There is a rapid shift in how businesses are transforming, and at the core of it is millennials who are shaping the work place, this was one of the dominant themes at the recently ended Strategic HR conference held in Gaborone this past week.
Balisi Bonyongo, Debswana managing director, also the keynote speaker at the two day event, likened the conference to a human resources crusade; a revival of a department that has been seen as dead yet plays a critical role in any organisation’s success.
Bonyongo said the strength and weakness of an organisation lies in the people and that the human resources department is pivotal to any organisation. “Businesses worldwide are transforming from business enterprises to social enterprises, and those that fail to transform will be rendered irrelevant,” he added. “The workplace is not immune to dynamic pace, more reason for organisations to assess if they are properly configured to accommodate millennials”.
The Debswana chief says millennials are becoming a larger part of the workforce, and with that they come with a different mindset of doing things, and this needs to be harnessed. Bonyongo said a major feature of the millennials is they do not like the status quo as they come packaged with probing minds which challenges convention.
“These are the leaders of tomorrow and cannot be wished away. Employers, particularly management should not shy away from engaging millennials. At Debswana, 37 percent of our employees are millennials.”
Bonyongo, who rose through the ranks of Debswana, first as a fresh faced mining engineer graduate now to a seasoned executive who is in charge in what is arguably the most important organisation in the country, responsible for the flow of diamonds from pits to markets, said there are big problems to solve and this requires the right talent around.
“Transition demands a different skills-set. For example at Debswana, our mining pits keep on getting bigger and deeper, with the possibility of underground mining. We are not ready for it but we are preparing for it,” he said.
Such preparations involve expanding the talent pool, and to this end, Bonyongo said Debswana offers tailor made scholarship programmes, and also training for future roles. Debswana, a joint venture between Botswana government and De Beers, is investing heavily on talent, spending almost P40 million alone on this last year. Another key area for the diamond mining company is forming strategic partnerships like the one they have with Botswana International University of Technology.
“This is because we want industry relevant skills, and also play an active role in influencing the curriculum. We want to bring industry expertise to the field, and bring field to the industry. This is very important for robust talent,” Bonyongo said.
Also making a case for millennials at the same event was Batsho Dambe-Groth, a human resources expert, who offered insights on what millennials want. She said millennials are interested in doing meaningful work that has an impact on society. Moreover, Dambe-Growth said young people seek fulfilling experience in the work place, where their contribution is not only confined to the office, but have a vision for a better world.
Botswana’s more than 2 million population is largely made up of an economically active age, and at the centre of it is young people, of whom majority is unemployed. Last year there were over 87 000 unemployed graduates, with the figure expected to increase as more graduates are released, and only 5 percent of new graduates are absorbed in the market. President Mokgweetsi Masisi says his top priority is creation of jobs for young people.