by Janine Noble

Vital skills for 2013

It appears 'common sense' is not that common in SA

Director of the 2013 DHL Tomorrow's Leaders Convention
Kekeletso Khena

To succeed in the shifting and challenging business landscape of the 21st century, employees need to rethink their old views and harness a new construction of attitudes and abilities. While there are crucial skills and characteristics every employee will need in the South African workplace, such as an appropriate qualification and work experience, the most overlooked, and often most power skill, is ‘common sense’ – the basic level of practical judgement.

This is according to Kekeletso Khena, director of the 2013 DHL Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention, South Africa’s premier leadership alumni gathering comprised of an enviable combination of seasoned industry and civil society leaders, South Africa’s corporate black-belts in the making, as well as middle- to senior-level corporate executives from all sectors of our economy.

Khena says the most difficult skill to find in the workplace is what we loosely call common sense – not common knowledge and not formally learnt skills. “While collaborative skills, cultural intelligence, emotional intelligence (EQ), connecting the digital dots and great communication skills are key, what makes one stand out in the company of others who possess the same qualification and skills set is not common knowledge, but common sense – a cognitive ability to intuitively know the right thing to do.” 

She says that in today’s fast-paced corporate environment, change is the only constant. This, coupled with companies’ limited resources, means that employers are likely to hire staff who are able to apply logic to solve problems, rather than candidates who constantly need to be upskilled.

Khena adds that it is no secret that the current global economy, the digital age, and the scarcity of resources require employees to be multi-talented, which requires employees to have various cognitive skills.

“With the shift from circumscribed careers to boundary-less careers, employees are confronted with problems outside their previous experiences. No norms and very few models exist to teach employees how to evaluate, plan, review, analyse, promote or, otherwise, live out a boundary-less career.

“These additional skills that are then required don’t come naturally and are instead learnt through observation and application, which again requires common sense for effective application,” she notes. 

A task that may be perceived as an easy process and conclusion does not necessarily come as readily to others; for this reason, common sense is sometimes worth more than formal qualifications.

“In order to be competitive in your field, employees not only need to be skilled, they need the ‘X-factor’, which is the ability and willingness to solve problems on their own and come up with solutions that add value to their company. This skill and quality alone will lead employees on the path of one day becoming a leader of tomorrow,” concludes Khena.

The 2013 DHL Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention will be taking place at Emperors Place on 13 March 2013. The format of the event allows for high-level interaction with all participants, a highlight being the sector-related breakaway sessions covering up to 10 key segments of South Africa's economy. Nominations are now open to put forward companies' leaders of tomorrow. For further information, visit 

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