Create a place for performance

Individual employee performance models will help improve employee performance.

In general, people go to work to fund their lives. If work were more rewarding and satisfied our needs such as recognition, enjoyment and accomplishment, people would want to give more of their expertise, time and effort and be more effective. Therefore the core focus of any employee performance model should be the individual.

But how do you get more out of each individual? When you know what makes a person more productive you can put in place a plan to nurture that. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all performance model. We aren’t robots that can be programmed to a manager’s specifications. However, if we produce a performance model specifically for each person, we will get a lot more out of them.

Business performance is about focusing on the individual and fostering an environment suitable for development – the individual may be able to tell you what that environment for growth would look like. Otherwise a good manager will base that model only on their observations of the person and on their strengths and weaknesses.

For example, a CEO who functions, copes and performs in a certain way will need to be challenged to develop further according to his specific needs. These same challenges may not apply to a director who may function, develop and grow in a different way. To get the very best out of people, you need to value who they are and what they have to offer.

If you have a human resources professional who functions and views the world in a certain way, that person will recruit staff who fit into their own world view or frame of reference. They will undervalue people who do not fit in with their framework. This is not a fault, it is human nature. However, this can have detrimental effects on a company because eventually people outside this framework will get pushed out and the company will end up with only people of a specific profile. When we learn to recognise that people are different and different is good, we create opportunities for effective business performance.

Examples of different types of managers:

Frame of reference A1: This manager is goal and profit orientated;
Frame of reference A2: This manager is future-growth and creative ideas orientated;
Frame of reference A3: This manager is methodical and traditional; and
Frame of reference A4: This manager is team orientated and values cohesion.

A manager who functions in one or two of these areas will undervalue the other two areas. However, for a well-functioning, high-performing company, all four areas are important. If he were solely responsible for recruitment or development programmes, he would hire individuals that spoke his business language. That would give him a sense of security in those areas but unfortunately the company would end up with a team who fit a certain profile but lack in other areas. Everyone can learn to be in all four areas but hiring people who fit comfortably into each allows them to contribute to the company from their own specific areas of strength and comfort.

Businesses therefore need to recognise or become aware of the differences amongst staff, the strengths that they hold, how they complement each other and how one staff member is not valued more than another. Each contributes in different ways to the functioning of the company. If you learn to appreciate the differences and recognise the valuable contribution each team member can make, you are already fostering a place for performance. Your company needs to develop a model that is unique to its individuals and realise that investing in each individual is an investment in the business.

Lauren Leon is a counselling psychologist at Psychologists Centurion,, an independent private practice. She did her MA research on sport performance, focusing on athletes’ abilities to perform in discomfort.

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

Hiring people? Approving mortgages? It’s the same thing

Credit risk techniques can help you hire the right people for your organisation.

Imagine that Chris wants to buy a house and needs a mortgage. He applies online and is sent an email by an intern asking to schedule time to discuss his interest. The intern conducts the initial screening conversation, they schedule him for an “in person” interview during which time he is interviewed by quite a few people who ask many questions.

Chris is curious because nobody asks about his current job or how he expects to pay the mortgage. Nobody asks about other credit or past credit history. They seem more interested in his current zip code, engagement in his current community and other demographics. They ask if it’s ok to review his social media data – which feels invasive and perhaps irrelevant, but he agrees because he really needs the mortgage.

Success! Mortgage approved

Chris is surprised when they approve him for the loan. He’s done his own budgeting and it seems risky. But he really wants the house. Approving mortgages is their business, so he places some value in their risk assessment process. Don’t they know the factors that signal/predict successful and unsuccessful creditors?

Six months later, Chris is struggling to pay his mortgage and begins to fall behind on payments. He explains his situation to the mortgage manager. They are able to restructure the mortgage, giving him more years to pay it off and smaller payments. He works with their credit counselors and even agrees to attend training to learn more. He struggles and tries to make his mortgage payments through the next year. He means well but he just can’t pay his bills. Finally, Chris files for bankruptcy. He loses his home. The lender has a terrible financial loss but repeats the exact same process with the next person who wants a mortgage. Or maybe they’ll change it up a little and ask some different questions.

Obviously, this isn’t how lenders make decisions about extending mortgages. They’d go out of business. Lending money is a repeatable process that can be studied with data science. They decide there have to be factors that can help to signal which loan candidates have a higher or lower probability of paying their mortgage.

How do lenders predict which borrowers can pay their mortgage?

To stay in business and be profitable, lenders need to predict which borrower candidates are a good risk before extending an offer. Once the offer has been extended, all the company can do is restructure their mortgage, coach, cajole, support, train and hopefully manage the borrower to keep them from completely defaulting. How useful would it be to send the risk management group a prediction about the borrowers after the mortgage has been extended? Crazy, right?
It’s too late once they enter the lender’s ecosystem.

Lenders have lots of data their data scientists can study. They are able to find factors that predict the outcome they are looking for – namely, borrowers with a greater probability of paying their mortgages. Lenders have been successfully predicting human outcomes for many decades – with a high degree of reliability. It’s how the good lenders stay in business.

How does credit risk relate to hiring new employees?

All day, every day, businesses extend job offers to new employees to join their business ecosystem. Like lenders, it is a massive risk to the business’s ecosystem when a new employee is introduced. Businesses are hoping (but they don’t really “know”) the new employee will add value and not be a drain on the system. By month three, businesses can usually tell if the employee will be an asset or a liability. At that point – like the credit risk example – all the business can do once the employee is part of the ecosystem is to coach, retrain, support and cajole the employee hoping to help avoid their being a bottom-performing employee.

After an employee is hired, it is too late to find out. Like lenders, businesses need to be able to predict – before extending an offer – candidates with a greater probability of being successful in the role they’re being hired for.

It is possible to predict employee success, pre-hire – like lenders, insurers and other human domain areas. Lenders, insurers and the like are all human domain areas where data science is being applied to predict human outcomes. These same data science approaches are immensely useful predicting employee performance – pre-hire – before it’s too late.

How do lenders get such useful data on their borrowers?

One thing data scientists know is that you don’t always have the data you need inside your own business. Marketing regularly licenses additional data about their prospects and customers to augment what they already have in-house. Lenders pay for credit history and credit score information about people wanting credit, insurance companies license additional data about people they are considering insuring – all with the goal of having as complete a set of data as possible.

There are two problems with most “predictive” HR systems and approaches:

Most approaches “predict” flight risk or performance for current employees only – when it’s too late; and
Most approaches don’t have highly predictive job candidate data – and never consider augmenting their candidate datasets so they can predict pre-hire.

If your business is spending millions on employees that either leave quickly or don’t perform, don’t settle for solutions that promise to “predict” something after bottom performers have already entered your ecosystem – when it’s already too late.

Demand better.

Greta Roberts is the CEO and Co-founder of Massachusetts-based Talent Analytics, Corp., She is the Program Chair of Predictive Analytics World for Workforce and a Faculty Member of the International Institute for Analytics. Follow her on twitter @gretaroberts.

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

Understand the dynamics of employing people in Africa

After many tumultuous decades, the continent has been on a significant and positive economic “journey”.

However, there are challenges ahead for multinationals that wish to develop their operations in Africa effectively and tap into the talent available in the local workforce. Political instability and unrest are still common in some locations, and although infrastructure is improving, it remains work in progress.

