A renowned leader whose excellent workmanship can be seen through his dedication towards steering the Institute of Development Management (IDM) ship that holds the three nations of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland together (BOLESWA), Richard Malikongwa boasts of a rich and diverse work history, in different fileds; the mining sector, finance and human resources. He is a versatile leader, who believes in a challenging environment which, in his words, has always played a role in evolving his professional life. A Roman Catholic at heart, his community activities include choral music and charity work dedicated towards enhancing humanity. STAFF WRITER VICTORIA MARUMO talks to the doting father of two, who hails from Mapoka in the North East, to better understand how his background and people’s skills prepared him for his role as IDM Regional Director.
Q. What is the value of People in an institution?
A: People are the center of everything that happens in an institution and are the epitome of the institution henceforth, their role needs to be very clear; their impact, expectations of them, and also that they are part of any outcomes of the organization. People matter in organizations and need to know the impact of their decisions and of their actions, henceforth they are the lifeline of the organization. They an enabler, like other enablers; you have got processes, you have got technology but people are very pivotal. The quality of the people that make up an institution are important in terms for service delivery.
Q: From your experience in driving the People agenda in organizations, what insights can you share that make successful establishments?
A: It is important that the people agenda in an organization is cleared, for people to be proud to work for their organizations, henceforth a conducive environment is needed in order for people to thrive. People ought to know that their input is important in achieving the organizational objectives and must be aware of the goals set in their organization. My experience in driving the people agenda, is that you need to dissect your people agenda, you need specific sectors that people can attest to, and people can align to.
Moreover, there is need to, for example, define your performance management system; people need to know what is expected of them, how they are rewarded, and how they are recognized. You need to have talent management systems, such that you identify talent, proceed to grow talent, and ultimately, you entrust that talent with responsibilities that can help you reach your goals. Furthermore, you need to have learning development programmes and be able to equip your team with the right skills so they have competencies to be able to deliver. You need to have rewards for people in your organization such that when they intensify their work, they have clear expectations about rewards that are coming. You need to have change management strategies in place, such that when you embrace change, you take people along with you. You need to have your transformation plan clear. You need to have a clear transformation plan, accompanied by transformation strategies. If you fully implement all these, is guarantee of change and you will take your organization to greater heights.
Q: Having worked in diverse environments such as Central and West Africa, as well as the US, what have been your greatest learnings?
A: Greatest learnings I’d say, you need to define your organizational culture. It is very important as we all come from different cultures and experiences. As IDM that ties three countries of BOLESWA, in as much as we are homogenous, we are also heterogeneous due to the different cultures and henceforth it is important what assess what kind of engagement we want to have, to ensure that we are aligned. It is also very important to be able to manage change as an institution because change is inevitable, organizations are forever evolving, and adapting; how do we manage to and align with the mission we have put henceforth. Those are the two key elements that I can share and if you get them right, the rest will follow suit.
Q: Specifically take us through the strategies you have pulled together as the captain of the ship that carries three nations of Southern Africa, (BOLESWA) with different cultural backgrounds, what is keeping you awake?
A: Looking at this organization, which dates back as far as 1974, and having transformed over a period of time to address the needs of our environments; It’s been a journey for the past five years of transforming this organizations, to ensure that it achieves its objectives and that it also adapts to the varied needs of the environment therein. We have adopted the balanced score card approach, which, is common but not fully implemented. We really had to look at the four quadrants of the balanced score card and focus on our people to see;
- how we manage to create solutions?
- how do we manage performance?
- how do we keep our people?
- How do we manage change?
So that has been the approach we used in focusing on our people and been able to standardize the approach to fit our peculiar environment towards the right direction. It has worked very well for us. We also had to look at our internal processes, asking ourselves how efficient are they, whether they are yielding the intended outcomes? we have looked at optimal use of technology. I am very proud that IDM was way ahead of other institutions in terms of utilization of e-learning platforms, too way ahead as this has been part of our learning structure since before Covid-19. Moreover, we had to look at our external. The strategy was further aimed at enhancing user experience, enhancing student experience, in order to get better outcomes. We have had to look at our stakeholders, in a similar regard, and to also see how we can add value to their experience with us as IDM. This has worked wonders for us, and has helped to enhance our brand visibility and our engagement. We continue to receive feedback on the positive impact IDM is having from the three countries.
And ultimately looked our financial performance, taking into consideration factors that can help us stay relevant; What products and services we introduce to the market that are sustainable in the market, our consultancies, our training that we do and also engagements just to diversify revenues. This has been our journey for the past five years, proud to have been associated with it and hope we can continue to be true to our vision as IDM.
Q: In simple terms, what is the recipe for a successful organization so far as people are concerned?
A: It is important as I earlier mentioned, to recognize people and define their role but also, be very clear to people. Organizations are not set to create jobs but to create value to stakeholders. IDM was set up to create value in our environment and henceforth people need to understand this. You come here to be part of that journey and, people come in to play their role in this journey. As IDM we have insured that we define the role, we have created the culture of excellence, and make sure that people are passionate about creating excellence. Moreover, we have been able to embrace people and ensure that as we change, we embrace the change; because cause people who embrace change, are ready to deliver. The other key thing is transformation in an organization. People need to be taken aboard transformation; there will be resistance, which is natural but we need to be very clear that the train is leaving the station and have to be onboard it, or else some will be left behind. That has been the essence of it all. We receive feedback, we acknowledge it, and henceforth been able to take our institution to greater heights.
Q: The people have spoken, they rated IDM among the top 3 high ranking institutions in Botswana, tell us the chemistry that you and your leadership team implored to turn it around
A: As a collective, we sat down and deliberated on what our vision as IDM is, five years ago, and then we had to find the harbor as to how we are going to get there, through the strategy that I just outlined; the specific baby steps that we took in but most importantly for us to be able to achieve our mandate, we needed to engage our stakeholders. We had tracer studies, where we traced our students who have completed to hear from the industry, what kind of needs does industry want and how we can actually infuse that into our developmental programmes. We looked of issues of leaderships, of entrepreneurship and of diversity by way of the strategy I alluded to, managed to elevate IDM. This was all done, without forgetting to leave room for creativity. This involved trial and error which is important in order to transform the institution.
IDM went on to program adoption as one of the many ways to cater to our students, and this came in various methods inclusive of block weekend classroom. One weekend compensates for a weekly lesson, to cushion those who go to work and are unable due to commitments during the week. Not only that, but our e-learning platform plays a significant role in service delivery to even to our student base in the furthest corners of the country, who attend lessons without having to come in physically.
Q: Looking back at your history in HR, and present day, what are some of the challenges HR is facing and will fail in the future?
A: Like any scenario, when an entity faces challenges of course containment, the target is always human resources. Either you stop training, you stop recruiting, you start considering restructuring and or retrenchment. That has been a challenge, firstly because what you see is suspension of training which becomes a burden, the shortest solution you are saving becomes the longest problem long term. The second one is, as a result of consequences of people having not being skilled enough, and also not being assisted through psycho social support; what you see is when an organization really has to tighten the belt, the human element is the culprit in the organization and an employer is quick to be branded as an employer who is only after profit and that has been a challenge. The u fortunate reality is that jobs are not forever, but skill yourself for life. The biggest challenge again is getting people to appreciate their role. People need to see the bigger picture.