Digital economy dramatically changes role of human resource management

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, has revolutionised various sectors through the integration of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation. As we move into the fifth industrial revolution, Industry 5.0, a new focus on personalisation and customisation is emerging, placing humans at the centre of technological advancements, says Juliette Fourie, MD of Metro Minds.

“Industry 4.0 brought transformative changes to businesses, particularly in the freight and logistics industry. The integration of technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things enhanced efficiency, improved customer experiences, and facilitated tailormade solutions. However, the full potential of this revolution can only be realised with transparent and trustworthy systems, addressing challenges related to data security and trust,” she explains. “Additionally, aligning new skill sets and job roles with the changes brought by Industry 4.0 has been a crucial task for businesses.”

According to Fourie, the digital economy has led to a significant shift in the role of human resource management. While machines excel at repetitive tasks, humans possess cognitive and sensory skills that are vital for decision making and leadership roles. “In the freight and logistics industry, automation and technological advancements have transformed the workforce. To adapt to these changes, human resource management and training institutions must redesign development programmes, policies, and recruitment strategies. Technological understanding, effective communication, creativity, innovation, and high emotional intelligence will be essential skills for the future workplace.”

She says skills development will play a critical role in preparing individuals for the future workplace. “Education 4.0, driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, emphasises personalised and independent learning, adapting to the changing needs of industries. Continuous learning, self-directed learning, and collaboration with peers are becoming increasingly important to manage disruptions caused by digital advancements. Skills development should incorporate real-life business cases, combining theory and practice, to equip individuals with technical knowledge, decision-making skills, digital literacy, and adaptability. Furthermore, mental well-being, stress management, and employee recognition are emerging as key skills in this era of disruption.”

She says going forward, bridging the gap between traditional education and the changing demands of the workplace will be crucial. “Lifelong learning and upskilling are essential to adapt to the automation of tasks and processes. The future employee must possess cognitive agility, critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, emotional intelligence, and teamwork skills. Education institutions should focus not only on knowledge retention but also on cognitive flexibility, entrepreneurship, and creativity.”

Transformed training approach needed for digital world

Digital literacy has become a vital skill in today’s workplace, as technology continues to play a critical role in almost every aspect of business operations. Metro Minds managing director Juliette Fourie explains that the logistics industry is experiencing a significant transformation as it embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with various technologies driving its growth.

The top five trends for the industry include the Internet of Things (IoT), which enables real-time tracking of movement, temperature, and humidity. Artificial intelligence algorithms are used to analyse large amounts of data to optimize decision-making, while blockchain technology provides more secure tracking and recording. Autonomous vehicles, such as drones and self-driving trucks, are also becoming more common in the industry, while augmented reality is being used to improve warehouse and automated processes and operations.

As the industry continues to evolve, education providers such as Metro Minds focus on equipping individuals with the necessary skills to meet the growing demand for enterprise skills. These skills, which include digital literacy, communication, creativity, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, and financial literacy, are transferable and enable individuals to navigate complex job functions in various industries. It is estimated that jobs of the future will demand 70% more of these types of skills than jobs of the past. To address this need, skills development will be provided through immersive experiences and augmented learning, as opposed to traditional education practices.

According to Fourie, the percentage of jobs that demand critical thinking has increased by 158%, creativity by 65%, presentation skills by 25% and teamwork by 19%. “Enterprise skills are becoming just as important for job entry as technical skills,” she says. “The importance of human capital is on the rise and talent management is becoming a competitive advantage. To remain relevant, robust talent pipelines must therefore be designed for reskilling and finding the right skills to invest in.”While automation is being implemented, many job functions in the logistics sector remain too complex for systems to perform, resulting in a strong human dependency.

However, disruption is driving innovation, with crypto, Web 3.0, blockchain, virtual reality, and augmentation taking centre stage, and digitisation becoming more prominent than ever before. Fourie notes that one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is privacy and cyberattacks, requiring effective risk management. Cyberattacks have been prevalent since 2005, affecting approximately 300 000 computers in over 150 countries by 2017. As anything that cannot be automated or digitised becomes increasingly valuable, technology represents how things will change, while human expertise represents the why.

New degree course elevates professionalism in the industry

For the first time in history, the South African clearing and forwarding sector has access to a Bachelor of Commerce in Freight Forwarding and Customs Compliance. Metro Minds, as an associate faculty of the Da Vinci Institute, will be leading the elective stream for the business school.