Total cash comparisons

In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), total cash typically comprises basic salary along with other guaranteed payments, such as housing and transport allowances; For example, among senior clerical staff, Angola ranks highest with total cash levels of more than $42,000 per annum, whereas Madagascar brings up the rear at less than $5,000 per annum. Angola is in the pole position as we move through the more senior roles, and local executives based in that country can expect compensation levels well in excess of $350,000. In Ethiopia, though, managers at the same grade could expect to earn less than $50,000 – a dramatic difference.

Mobility trends

When multinationals send employees on assignment, they have a number of expat pay methodologies at their disposal. The home balance-sheet approach, however, is the tried-and-trusted payment option to which most multinationals resort. Furthermore, “regional assignments”, whereby employees move between countries on the continent, are becoming more prevalent. These assignments are typically non-accompanied – that is, spouse and dependents remain in the home location – and are often known as the “expat lite” option. The basic balance-sheet remuneration model is used but benefits are reduced. From a recent survey conducted, assignments into Africa, similarly to global trends, are associated with lesser elaborate assignment allowances and benefits.

Cost- and quality-of-living differentials

When considering the core elements which determine expatriate remuneration, cost of living and quality of living (hardship) varies dramatically across SSA, and there is little correlation between the two.

As of September 2015, Kinshasa in the DRC was the most expensive city in the region, at more than 33 points above the baseline (New York), and yet more than 64 points below the baseline for quality of living. Similarly, N’Djamena in Chad was the most challenging host location on the continent (69 points below the baseline) but extremely expensive nonetheless (more than 25 points above the baseline).

Exchange rate fluctuations

Studies conducted in Angola, Nigeria and Zambia indicated that the majority of companies did not react to the USD appreciation even though the majority received complaints and concerns from their employees. It is expected that employers will only adjust salaries when inflation reacts adversely to currency depreciation of local currency. Whereas in Ghana, which has been subjected to currency depreciation for two to three years, 51% of survey participants did react to inevitable increases in daily cost of living.

Localisation/skill transfer

Most African governments are now actively reducing the number of foreign workers in their countries by introducing quotas. Those expats already posted are likely to find it increasingly difficult to have their visas or work permits extended.

Although each country has its own stipulations – in Angola, for example, locals must comprise at least 70% of a company’s workforce, whereas in Ghana, expats may not exceed 10% of the workforce for the first three years of a company’s operations or 6% thereafter – the growing trend has a number of implications for international businesses. The most serious consequence is a lack of essential expertise – as much as individual governments may wish to augment the number of local nationals in the working population; the skills are in short supply.

Industry challenges

The mining and oil industries seen by many as the leading employers in Africa are facing serious challenges based on the recent decline in oil and commodity prices.

From our company’s research it is evident that, during 2015, both industries provided increases either less than, or equal to, CPI and in most instances increases lesser than what general industry provided.

Carl van Heerden is the Principal, Global Mobility Leader, Africa at Mercer, and Nicolaas van Rensburg is a Senior Consultant at Mercer Consulting (South Africa) Pty Ltd,

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

Act to overcome despair

Take action to prevent your feelings from overwhelming you.

As a nation or as individuals, we sometimes experience feelings of despair. Despair debilitates us and of course doesn’t solve anything. However, once the feeling gets a grip on us, no matter what others say or how much we would try telling ourselves differently, it is real and having an impact on us. There are two extreme types of responses to such feelings: on the one hand we can completely succumb to the feeling in the sense that we allow the feeling to determine our view of and attitude towards life and, on the other, influenced by our culture’s insistence on the show of success, strength and rational control, we can concentrate on trying to suppress or deny the feeling. None of these are helpful in our quest for meaning and hope for happiness.

Get perspective on your feelings

In life, since we have the gift of choice and will, it will always be in our best interests to distinguish between what we can control and what not. Can we prevent thoughts and their emotional impact from entering our minds? Can we, say by following a rational thought process of steps one to five, get rid of the negative feeling in an instant and dismiss it as a mere illusion? Or are feelings as human and real as thoughts?

“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez

We know the answer is positive: we are both thoughts and feelings. They are equally real and part of life. Of course we are responsible for our responses and of course we can be proactive in what we ‘feed’ our minds, what we turn to and what we turn away from, but if a spontaneous thought, for instance, triggers fear in us, it happens beyond our control. Such involuntary thoughts can even be in contradiction to our beliefs and values. We don’t choose these type of thoughts and the feelings they evoke. What we can control and focus on are the actions we take notwithstanding the feelings we have.

To be action-oriented does not imply that we should ignore or try and bypass our feelings. To the contrary, wise and effective actions are linked to the acceptance, not denial, of our feelings. And we don’t have to work firstly on accepting our feelings before we can act. Action can be the way we naturally come to accept the feelings and potential reason(s) for them. By taking action when we feel down and do something as simple as tidying up our room or garage, we get the sense of control instead of feeling we are drowning in negative emotions.

The more we complain, the worse we make it for ourselves. It is much easier to control our body movements than to try and control our thoughts and feelings. When we face unpleasant and/or difficult tasks we typically procrastinate by telling ourselves we first need to figure out how we are going to do it. Once we get moving however, and get our bodies in the position where we can start performing the actions needed, we soon come to realise it was not such a big issue after all.

Act on your purpose in life

I am not advocating that we should be active just for the sake of being active and thereby cure our emotional stresses. I am saying, though, that we should not allow for negative emotions to debilitate us. By accepting the unavoidable reality of emotional swings and focusing on what needs to be done irrespective of one’s emotional state, we have the best of the emotional world as well as the practical world. There is no merit in just thinking about doing something. The result is the same as not thinking about it. The key to our being action-oriented is to know and understand our purpose in life. In other words, what do we believe we are called to do in the big and the small things? Then, do the small things like thanking someone who made your life easier through his or her actions, or apologising to someone whose life you know you made difficult through your actions.

Reflecting on my own life, I can recall many things I did, not because I felt like doing it but because it was the only way I could have my integrity intact, living what I am believing. All of those deeds helped set me on a much better path than what would have been the case if I only did what I liked.

Dr Gerhard van Rensburg is the Head of New Era Leadership,

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

New leaders for a new era

Angus Ridgeway shares insights with Alan Hosking regarding the type of leadership needed today.

What type of leadership is needed for today’s challenges?

We need a leadership based on energy, engagement, and purpose and positivity, not control and fear.

The old paradigm had it that the senior management team led the company. It’s become more common to think of every person in the organisation as a leader including top and middle management as well as office workers. Global forces such as off-shoring, outsourcing and tele-working have changed workplaces beyond recognition and stable corporate structures are a thing of the past.

The phenomenon of disaggregation is changing our work environments. At the same time, markets and businesses are in a state of fluidity and evolution, so there are no more stable organisational systems and narrow role definitions. In such environments, it is individual leadership that increasingly drives organisational performance. Truly engaged leadership at every level has become a real differentiator for organisations.

Do you believe that everyone in an organisation needs to be a leader, even if that means hundreds, or even thousands, of people?

Yes, but this idea that everyone needs to be a leader can be disconcerting. We need to redefine what being a leader actually means. The conventional wisdom is that the leader leads in a hierarchical way and has authority over others. If you don’t have any direct reports, then, it would mean that you aren’t a leader.

But we are all interacting with people at all times in both our work and social environments. And what really matters now in this disaggregated world is to have everybody behaving in a leading way which means that we are energised, purposeful and present. Yes, of course, we want everyone in an organisation to behave this way from the receptionist to the chairman.

