AIMS International South Africa has qualified as one of South Africa’s Top Gender Empowered Companies and our Managing Partner, Leonie Pentz was interviewed by Standard Bank’s Top Women Leaders Magazine
We put sustainability at the core of our executive search and leadership development programmes. With fast changing consumer behaviour, in an increasingly connected and digitalised world that is in the midst of an energy revolution, and a new generation with new expectations, sustainability is essential to profitability.
- Elected to AIMS International Board in 2016 and represented the EMEA region on the Executive Board until present.
- Appointed as Vice President Sustainability AIMS International in 2019.
- Appointed as Global Leader Energy and Natural Resources 2016.
- Achieved Top 10 Business Providers in AIMS International in 2016 and again in 2020 out of all consultants globally.
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY INITIATIVES:
- Started an initiative to offer free voluntary coaching sessions to all AIMS staff by AIMS internal qualified coaches during pandemic.
- Initiated and coordinated making remote videos to introduce coaches to the internal teams.
- Started ‘Zoom cafes’ during lockdown where all staff could socialise and support each other during lockdown online, especially mothers who had to work from home while their children were not able to go to school. We encouraged people to introduce their children and pets, share their favourite meals and holiday destinations.
- Started ‘Die Geborgenheid’, a section on our international intranet to share inspirational and wellness topics.
- Arranged (and hosts some) regular workshops on sustainability topics such as ‘understanding vegetarianism’, ‘sustainability as a mega competency’, ‘happiness is a doing thing’, etc.
- Started ‘The Global Exchange’ a podcast channel where AIMS HR experts (and their clients) all over the world share and discuss methodologies and topics on employee wellness. Our first series, Leadership Via Remote Control will air soon.
We strive for and promote diversity and inclusion in our local organisation, not only internally, but also when discussing HR projects with clients. I utilise my position as VP Sustainability to influence and create robust discussions about these topics with all our global partners.
When starting my own company in 2009, one of my main drivers was flexibility and independence, as I have been a single parent raising three children since the girls were babies and realised that my two (at the time) support staff have the choice to work from home, which meant when the pandemic hit, we were ‘business as usual’ at the AIMS South African ‘office’! Skills are important, however behavioral competencies like emotional intelligence is more important in creating a happy and responsible workplace which in turn supports clients in a manner that is value- driven while striving for excellence.
HOW HAVE YOU IMPLEMENTED GENDER DRIVEN DEVELOPMENT IN THE WORKPLACE?
I wrote the Sustainability Policy for AIMS International, currently discussing with internal stakeholders and finalising in order to ‘vote into’ core AIMS policies. This policy embraces the UN SDGs and, in particular, SDG 5: namely Gender Equality. As part of this initiative, I am currently tracking female ownership and employment in AIMS Internationally as well as statistics on placing leaders in the different industries (Energy, Industrial, Consumer, Automotive, Financial Services, Life Sciences) worldwide.
HOW HAS GENDER EMPOWERMENT STRENGTHENED YOUR ORGANISATION?
By consciously adapting our work environment to a flexible outcomes-based space that includes remote working opportunities, female consultants and support staff are able to grow remote videosto introduce coaches to the internal teams.
- Started ‘Zoom cafes’ during lockdown where all staff could socialise and support each other during lockdown online, especially mothers who had to work from home while their children were not able to go to school. We encouraged people to introduce their tween daughters who needed more hands-on parenting. I decided to take the plunge and leave the safety of my employer and started working from home as a search consultant. I therefore have always been supportive of working mothers and single females who are expected to juggle their careers with many other priorities. All my consultants and their careers while raising children. One of my consultants has just had her third little girl since starting to work for me eight years ago! This brings stability and continuity to the business. This also extends to the men in our business. Arthur Nkuna, who is my partner working from Gauteng, works from home which allows him to care for his two-year old son while his wife, who is also a career woman, goes to the office most days. This is the kind of mindset that we promote; parenting is a partnership and equality in the workplace is not negotiable.
