How online education can address your company’s skills shortages

Mark Talmage-Rostron
09.12.2022·11 min read

They say that a company is only as good as its people. A more modern take on that would be that for a company to succeed in the modern era, it can only be as good as its highly skilled workforce.

To paraphrase the great Bard William Shakespeare, “To upskill or reskill that is the question?” If he were alive today, and the CEO of a global company, the answer to that question would be a resounding ‘yes’. The requirement for organizations to equip their workers to excel at their jobs and want to stay due to job satisfaction, has never been more important.

This pressing issue formed the basis of a recent discussion hosted by Jennifer Bangoura, EdD, Nexford’s Director of Career Innovation, Olivia Anaman, Group Head Human Resources for Allianz in Ghana, Lanre Ogungbe, Co-founder and CEO of Identitypass, Gathoni Mwangi, Global Recruitment Manager at Pula, Mercy Karuga, Associate Manager, People Operations at Pula, and Temi Dalley, Chief Human Resources Officer, Sterling.

It's all about the people

You would think that all organizations would know by now that their biggest assets walk in the door in the morning and leave through it at night. Sadly, many still fall fowl of placing their focus on physical assets. In fact, it is quite frightening how many big tech companies are cutting hundreds of people loose right now. The predominance being at Twitter, where seemingly Elon Musk does not value his staff at all.

As a Group Head for Human Resources, Olivia Anaman knows otherwise and recognizes that the people she works with at Allianz matter over anything.

She says with conviction, “Our people matter because we see them as the most important and valuable asset in the organization. As a company it is very important when we are recruiting people to look at certain key skills which span both technical and hard and soft skills.”

For those that don’t have the necessary skills, Olivia mentions that to develop employees by upskilling or reskilling them they have created an enabling environment for people to learn, grow, and contribute to the success of the company.

This positive and enriching thought process has really born fruit, as Allianz Ghana has jumped 10 places from being in the bottom 20 in 2018, to occupying the top 10 places in 2022. Olivia recognizes that this can mostly be attributed to their people being equipped with the required skills and competencies to thrive in their jobs.

It is not just HR that is recognizing the need to upskill or reskill employees. 79% of CEOs around the globe are now being kept up at night, worrying that they don’t have enough skilled employees in their organizations.

To stay in the game, Forbes says, “CEOs and other senior executives looking to build a highly skilled workforce to support the business in the post-pandemic recovery and beyond would do well to remember those two key words: upskilling and reskilling.”

The global media company maintains that upskilling is the process of enhancing or expanding an employee’s skill set so that they can more productively contribute to the business. On the other hand, it maintains that upskilling usually involves continuous learning, and it’s often vital to an employee’s ability to advance in their career and take on more responsibility.

Lanre Ogungbe, Co-founder and CEO of Identitypass, the 100% remote company whose reason for being is to make the internet safe in Africa, concurs with Olivia. His company’s reason for being is to provide the right people to the right companies, including Facebook, to ensure that their services are legit before they deliver them to their customers. By doing this effectively, Identitypass is now the biggest verification service in the region, able to verify up to 23 different countries in Africa. That all comes down to being able to source the right people for the right jobs at the companies they serve, achieved by doing effective background checks on prospective employees.

Recruiting top talent is key to a company’s success

Next to impart her immense knowledge about recruiting top talent with the skills necessary to more than just get the job done was Gathoni Mwangi, Global Recruitment Manager at Pula. Having been around for seven years, Pula is based in 18 countries across three continents.

Having done talent acquisition for just over 10 years, Gathoni knows all about the rights and wrongs of talent acquisition and what to look for in a candidate. Regarding the day-to-day responsibilities of her job she says, “On a good week you will find me creating content for talent mapping and promotional materials, attending events that showcase top talent, and most importantly, networking. You don’t get to recruit the best by sitting behind a desk.”

Mercy Karuga, Associate Manager, People Operations at Pula stepped in to say that Ghatoni and her team are like close sisters and brothers, because they bring in the talent, then she takes care of the challenge from induction to retirement.

She says, “We like referring to ourselves as farmers, as opposed to being competitors. We also ensure that our teammates are well catered for in terms of the environment they’re in which is all about creating the right environment for them to thrive. Building systems processes and just ensuring that we provide the right support to leadership and teammates has been the greatest experience so far.”

Banking on the right people to get the job done!

To ensure that Sterling Bank has the right people to drive the business forward falls squarely at the feet of Temi Dalley, Chief Human Resources Officer at the bank. To get the job done, Temi instilled three major things; agility, specialisation and digitization.

She mentions that the bank started a transformation journey across their 1,000 strong workforce, close to five and a half years ago to make it the best company to work for. A strategy that is paying dividends across their 180 branches.

Temi says, “In the past three years, we’ve been named the best place to work in Nigeria, but our major goal is to be named the best bank when it comes to service. We offer a personalized service that is delivered day in and day out by our highly trained and skilled staff. We’re very people centric, and that is evident in our culture. Our employees and the investment in Nexford courses that build their skills ensures that they are able to bring new ideas to the table and grow the business.”