What type of leader is needed for today’s challenges?

We like to talk of ‘setting people on fire’. Imagine two individuals of similar age and background. They made similar career choices, and have similar jobs. But they’re not the same. The difference between them is stark. One of them is floundering: physically and mentally exhausted and disengaged. The other is flourishing: full of energy, engaged and focused. We refer to these flourishing individuals as 10X leaders. 10X leaders are much more likely to succeed and, by bringing out the best in others, help their teams and organisation flourish.

How difficult is it to scale lasting change to large numbers going beyond the chosen few?

The world has spent enough time studying leadership formulae. The real challenge is to use leadership development to enable your strategy. It needs a totally new approach.

The old one-to-one model of a relationship between coach and coachee that you find in traditional environments will not scale to large numbers.

We also need to understand that learning and behavioural change are totally different processes. You can’t just teach leadership because it doesn’t work. You need to find a way to take participants on a journey of behavioural change so that they adopt the behaviour of leaders. That process is going to involve phases of discovery, experimentation, deliberate practice and phases of ritualisation.

To reach large numbers, however, you have to work out how technology can be your friend. Technology can help you to reach large numbers in ways which, until recently, were impossible. It is necessary to use a blend of technologies such as apps and webinars and select live interactions to give a highly personalised development experience.

How could you use technology to create this change at scale?

You can make the experience very personal by using ‘life logging’ as an example. So you could measure how much of your typical day is spent doing activities that you are both good at and that you love doing. What percentage of your day is spent like that? Imagine what it would be like to live a life where a reasonable portion of it is spent doing what you are good and at doing what you love. If you could, you would knock the ball out of the park in terms of performance.

Once you have done these micro measurements, you can make micro changes and then track your progress. This helps you make small nudges to navigate yourself to a new, better place.

Another example would be to measure high engagement and flow – when you are in this state, you are mindfully engaged on what you are doing to the extent that you lose track of time. The alternative is anxiety and boredom. Boredom happens when your skill level is too high for the task. Anxiety happens when your task requirements are too high for your skill level. Engagement happens when you have the right balance.

Wouldn’t it be interesting then to find out how much of your week you are bored, how much time you are anxious and how much time you spend in engagement and flow and what are the activities that are associated with these? Once more, you can measure these, make small changes, measure them again and notice the difference.

We don’t believe in studying a subject for nine months and then hope that on the last day a curtain will lift. We believe you need to make lots of small changes to navigate your way to a better place.

What kinds of behaviours distinguish winning individuals in this new, ‘leadership in change’ world?

New technologies and globalisation mean that almost every industry sector is faced with forces that will challenge even the most robust institutions. Research suggests that five themes explain most of the variance of the most successful and flourishing people.

Strengths. Most people think you progress in life by fixing your weaknesses – what you’re not good at. This isn’t just a little bit wrong, it’s totally wrong. Research tells us that the most successful people, and organisations, spend more of their time playing to their strengths and passions – doing they’re good at and like doing. This is a true performance multiplier.

Health. Received wisdom tells us that stress is a bad thing, and it also makes us feel that working harder is often the only way to greater output. In fact, the opposite is true. Investing in our energy profile, whether by taking time for recovery or managing energy depleters, can have a dramatic impact on our productivity, output, and life experience. More energy also allows us to embrace stress positively.

Absorption. When was the last time you sat down for an hour to read a book without a single distraction – no phone, no Facebook, no email? Technology has hampered our ability to mindfully engage for any period of time. We spend our time hopping from one thing to the next. In reality, the time for reading about mindfulness has come and gone – we’d be better just to get on with it. The opportunity for personal productivity, better relationships and overall life experience is enormous.

Relationships. The command and control era is behind us. These days we operate in networks with multiple stakeholders and rapid change. What distinguishes leaders is not their ability to manage and influence, but rather the positive energy they project as well their authenticity. In other words, how true to themselves are they? We all have times when we are being more or less positive or authentic. The trick is to progressively shift the balance so that we spend more of our time being our positive and authentic selves

Purpose. What’s your answer to the big why question? Why are you going to work today? How do you answer? Had a great day when it all came together? Great! Had a ‘I’m paying my rent day’? Not so good. How can we have more of the former? The answer lies less in waiting for those exceptional experiences that answer our “Why?” questions, and more in coming back to your day to day activities to find the meaning in them, through re-framing.

As a former senior partner of 20 years at McKinsey & Company, Angus Ridgway led the strategy practice in Europe, Middle East and Africa overseeing the work of 1,000 colleagues. His interest in leadership came from his astonishment at the diversity of leadership profiles he saw in his clients over the years. Angus co-founded UK-based Potentialife,, with Tal Ben-Shahar, an academic in the field of positive psychology. Potentialife has an office in South Africa and is working with a number of blue chip South African businesses.

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

HR lessons from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War

Seeing HR through different eyes will give you a new perspective on its role in the organisation.

According to Wikipedia, The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician. Regarded as a definitive work on military strategy and tactics, it has influenced Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.

Sun Tzu considered war to be a necessary evil that must be avoided wherever possible, and his writings provide valuable lessons for other disciplines, of which HR is one. To understand and appreciate the value of Sun Tzu’s strategies and writings, consider the following comparisons:

Communication principle

In his first introductory lesson, the story of the concubines, Sun Tzu educated us with the necessities of clarity of communication, discipline of teams as well as appropriate good execution of orders, otherwise serious consequences can occur.

He said, “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame.” He insisted in clear communication by the leader, otherwise the leader would be responsible for all the consequences.

It is generally recognised that effective communication is a requisite of effective management. Communication is an important part of the HR function and can’t be taken for granted. Regardless of the size of your organisation, smart HR practitioners who know that clear communication is the essence of business can create an opportunity for employees to understand and act on the messages they receive. Thus, communication must be simple and free from ambiguity, double meanings and jargon.

Sun Tzu vs Contemporary HR Management

Leadership principle

Organisations depend upon leaders and their leadership capabilities to guide them during trying times. Sun Tzu said, “Next is the Commander. He must be smart, trustworthy, caring, brave, and strict.” Accordingly, the commander/leader must have those five traits – he must be smart, trustworthy, caring, brave and strict. These qualities describe a person’s character.

HR executives must ensure that organisational leaders and they themselves are ‘smart’ in order to be able to understand how and where the environment provides the best opportunities. The intelligent executive is able to understand the competitor’s leader, and use the appropriate techniques to gain an advantage.

Generally speaking, the challenge faced by many of today’s executives is that they have backgrounds as good technical managers who were promoted to their current management roles. They know their industry well, but cannot distinguish between management and leadership beyond a mere intellectual understanding.

To be respected as an executive in today’s business climate, we must be relevant and manage the inevitable business climate changes and the follow-on strategy changes with good HR science.

An executive’s ‘trustworthiness’ must inspire their staff’s devotion and subsequently the staff must never fear danger or dishonesty. They must represent employees with keen concern to the top management and discuss their issues and fight for them and bring mutual agreement to the discussion table. They can have true influence and leverage over an organisation, bringing the functional expertise to bear without artificial limitation, where appropriate, for the greater good of the organisation.

Also they ought to ‘care’ by treating staff members as beloved family members. In this way, HR can intervene in coaching and counseling sessions to solve or try to solve issues behind job related matters, and helping organisations and employees to balance the demands of work with the need for a personal life.

