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Career risk mitigation – the way to go for corporate high flyers

Obsolescence. It happened to VCRs. It also happens to executives, even high flyers; especially the tunnel-vision variety that obsess about the job on hand.

Obsolescence no longer takes decades. It can happen at pace as technologies change and businesses react to new legislation, heightened competition and more demanding customers.

Forward-thinking executives increasingly realise they have to be fit for purpose today and in five years’ time. Obsolescence is a career risk and like any risk can be managed by putting proper mitigation strategies in place.

Talent search and management companies – so-called corporate head-hunters –  face increasing calls from individuals for a heads-up on changing competency requirements. Often, the request comes from the mid-life CEO, the high achiever who took a leadership role aged 45 and is determined to be in place (or to have moved on to bigger and better things) by the time he or she is 55.

Corporate High Flyers Signium Africa


Competency-focused future-spotting is driven by the desire to mitigate the risk of a stalled career. However, parameters widen almost immediately.

Reference to relevant literature like the World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs Report 2018’ and the work of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy indicate that personal competencies are inextricably linked to the corporate future.

The business or industry vision invariably shapes the personal quest for continuing relevance by individual executives.

A global player like Riverwaves (a world leader in bespoke competency-based HR solutions) is close to these developments. Alexandra Pascu, Riverwaves’ GM - Middle East and Africa, notes: “Customised competency models drive business strategy while delivering benefits across the board - at individual, HR department and organisational levels.”

According to studies on the statistical validation of competency models**, the tangible return on investment includes a 63% reduction in staff turnover through increased employee satisfaction (attributable to greater clarity on performance expectations), a 19% improvement in employee performance and a 12.5% rise in sales and profits (a by-product of competency-based training).

Adoption of a bespoke competency model enables organisational vision and values to be translated into employee behaviour. 

According to Pascu, the corporate embrace of competency modelling has been accompanied by a global increase in demand for in-house competency training for line managers and talent professionals.

So, we see shared focus on future-ready skills by both the organisation and its people (including those in the C-suite). 

Individuals looking to avoid personal obsolescence increasingly find themselves working in a de facto partnership with organisations that are just as eager to stay current and relevant.

The result doesn’t have to lead to a total immersion in new technologies. We may find ourselves working alongside robots and co-bots while dealing with digitisation and artificial intelligence, but very human attributes will make us special and keep us on top.

The World Economic Forum believes workforces will become even more diverse (multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-generational with greater female representation). Orchestrating the input of ‘gig’ workers, freelancers, short-term project teams and consultants will be vital as structures become more flexible.

Such scenarios help explain a quick competency to-do list suggested by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfssons. He advises us to put our focus on:

  • Creativity
  • Emotional intelligence (interpersonal skills, teamwork and leadership)
  • Passion for our work

Apparently, love never goes out of style. Not even love for what you do.

Michelle Moss facebook

 *Michelle Moss is a Director at Signium Africa (previously Talent Africa), a leading South African-based executive search
   and talent management company servicing sub-Saharan Africa




**Meta-analysis study reported in “The economic value of emotional intelligence competencies and EIC-based HR programmes”, Lyle Spencer.  In Cherniss, C. and Goleman, D. eds.

The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace:  How to Select for, Measure, and Improve Emotional Intelligence in Individuals, Groups and Organisations.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2001.

Spencer, Lyle, “Competency Model Statistical Validation and Business Case Development.”www.inscopecorp.com/resources-papers-statistics.aspx, 2004.



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Signium Africa

Diverse talent solutions.
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Signium Africa (previously Talent Africa), a leading executive recruitment company based in South Africa offering head-hunting and leadership consulting services in sub-Saharan Africa. www.signium.co.za

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