WHAT ARE YOUR ORGANISATION’S GENDER EQUALITY AND BEE RATINGS AND POLICIES?
We are B-BBEE level 4 (we are currently in the final stages of a new partnership that will change us to level 2).
- 100% female owned
- 66% female staff
- 50% African Management
- 50% African local staff
(most recent data received based on 2020 year). Female ownership: 37% of all partner businesses’ shares are female-owned.
Female staff: 67% of total staff employed are female.
Total executive search stats: 37.7% of all placements made were female out of the
22 countries who participated in the survey worldwide.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT AND FUTURE TRENDS IN YOUR SECTOR?
- Digitalisation: AI, Big Data, Applicant tracking systems, etc.
- Globalisation accelerated by ‘the new normal’: creating remote work opportunities and possibly equalising pay for equal work across borders.
- Employer branding of traditional ‘employers of choice’ will come under threat and needs to adapt to new generations and demanding employees.
WHAT TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS ARE YOU USING IN YOUR ORGANISATION TO KEEP IN LINE WITH THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION (4IR)?
I believe that we absolutely should use computers and online tools to enhance our businesses and our lives. However, we should be mindful not to replace the human factor where it matters most. I have always been an early adopter when it comes to IT, and remember hauling my first desktop PC into my office at Quest personnel in 1993, so that I could put candidate CVs on a ‘floppy’ instead of using reams of paper in the CV preparation process – Yes. We used to courier CVs every Friday to our clients, can you imagine that?
A computer does not have emotional intelligence and therefore there are certain key services that have to be supplied by humans – services which require EQ. In-line with this belief, together with my Swiss AIMS Partners and my son, who is a tech manager, I am a partner in an HR IT start-up called Skillosophia.
Skillosophia is the brainchild of Catherine Librandi Depeursinge, a psychologist and qualified executive coach who speaks five languages fluently and my mentor in all things related to leadership development and assessments. We are in the development phase of an on-line tool that will help HR managers and business leaders measure, understand and enhance the human skill sets in their organisations.
HOW ARE YOU INTEGRATING THE DRIVE FOR SUSTAINABILITY INTO YOUR ORGANISATION?
We put sustainability at the core of everything we do. As part of my role as VP Sustainability, I have written a sustainability policy for AIMS international with the view to make this part of our code of conduct. I have also started tracking gender stats in the international organisation.
Building sustainability into our core business offerings:
- Talent Management
- Organisational Effectiveness
- Executive Search
- Employee Branding
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON DOING BUSINESS IN AFRICA?
I believe in Africa and her people. With Africa’s upcoming young population this continent has to be the future, even if we do have challenges. Within AIMS International, I promote Africa and develop Africa as part of the EMEA region. I still hear myself in meetings ten, fifteen years ago as the only African delegate, when AIMS was far more Eurocentric (and emerging markets meant Eastern Europe) repeating at every conference when Europe featured a lot; “the ‘A’ in EMEA is for Africa!”
Today I am proud to say that I have reliable partners in Egypt (with female ownership), Morocco and Nigeria. Together with Karim, my partner in Morocco and fellow executive Board member, we are working at expanding our region in addition to developing an ‘Associate Partner’ model to accommodate Executive Search companies in countries where the exchange rate is tricky and membership and participation fees a huge barrier to entry into the current AIMS Partnership model.
WHAT SKILLS DO YOU THINK LEADERS OF THE FUTURE ARE GOING TO NEED?
The Leader-Coach management style is becoming essential, especially during times of crisis, such as this pandemic coupled with the difficulty that employees are facing in an increasingly remote and digital working space.
The new generation demands both an authentic consumer and employer brand and business leaders need to take note. Governance and shareholders demand responsible and sustainable leadership.
This behavioural style can be assessed, and the right competencies developed, through coaching and training. To be able to adapt your style is important; to be empathetic, yet decisive when need be and, most of all, engage your team to work for a common purpose is essential to build a sustainable business.