Sun Tzu suggests that the leader should be ‘brave’ for obvious reasons. The modern equivalent could be “openness to experience”. This trait is key to using feedback from subordinates to improve one’s performance by establishing internal listening as a priority, and encourage two-way interaction. We must be willing to do the unpleasant parts of the job as well as the fun parts, and honour our agreements conscientiously. People must be able to depend on us.

If we are not reliable, no one will support us for long. If our decisions are well thought out and we act honestly, our men will trust us. If we are trusted, people will speak their mind freely and openly, which means business problems can be solved more quickly and effectively. This is being ‘strict’.

Planning principle

Benjamin Franklin, the father of time management said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Sun Tzu was very clear about the need for careful planning. He said, “With careful and detailed planning, one can win; with careless and less detailed planning, one cannot win. How much more certain is defeat if one does not plan at all? From the way planning is done beforehand, we can predict victory or defeat”.

Planning is an objective analysis of the competitive situation. He emphasised the importance of ‘laying plans’ and how careful planning can significantly increase the chance of victory, and how deviation from these plans will ensure failure.

In HRM, recruitment and training should be planned based on internal and external environmental factors. HR practitioners should know the strengths and weaknesses of each and every employee and use their strengths to their advantage against the competition. Human Resources planning in the broadest sense includes both strategic and operational human resources as a continuous process rather than an activity limited to a fixed segment of the business planning process.

Sun Tzu believed it was not possible to win a war without the support of the soldiers and population. If HR is to be successful, employees should be highly motivated and loyal to the organisation. Individuals who have different objectives for the organisation should be replaced, as they will be less likely to make personal sacrifices when required.

Sun Tzu asserted, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”.

Organisations are becoming more dependent upon people because they are increasingly involved in more complex technologies and are attempting to function in more complex economic, political, and socio-cultural environments.

The more different technical skills there are involved in the design, manufacture, marketing and sales of a product, the more vulnerable the organisation will be to critical shortages of the right kinds of human resources.

HR Planning plays an eminent role in the organisation to achieve its goals. Surprisingly, this aspect of HR is one of the most neglected in the field. The importance of HR Planning has generally been overlooked by organisations. Its proactive approach allows it to be more strategic in its decisions rather than face obstacles when unprepared. It can enhance the success of an organisation through anticipation of labour shortages or surpluses and thus make decisions about the overall qualitative and quantitative balance of employees.

HR Practitioners who prepare the HR Planning programme would assist the organisation to manage its staff strategically. They must perform environmental scanning in order to effectively be a part of the strategic planning process, by monitoring of the major external forces influencing the organisation such as economic factors, competitive trends, technological changes, political issues, social issues and demographic trends.

Unfortunately, many organisations are seeing HR Plans as all about payroll budget, benefits and some minor training expenses. Townsville Business Coach says, ‘If you don’t have a plan – you will become part of someone else’s plan. And you may not like it – ‘

Dr M. Amr Sadik (DBA, CHRE, CHRA, MMC, CCMT) is the HR Adviser to the Chairman of El Nasr Building and Construction – EGYCO.

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

To see the next article in this series, click here.

Do you know how to be a business partner? No, really.

Analytics may end your HR career if you’re not ready to adapt.

If you loved mathematics then there is a good chance you would have ended up in finance or engineering. Instead your skill probably lay in understanding people and organisations, that’s why you landed in HR. At this point, you probably have a lot of HR skill and subject matter expertise. The question is this: will not loving mathematics, or more specifically, not loving analytics, derail your HR career?

Taking an axe to HR business partners

Each month I host calls with a community of HR leaders committed to improving HR analytics and evidence-based decision making. In one such meeting, a guest speaker described how their company had to get rid of almost half their HR business partners because they couldn’t adapt to the new demands of the role. The new demands were that, well, they were expected to really be business partners. To really be a business partner meant bringing analytical skills to business problems. No skills, no job.

The need to know analytics may not land quite so heavily in your life. More likely it will show up in terms of being passed over for promotions as someone with perceived analytics smarts shines more brightly in the eyes of management. Perhaps the biggest risk is that, when you need a new job, you’ll find the options limited if you lack an analytics background.

What you ought to do

The first thing you need to do is mutter that phrase we hear in American films when the protagonist faces a challenge: “I can do this!” And you can do it. You can develop the analytics savvy all HR professionals need. The reason you can do it is that you don’t need to be a mathematics whiz nor do you need to master statistics. You just need to learn enough about the field so that you can interface with the people who are strong analysts. If you don’t love numbers then set your sights on being a great partner to the analytics experts, rather than trying to be one yourself.

The other thing to do is step aside from all the hype about big data and predictive analytics. Yes, those tools have a cool role in HR but it’s a small role and you don’t need to expend a lot of energy there. Concentrate instead on evidence-based decision making. Analytics, data and numbers all feed into evidence-based practice, but they are not at the heart of the practice. The heart of evidence-based management is replacing opinions with decisions based upon the best available evidence.

Here’s an example: in the world of opinion we might say, “I don’t think team building exercises work.” In a world of evidence-based decision making we would say, “One hypothesis is that this proposed team building exercise will not have a significant impact on performance. Let’s see whether the available evidence supports or refutes that hypothesis.” We make the decision about the investment in team building based on evidence, not on opinion.

Where do you get the evidence? It might be academic papers on how to build better teams. It might be analytics from your own company on the effectiveness of that programme. It might be the informed expertise of a manager who has worked with many teams before and after these exercises and can provide insight on whether or not the exercise works. This is not rocket science, but it is a change from the way many organisations operate today. Learn to think of it in terms of “this is our hypothesis” and “here is the available evidence” and then analytics (which is one source of evidence) will slot nicely into how you guide leaders in making decisions about talent.

Make the leap now

If you wait until you need to demonstrate analytics savvy or an evidence-based mindset, it will be too late. So as we start this new year set a clear, stretch goal to learn and display skill in analytics and evidence-based thinking. It’s doable. Take training, join a community of practice or get coaching. Write it on your to do list now!

David Creelman is CEO of Creelman Research,, in Canada. His current focus is on helping companies take advantage of the “Uber-isation of work” and build evidence-based thinking into the HR function.

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

Employability: a worldwide challenge

One of the key challenges South Africa faces is the employability of people entering the workplace.

The QS Graduate Employability Rankings gives insights into what universities around the world are doing to increase the employability of their graduates. There are some lessons for South African universities in this report.

The first eight places on the pilot rankings are occupied by universities from the UK and the US, cementing the position these countries enjoy as producers of employable graduates. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT, which ranks top of the QS World University Rankings, comes second, while Harvard University completes the dominant US triumvirate.

The most successful university for graduate employability is neither in the UK nor the US. It is China’s Tsinghua University (9th). France’s Ecole Polytechnique ParisTech completes the top ten while The University of Sydney (14th) is the top-ranked Australian institution in this ranking.

The QS Graduate Employability Rankings is the result of an extensive research project which has been running since October 2014.

This project’s aim is to design a new approach to, and a new methodology for, employability in university rankings.

The methodology for the QS Graduate Employability Rankings differs from that found in the global rankings, using different indicators and changing the weighting of the existing indicators which it retains.

QS has undertaken extensive research with the help of university leaders worldwide, reading academic papers and talking to employers and student representatives to identify a suitable methodology – over 50 universities have had the opportunity to provide feedback and insights since October 2014.

