Raising a tiger / Lessons for human capital

01 Mar 2020
Mustafa El Rafey, Majid Al Futtaim Retail;
Raising and developing our own talent is vital in an age of 'talentism', writes Mustafa El Rafey, senior vice president of human capital at Majid Al Futthaim Retail.Are you kidding? There’s teeth on the other end!”

If you’re an adult of a certain age, you will know that line. It comes towards the end of Disney’s animated 1967 classic The Jungle Book: Baloo the bear arrives in the nick of time, clamping on to Shere Khan’s tail as he chases Mowgli. The vultures get Mowgli to safety and urge Baloo to let the tiger go.

Experienced senior leaders will understand the sentiment. Here, at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution, those of us at the leading edge of business are holding the very large tiger of talent by the tail — and there are definitely teeth at the other end.

Developing talent in your workforce is an art and a science

Unmanaged talent, or the lack of it, could leave our business and industry in tatters; carefully handled, it will take us charging forward. Our solution has been to raise our own tiger.

Hand-rearing a tiger is not for the faint-hearted. It’s both art and science, requiring careful observation, accurate records and a willingness to learn and adapt. Knowledge is paramount; expending tremendous effort a given. But the outcome is unmistakable, rare and amazing to behold.

The same is true of hand-rearing talent. Much has been written about the importance of the talent pipeline: building it, feeding it, managing and deploying it; rinse and repeat. But a fifth element of stewarding — of raising your own talent — is key.

The primacy of human capital

As capitalism gives way to ‘talentism’ — the primacy of human over financial capital — there are concerns, possibilities and hard questions to consider. The divide between the highly-skilled, high-income, high performers and the less-educated, low-skilled workers continues to grow, for example, raising the dim spectre of future turmoil and stagnation. How do we avoid creating an increasingly hollow middle?

Future-proofing employees

How do we transform our people for tomorrow’s jobs today? How do we not only find, train and retain the right people, while ensuring our human capital function stays several steps ahead?

The onus is on business leaders who have a clearer view of the future to model the change we need in the present. We know just what skill sets are going to be needed in the years ahead; what are we going to do with that information?

At Majid Al Futtaim, we are invested in upskilling our people. We know, for example, that the top 10 emerging jobs in 2022 include data analysts and data scientists, digital transformation and new technology specialists, so we ensure that our employees benefit from the recently opened Majid Al Futtaim Retail Business School.

The emphasis is that these are our people – existing staff who understand our business, our sensibility and are committed to us and our customers. Training and developing them is a no-brainer: it’s succession planning, family-style.

Leaders: Put your investment capital to work for your human capital

Instead of hoping for a solution to arrive in the nick of time, we are proactively building ours. We are putting our investment capital to work for our human capital. Digital literacy, disruptive technology — all these things will be pivotal to the cities, companies and economies of the future, so why not future proof ourselves by creating our own capacity?

It’s early days for our model, but we feel we have made a great start. Although our governments are moving at warp speed in the UAE and wholeheartedly embracing future technology, innovation and skills, there is a major role for private sector players — one of leadership.

The gulf between those embracing change and those falling behind is growing

Changeboard and Future Talent have been providing insights and learning on how to navigate a way through change since 2004. Now, as we enter an unprecedented period of disruption, we are providing you the opportunity to develop the capabilities, behaviours and mindset necessary to survive and ultimately flourish.

This article was first published in changeboard.com