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Gathering around the fire to tell stories: Talent Connect 2018

by Carol Butcher
Africa has a rich oral tradition. Story telling is part of our DNA. For centuries, Africans have gathered around under a tree or around a fire to tell stories to illustrate, inform, make sense of the world or to pass on or preserve their tribal history.
In keeping with this tradition, Talent Talks recently hosted its TalentConnect event at the Origins Centre at Wits. The setting was intimate. Talent Talks contributor, Ursula Fear urged guests to feel at home and imagine that they were being hosted in people’s homes. She urged guests to listen to real people recounting real stories.
MC, Bebe-Oyegun Adeoye: Director Talent Management: MEA Zone Schneider-Electronic said stories were very important. She said the power of stories lies in the fact that it enables us to look at what has happened and to find that thing that is important and take this forward.
The list of guest speaker was very impressive. Representatives from RMB, Thomson Reuters Africa, Jaguar Land Rover, Coface and Schneider-Electric generously shared their journeys, their stories.
RMB’s presentation focused on how the bank has created a powerful organisation by empowering women. They have done so not by implementing a programme, but by launching the Athena conversation, inspired by the Greek Goddess, Athena.
Key learnings include:

  • Ensuring that women do not picture a particular role as it is today, but evolve the role as it needs to look for them
  • Appointing those who want to lead and acknowledging that not everyone wants to lead
  • Putting people in a role and allowing them to be themselves
  • Women do not need to man-up for a role – they should embrace their femininity.

Key learnings from Schneider Electric include:

  • Move quickly to action
  • You need to have the courage to identify what is not working and ask: “How can we fix this in a bold way?”

Thomson Reuters is known for employing an extremely diverse workforce; it is also doing a sterling job to exclude slave traders from the global financial sector. Important lessons include:

  • The importance of integrity in business
  • Hire a diverse workforce. Look for passion rather than experience when hiring. You can always train for a specific role
  • The importance of conscientious capitalism. The organisation has been very successful at raising awareness around slave labour. Raising awareness around these practices has resulted in organisations such as Volkswagen removing mica from their supply chain.

Jaguar Land Rover shared how the company recognised that it needed to be people led. The company has undergone a “revolution.”
Key lessons include:

  • Everything needs to start with Exco
  • If you make me feel special, I will feel part of the company
  • Trust is critical to organisational success
  • Getting buy-in from internal customers translates into exceptional customer service.

Coface operates in a very niche market. Their story demonstrates that you do not need to be a large corporate to have a compelling story to tell.
Their key learnings include:

  • You don’t have to have large budgets to change the organisational culture
  • Recognition, and a personal touch – the CEO wishes every staff member on their birthday and gives them with a chocolate, makes people feel part of the organisation and valued. Employees perform at a high-level, because they have bought into what the organisation stands for.

What stories do you tell your employees to motivate them and to attach importance to your organisational history and vision for the future? Do you have a story to tell? Talent Talks would love to hear from you.


“Thank you for a day of incredible value and insight.  There is nothing greater than learning through story telling.  Well done on the conference.” – Kay Vittee, Adcorp

“A big thank you to you ladies for the opportunity. It was a learning curve for me and the team thoroughly enjoyed it” – Tanya Ramlagan, Jaguar Land Rover

“This was without a doubt a fantastic event as well as great learning experience. Thank you for providing the platform for amazing sharing and connection with our peers’’ – 
Stephanie Simon, Thomson Reuters

“It was such a great opportunity to reflect on our journey” – Liaan Kretschmar, Jaguar Land Rover

“Thanks for a wonderful session.  I found immense value in the discussions held and I really enjoyed Bebe’s drive and passion as the MC.  This idea of storytelling is a tool that we should all be using going forward. From these type of sessions we can learn what is happening around us, understand why mistakes happened by hearing from those that are brave enough to share with us, and then looking forward we can develop networks that will enable us to work together on mutual goals”  – Monique Pretorius, University of Pretoria

“Congratulations on an insightful event!” – Catherine Peter, One Young World

‘’I am really pleased that it was a successful event and that we could add to the conversation. We always enjoy the opportunity to share these messages’’ – Liesl Bebb-McKay, RMB

‘’Thank you very much for the opportunity Sue  ………………  we enjoyed the experience’’ – Jacqui Jooste, Coface

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