The project involved detailed consultation with both students and employers, and is designed to provide a new approach to the increasingly important issue of graduate employability. Five key criteria were chosen that illuminate how successful universities are in making their graduates employable.

These criteria are:

1. the reputation a university has among employers (weighted at 30%);

2. alumni outcome (20%);

3. employer partnerships (25%);

4. employer presence on campus (15%); and

5. graduate employment rate (10%).

In future, additional criteria are planned – based on employer reputation in different sectors and alumni network characteristics – as sub-categories of the ranking. At present, QS is still working with its partners to be able to verify the reliability of this measure, from the available sources. This ranking remains a pilot exercise, and universities have only been ranked if they elected to actively participate in QS‘s data collection processes, or if enough publicly available data was available to permit their inclusion.

Employer Reputation Survey (30%)

The QS Employer Survey has been running since 1990 and contributes to a number of key research initiatives operated by the QS Intelligence Unit, including the QS Top MBA Salary and Recruitment Trends Report and the Top MBA Global 200 Business Schools. It is a survey that asks the employers their opinion on the quality of graduates. Like the academic survey, the questionnaire is adaptive and responds to earlier questions to take respondents through the MBA, Masters or First Degree tracks as appropriate. For this first QS Graduate Employability Rankings, over 44,200 responses worldwide will be part of the analysis, as we will use the same responses considered for the QS World University Rankings 2015/16.

QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2016 Top 15

Alumni outcomes (20%)

QS has been recording the educational background of over 20,000 highly influential employers, sector leaders, and award-winning professionals, as well as individual professionals both senior and junior. The aim is to rank which universities are proving themselves as sources of successful employees and employers, and can claim to have positively influenced their alumni’s development. The criterion is based on the fact that universities with strong track records in this field will have the kind of high-quality alumni networks that provide students with connections, career advice, and internship/work placement opportunities – all of which boost employability. This is a new indicator within the rankings, and will feature as one of the key Employability indicators.

The research

The project started by mapping the educational backgrounds of the senior leadership teams at the top 500 privately owned companies in the world according to annual revenue. Later on, the process evolved to incorporate several global lists of influence from the past three years compiled by some of the most respected global media outlets and business expert companies, such as Forbes, Fortune, LinkedIn and TIME. The research continued to gather information from regional and national lists of respected awards and rankings of all parts of the world until it covered over 16,000 tertiary degrees offered in over 1,200 universities around the world.

The research prioritised youth leadership lists, both to take the opportunity to feature new universities in the ranking and also to recognise degrees awarded more recently, particularly in the past five years.

Once all the responses have been processed, the analysis can begin in earnest.

It works as follows for each of our five subject areas:

1. Exclude duplicate entries of individuals that were listed more than once in different awards;
2. Devise weightings based on the scope of the list: global, regional, or national;
3. Derive a weighted count of young prominent leaders and senior leaders, prioritising young leaders on a ratio of 2:1; and
4. Apply a straight scaling to each of these to achieve a score out of 100.

Partnerships with employers (25%)

This criterion involves summating the number of official partnerships a university has with employers, and ranking all universities accordingly. It is based on the belief that universities which can successfully collaborate with influential employers, providing their students with work experience, funding and openings to demonstrate research initiative, and will function as a boost to the employability of their students. Examples of partnerships include fast-track job applications, internship offers, and work placements – all of which increase student proximity to employers and are proven to enhance employability. QS also mapped on Scopus the academic yield that research partnerships produced, awarding extra points for partnerships with the top 500 companies in the world and top additional regional companies according to revenue, that produced at least three papers in the past five years.

We only considered distinct companies for this indicator, and excluded universities and governments (including ministries and other agencies controlled by governments) in this first edition. After a thorough validation by our analysts to ensure the existence of such partnerships in the first place, the numbers were converted into a ratio between the number of partnerships with employers and the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Faculty Staff, using the same dataset as the latest QS World University Rankings.

Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Faculty Staff calculation

Faculty numbers used are totals – whilst it would be ideal to separate the notions of teaching and research and use the former for calculating this indicator and the latter for the Citations per Faculty indicator, it has not been possible to do so as data to that degree of distinction has so far proved unavailable for many countries in the study. The definition of exactly what data is requested has evolved gradually over the years to minimise ambiguity.

Employers’ presence on campus (15%)

This indicator involves identifying the number of employers who are actively present on a university’s campus, providing motivated students with an opportunity to network and acquire information. This ‘active presence’ may take the form of participating in careers fairs, organising company presentations or any other self-promoting activities on the part of employers.

We only consider distinct companies taking part in self-promoting activities on campus for this indicator. The total number was either supplied or collected on official university reports (if applicable) and audited by a diverse team of analysts. The numbers were converted to a ratio between the number of distinct employers on campus and the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) students, using the same dataset as the latest QS World University Rankings.

Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Students calculation

To calculate the FTE students number, QS requests an array of data pertaining to students, much of which supports university profiles on this website, much of which may be used in the future to enrich the rankings metrics, but at present the total student numbers are first drawn from the addition of separate undergraduate and postgraduate numbers supplied. Where this data is unavailable or incomplete, total student numbers are used.

Graduate employment rate (10%)

This criterion examines whether the efforts made by a university to prepare their students to become employable ultimately proves successful, and does so by measuring the percentage of a university’s graduates that are employed up to twelve months after graduation.

The graduate employment rate is the proportion between students employed full time within 12 months after graduation and students from the same class unemployed but seeking employment in the same period. Students pursuing further studies, unavailable to work, working part-time or not seeking employment are excluded from this calculation.

The final graduate employment rate was thoroughly verified by a team of analysts. To be considered as part of the QS Graduate Employability Rankings, the graduate employment rate needed to be one of the three following options: be part of an official government report, official university report or be supplied to QS as part of a complete list of graduates from the past complete academic year with their respective employers and date of employment.

In several countries, the timeline of survey collection and methodology is slightly different than that of QS. An additional concern is that the economic conditions of a country also have a great influence on the employability prospects of students post-graduation. Therefore, in order to normalise the effects of such factors, QS built the scores using a comparison between the universities’ graduate employment rate and the national average of tertiary education employment rate, or sub-regional average of graduate employment when applicable.

Simona Bizzozero is Head of PR at London based QS Quacquarelli Symonds,

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

Attract and retain skilled people and Millennials

Use your creativity to create a workplace where people want to work.

If you have been following the headlines recently, you will have seen the latest debacle in American Economic-Politics. Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft and one of their first employees stated that, “People don’t want to work at Amazon.”

An article run in Bloomberg Business on 23 October 2015, expressed that Microsoft has the upper hand on the talent front in its “intense competition” with and is the only company that can compete with Apple Inc. over hardware, according to former Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer.

“I think they are a place people don’t want to work,” Balmer said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. Commenting on previous employees who left Microsoft for Amazon, he stated, “We can count on them coming back within a year or two. It’s just not a great place to do innovative stuff as an engineer.”

His comments about Amazon, preceded an August article in The New York Times that mentions employees crying at their desks and an evaluation process that encourages criticism of co-workers. Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos and others at the company have said the article was not accurate. The Seattle-based company did not immediately respond to a request for response on Ballmer’s comments.

Depleted skills base

Okay, so this is how not to go about it! The skilled employee base in South Africa is as depleted as ever. In order to attract and retain what is left of our key skilled talent base, organisations have to up their game.

