Leading in 2023: Certainly Uncertain - [website] Email Print
Published: 14th of Apr 2023 by: Debbie Engelbrecht

This is the dilemma facing leaders in 2023. We have on many occasions explored the value alignment between company and employee, we understand that engagement relies heavily on finding the "why" for our teams. Ultimately, we have done a good job with the unpacking of company values and clearly articulating the behaviours necessary to reflect those values.

In many instances our teams are able to deliver with or without us... Or should I be more specific and mention that this is mostly true for our more skilled teams and white-collared workers?

There is however a lingering concern that I need to try and articulate today, and I speak from the context of being South African and working in a South African market. It could be true to say that the majority of South Africans who have completed their tertiary and/or secondary education, can hold their own in the international arena quite comfortably, irrespective of which trade they practice. This is not necessarily true for our semi-skilled and unskilled labour, and the question we have to ask is why?

I believe that this is due to something called premature deindustrialization. In South Africa we have a real need for job creation but it is this very need that has us lagging behind other countries in the manufacturing industries. Sadly, it appears as if government intervention, however well intentioned, has had the opposite outcome to that which was envisioned. With minimum wage legislation and investment into Extended Public Works Programmes to create immediate (and part time) jobs, the natural flow toward automation has been slowed. Automation generally creates the environment for profitability, having a competitive edge and ultimately expansion.

The argument is that should the natural flow be able to proceed, we have the leadership and skill in this country to compete in any arena, thus automatically creating the economy needed to combat unemployment. In fact, if government could incentivize to remove some hurdles for industry and spend more money on less but real skills transfer rather than the menial labour mass employment EPWP programmes, or even on simple employment incentives, not the hugely complicated ETI programme, would we not be better off? And whilst we are asking these questions, should we also be asking if private enterprise would be doing a better job without a government intervention?

Along with this argument goes the assumption that the industry has visionary leaders who recognize that profits are important but not everything. Therefore, returning to what we value. If in the space of 3 short years we as leaders have been able to make the shift in thinking from office bound to off-site work and seen in many cases that it is indeed very possible, is it not time for us to use our exceptional adaptability and capabilities and to be more proactive in our solution finding for the larger workforce as well? After all, it is the right thing to do.

In these times of uncertainty, one thing is certain... We need to be creative,focused and solution-driven.

© Debbie Engelbrecht 2023
Debbie is the MD at Staff Training, providing soft skills and leadership training for South Africans since 2000. Should you wish for Staff Training to put together an annual training package for you covering aspects of management, leadership and self-mastery, please email info@stafftraining.co.za

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