According to Metro Minds managing director Juliette Fourie, the company has invested heavily in this new offering that will see them run the freight forwarding and customs compliance modules of the degree.“The course specifically focuses on applying skills to navigate the seamless movement, clearance, handling, storage and distribution of goods in the supply chain. Skills and knowledge include systems thinking, agility and entrepreneurship and creativity, translating into making better decisions, solving problems, and thinking critically,” said Fourie. The course includes ten elective modules that range from the international trade environment, freight operations, customs compliance operations and operation management to customs management, logistics management, risk and insurance management, commercial management and digital management.

Speaking to Freight News, Fourie said the course would also include practical application in collaboration with industry.“Another development at Metro Minds has been the ongoing focus on simulation of industry qualifications to enable work readiness and talent development into the industry,” she said. “This is aligned to cater for the skills of the future in the form of digital literacy, communication, creativity, innovation, problem-solving and critical thinking.” With this in mind, Metro Minds launched the pilot Supply Chain Simulation in Cape Town recently. This simulation utilises practical real-life experiences.

Another development that will also impact positively on industry is the development of Smart Minds – an interactive online learning platform designed to empower individuals to build knowledge, skills, and experiences. “All the courses are impactful and practical, with quizzes, videos, and exciting articles to expand and test your knowledge,” explained Fourie, highlighting the importance of practical experience for the forwarding and clearing sector. “The Smart Minds courses are diverse, including various topics ranging from personal development to human skills, life skills and industry-specific hard skills. The main aim is to optimise learning in the shortest amount of time, cost-effectively, with a memorable and fun experience.”

These courses have also been created with affordability in mind. “This is ideal for self-development, and creating a learning culture for a team.” Fourie said another aspect that continued to be developed at Metro Minds for industry was leadership development. “Our Leading Minds product is focused on personalised and customised leadership frameworks created and developed as per business strategy and needs. It is a three-tier framework starting off with potential leaders, existing leaders and then senior leaders. Leadership is a differentiating factor in any organisation and should be a first priority as part of talent management and capacity building.”

Increasing demand for critical thinking

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Demand for enterprise and leadership skills is expected to rise, says Juliette Fourie, founder and managing director of Metro Minds.“Enterprise skills are transferable skills, allowing people to navigate complex job functions in different industries. It includes digital literacy, communication, creativity, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, and financial literacy.”It is estimated that jobs of the future will demand 70% more of these types of skills than jobs of the past. Skills development, on the other hand, will be provided through experiences, immersion, and augmented learning instead of traditional education practices, Fourie warns. “The percentage of jobs that demand critical thinking has increased by 158%, creativity by 65%, presentation skills by 25%, and teamwork by 19%. Enterprise skills are becoming just as important for job entry as technical skills, and human dependency is too strong. The top skills needed for the future sit in digital literacy, emotional intelligence, creativity, and adaptability.”

With this in mind, Fourie says it is imperative that the industry refocus its efforts on training. “Due to the regulation that has been put in place, skills development has become a compliance exercise rather than a need or demand exercise.”The situation was exacerbated as companies also became more reliant on funding from the Seta to pay for skills development in their businesses. With funding under pressure, it has resulted in skills development taking yet another back seat.“Skills development is the primary ingredient to assist with unemployment and future economic growth,” says Fourie. “The scarce skills discourse has been blamed for ongoing poverty, unemployment, and inequality, which are not being addressed, despite many efforts.”

Moving forward it will be essential to introduce coordinated, responsive and coherent skills planning systems within companies. This is recognised by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which has called for more alignment between skills supply and demand. A report by the DHET suggests that a 32% share of the workforce in South Africa has a mismatch between their qualification and job.“Creating a credible skills planning mechanism is important to understand the skills demand and supply, and alignment of capacity needed to drive business strategies,” says Fourie. “Looking at the economic state, the labour force profile, the current demand, and the future demand would assist in understanding the skills demand and supply and skills misalignment much better.”

According to Fourie, there has been a slight increase in the demand for skills development services. “The pandemic has, however, changed the way we think about training as well as the way we present learning. Micro-learning and virtual classes have become more popular,” she says. “We are also again going back to basics – communication, customer service. This comes as the way we do business post-Covid has changed. Technical industry skills will always be in demand but life skills are organic and will need attention. “Her advice to the industry is to invest in the long term. “Start with an assessment and realities of the current state of skills per department in your business. Link this to the larger intention and picture.”

Digital literacy is a non-negotiable

Image of Earth from space and digitisation

The African education system faces a raft of challenges. Across the continent, students are faced with a variety of issues – and accessibility to good education is a major stumbling block.

