The question that inevitably comes up when discussing shifting skillsets for a digital future is, how does one prepare for what can’t be anticipated? It’s a question Finance Minister Tito Mboweni raised at the World Economic Forum on Africa in early September, and one that technology companies leading the way through the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) need to consider.
“As leaders in the industry, it’s our role to understand the coming change and model it for our staff and our channel,” says Adel Goussard, an Organisational Effectiveness Specialist who heads up training within Tarsus Distribution. “We have to take the fear out of change. If you’re scared, you can’t learn. So, for us it’s about creating a safe environment to embrace the coming change.”
Gary Pickford, CEO of Tarsus Distribution, agrees. “Corporates have an obligation to take employees away from a defeatist attitude to one of cautious optimism where curiosity and the will and desire to learn is there.”
An aggregator of knowledge
One of the anticipated changes that will affect skillsets within the channel is the shifting way technology is sold and consumed. “Previously, so much IP lived inside the box, everyone was excited about the technology itself,” says Pickford, “Now, we’re seeing a shift from a transactional relationship of just selling devices to a managed services space, where the reseller becomes a high-level trusted advisor to the mid-market corporate.”
In order to assist not only staff but the channel as a whole with this and other 4IR changes, Tarsus Distribution is relaunching the Tarsus Academy. This will provide resellers with the opportunity to learn about topics like Robotic Process Automation, Business Process Automation, and Business Intelligence.
“Over the years, Distribution has always played the role of aggregator,” says Pickford, “Now, instead of aggregating credit, we have the opportunity to aggregate knowledge and skills.”
Cultivating a culture of learning
In an economy with an unemployment rate of 29%, one of the greatest concerns is how digitisation will affect jobs. According to Goussard, a crucial tool to combat this fear is to create a culture of learning within a company. “At Tarsus Distribution, we anticipate how global trends will affect South Africa. So we launched LinkedIn Learning, which gives our staff access to thousands of courses, from learning about products to soft skills like budgeting and leadership.”
Goussard believes that removing fear of failure and encouraging learning will allow not only staff, but the channel as a whole, to create and utilise the opportunities presented by 4IR. “We’re focusing on equipping people with capabilities and a learning mindset, rather than just a set of skills that may be redundant in the future,” she adds.
According to Pickford, this approach across both the channel and the business has created a cultural shift within the workforce. “We’ve seen an increase in contribution to our workshops from young, dynamic people who’ve participated in these learning opportunities,” he says. “They feel able to contribute in a more meaningful way because LinkedIn Learning has opened their minds to the outside world.”
Less fear, more preparation
While many may be concerned about how digital transformation will affect their current positions, Goussard says there should be less fear, and more preparation around the possibilities presented.
“We’re excited about the jobs that will be available that weren’t available yesterday. It’s an opportunity to take someone and develop them in different areas so that they will be prepared for the future, whatever that might be,” says Goussard.
Clearly, encouraging learning within an organisation and across mediums is a critical means to ensure skills transfer and development in the 4IR.
“We need to prepare people by creating an environment where questions are encouraged, where failure is not punished, where innovation can come from the lowest ranks of an organisation and where ideas and innovation are encouraged and rewarded,” concludes Pickford.