Skills to thrive rather than survive

Just like one man isn’t an island, no company is just about the CEO. It’s all about the people that the company employs and how equipped they are to become more innovative and pivot on a dime to change direction in their department and as a net result of that, the direction of the company.

But how can more companies accomplish what is by no means a small task? These things don’t just happen overnight. Skills development is a long game and not a quick fix solution.

On that score, Lanre Ogungbe says that for change to happen, people need to become more skilled at communicating. Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but he maintains that surprisingly few workers actual know how to do this effectively both internally and externally.

Temi Dailey concurs with Lanre saying that at Sterling, communication is key along with stakeholder management, collaboration, and of course, innovation. These are all non-technical skills which also includes resilience that many people had to learn during and after Covid.

She mentions that the company’s partnership with Nexford, where they enrolled workers to the online university to do their MBA, including remote workers, has meant that those employees have been able to procure these essential skills necessary to be promoted to new roles and take on increased responsibilities.

Taking control in a virtual working world

Five years ago, fully remote or hybrid roles were never talked about in the hallowed halls of most companies. Look around, and right now, that work concept has become the norm, rather than the exception.

On that subject Ghatoni says, “Because these days we are all going virtual, you must be able to communicate and translate just as well as you would in a boardroom. So, I think the level of communication, whether it’s written or verbal, and your ability to translate that into a PowerPoint slide or a Google Doc, or utilizing some of these tools for communication, has become so much more important than it used to be. We really can’t overlook it.”

The other sought-after skills that Ghatoni and her company Pula Advisors is looking for from employees is data analytics and the interpretation of that data for better business outcomes. She makes mention that of course there are lots of data analytics tools out there, but there’s not enough key people with the skills required to accurately interpret that data to make better decision at every level.

It is also not just about the interpretation of data that is key, but also the speed at which companies come to the point where those key business decisions are being made. People in companies are now using WhatsApp amongst the workforce to communicate, as even email is often proving too slow. People live on their phones, so why not use it for speedier business communications and decisions?

But you must be more curious to learn and experiment with modern technologies, a skill that Ghatoni maintains often gets overlooked in business. This is probably because people have their heads down during the day being way too task oriented.

Leading businesses need more leaders

It comes as no surprise that those businesses that flourish in the modern working world are those that have gotten leadership skills buttoned. It’s a collective effort though as it’s about personal leadership, leading teams, and leading the business.

Mercy Karuga says leadership is all about how you manage those difficult conversations, share feedback, and address the failure of things to learn and not make the same mistakes twice. It’s also about stakeholder management and understanding what is needed for the company to thrive. At the end of the day, it’s taking ownership of your role. It’s not only about tying it back to leadership, but about the role that you’re playing in the business. You must create a roadmap on how to work through it. So having a solutions first mindset is key.

Companies don’t want moaners, they want doers. People who have the wherewithal and the capacity to turn problems into solutions by being innovative and using their problem thinking skills to good effect.

Mercy admits that her company has made mistakes, but they’ve admitted where they have gone wrong, learned from those mistakes, and moved forward. This though will never stop them from continuing to challenge the status quo.

Learn, learn, and learn again!

The World Economic Forum reports that between 2025 and 2030, and definitely by 2050, people are going to have revisit their skills every five years to ensure they have the skills to not only succeed but also avoid the redundancy axe. This is especially true amongst current and future leaders in any organization that want to stay ahead of the curve.

Mercy says, “At our company we ensure that we have leaders who can adapt, understand themselves and their role, and inspire others to excel. They do this because they are able to influence and achieve results. They’re able to mentor and even challenge teammates to think differently and do better. So, we not only focus on the C suite, in terms of coaching, but look at how we can equip our leaders, our leadership managers, and the growing leaders as well.”

She realizes that if the company is falling behind in these and other skills that they can’t just throw their hands up in horror, they need to be comfortable in the knowledge that they can partner with Nexford to help upskill workers who desperately require it.

Mercy goes on to say, “Learning is part of our performance management process, because at the end of the day, we do want to build productivity for the individual and for the business. We want to invest in our employees because they’re the ones who understand our business best.”

To bridge that gap between what the business needs and the skills of their employees that are required to help the business reach their goals and objectives, Nexford University has the programs and partners to reimagine the challenge for skills driven businesses. By 2030, the global talent shortage will leave over 85 million jobs unfilled, costing the global economy over eight and a half trillion dollars in unrealized revenue.

To help plug those gaps, Nexford University which is 100% online, licenced and based in the United States, has what it takes to help power the most successful workforces on earth. It has competency-based training programmes primarily focused on the future of work, the needs of industry, and how people learn effectively.

This means that companies that partner with Nexford can rest easy knowing that graduates will come out at the end of the learning process with job ready skills on day one of employment, ensuring they’re ready to jump in and do the work that the organization is trying to achieve. Through its business programs, Nexford is able to enrol and train learners according to an organization’s specific business needs, allowing it to achieve its revenue targets.

Thinking about these 21st century skills that businesses and their employees need for today, and looking ahead to the future, all of these are embedded throughout the different courses and certificate programmes that Nexford offers.

To find out more about these courses and certificate programs check out the webinar.

About the Author

Mark Talmage-Rostron

Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.

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