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AGGREKO AFRICA: WORKING ID BUILD STRONG AFRICAN LEADERSHIP: Interview with John Lewis, Managing Director, Africa--Aggreko.

Aggreko supplies temporary power generation equipment and temperature control equipment in over 100 countries, but the company puts a firm emphasis on its local expertise. John Lewis, its Managing Director for Africa, talks to us about how it is developing the employee experience in its African operations

How do you see the landscape today in Africa and the future forAggreko's business here?

It's a strongly performing part of the Aggreko business. Aggreko operates all around the world in all the continents, and Africa is a strong market for us traditionally. We are particularly well known for shorter term emergency power across a range of fuel types, technologies and size of generator, from short term demands for a couple of days up to months or even to two to three years.

Increasingly, we are seeing longer-term demands, and we are evolving to fulfil that need with new technology such as hybrids: solar battery arrays combined with thermal power, and also larger, more efficient engines which we refer to as a power block. We are obviously still doing the shorter term work, and it is still a strong part of our market, but we are increasingly getting into those longer term solutions across a range of customers from utilities through to industrial applications like mining, and oil and gas.

We know there is a really strong link between the employee experience and leadership in a number of areas. What's your philosophy on how leadership impacts on the employee experience, and what do you do to try and influence the employee experience positively at Aggreko?

You're absolutely right, I think it's fundamental. What Aggreko is about are our people, and our teams and their motivation, their skills and their application to what we do. That's what stands Aggreko out from everyone else. So a fundamental role of our leadership is to make sure our teams have got the capability, they've got the motivation, and they're focused, they're engaged and doing the right things for our customers.

We take a view in Aggreko, that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work--our business has extensive diversity which is unique in the industry. So as an example we operate in over 100 countries globally, where we speak probably 15 to 20 different languages, and in Africa alone we're in about 25 countries and of course we have a diversity of cultures and customs. So when it comes to communicating our vision, and engaging people, we need to factor all that in and make sure we're trying to think locally, and think what matters to individuals and the countries that they're operating in. Whether that's culture or language, really focusing in on the inclusivity part of it, and making sure when we do communicate, which we do frequently, that we're doing it in the right way, with the right media.

In terms of skills for your workforce, what are the key areas that you are looking for in order to drive the business forward?

There's a range of skills that we look for, so if I start with technical skills for operating our plants, then our modus operandi is to employ and train local people. That's a key focus of ours, it's one of the values we bring, so unlike some of our competition, we will deploy our global experts into a site, and one of their roles is to make sure they-are developing and training locals. Over time what we have seen is those local teams develop their skills and experience to then broaden their horizon within Aggreko and travel the world potentially.

That's a key initiative for us and actually it really pleases me to see Africans who have come up through that route now in pretty senior roles across the Aggreko business. My head of engineering is from Cameroon. He started out as a technician and is now one of the leading engineers in Africa. For the other skills, we've traditionally relied on the international expat community, but what I'm particularly keen on --and we've started an initiative in the past year--is making sure that we're recruiting the management talent within Africa itself.

What would be the key areas of employee experience and overall talent that you would like to improve in the coming couple of years?

There is a range--first of all our markets are continually evolving, and we're moving into a world where we're tailoring solutions for lots of customers, and we are particularly focused on developing expertise in specific sectors. So one of the things that we're looking to do is making sure we've got the specialised skills in those areas.

It's a different solution for an offshore oil and gas platform versus a mine, versus a heavy industrial user, so having those sectorised skills is very important to us. And within the context of that changing and evolving market, and all the things I've talked about, one of the key things is leadership and making sure that our leaders are globally renowned and that they understand the range of responsibilities they have.

As a bit of background, how did you get to be overseeing Aggreko, and what has driven you to this point?

I did an electronic engineering degree at the University of Leeds, quickly followed by an MBA, and I worked initially and most of my career in the telecoms industry across different parts of the world.

What brought me to Aggreko is extensive experience in general management, in business-to-business, business to government environments. The telecoms world has gone through a lot of the changes we're now seeing in the energy and utility world in Aggreko's market, so I've got a lot of experience in understanding how to respond to fast-moving customer demands and engaging with clients to make sure you're seen as a trusted advisor to them to understand their evolution and their challenges rather than just trying to sell them your product. So that's where we're headed and that's what I bring to the party.

What would be your top tips for aspiring business leaders across Africa?

When it comes down to leadership, it's not about you, it's about the team, and I think people often find that leap hard to make. If you can multiply your capabilities a dozen times with your team, then you've got a much stronger team than just you trying to do everything. So I think, number one is spend enough time communicating, engaging, coaching and developing people to make sure that they benefit from your experience and oversight, and avoid the micromanagement.

I talk about the story of my son who was a good rugby player and was frustrated with the other members of the team who weren't pulling their weight, and I encouraged him to develop into being the captain, to encourage others and get them to play as well as him and multiply his capabilities 15 times. To me that is the number one thing for leadership. The functional skills, the expertise, is taken as read when you are at senior levels--it's about making sure you're sharing your experience to make sure that others are stepping up as well.

With global organisations leadership needs to be representative of the customer base it serves. I want a strong African leadership across a diverse range of nationalities, cultures, sexes to be represented at Aggreko Africa and we are working hard to achieve that.

Caption: John Lewis (pictured opposite) says that Aggreko's emphasis on the motivation, skills and application of its teams makes the firm stand out.
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Title Annotation:Talent Matters: The Employee Experience
Comment:AGGREKO AFRICA: WORKING ID BUILD STRONG AFRICAN LEADERSHIP: Interview with John Lewis, Managing Director, Africa--Aggreko.(Talent Matters: The Employee Experience)
Publication:African Business
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Aug 1, 2019
Words:1253
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