Upskilling, reskilling and learning: UJ, Mail & Guardian series looks at the future of jobs

Individuals possessing the ability to upskill and reskill themselves will become the key enablers of business. In line with new emerging technologies and automation in the industry, the talent pool will not only need to understand customers’ needs, but also help simplify technology to accelerate their business growth.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) in partnership with the Mail & Guardian led a breakfast discussion under the theme CHRO & Business 4.0, on Tuesday, 25 February 2020, in Rosebank.


The discussion focused on the immediate need for greater investments in upskilling, reskilling and learning to ensure the South African workforce remains relevant and competitive, globally.

There was particular emphasis on the fact that technology needs to be integrated in HR to accommodate the ever-changing employee requirements. Digital communication channels that incorporate access to learning and development modules; open and transparent access to career opportunities, feedback sessions, HR best practices – are all small but significant ways in which organisations can more efficiently engage with a more ‘digital’ workforce.

UJ’s lead expert at the Institute of Intelligence Systems, Prof Babu Sena Paul touched on issues such as smarter processes and robotics.

“Technology and Data is the way of doing it today. The role of a Chief human resources officer (CHRO) is one of the most important in any company. CHROs must assist businesses in paving the way for strategic growth across decisions relating to recruitment, compensation, talent management, performance management, training, employee experience and more. They also need to constantly develop themselves and use their knowledge to keep their organisations in the game.”

“If you have block chain and everything is recorded, you will know who is doing what and where.”

Technological innovation was said to be opening the door to new growth models, creating more opportunities for businesses and economies to obtain skills of the future. Microsoft SA’s HR Director, Jasmin Pillay said that the company is focusing on people’s transformation.

“If we focus on technology without being culture ready, an organisation will never work. At Microsoft South Africa we moved from activity to impact,” she said.

The topics covered in the breakfast Club included but not limited to: How chatbots and machine learning can enhance candidate and employee experience; changing role of people management in the digital era; creating a reward strategy for the digital workforce and how cloud transforms the future of HR to mention a few.

Dimension Data HR Executive for the Middle East and Africa, Michaela Voller brought forward an interesting perspective and said workplaces have become more dynamic because of the process of digitalisation, an increase in the number of millennials in the workplace and dynamic business-customer relationships have been noticeable. This creates new challenges in workforce equations and relationships.

She also pointed out that challenges of a diverse workforce needs to be tackled. “We need to change our habits as managers and we can use technology to challenge some of the decisions we make.”

“The human element is that we need to use data to get a workforce that is representative of the society we live in, we need to understand the science behind data because we need intelligent workplaces”.

The event concluded on the note that organisations should capitalise on business opportunities created by technological advancements by investing in the upskilling of their existing employees. Personal and professional development should be of the utmost importance because employees regularly need the tools and knowledge to operate at their full potential, both inside and outside of the workplace.

Throughout an employee’s entire career journey, they need to be offered training and development programs personalised for each role, in order to provide employees different ways of achieving success.

These discussions were the first in a series of breakfast events in 2020, attended by executives from the financial, manufacturing, mining, and healthcare industries amongst others.

prof babu

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