum (CBC), which has received as much praise as criticism, will be the launchpad for students into the job market, he said. “We have been doing well on knowledge acquisition, but we have not done well on competency. That is why we are not able to deliver skilled labour and compete with industrialised countries like Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan) and European countries who perfected competency as a way of training and imparted this knowledge at the very early stage,” Chelugui said.

From an early age, pupils will be directed towards the courses they are gifted, and best, in. The focus on specific disciplines for many years is expected to make them well equipped by the time they are ripe for the job market.

The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Martha Cheruto said they were doing everything possible to ensure the youth gain skills that could make them competitive for the job market.

Through projects such as Ajira, which is being implemented by Kepsa in collaboration with the government through the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), alongside other partners, the youth are “being connected to digitally-enabled jobs,” according to Cheruto.

Kepsa is also engaging the institutions of learning that impart skills to reskill people in readiness for the job market.

Cheruto observed that Kepsa was encouraging small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which were not spared by the ravages of Covid-19 to outsource where they can.

They also encouraged SMEs to take up e-commerce, with 2,000 small businesses having been taken through the process. “The business community should take opportunities within the digital space. They should take advantage of this technology,” she said.

The CEO of management consulting firm Shajuls Consulting, Julian Rowa, said the traditional ways of working had been rendered redundant, noting that a rethink is inevitable.

“We must reimagine the future of work, and that must include what we must do, how we will do it and where we will do it,” Rowa said. He said the future is technology, noting that comes at the expense of human resources.

Rowa noted that organisations and employers have to think of resilient systems that will withstand stresses and strains in future.

He explained that entry-level staff and people at the top of boards also need to be audited afresh to see if they are Covid compliant, noting that organisations will be in limbo if such people are not ready to operate in the new normal.

Between entities responsible for preparing and absorbing the workforce, collaboration must be prioritised.

According to Kasimu, no one organisation will on its own satisfactorily develop workers’ skills. “We are now seeing talent leaving organisations at will. The war for talent is over and talent won the war. Organisations now have to look relevant to attract the right talent and skill,” he said.

Chelugui said the State is reviewing labour laws to ensure workers’ rights and welfare are protected even with the change of workplace protocols. This, he noted, will help even for job evaluation for those who are working from home.

Further, the Ministry of Labour is seeking to equip institutions such as the National Industrial Training Authority, Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutions, and Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunities Project that offer skilling and reskilling of workers to help them in the execution of their mandate.

Kasimu said a third of the jobs that existed in 2018 will not be in place by the end of this year. He stated that people, and organisations that will remain relevant are those that will prioritise speed, innovation and collaboration.

And successful leadership is that whose focus will be managing outcomes rather than processes.

“That way, it becomes easier to contract. The role of the leader is no longer directing; it is coaching and enabling,” said Kasimu.

Schools will also need to prepare students for rapidly changing work environments. In such environments, only the most adaptable will survive. Graduates will need to have high cognitive and metacognitive skills.

Creative people

While digitisation has overhauled systems and is the future, human resources will still be crucial for some roles. “Human resource will be the key success factor going forward. We must move to strategic human resource management,” said Rowa.

As companies hire, they should be driven by thinking around innovation and change - bringing in creative people who can help sustain the business in times such as this, where the pandemic has wreaked havoc everywhere, he said.

They should also place more emphasis on “another dimension of risk management which is pre-emptive.”
They should consider what could go wrong and develop a case scenario, and a machine that can effectively respond to such a situation.

“The future of work needs to look at the macro-economic policies that promote decent work and productivity, mainstreaming agenda, protection of the rights and welfare of workers, human capital development, and ICT as a pillar in transition from the present to the future, including private data protection,” said Chelugui.

Other players say job losses of the last two years were only an acceleration of what has been happening since the advent of the fourth industrial revolution.

With that trend, the future could be bleak, unless the talent getting into the workplace is equipped with superior and fitting skills. If talent already in the workplace can constantly reskill and improve, and do so with speed.

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