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SA’s got talent, but whose responsibility is it to nurture it?

Terrence Harrison, Group Manager Talent: Learning & Development and Resourcing at ArcelorMittal South Africa. Terrence Harrison, Group Manager Talent: Learning & Development and Resourcing at ArcelorMittal South Africa.

Though there is recognition that South Africa’s workplace is filled with talented individuals - who, with the right training and mentoring can become great leaders and contributors to the country’s economy - more needs to be done from an organisational and governmental level to enable and support the ongoing identification, recognition and development of talent.

This was one of the themes, which came out of the 2013 ArcelorMittal Rising Star Summit.

According to Laura Barker, Director of the 2013 ArcelorMittal Rising Star Summit, the summit creates a vital platform to connect young, talented individuals and role players in the South African talent management industry, in order to increase talent pools. “It is well reported that the lack of skills in the local workplace is an obstacle to business growth, yet often there are talented individuals, with the capacity for success, who are simply overlooked in a company, due to the fact that the right structures aren’t in place to recognise and develop this talent further.”

She says that the summit also promotes the discussion of ideas and generates mechanisms and engagements that enable the on-going identification, recognition and development of the country’s critical organisational and national asset – talent.

The recent Two decades of freedom: what South Africa is doing with and what now needs to be done report by Goldman Sachs Group highlights that the country has the people, the capital, the talent and the tools, but that the critical issue that needs to be addressed is how leadership drives a culture of accountability and teamwork.

Terrence Harrison, Group Manager Talent: Learning & Development and Resourcing at ArcelorMittal South Africa, who formed part of the panel discussion: Talent – Whose Job is it Anyway, raised the issue of whose responsibility it should be to care about retention and development, and whose job it is to enhance skills and develop talent remains a key question.

“At one moment in our lives, we either needed, or will need assistance, in our development. This development can only happen though when those with the experience are willing and able to lend themselves to those needs in order to bring about that growth,” says Harrison.

He adds that it also takes commitment from the talented individual to have the confidence in his or her abilities and the commitment to develop his or her talent through the development opportunities and organisations that exist in South Africa.

“Unfortunately we have gone through a dip where many skilled South Africans have left the country, which means that if we need a particular skill, we often have to look outside of the country to fill the position. We now need to start rebuilding and holding onto our talented and skilled individuals and the way to do this is with continued development and learning,” says Harrison.

According to Logan Pillay, another speaker at the event and Head of the Engineering Excellence Academy at Eskom, there is immeasurable value in mentorship and skills transfer and in developing and retaining talent.

Pillay pointed to research that showed 26% of our knowledge and understanding comes from pre-work learning, 24% of our understanding happens when we are taught the theory and 50% of our ability to master the work comes during the experience and practical phases.

“Our current models show that companies are spending 10% of their budget on pre-work learning, 85% on education and only 5% in the actual practical training. This therefore shows that we are putting our efforts in the wrong places.” 

He says that a mentor, a person that guides, assists, develops, and challenges individuals, is key for practical training. “The most holistic approach for companies is to develop talent in line with an individual’s natural abilities. A mentor should develop an individual in the area of their talent and it is therefore essential that the mentor is aware of what the individual’s natural talent is, in order to move the protégé to the next level,” says Pillay.

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