Silica’s Digital Transformation Journey

Sue McLaggan

Learning and Change Consultant at Silica

November 29, 2018

Our Learning and Development (L&D) team at Silica is playing a valuable part in transforming our organization to ensure that we’re ready for the future world of work. Through our recently established Digital Learning Academy (DLA), we have been upskilling and reskilling employees whose roles will be less in demand due to Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, and digitization. Roles of a purely manual data capture nature will reduce over time, and roles in project management, software development, client relationship management and technical, business and test analysis will be of greater importance to our organization.

Removing the pain and paper through digitizing processes

Silica is a business process outsourcing and technology company. We offer services to the investment industry in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we are working toward making investments accessible to all potential investors. In addition, our goal is to ensure investment transactions are processed seamlessly and quickly. For example, our use of AI, robotics, and automation will mean we can process an investment application from beginning to end in just hours instead of days. By removing the “pain and paper” of manual data capture processes, our clients enjoy better end-to-end service. However, to achieve this goal, our L&D team is responsible for transitioning and re-skilling our workforce for this digital transformation.

Transforming our employee skill set through our Digital Learning Academy

Silica’s Digital Learning Academy offers full-time, three-month programs. Programs are made up of curricula compiled by our L&D team, time allocated for job shadowing, and time allocated for mentoring sessions with subject matter experts. Our curricula include online learning courses, face-to-face classroom training sessions, and group coaching sessions. Employees apply for one of ten places in each Academy intake. Two intakes are planned for every year, and each intake covers three programs. For example, our upcoming intake for February 2019 offers a choice of Junior Developer program, Generic Analyst (Business/Technical/Test analyst) program, or Project Coordinator program. Candidates choose their program based on the role they are most interested in.

Our Academy’s online learning is sourced from Udemy for Business courses, because we feel the online learning platform provides both engaging and up-to-date content. Although we focus on developing technical skills, we also include online courses that develop soft skills such as emotional intelligence and change management to equip people to adapt to the current rapidly changing environment. One example is the Udemy for Business course “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott.

We find that many of the Digital Academy participants continue to enroll in Udemy for Business online courses post the formal program, and have taken on roles as mentors for other employees.

Including all our employees in our preparation for the future world of work

Beyond the Digital Academy, we also make learning accessible to our broader workforce by offering Udemy for Business licenses to all interested Silica employees. These employees are allocated a Udemy for Business license for a period of twelve months, during which time they can enroll for any business course and complete it at their own pace. We in L&D support this process by recommending courses to staff either at their request or communicating to employees when we find a course relevant to our business and skills needs.

The skills we want to develop are those that will combine the best AI and the best people have to offer.

We’re just getting the ball rolling on these initiatives, and it’ll be exciting to evolve our approach over time. Our purpose in L&D is to grow our people so that they can innovate and co-create the future way of investing in our chosen markets.

About the author:

Sue McLaggan is a Learning and Change consultant in the Business Transformation Team at Silica. She designs learning programs and provides change management and leadership development services at Silica.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at

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