This March, top executives, employers and leaders from various sectors across Africa will convene in Mauritius to share insights and shape conversation around leadership, talent, and organisational efficiencies on the continent through the Reimagine Talent Symposium. The event, hosted by ALU will be held from March 6 – 8, 2016.
The Symposium presents an opportunity for top employers in Africa to strategically rethink about unlocking the leadership potential of their teams both at the entry and middle management levels. It is also an opportunity for ALU’s employer partners and other top companies to see our flagship learning model in action and meet students at our Mauritius campus, African Leadership College (ALC).
Participating companies include Google, GE, Standard Bank and Swiss Re while featured speakers include Catherine Duggan, Assistant Professor at Oxford Said Business School (formerly of Harvard Business School); Wayne Acquah, HR Director at Coca Cola Company; and Kim Robinson, Head of Human Resources, Swiss Re Africa.
The talent and leadership development problem
21st Century employers have recognised the mismatch between the knowledge students acquire at university and the employable skills that companies need. In addition to the skill gap, they are faced with the challenge of training and empowering employees to be leaders in their organisations.
“Training programmes on the continent are still structured to train employees for competence in their current jobs; employees are not being prepared for the next level of leadership. It’s not surprising then that many organizations haven’t been able to unlock the leadership potential of their teams,” says Theodore Sutherland, Employer Partnerships and Curriculum Manager at ALC.
“Most HR Directors will tell you that they want versatile professionals who can think in entrepreneurial ways, but they do not have robust processes of identifying these 21st century leadership traits as part of their hiring process,” adds Sutherland. “As Sharmi Surainarian of African Leadership Academy’s Africa Careers Network (ACN) correctly reports,’talent managers on the continent will have to learn how to evaluate candidates on their potential—and not on performance and book-smarts alone.’”
Unlocking the potential in millennials
During the Reimagine Talent Symposium, ALC students will have the unique opportunity to learn about the breadth of ways the skills they have been developing in our Leadership Core, can be applied to a range of industries and companies.
To get students ready, the Career Development Centre (CDC) has been taking them through a series of rigorous training sessions that are both institution-driven and student-driven, in line with our student ownership model.
On the institutional front, the CDC has developed an interview preparation curriculum for students. Students have also had the opportunity to practice through mock interviews and mock networking sessions which are preparing them to engage employers in professional and social settings such as cocktail networking events. These simulated sessions have helped them bring the skills they have learned in their Leadership Core classes to life.
“The mock interview was very informative. It was the first professional interview for most of us so there was a lot of learning happening. The biggest takeaway was that you have to be very specific. A lot of us like to say things like ‘I built a programme for high school,’ but you need to give more context like, ‘there was no computer programme available, I met that challenge and the school is still using it,’” recalls Sofonias Negussie, a student from Ethiopia.
The CDC is already seeing growth in students. “They have worked incredibly hard to prepare themselves for interactions with professionals who they will meet during the Reimagine Symposium and beyond. When the students finally meet the corporates next week, I think they are going to be pleasantly surprised at how much growth they have had in the last few weeks of training,” says Sutherland.
On the student driven front, the CDC has trained Residential Advisors (RAs) to coach their fellow classmates. RAs are students who are have been trained as peer leaders to help build a residential community for students and serve as the first resource for support.
The RA-led sessions are guided by ALC’s student-ownership principle where students are encouraged to be at the forefront of their experiences. RAs have been facilitating sessions where they coach their peers to become not only ALC ambassadors but ambassadors of themselves. This is to ensure that every student feels empowered and comfortable enough to engage with people outside the ALC community.
Topics covered by the RAs include how to answer questions effectively, dining etiquette, how to dress professionally and how to leave a memorable impression.
Moving forward, the CDC will train students who can act as professional coaches. These students will be able to help fellow students with things such as resumes, interview prep as well as support during internships. “If during an internship a student says ‘I don’t know how to give feedback to my manager,’ they should be able to call on their peers who will be the first point of contact,” says Sutherland.