According to Juliette Fourie, MD of Metro Minds, the need for training in the logistics sector is critical.“ The trends shaping the future of logistics in Africa are digitisation, closing the urban and rural divide, and the increase of business-to-business companies. Innovation lies in the way the platforms and processes are created to match supply to the demand, aligning to certain skill sets needed to keep up with the trends,” she explains. “With the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on January 1, the free movement of goods, services and people is aimed at reducing tariffs and kick-starting the entire sector.

Again, digital literacy becomes a much-needed skill of the future as African e-logistics companies play a massive role in reducing transport costs and delays. With more and more rail and port concessions happening, the skills demand to understand this from a holistic continent view, will become increasingly important.”

She says it is imperative to move away from the traditional approach to learning and skills development. “The traditional aim of any higher education institution is to ensure learning retention and knowledge gain happens in preparation for a productive work life – not working with artificial intelligence and robotics. Traditional education for undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate will remain, but adult learning linked to the future workplace and occupations needs to be given more attention.”


Lifelong learning is crucial

Learning, says Fourie, simply cannot stop because the institutional learning cycle comes to an end. “Education as we know it is very important, but it is not enough to carry us through the transformation of a more automated world and economy. Lifelong learning and upskilling are of utmost importance to adapt to the ever-changing content of work and life. Lifelong learning is no longer only reserved for a few ambitious individuals, it is a necessity to survive the changes in the workplace and upskill for jobs of the future.”

To cater for lifelong learning, African countries could tap into sector-specific qualifications through a hybrid model of learning.“We have found that leadership development and sales management, in particular, are becoming more and more popular in the growth of these critical skills in the African continent,” says Fourie. “Countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania and Namibia are becoming more and more interested in aligning to better skills development. As for specialisation in Freight Forwarding and Customs Compliance, the BCom with electives in the latter is a perfect way of upskilling the continent. This Bachelor’s degree can be attended by anyone globally as the learning methodology focuses on micro-learning virtual sessions with a distance learning component.”

According to Fourie, the interconnectedness between South African companies and their African counterparts should be the link to increase skills and knowledge within their network. “Only a few African countries have formal skills development initiatives like the Skills Development Act and targets driven like in South Africa. The initiatives are driven more by non-profit organisations and public institutions, with very little alignment to industries. Vocational education is seen as a fallback option when a matriculant is not good enough to attend university. This alludes to a larger skills gap for an industry like logistics and freight forwarding.” She maintains that the drive for skills development should be pushed from the south to align skills strategies and obtain benchmarked skills levels.


Untapped employment opportunity

“A career in freight forwarding and clearing is not often talked about. There is an untapped employment opportunity in the sector for medium-skilled to high-skilled individuals,” she says. “Understanding this industry’s aspects and activities, and finding the best logistics solutions for international buyers and sellers, requires a broad scope of skills. The importance of this sector is underestimated, and more attention should be given when planning skills and development. The sector connects and coordinates a global system of almost every industry that exists.” Fourie says there are still significant skills gaps in the logistics sector. Compared to sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa, South Africa’s performance is far above the continent’s performance. This could help drive skills development strategies from South Africa into the rest of Africa, according to Fourie.

Train to Retain

Managing human capital in business requires an integrative approach between executive strategies, workforce strategies and human resource strategies. Coupled with the compliance and regulatory drive, the alignment of these well-implemented strategies, leads to improved capacity building. A business that differentiates itself by developing skills and workforce strategies aligned to business strategies and not compliance targets, is a business that has a competitive edge.

The Logistics Industry, especially the Freight Forwarding and Clearing Sector, has been spoilt with funded learning programs and financial grants from the Transport SETA. During the pandemic, this funding has dried up completely in the past two years and the importance of skills development has taken a different footing.

Companies have been so reliant on funding in the past,  that they planned and budgeted accordingly. The industry is faced with a massive skills shortage but with no real effort to address the existing and future gaps. The misalignment between business strategies and skills strategies is massive. Budgets and strategies start with plans on increasing revenue and profitability, instead of how to create a pool of highly skilled and motivated employees who would drive the bottom line to new heights – not the other way around. The vicious circle of skills shortage and demotivated employees leads to high staff turnover. Staff Retention is the best investment an organisation can make for future growth.

The past two years have led many people to reconsider what is important to them personally and professionally. Despite the uncertainty of the future, the ‘great resignation’ has started as a nightmare for most industries and companies. Companies are paying exuberant salaries to replace lost talent.

Research conducted indicated a cost of 80% of a person’s salary is being spent on recruitment and onboarding. For a person earning R 50 000 per month, this means a cost of R 40 000 per month on replacing that lost talent on costs that could have rather been spent on retention plans. Lost talent and skills are very expensive to replace, and the question is now being asked – how do we retain talent?