Many of the leading HR executives I know believe that their greatest challenge is attracting skilled and talented people and to get a better understanding of what drives Millennials. This is made even more difficult in South Africa, where we have a decrease in skilled people and an increasing need for a young workforce with a good attitude toward its work. Retaining these skilled employees is just as important – and just as difficult.

Few businesses realise just how much employee turnover impacts their bottom line. After having trained a person who is in the position of a key manager, replacing them will cost the same amount as an intermediately priced car. How can any business survive when the cost of turnover and recruiting runs into millions, annually?

Before we even start on attracting skilled employees, let’s focus on keeping them. Jim Goodnight, co-founder and President of SAS in Raleigh-Durham in the United States, had this to say: “My assets leave work for home at 5:00 or later each night. It is my job to bring them back each day.” Wise executives realise the responsibility for creating a positive work environment cannot be delegated. It starts at the top”. He believes that many people leave a good job because of a bad boss – a profound principle, supported by me and many of my colleagues. Properly trained managers play a major role in an effective recruitment and retention strategy. Managers need the skills, tools and knowledge to help them understand their employees’ retention needs and to be able to implement a retention plan, designed to increase employee engagement in the organisation. It starts at the top.

As you can see, companies overseas (and to a lesser extent in South Africa, even though the need here is greater) are going to great lengths to attract and retain key staff.

Ask yourself: if you, as a highly educated individual, were looking for a job, what would your criteria be? Let’s start with the most obvious one, but with a different slant.


Remuneration is obviously the first thing that comes to mind. However, it has been proven that it is not always the most effective way to attract skilled staff. That said, Remuneration comes in various forms, and there are many ways of rewarding an employee that can be applied. An agreed upon bonus, based on performance, productivity or the company’s performance, is often very enticing bait. This will obviously depend on the type of business your company specialises in.

Culture of the organisation

Organisational culture plays an enormously significant role. People want to work for a company that they feel has the kind of workplace that will allow them to be successful professionally, receive recognition, both as a member of a team and on an individual level and contribute to their emotions of overall happiness. Make sure your company emits a positive, friendly vibe that encourages employees to feel and be their best.

Involve your employees

Employees will always show up for work, but are they engaged and productive? People gain a sense of ownership when they are involved. When given a voice to contribute their ideas and suggestions, they feel important which will result in their commitment and engagement as well as pride in the company.

Corporate branding

People want to work for a company that has a distinct corporate brand which they can be proud of. The activities and thinking that go into corporate branding are different from product or service branding as the scope of a company’s brand is much larger. When you are recruiting, tell the candidate what makes your company exciting and put a bit of passion into it.

Flexible work hours

Employees who have young families, or are planning to, are often attracted to a company that offers flexible time scheduling and work from home options. If such options are possible, pair up part-time workers who can share their workload according to their schedules. This can also bring invaluable experience to your company.

Companies that offer fully paid sabbaticals have a huge advantage and if you structure the terms to your advantage, it will no doubt help your company retain staff as the employee is required to work for a number of years thereafter.

Career development

Most candidates for new positions want to know that there is a future career for them with the company and that training will be provided. For most people, career development and opportunities are equally as important as Remuneration. A study conducted by Linkage, Inc. found that over 40% of people, who responded, claimed that they would definitely choose to move to another company for the same remuneration and benefits if that company provided them with more challenges and more career opportunities.

Offering leadership training and development in the candidate’s professional field are a good start, but you should introduce them to employees who began in lower positions and progressed after receiving the professional development and training they needed.

Evaluate and measure

The primary purpose of evaluation is to measure progress and determine what satisfies and dissatisfies your workforce. The evaluation process includes the measurement of attitudes, morale, turnover, and the engagement level of the workforce. Here is a checklist of items that should be included in your evaluation and measurement process:

  • Conduct an employee satisfaction survey at least once a year;
  • Initiate interviews and surveys concerning the real reasons people come to and leave your organisation;
  • Improve your hiring process to create a better match between the individual’s talents and job requirements;
  • Provide flexible work arrangements for working parents and older workers;
  • Hold managers responsible for retention in their departments;
  • Start measuring the cost of turnover;
  • Focus on the key jobs that have the greatest impact on profitability and productivity;
  • Examine those departments that have the highest turnover rates; and 
  • Design an effective employee orientation programme.

Employees are often happiest in the environment that accommodates their personalities. Thus, a job should always be suited to the personality type of the individual. This means that, if an individual is more productive at night, give them a flexi-time job! If an individual has a family and does not like to travel, rather award the international assignment to someone who loves to travel and will receive a great experience from it. Don’t be a boss that everyone hates! Be the boss that will make employees sad to leave the company.

The aforementioned, are key ingredients for retaining talent. If you would like a more concrete view of how it can be done, just follow some of the examples of these successful organisations.

Google’s perks to attract staff:

1. Free food for breakfast, lunch and dinner;
2. On-site haircuts;
3. A fully equipped gym and swim-in-place pool;
4. Game rooms with video games and tables for ping pong, billiards and foosball;
5. Laundry facility and dry cleaning services; and
6. On-site medical staff.

It’s hard not to love going to work every day with all this to look forward to.

Another business leader, this one SAS, a leader in business analytics software and business intelligence, offers the following health and other benefits:

1. Unlimited sick days;
2. Healthcare centres at most offices;
3. Subsidised child care centres on-site;
4. Gyms at the main headquarters and reimbursements for those at regional offices for gym and fitness memberships;
5. College scholarship programmes for children of employees; and
6. No dress code.

When it comes to health benefits, Forbes noted such benefits such as:

7. Death benefits where spouses of employees receive 50% of the employee’s salary every year for a decade. Children also receive a 1,000 dollar monthly payment until they turn 19; and
8. Maternity benefits of 18 weeks paid leave and paternity benefits of six weeks paid leave.

Finally, make your company a good place to work. It’s as simple as that. We have all had jobs that we have enjoyed and jobs that we have hated. Try to recall the jobs that you loved and remember the good points. Implement them – and then you are half way there.

Dr Mark Bussin is the Executive Chairperson at 21st Century Pay Solutions Group,, a Professor at University of Johannesburg, Professor Extraordinaire at North West University, Chairperson and member of various boards and remuneration committees, immediate past President and EXCO member of SARA, and a former Commissioner in the Office of the Presidency.

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

Capture the power of mentorship

Effective mentorship requires maturity and wisdom.

According to Steven Spielberg, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” While this is the ideal outcome, in many instances this relationship is misunderstood, leading to an inappropriate or detrimental conclusion. Mentoring should be a positive process that focusses on strengths and passion.

What, then, constitutes an appropriate, beneficial mentorship relation? From a mentor’s perspective, s/he should be aiming for wisdom continuity. Creating in someone else a greater understanding of their job and its responsibilities, and providing other people with the benefits of their experience should have a positive impact. Too often, people try to be irreplaceable, leaving the company and themselves poorer when they leave. For the mentor, the relationship should highlight a sense of pride in the lessons learnt, sharing more than mere technical expertise, but workplace and life experience too. Reflecting and interrogating your own experiences to inform and advise someone else has its own reward.

