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Agri Careers: Meet an agricultural talent manager

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Mamotlatsi Portia Lepesa has always had an eye for talent in the workplace and she is driven to ensure that employees receive equal opportunities and are treated fairly. But “never in a million years” did she ever think that she would be using her skills to contribute to Mzansi’s farming sector.

Today, as the talent manager of one of Free State’s leading agricultural companies, VKB Group, it is Lepesa’s mission to ensure that the agribusiness is one of the preferred employers in SA.

The 39-year-old says that since she joined the industry about a four years ago, her eyes have been opened to the various opportunities within the sector. She studied environmental health, with a focus on occupational health and safety.

Lepesa stresses that people, especially students, “need to know that agriculture goes beyond being on the field. Farming is a business on its own, so there’s more to it than just crops and livestock.”

But what exactly goes into being a talent manager for one of Mzansi’s leading agricultural organisations?

1Sum up your job:
The title says it all, managing talented employees within VKB, aimed at motivating, engaging, developing and retaining employees. I try to ensure proper development for the talented employees. I oversee the implementation of employee engagement strategies like mentoring programs and succession planning. We identify individual learning initiatives that facilitate employee development.

I ensure that key talent gets needed resources to effectively lead our company towards strategic goals. I also need to ensure that leadership development happens at an appropriate level that meets the current and future needs of our company.

2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail?
I develop succession plans for critical, key positions as the transition of people in and out of business is a constant given. Business demands change, roles change, people’s circumstances change, and their employment needs also change.

We will always have vacancies that need filling, so I have to ensure that we are ready to have employees who will step into those positions. We conduct skills gap analyses to determine the needs of individuals and departments. I discuss career-pathing options with high-potential employees and map the career path. I’m responsible for developing and managing the internal young talent development programme.

3

What qualification do you need for this career?
You need a human resource related qualification, but talent management is an on-the-job-learning career.

 4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job?
The ideal candidate would be able to balance business needs with employee needs and learn to multitask. Talent management entails working with people day in and out, you definitely have to be an extrovert, compassionate and understanding. Some key skills you need to successfully do this job would also be communication, time management, conflict resolution and general business management. Being innovative and completely open also helps.

Pictured: Portia Lepesa with her husband (Lwandle), Daughter (Thandeka) and son (Lungile).
Pictured: Portia Lepesa with her husband (Lwandle), daughter (Thandeka) and son (Lungile).

5Have you always worked in the agriculture sector?
No, before I joined the agricultural sector, I was in the public sector, employed by the department of labour as an inspector for over 14 years.

6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in?
I like its diversity and that it is providing employment, also its contribution to supplying raw material and food to other sectors.

7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments?
I deal with sometimes unhappy, stagnating employees who need to be motivated into still seeing the bigger picture. My all-time proudest moments are being able to put a smile on someone’s face. That is when I feel proud that I made a difference in someone’s life. Happy employees are productive employees.

8What do you do when you’re not at work?
I spend time with my husband and our two lovely children. I love travelling, I play squash, I enjoy watching movies, preferably factual dramas. And yes, I do dancing fitness as well.

9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story?
Never stop giving life a chance. After all, not even the sky can limit you, we have the power within us. Do not be your own obstacle.

VKB is a Food For Mzansi partner. Our work is supported by the contributions of our partners, who have no right of control over editorial content. Read more on our Partners page.

Duncan Masiwa
Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.
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