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Lyndy van den Barselaar talks: Gaining competitive advantage in the workplace of the future

Lyndy van den Barselaar talks: Gaining competitive advantage in the workplace of the future

Written by Staff Writer

November 9, 2021

 By Lyndy van den Barselaar, Managing Director at ManpowerGroup South Africa


The way of work is changing at a rapid rate globally and South African businesses need the right technologies and skills to adapt to this new business landscape to compete in the global marketplace. Against this backdrop, Africa is preparing for a promising future with governments investing in education and technologies that will prepare the continent for the workplace of the future.

At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic fast-tracked the adoption of technology and digital transformation across businesses, levelling the playing field for companies across the globe that implemented new technologies and upskilled their employees to use them. However, there is still more that South African businesses need to do to meet the needs of the workplace of the future. 

According to the World Bank report Africa’s Pulse: Sub-Saharan African Firms Embrace Digital Economy, Key to Economic Recovery Post-Pandemic, businesses in Africa need to harness the full potential of digital technologies and to take advantage of the energy and ideas of a young, dynamic population. To achieve this companies must prioritise digital infrastructure and enhance the skills of workers to advance human capital.


Prioritise digital transformation

Technology adoption and disruption have accelerated at a rapid pace, driving the need for companies to transform quickly to stay ahead and remain competitive in a global marketplace. Digital transformation leverages digital technologies across all aspects of a business and includes technologies such as cloud, big data, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the internet of things (IoT).

There are significant benefits for companies that embrace these digital technologies, which include improved profitability and a higher market valuation. Further, these technologies impact positively on the employee experience and customer experience.

As such, digital transformation has immense potential to create value for the business, change consumer’s lives and unlock broader societal benefits. However, to be successful transformation has to start at the top and leaders need to lead differently today than they may have done in the past. 


Enhance the skills of workers

Last year saw the biggest workforce shift and reallocation of skills since World War II and as organisations transform, innovate, and digitise at speed and scale, skills needs are transforming too. Some industries and people are recovering faster and better than their counterparts, and others are in urgent need of upskilling and reskilling if they are to prevent falling further behind.

It is estimated that by 2025, humans and machines will split work-related tasks 50-50, while 97 million new jobs will emerge in AI, the Green Economy and the Care Economy. To adapt to this new way of work, people need to transform and learn new skills for the careers of the future.

To achieve this organisations need a workforce of continuous learners that are agile for new tasks and ready and resilient for times of change and disruption. At the same time, many companies across South Africa have already started to shift to remote work which means collaboration, teamwork and other soft skills are immediately in high demand and will continue to be a key skill for the workplace of the future.


Foster a culture of innovation

Developing a culture of innovation requires an organisational mindset that elevates and enables individual employee contributions. This must be led from the top of the organisation and with the right approach, it can maintain its commitment to continuous improvement while driving a sustainable competitive advantage. Ultimately, culture should be more than an abstract concept, it should produce measurable and quantifiable change.

Moving from creativity to innovation requires thinking, planning and strength of execution to bring the ideas to life. Organisations must be clear in building a culture that walks its talk and employees should not hear their organisation celebrate disruption, only to be punished for risk-taking. Corporate websites cannot be filled with statements about valuing innovation if the organisation is hyper-focused on cost-cutting to produce short-term results. This is the balancing act for any organisational culture change.

Establishing a culture of innovation may have differing degrees of speed depending on the organisation and the industry. In any industry, innovating and adapting is a baseline expectation in today’s transforming business environment. Investing in the organisation of the future requires new technologies, enhancing the skills of the workforce and creating a culture of innovation.

However, wherever companies are on their digital journey, the path is clear: they need to be more agile than ever to unleash human potential, develop skilled talent and pair it with the best technology to gain the competitive advantage.


*ManpowerGroup® (NYSE: MAN), the leading global workforce solutions company, helps organisations transform in a fast-changing world of work by sourcing, assessing, developing and managing the talent that enables them to win. We develop innovative solutions for hundreds of thousands of organisations every year, providing them with skilled talent while finding meaningful, sustainable employment for millions of people across a wide range of industries and skills. Our expert family of brands – Manpower, Experis and Talent Solutions – creates substantial value for candidates and clients across more than 75 countries and territories and has done so for over 70 years. We are recognised consistently for our diversity – as a best place to work for Women, Inclusion, Equality and Disability and in 2021 ManpowerGroup was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the twelfth year – all confirming our position as the brand of choice for in-demand talent.



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