From the mentee’s perspective, the benefit of mentorship should be gaining experience. Although technical expertise is transferred through coaching by team leaders, peers or formal training, this simply isn’t enough. What makes the world tick is: why, when and to whom? Mentorship is about learning how to play the game of chess, not what the pawns do. Through this relationship, the mentee gains an understanding of the organisational culture, learns lessons from others that assist in everyday productivity and is given insight into the finer ‘unwritten rules’ within the company. For this relationship to begin, the mentee must ask for assistance. There may be brilliant mentors available, but if advice is not asked for it cannot be given.

Mentorship certainly extends past the workplace, and different types of mentors will be called on for advice depending on the mentee’s needs. From boardroom games to relationship issues, various mentorship relationships can be entered into. The depth and duration of the mentorship depends on the advice needed. Although friends can be mentors, certain situations call for mentors that are willing to be tough, to explain why it is not a good idea to take the life-changing promotion, and can have the difficult conversations (as opposed to always giving supportive feedback).

To ensure that a mentorship relationship achieves its goals, it is essential to recognise mentorship as a form of contract. There must be an underlying structure to avoid abuse of the relationship by either party. Mentoring is not a friendship, it is a finite relationship; it only exists for as long as the need exists. To avoid any confusion, strict timelines and guidelines should be established at the onset; don’t blur the lines with additional issues – mentor with a view to providing the initial advice sought and, once this is done, end the relationship.

The mentorship role comes with an implicit, essential ethical obligation and confidentiality is paramount. A mentor provides advice; it is up to the mentee whether the advice is implemented or not. A mentor shouldn’t divulge the mentee’s queries or the advice given to any third party. In the same vein, a mentor should guide the conversation and end the relationship if the mentee begins sharing information that is not relevant or that should not be discussed – don’t let the relationship continue as this will lead to an overstepping of boundaries. Remember that a mentor is neither a therapist, nor the mentee’s security blanket.

When entering into a mentorship relationship, there are certain pitfalls to avoid. These include avoiding: complicated cross-gender relationships; mentoring two people that are in competition with one another; extreme age differences, as these can lead to generational misinterpretation; publicising the relationship, this will lead to biased feedback; and agreeing to take on a mentee when the mentor doesn’t have the time available to manage the relationship effectively.

The characteristics of a good mentor include an openness to learn themselves; this isn’t a one way relationship, the mentor should understand the advantages of continuous learning and allow themselves to learn from the mentee’s experiences as well. A good mentor will also have:

– been trained to be a mentor;
– a high level of self-awareness and self-knowledge;
– knowledge to impart while being confident in his/her experiences; and
– a good sense of ethics.

The best mentors know that sometimes they are not the right person for the job and are able to express this honestly and tactfully.

Gizelle McIntyre is a Director of The Institute of People Development (IPD),

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

High performance versus high potential continued

Identify your high performing and high potential employees correctly.

In the last two editions of HR Future (click here for part 1, click here for part 2) we looked at “confusing high performance with high potential” and then at “creating a culture of training and development”. In this concluding article, I would like to look at some of the issues faced when best trying to identify the difference between those individuals in your organisation who have true high potential and those who are high performers.

Today we work in a business environment where the workforce is becoming more and more transient, and so the ability of not only HR but line management to identify these two very distinct types of individuals is becoming more and more critical.

Unfortunately, many organisations still struggle to differentiate between their high potential employees and their high performers, thus making it an even greater challenge to develop and grow their employees appropriately. Sadly in most organisations performance is ranked way above potential, and one only has to analyse the current performance management processes in play to see where the focus is – normally focused on employees achieving results (objectives). More often than not there is very little or no focus on identifying those high potential employees to plan out their development and career paths.

Now, I am not saying that performance is of no consequence – any organisation would soon crumble if all their employees only had high potential, and none of them were able to actually deliver any results. And this is the crux of the matter.

An organisation needs to have a healthy balance between these two categories of employees, as I assume that most organisations have some form of exit strategy for non-performers!

12 High performance

So, having this mix of high potential and high performers then means that identifying who sits where is critical. If you have the data, the easiest and one of the more effective ways I have seen of presenting this, is through a traditional nine box grid. Essentially the manager should be able to view their team in a talent view format, enabling the use of interactive boxes within the grid to filter out the relevant staff members whose data they wish to access.

Oh, if only life were so simple. The above nine box grid is great, but it is only a reflection of the data stored in your HRMIS and, if the data is inaccurate, so would this representation of the team be inaccurate, and all subsequent development and career decisions being made based on this breakdown.

The one light at the end of this tunnel is that generally in an organisation the high performers do tend to stand out. More often than not they become the manager’s go-to person when a crisis (either internal or external) arises, and they generally rise to the occasion and resolve the issues at hand.

The challenge however is that line managers are often not well equipped to identify all of their high potential employees. Some might be more obvious than others to identify, but often there are hidden gems in the team who are looking for the opportunity to grow into bigger roles.

When trying to identify potential line managers more often than not often limit their criteria to the obvious traits such as:

– Achieving hard targets;
– Time management;
– Communication skills;
– Attention to detail; and
– Team work to name but a few.

And this is where HR can start operating in a truly strategic role by assisting line management in ensuring that all of their high potential and high performing employees are correctly identified, as each have their own needs and aspirations within the organisation.

In conclusion, although it can be a challenge to distinguish your high performers from your high potential employees, HR can play a critical role by assisting line management in this process, ensuring that not only are high performers rewarded but that hidden treasures of potential are correctly identified and nurtured within the organisation.

Rob Bothma is an HR Systems Industry Specialist at NGA Africa, a non-executive director, Fellow and Vice President of the Institute of People Management and co-author of the 4th Edition of Contemporary Issues in HRM and member of the Executive Board for HR Pulse.

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

What are the new Organisational Rights Structures?

An exclusive look at the new Organisational Rights Structures created by the Labour Relations Amendment Act of 2014.

During 2014 and 2015, the legislature effected major changes to the dispensations created by the three employment laws, namely, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (‘BCEA’), the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 (‘EEA’) and the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (‘LRA’).

I was fortunate enough to receive a pre-publication copy of Changes to Employment Laws: Text and Commentary, and thought HR Future readers would be interested in getting a sneak preview of its contents –

The purpose of the book is to, firstly, identify, within its proper context, the text of such changes and, secondly, where appropriate, to provide the necessary commentary in order to create the much-needed link and insight between pre-amendment and post-amendment scenarios.

Since the aforesaid amendments, various practitioners, including myself, have been searching for guidelines as to the practical applications of some of these changes.

In this article, I will deal with the new organisational rights structure created by the said amendments. In a follow up article, I will deal with the various employment relationships that could possibly exist as a result of the said amendments and, in both articles, will rely on the viewpoints expressed by the author, Dr Brian van Zyl.

Traditional categorisation of organisational rights

In terms of s21(1) of the LRA, any registered trade union may notify an employer, in writing, that it seeks to exercise one or more of the rights conferred by Chapter III, Part A, in a workplace. In essence, these rights are the following:

– trade union access to the workplace (s12 rights) – sufficient representation is required;
– deduction of trade union subscriptions or levies (s13 rights) – sufficient representation is required;
– the election, appointment and performance of the functions of trade union representatives (s14 rights) – majority representation is required;
– leave for trade union activities (s15 rights) – sufficient representation is required; and
– disclosure of information (s16 rights) – majority representation is required.

