Skip to Content
Author's profile photo Tom Loeffert

20-Minute Master Class 2/5: Vusi Thembekwayo, Cultural Changes and the Impact on Talent

Help Your Talent Accelerate Around Every Corner

The world is entering a period of unprecedented cultural transformation. The internet and mobile connectivity have made the “global village” (predicted in the 1960s) a reality. As change accelerates, we’re seeing major shifts in the expectations of employees, job roles, work environments, learning, and organisational cultures.

For those of us in HR, these Workforce 2020 challenges are getting closer. In fact, we have to address many of them now. At the second in a series of 20-Minute Master Classes, renowned business speaker, Vusi Thembekwayo, spelled out the urgency: to recruit and retain top talent, every company needs to up its game.

Globalisation, changing demographics and their effects on the world’s skilled workforce demand a new approach. Vusi pointed to Africa’s growth and diversity, where 440 new cities will emerge by 2050. Success will hinge on engaging these rapidly changing cultures and urban populations.

Ever taken a corner at over 200kph?

Vusi used a motorsport analogy to explain his research into the DNA shared by the best companies. Based on 1,000 interviews with top execs, he explained, “Why the best stand out from the rest”.

In MotoGP, humans and machines push the limits of what’s possible. They ride at “the edge of chaos”. They’re what Vusi terms “black sheep”. For every 500 riders who are fast in the straights, just five accelerate into every corner._0002_WEEK THREE_1.jpg

So how does extreme speed relate to business culture? If winners on the track are the ones who master the most difficult skills, what lessons can we learn and apply in business from this top 1% of the highest performers?

Leaders always influence, never manage

The first lesson relates to leadership. His research suggests differentiation between ‘leadership’ and ‘management’.  Vusi states that in top-performing businesses, “Leadership is the ability to influence, whereas management is about control”.

This echoes Kara Walsh’s advice from the first Master Class: “Empowering leaders requires a greater focus on their behaviours as opposed to their competencies”. Both Kara and Vusi highlighted the need to ensure the right leaders are in place – and how this helps businesses to embrace future workforce challenges.

The second lesson relates to culture, which Vusi defines as, “What people do when leaders aren’t around”. Culture is arguably more difficult to create and control, but equally as important.  Organisations with a strong culture have a passion for results. For them, it’s an obsession. Looking again to the world of motorsport, Vusi gave an example of the absolute dedication of the Ferrari F1 team who managed to reduce pit stop times from 14 to just three seconds. They focus on simple things: clarity of roles, visualising outcomes, always being better and setting up success.

Black sheep business leaders understand these points. They’re charismatic, inspirational and focus on experience, rather than delivery or execution, which they leave to managers. And they create a culture of excellence where okay is never okay. Therefore, Vusi argues that businesses – starting with their leaders – have to believe that “today’s best will be tomorrow’s worst”.

Vusi concluded his lively talk by focusing on the implications for HR teams. They need a central system and single view of the workforce, combined with a strong, well-communicated and globally-agreed culture. He also stressed that only in-country, locally-based HR teams can truly meet the diverse workforce needs and demands in a world of change. This combination of global and local will help HR enable their top talent to perform at their best now and in the future.

To discover more about his unique perspective, watch Vusi Thembekwayo’s 20-Minute Master Class on demand. For more Workforce 2020 insights from Perry Timms, Tim Robson and Thomas Otter, why not sign up for the next three 20-Minute Master Classes.

Assigned Tags

      Be the first to leave a comment
      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.