Employee training and development: a gateway to new business

Mauritius is soon to sign the free trade agreement, which will see it have duty-free access to the Asian market and 50 000 tons of exports over eight years. New free trade agreements, fourth industrial revolution and the digital world of tomorrow requires employees to participate in skills training and development to meet such demands.

How can businesses prepare for new business opportunities?

  • Align people agendas with economic diversification strategies
  • Proactively spot emerging skill gaps through scenario planning and succession plan for these
  • Provide sustained training and learning opportunities
  • Hone human skills like creativity
  • Focus on leadership skills and mentoring emerging leaders

In his Africa of 2050 article, USB-ED’s Professor André Roux spoke about the need for African economies to diversify – and match their people training and development agendas to their diversification strategies. It’s about identifying prospective skill gaps and proactively filling these through education and succession planning. With Mauritius about to sign a free trade agreement with China, now’s the time to define diversification strategies and for the private and public sector to align sustained upskilling initiatives accordingly.

According to Bloomberg, Mauritius is soon to sign the free trade agreement, which will see it have duty-free access to the Asian market for 8 547 products, including exports of 50 000 tons of specialty sugars in eight years. China is Mauritius’ second biggest supplier currently.

Marietjie van der Merwe, training and consultancy partner at USB-ED and managing director of Global Natives says, “This has significant implications for Mauritian businesses. According to a World Bank overview, the country’s GDP growth has recently been driven by the construction and services sectors, with manufacturing and agriculture slowing down. There’s evidence Mauritius is undergoing a shift to a knowledge-based economy, and a move to higher-skill employment.”

According to the World Bank, this will require the enablement of ‘new sources of growth and private investment’ through improved connectivity, better-aligned incentives and the right skills. The free trade agreement with China is likely to boost sugar productivity, for example (which has been declining in recent years), but the country will need to look at intelligent ways to diversify. It doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel – instead of just producing specialty sugars, it could look at how to package or transform these to export them in different ways.

For Mauritian employers, the free trade agreement could open myriad opportunities. But, capitalising on these requires the right skills. Which in turn, comes down to proactive, smart talent management.

Van Der Merwe says, “It’s an exercise that all countries need to be doing in the context of 4IR, new trade options, and the global skills shortage. For employers, it starts with scenario planning.  Described as a ‘dress rehearsal for life’ by USB-ED’s senior futurist Doris Viljoen, this is the idea that at any moment, multiple futures are possible. It’s about identifying the more plausible ones and considering what measures to put in place now to bring about the scenarios you want to happen and prevent the ones you dislike.”

So, imagine the multiple futures the free trade agreement with China could bring about, sift out the most likely ones, and consider how to agilely adapt and put the operational measures in place to catalyse the scenarios you want to happen – and prevent the others. For example, if you don’t upskill your team to meet demand and a competitor does do so… you’re likely to lose in the long-term.

With the shift in focus for Mauritius to become a knowledge-based economy, the onus is on employers to use scenario planning to identify emerging skills gaps. With the World Bank predicting a move to higher-skills roles given the rise of automation and machine learning, employers will need to give employees opportunities for continuing professional development.

Although technical skills will be vital, there’ll also be increasing demand for inherently ‘human’ skills, like leadership skills, empathy, complex problem-solving, creativity and agile learning. The ability to learn will become crucial. Given that the World Economic Forum predicts most employees (over 50%) will need to upskill and reskill in the next few years – and on an ongoing basis – it’s crucial that people are able to learn to learn.

That means finding ways to quickly digest and process information quickly. It means practical skills that empower employees to hit the ground running. And it means deep soft-skill learning opportunities that focus on instilling creative, design-thinking; leadership skills; problem-solving and more. Importantly, there needs to be an emphasis on self-awareness – succession planning needs to include grooming tomorrow’s leaders in the intra- and interpersonal skills required to servant-lead a team successfully.

As a manager, it’s important to be able to manage talent accordingly in order to prepare the organisation for potential new business opportunities. With our various management development programmes, catering to managers of varying levels of experience, you will be able to hone in on human skills and provide training and learning opportunities for your team. It will also allow you to proactively spot emerging skill gaps and succession plan for these.


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