That’s what Joseph Shields, CEO of Ethiochicken in Ethiopia, says when people ask him what his biggest challenge is. Unfortunately, many early-stage companies are too busy driving sales, refining their product and putting out fires to think about developing the soft skills of their middle managers.
Leading global impact investor Acumen, along with CEOs across their portfolio of social enterprises, realised this was a big mistake.
“Talent is the biggest issue for many of our investee companies, whether they know it or not,” said Molly Alexander, Head of Talent Development at Acumen. “However, investing in talent development is not yet a strategic priority for most early stage companies.
The so-called ‘soft skills’ required to lead teams and successfully manage change are difficult to find, and rarely addressed by traditional training options.”
Convinced that a lack of strong middle-management talent is a key bottleneck to growth across its investee companies, Acumen partnered with the African Management Initiative to design a practical management development program specifically for Senior and Middle Managers.
“At Acumen, we feel that talent development solutions need to be practical, affordable and accessible, focusing on both hard and soft skills. AMI is the perfect partner to build this with clients.”
AMI is delivering a programme for a cohort of 25 senior managers across nine of Acumen’s East and West African portfolio companies. Like most of AMI’s interventions, the Senior Manager Development programme with Acumen focuses on practical results and aims to make managers more effective on the job. It combines the impact of in-person workshops with the convenience of online study. It has the added benefit of leveraging a blended-learning approach in order to create multiple in-person touch points for this community of managers to learn directly from one another.
“What I liked most from the AMI workshop was that it was interactive and practical,” said Kasawuli Rogers, Finance Manager for KZ Noir. “The content is focused on helping us build practical skills to tackle day-to-day challenges, and has great relevancy to everything we do.”
AMI works with impact investors like Acumen, as well as funds, corporates, SMEs, non-profits, enterprise development intermediaries and donors to design customised programmes for entrepreneurs, managers and youth across Africa. AMI is about to launch a programme with a major Nigerian bank to train thousands of SMEs to get them ready to access finance, and is supporting an SME-development programme in Ghana to help agribusinesses build sales and marketing skills.
If you want to help build business, management or work-readiness skills within your portfolio, client base or among beneficiaries, get in touch to see how we can help at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re delighted at the response we’ve had from participants so far,” said Acumen’s Alexander. “We hope to expand this programme in future.”