 1.      Individual Professional Development

Instead of performance appraisals once per year, create a 12 – 24-month development plan with your employees. There is a direct link between low investment in employee development and staff retention. Encourage development through formal programs as well as informal information sharing. Make skills development a priority and an opportunity for career growth by providing relevant continuous learning and upskilling opportunities. A report from Deloitte’s stated that the top factors of employees who resign were because of a lack of career progress and challenges in their roles due to a lack of training and misaligned expectations.

 2.      Manage to retain

People want to work with constructive managers and good leaders. Over 30% of surveyed employees agree that constructive feedback and recognition from their managers, assist them to improve and perform better – and most importantly, feel valued. Managers with good leadership skills and high emotional intelligence will retain staff much easier than the ones who are not. A study done by Harvard indicates the ideal ratio between positive and corrective feedback should be 5:1. Five being positive and one being corrective. No one wants to feel devalued or unimportant – people want to be valued and respected and they will stay.

3.      Onboard exceptionally

The shift from being an outsider to an insider is not only a welcome from HR on the morning you arrive at your new workplace. Create a proper, well-structured onboarding plan and experience. Have digestible guidelines to prevent information overload. This is the perfect opportunity to give the pathway to a winning culture and cultivate talent.

4.      Build a winning culture

Cultivating a healthy culture attracts the best talent in any industry. Almost 50% of people will resign due to a poor and toxic work culture. Driven from the top, it is living the values and the purpose of the business. A winning culture puts people first, recognises them,  grows them and incentivizes them for the right reasons.  Creating a culture that speaks to the whole person is key. Whether it is flexible working hours, tangible and intangible benefits, financial stability, and meaningful job functions.

 5.      Employee Wellness is a necessity, not a luxury

Burnout and poor mental wellness amplify poor cultures, working conditions and putting people last. Burnout and mental illnesses are not easily cured and have staggering consequences on a person’s productivity, motivation, and health. With the new normal of remote work or working from anywhere, the potential of people leaving their current, non-flexible workplaces, are much higher. Flexibility is one of the highest, intangible benefits provided by some companies.

 6.     Return on talent investment

Measuring the value of talent development is not a short-term measure. Long-term value is measured through retaining talent, saving on recruitment and replacement fees, reaching transformation targets and building a strong talent pipeline, utilization of labour as part of the learning experience and creating high-performing individuals. High-performing individuals create a productive, efficient, and strong workforce with ethical leadership, taking any organisation from mediocre to magnificent.

The big six explained is not an overnight cure but a new culture. Metro Minds have not just won numerous Innovation Awards for achieving a workplace with good staff retention but are specialist in the filed of skills and talent development.

Contact juliette@metrominds.co.za for a consultation.

Graduate forwarding qualification breaks new ground

The changing face of training has seen Metro Minds reinvent itself time and time again.

Earlier this year the company made history when it launched a graduate qualification in conjunction with business school, the Da Vinci Institute, granting industry access to a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Freight Forwarding and Customs Compliance.

According to Juliette Fourie, Metro Minds founder and MD, this has been well received by industry.

The training academy has also introduced an interactive online learning platform known as Smart Minds. “It is designed to empower individuals to build knowledge, skills, and experiences,” explains Fourie. “All courses are impactful and practical, with quizzes, videos, and exciting articles to expand and test one’s knowledge.”

She says the main aim of Smart Minds is to optimise learning in the shortest amount of time, cost-effectively, with a memorable and fun experience.

Another ongoing development is that of workplace simulation to enable work readiness and talent development in the industry. “This is aligned to cater for the skills of the future in the form of digital literacy, communication, creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and critical thinking,” says Fourie. In line with this Metro Minds recently launched the pilot Supply Chain Simulation in Cape Town.

“The pandemic has changed the way we think about training as well as the way we present learning,” she told Freight News. “Micro-learning and virtual classes have become more popular, although humans need humans and the contact sessions remain popular. We are going back to the basics – communication and customer service… the way we do business post-Covid has changed and we must remind ourselves that the past is the past and we need to reframe again. Technical industry skills will always be in demand – but life skills are organic and will always need attention.”

Her advice to companies is clear. Invest long term. “Start with an assessment of the realities of the current state of skills per department in your organisation. Link this to the larger intention and picture. What is the intention for talent? Then create an integrated approach to measure the correct skills improvement.

What does talent look like? Are you using a benchmark per job function? Start to build the ideal talent pipeline through skills projects that could give your business a competitive edge as well as receive all your directives.”

This way, she says, a skilled workforce is built, with talent being nurtured through coaching and mentoring.

Read more at Freight News here.

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