In a recent blog post, Canninah Mapena, Managing Director, Rockwell Automation Sub-Saharan Africa, shared some interesting thoughts and a valuable perspective on how businesses in South Africa should embrace change and prepare for growth.

Businesses in South Africa have had a bumpy ride this year. What started as a year like any other, with modest economic growth, became an unprecedented rising tide of crises with economic contraction on the horizon. As we continue to weather the storm, the time has come for us to stop panicking about the ‘new normal’, and rather focus on tangible business activities that will see a return on investment through the highs and lows.Rockwell Automation Canninah Mapena MD

Canninah Mapena, MD, Rockwell Automation Sub-Saharan Africa.

Turbulence is nothing new

I have a strong history of leading business activities in sub-Saharan Africa and can say with certainty that no industry sees smooth sailing 100% of the time. Having worked to bring industrial automation and software solutions to various industries, including mining, minerals, metals, power, energy, and oil & gas, I have learnt that businesses that focus on aligning their people with their processes and technology, are those that can survive a storm and thrive when things stabilise.

While fear and uncertainty are natural reactions to a crisis, it is time to lean in to the discomfort, let things get shaken up, and embrace the opportunity to become more robust. How can this resilience be achieved? Well, as for any successful voyage, there should be a strong focus on the capabilities of the crew.

Invest in your best

The number one mistake I have seen companies make is to worry more about their bottom line than the people who can affect it. I believe that people are at the heart of any successful operation. While the implementation of ever-evolving technology and optimised business processes are hailed as tools for modern day success, the advantages of these are nothing without people to drive the change. People are your best asset. If you can keep investing in them through difficult times, your return on that investment will come when you find your workforce is well-prepared to take on any challenge, fulfil any order, and use their competencies and capabilities to win your company market share when others falter.

In assessing your human resources, it is important to remember that today’s workforce is evolving and seeks purpose. Leaders need to make sure employees understand the vision and strategy, how it’s connected to the work they do, and that they see and feel that their work is meaningful. These employees will look beyond the mechanics of their jobs and will be more inclined to innovate and optimise.

In my experience, communication and transparency are key in this. Leaders should be approachable and show integrity when interacting with their teams. Developing a relationship with your people will help identify those who are enthusiastic about their opportunities and help you address their professional development needs.

To retain these valuable employees, leaders should provide them with a vehicle to develop their careers – the ability to move around, perform different roles and gain a variety of career experiences. Fostering a culture that’s agile gives employees the ability to collaborate and make decisions.

Leading your team through digital transformation

Digital transformation is heralded as an enabler of greater productivity. However, it is my experience that digitalisation is as much a change-management issue as it is a technology one. Business leaders who are looking to invest in innovation need to remember that they are managing a change-weary workforce who have likely been through continuous hardware and software upgrades requiring changing digital capabilities and tools. These workers need to be properly prepared for what is coming. Leaders should develop a strategic plan for digital adoption, update employees on what is expected from them, and provide appropriate employee training.

Weathering the highs and lows is not just about having the right technology; it requires support from the right people. Innovation goes beyond gadgets – investing in your workforce will empower them to rise to the business challenges to come and take advantage of the opportunities over the horizon.

Rockwell Automation has recognised the management challenges presented by the digital transformation journey. We have created Management Perspectives – a hub of resources for executive industrial decision-makers, providing the information you need to thrive in the evolving digital landscape. Access the portal online for help in unifying your people, processes and technology to achieve better business outcomes.

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