DURBAN - South Africa is experiencing low-growth and constrained economic activity.
Added to this, is the ever-increasing pressures of the unemployment rate, which jumped to 29 percent in the second quarter of 2019.
For South Africa to reverse this trend, our annual economic growth needs to be at least 3 percent, and we will only achieve this by adapting crucial areas that will aid in stimulating inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development. One such focus area is Human Resource (HR) Development.
The current South African education system is struggling to equip our workforce with skills that will future-proof them in our transition to a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy. As a country, we must now focus on creating a new generation of South African workers that will be empowered to drive innovation as well as the creation and adoption of disruptive technologies. The lack of formal education for entrepreneurship and the creation and adoption of an entrepreneurial mindset is clearly evident by our constrained economic activity.
A school-level intervention with subjects focused on business-related topics is required to incubate entrepreneurs and opportunity seekers for the future.
There needs to be an emphasis on future-focused skills development, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and ICT learning in order to maintain a competitive and innovative business environment and workforce. In addition to this, there also needs to be support mechanisms put into place that increase the levels of uptake and usage of technology, innovation and ideation. This will drive our progression into a knowledge-based economy and lead economic growth and development through growth industries, which are characterised by high growth, high profitability, and low consolidation, with the promise new opportunities for jobs and new businesses such as information, communication and technology (ICT), services and agriculture.
The prevailing South African HR model is not equipped to deal with our current socio-economic challenges, which are compounding the country’s low-growth and constrained economic activity. The business environment is complex and varied, and HR policies and procedures need to evolve and adapt to suit the unique demands of the changing business and economic landscape in which our changing workforce operates. HR professionals in South Africa need to shift their focus from meeting the needs of a static workforce in an unchanging centralised system to an approach that is instead focused on strategic organisational outcomes. This will empower HR departments to be flexible, innovative and entrepreneurial and able to evolve, adapt and partner with the business to achieve those outcomes and drive strategic change.
To cope with the changing business and social landscape HR departments, as the people responsible for optimising people performance in the workplace, need to be change agents within their organisations who are aligned with the business strategy. This will enable them to adapt to challenges in our current economic environment such as technology adoption and innovation and its effect on the workforce as well as workforce productivity. Being agile, responsive, professional and focused will allow businesses and organisations to operate as effective and dynamic talent-driven workplaces.
Palesa Phili is the chief exeutive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.