The modern business environment seems to be in a constant state of flux – with factors like technology deeply influencing business models and consumer purchasing. As the wants and needs of employees have changed, so have the expectations of employers operating their businesses within the modern business environment.
Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of workforce solutions provider Manpower South Africa, looks at how modern employers are looking for staff that can assist them in navigating the modern business world.

“Operating within tough economic times means businesses are more careful and mindful of how they spend their money, even in terms of employees,” explains van den Barselaar. “Businesses do not have the time or the funds to ‘make mistakes’ when it comes to hiring, so they are looking for ways to find the best talent and retain it.”

One sure way of cutting back on costs is hiring multi-skilled individuals, who are able to cover several areas of two traditionally separate job functions, which may now overlap due to an evolution within the industry or business. “Besides the cost saving benefit, employers are looking to hire individuals who are able to adapt to the constantly changing needs of the business and adapt to using new technologies. Individuals who have studied, trained or have experience in several areas of the business are likely to be able to adapt quickly, and ensure the business remains productive and relevant,” adds Van den Barselaar.

That being said, she notes that employers are also investing in more skills development for their existing employees, to ensure their businesses are able to adapt to the changing needs of their target market and are able to remain technologically relevant.

“It is our view that job seekers and current employees should also take it upon themselves to continuously upskill. This does not have to be an expensive exercise either, there are many short courses and information resources available on the Internet and free to anyone interested,” she says.

She notes that employers, especially those with longstanding companies, are looking to hire individuals who are innovative, out-of-the-box thinkers.

“In order to make their businesses more appealing to the modern consumer, employers are looking to attract employees who will be able to drive positive change within the organisation and assist in driving it forward, with innovative ideas. Business models are changing rapidly, as the wants and needs of the consumer evolve, and it is imperative for businesses to adapt in order to remain relative and continue operating.

“A business’ most important asset is its people, and employers are aware that the kind of individuals they need to employ is changing, and becoming even more imperative for the success of their organisations.”

Having said that, van den Barselaar acknowledges the importance of soft skills. “While technological and business development skills are increasingly important, the importance of soft skills – such as interpersonal communication, client management, telephone skills – remain essential for the success of the business,” she says.

Importantly, she notes that employers are looking to attract individuals who have a sales orientated or customer centric mind set. “Businesses operating in the modern business environment are looking to have teams that are focused on growing and developing the business, whether they are part of the actual sales team or not.”

Moreover, employees with a relatively well-rounded view of how the business fits into the sector, and how the sector fits into and is affected by the larger economy are an asset to businesses operating in the modern business environment.

“Having this broader understanding of the economy makes each employee an asset to the business, as their thinking around the business and its goals will be on a deeper level, rather than just focusing on their tasks at hand.”

Van den Barselaar notes that employers are also looking for employees that have a well-rounded knowledge of their particular industry as well as their function within the business. “For example, someone working in social media within an engineering company who has a view of the latest trends within the social media space, as well as the latest developments within the engineering industry will be able to advise on the best kind of content to develop and share to drive engagement and conversation with the target market, and grow the company’s following.”

In conclusion, she says: “As the world continues to change, so does the business environment. It is important for all people, regardless of their role or the industry they work in, to remain upskilled and educated. Job seekers and those entering the business environment for the first time need to be especially focused on their own skills development and the role they want to take on, as businesses will be looking to them to advise and assist in the success of the business.”

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