|Education and Training|
SA HR Best Practice Summit Reportback
Best practices witnessed first hand at the "coal face".
At the first South African Human Resource Best Practice Summit, Sarah Babb and The Skills Framework (Pty) Ltd took delegates on a journey of best practices in a number of SA companies.
Dean Strooh, head of human capital MTN, shared some alternate views on defining diversity through notions of compatibility and capacity and trust. Some of the issues being raised refer to the real notion of how one manages HR when a corporation expands globally across such diverse countries and cultures? On the one hand in South Africa aims to embrace diversity, and to incorporate diversity for change and growth. The same may not, however, be the same in countries like Sudan, Iran, Nigeria…to what extent can one insist that diversity is embraced in these countries or does one work with the predominant culture, and the existing values set, albeit that they are dramatically different from ours? Given this how does one create and maintain a global brand?
HR professionals need to be aware of global trends and interpret these for best practice HR, in their specific context. Our ability to interpret trends and translate these into factors impacting human resources, is key to our role in providing input into the strategic objectives of the business. As Italia Boninelli bore witness to, from a Netcare perspective, the one key constraining factor affecting the growth of their business is that of scarce skills and the lack of key human resources talent. Human Resource professionals have to give input to the business strategy by bringing the human resource factors, strengths, competitive advantages and constraints to the table. It has been widely stated that a business’s competitive advantage depends on the capacity of its people- but it is our role in human capital to ensure that our human resources are configured and enabled to achieve the business strategic objectives. We both inform, and follow, the business strategic direction.
Dr Patience Naves, Group Executive Human Capital Service, emphasised the importance of HR crafting its space. Human Resources has a role as a business partner and as a deep expert in managing human resources. The presentation was provided with passion and insight which inspired the delegates to consider how they are taking their responsibility and accountabilities to the business to heart. Too often we ‘blame’ the business for not taking us seriously, yet we need to craft our own space and ensure our own capability to deliver business value.
Schalk Marais, the Group Organisational Performance Improvement Manager of PPC provided insight into a case study of how exceptional organisational performance and high levels of employee commitment and engagement have been consistently achieved - through people alone. Focused and clear Organisational performance processes and changes have been introduced systematically and intentionally, with close collaboration with the managers and staff alike. One of the key changes was actually making sure there was no HR department any more, as part of a process of empowering line managers to fulfil their role in managing their human capital. The transformation of HR into Organisational Performance consultants, is part of an overall journey PPC has been going through – the Kambuku Journey, which enabled PPC to win the Employer of Choice Deloitte award, and achieve sustainable organisational growth.
The issue of talent retention was a key theme of the summit. Some startling research is emerging, as Professor Margie Sutherland of GIBS shared with us. The previous notion of employees expecting employment for life, was largely debunked. The implication is that we need to rethink how we manage retention, and what retention we expect from employees. One key factor of retention that consensus was reached on, however, was that no matter how short or transactional the employment relationship might be, companies have to continue to develop their employees and leaders, as a factor or both attraction, performance and retention.
Building the Leadership pipeline or ‘leadership bench strength’ is one key factor assisting organisations such as Sappi, SABMiller and Sasol to develop and retain key talent and leaders. These three organisations shared their experiences and insight of building a talent pipeline, and the importance that investment in people development has brought to them in terms of talent management.
A Key theme was the importance of integrating the HR systems to focus on the outputs- that is the performance of people. The HR systems of performance management, competency frameworks, succession planning, assessments, career planning, Personal Development Plans, learning and development, if integrated and managed towards achieving the outcomes, were seen to contribute to performance and talent management. Professor Shirley Zinn, Group Human Resources Director of Nedbank, reiterated the points of HR being integral to achieving business success and to driving the values of the business, and that through the integration and focused efforts of HR that the business results will be reached.
The Nedbank site visit received extremely positive feedback, as delegates had the opportunity to gain insight into the various aspects of the e-Shared Services model implemented, with Dennis Ritter at the helm. Shared services is seen as one vehicle to deliver transactional HR services to internal clients efficiently and effectively. This enables the HR professionals at line and corporate level to focus on partnering with and delivering to the business.
The Eskom case study, presented by Takalani Musekwa, the Customer Services Managers of the Eskom Shared Services Unit, confirmed the need to change and re-focus the processes and systems of HR to achieve results and to enable the business to focus on strategic human capital management. Through the two inputs on Shard Services, there were many lessons learnt and these insights were appreciated by the delegates, as they could relate these back to their own businesses and experiences. The tone of the Summit was engaging, high spirited with a high level of discussion and questioning. In many respects it provided a true opportunity to open ones mind to seeing and doing things differently. A key theme was that we as HR, need to make the changes and elicit the right level of support, to partner and prove our value add to the business. Proving the value-add of HR also entails close measurement of the outputs, the impact of our efforts. Too often we focus on the inputs, the processes & systems and not the ouputs.
Rob van der Schyff, the group HRD manager of SABMiller, shared his seminal work in measuring the EVA of HRD initiatives, across the group. Through measuring the competencies, the changes in performance, through tracking HRD impact measures, the business is able to track this back to the impact on organisational performance and the business bottom line. The metrics shared by many speakers, bear testimony to two levels of requirements from HR- (1.) to actually have tight metrics in place, (2.) to share the outcomes of these metrics- which must be on the impact on business results. What we learnt is that this is not difficult, to find the measures, but it is about having the discipline to measure consistently and to analyse, interpret and communicate the results of these measures- warts and all! We often do not measure as we fear that the results will be negative. Yet this provides us with the baseline against which to show any improvements and they provide us with the data to identify what to do differently, so the case stands to rather have the data than not to have it!
The starting point is for HR to provide relevant services to the business, which will result in meaningful results for the business. The measurement and the business partnering are two sides of the same coin. What was raised is the importance of HR ourselves, building our own confidence and competence in understanding the business. We need to be innovative and creative in consulting with the internal clients to find the right solutions for people performance issues, and through our competence and contributions – credibility naturally follows.
Mr Eric Mafuna, Group Chairman of the African Leadership Group has conducted wide research into the emerging leadership models in Africa. He has developed the ‘constellation’ leadership model’ which bring to the forefront the processes of effective leadership, moving beyond the traditional models of the ‘big leader’ model- the assumptions that you need one great leader have largely been debunked. The leadership processes are more important, it appears to achieving effective leadership. This engaging presentation and discussion raised many thoughts as to how we identify leaders, build leaders and develop effective leadership processes in our organisation.
Leadership development is supported in sectoral initiatives such as through a centre of excellence such as the Institute of Bankers, or the BANKSETA, as well as through corporate universities such as the South African Reserve Bank college or the SAB Training Institute. It is as important however, that we carefully organise a business, design job roles and performance measures, and empower teams and leaders, and monitor performance, vision, values and strategy. The holistic view of the business as a system, enables us to think holistically and integrate processes through careful design, to achieve the desired outputs.
What emerged is that there is no one best practice, no ‘one size fits all’- each business or sector is different and is at a different stage of the lifecycle. So the objectives will be different and the people are different. It follows then that best practice is contextual and that each HR professional has the obligation to find the best solution that fits that business or sector. This makes the role of the HR practitioner invaluable to the business, in whatever form or name it comes, and it is our obligation to continue to contribute to business success, to learn and grow ourselves, to be flexible and continuously improve what we do and contribute.
Sarah Babb is the Managing Director of The Skills Framework (www.theskillsframework.com).