Traditional levels of representivity

With reference to the term ‘representative trade union’ the following is to be noted:

– in terms of s11 of the LRA, a ‘representative trade union’ means a registered trade union, or two or more registered trade unions acting jointly, that are sufficiently representative of the employees employed by an employer in a workplace; and
– in terms of s14(1) and s16(1) of the LRA, a ‘representative trade union’ means a registered trade union, or two or more registered trade unions, acting jointly, that have as members the majority of the employees employed by the employer in a workplace.

Resolution of disputes

Firstly, the employer and the registered trade union must attempt to conclude a collective agreement and, if this is not done, either the registered trade union or the employer may refer the dispute, in writing, to the CCMA – s21(4) of the LRA. If the dispute remains unresolved after conciliation, either party to the dispute may request that the dispute be resolved through arbitration – s21(6) and s21(7) of the LRA.

The CCMA Commissioner, when determining the dispute, must take into account the following factors, in terms of s21(8)(b) of the LRA:

– the nature of the workplace;
– the nature of the organisational right(s) that the registered trade union seeks to exercise;
– the nature of the sector in which the workplace is situated;
– the organisational history of the workplace or any other workplace of the employer;
– the composition of the workforce in the workplace with specific reference to the following:
– the extent of employees assigned to work by a TES;
– employees employed on fixed-term contracts;
– part-time employees;
– employment in other categories of non-standard employment – s21(8)(b)(v) of the LRA.

Prior to these amendments, the CCMA Commissioner, during the aforesaid arbitration process, regarded the workforce as consisting only of employees engaged on a fulltime basis, on the payroll of the employer, who received the notification in terms of s21(1) of the LRA.

Level of representation of trade union in workplace

Non-majority union may be granted s14 organisational rights

During arbitration in terms of s21(7) of the LRA, a commissioner may grant such non-majority union these organisational rights if such union is not a majority trade union but indeed the most representative trade union in such workplace.

During arbitration, the CCMA Commissioner may grant such organisational rights if the following conditions are met:

– the trade union is entitled to the organisational rights contained in s12, s13 and s15 in that workplace; and
– no other trade union has been granted s14 organisational rights in such workplace.

In respect of the first requirement, Brian van Zyl makes the point that such trade union will only be entitled to these organisational rights if it is indeed sufficiently representative in the workplace. With reference to the second requirement, Brian van Zyl makes the point that such requirement will be complied with under the following circumstances:

(a) where there is no majority trade union in the workplace; or

(b) where there is a majority trade union in the workplace but such union has not been granted s14 organisational rights in that workplace; or

(c) no other non-organisational majority union has been granted s14 organisational rights in terms of s21(8A)(a) of the LRA.

Non-majority union may be granted s16 organisational rights

During the said arbitration process, a commissioner may also grant a non-majority union s16 organisational rights if again such union is not a majority union but indeed the most representative trade union.

A commissioner may grant such non-majority trade union s16 organisational rights if the following conditions are met:

– such trade union is entitled to the organisational rights contained in s12, s13, s14 and s15 in that workplace; and
– no other trade union has been granted organisational rights so contained in s16 with reference to that workplace.

With reference to the first requirement, Brian van Zyl indicates that such requirement will be met where:

– the trade union is sufficiently representative in the workplace (and therefore entitled to the organisational rights contained in s12, s13 and s15 of the LRA); and
– such trade union is entitled to the organisational rights as contained in s14 of the LRA, as a result of s21(8A)(a) of the LRA.

With reference to the second requirement Brian van Zyl holds the viewpoint that such requirement will be complied with where:

(a) there is no majority trade union in the workplace; or

(b) there is a majority trade union in the workplace but such majority trade union has not been granted s16 organisational rights; or

(c) no other non-majority trade union has been granted s16 organisational rights in terms of s21(8A) (b) of the LRA.

Union(s) may be granted s12, s13 and s15 organisational rights even though it does not meet the level of representativeness contained in a collective agreement.

Where a trade union or two or more registered trade unions acting jointly does/do not meet the thresholds of representativeness set by a collective agreement in terms of s18 of the LRA, a commissioner of the CCMA may, in terms of arbitration proceedings, grant s12, s13 or s15 organisational rights if:

– all the parties to the collective agreement have been given an opportunity to participate in the arbitration proceedings; and
– the trade union (or trade unions acting jointly) represent either a significant interest in the workplace or a substantial number of employees in the workplace.

Sectoral determinations may grant s12 and s13 organisational rights

In terms of s55(4)(o) of the BCEA, a sectoral determination is permitted to set a threshold of representativeness at which a trade union will automatically be entitled to s12 and s13 organisational rights, in respect of all workplaces covered by such sectoral determination.

The author makes the following comments in this regard:

(a) prior to this amendment, a trade union would only have been entitled to such organisational rights if indeed it was sufficiently representative of the employees employed by the relevant trade union in a workplace;

(b) the effect of the amendment is that any trade union, whether registered or not and irrespective of being sufficiently representative or a majority trade union, will automatically be entitled to the aforesaid organisational rights without utilising the procedures contained in s21 of the LRA (inclusive of conciliation and arbitration before the CCMA); and

(c) a dispute concerning these organisational rights is to be resolved by the labour court in terms of s77(1) of the BCEA and not by the CCMA, in terms of s21 of the LRA.

Parties to a bargaining council or statutory council may be granted s12 and s13 organisational rights

In terms of s19 of the LRA, a registered trade union, that is a party to a bargaining council or statutory council, will automatically be entitled to these organisational rights in respect of all workplaces within the registered scope of the bargaining council or statutory council, regardless of their representativeness in any particular workplaces.

Changes to Employment Laws: Text and Commentary contains a schematic exposition setting out the various levels of representation that a trade union has to achieve in a workplace in order to be granted the organisational rights as set out above as well as the relevant statutory provisions regulating such organisational rights (see accompanying Diagram, used with permission).

Henk Ungerer is a Labour Law Practitioner with Van Zyl-Rudd Inc,

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

Click here for part 2.

Clarity on CCMA jurisdiction

Establishment of employer/employee relationship at commencement of CCMA proceedings.

The labour appeal court, in Shell SA Energy (Pty) Ltd v National Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industry, Mbileni NO, Maseko NO and Ali (2013) 24 SALLR 38 (LAC), had the opportunity of considering the following important issues:

a) In the scenario where an employer, before the commencement of conciliation proceedings, in respect of a dispute concerning the alleged unfair dismissal of an employee, raises the point in limine that the CCMA lacks the jurisdiction to deal with the matter because of the absence of an employer/employee relationship between the parties, is the CCMA entitled to make a ruling at such a stage, in this regard?

b) (When the CCMA deals with the above jurisdictional objection, is it dealing with same as part of the conciliation hearing, thus entitling the CCMA to disallow legal representation and, furthermore, to engage in a fact-finding exercise?

c) In the scenario where the CCMA deals with the above jurisdictional objection, on what basis should it establish the existence of an employer/employee relationship?

d) In the said scenario, in order to properly deal with the issue of jurisdiction, what role does the parol evidence rule play?


This is an unopposed appeal brought with leave of the labour appeal court against the judgment of the labour court (Moshoana J) in a review application that was brought by the appellant to that court to have a ruling reviewed and set aside.
The first respondent is the National Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industry. The second respondent is a panellist who issued the ruling in question. This ruling was issued under the auspices of the first respondent.
The third respondent is also a panellist who, under the auspices of the first respondent, subsequently issued a certificate of outcome declaring that the dispute could not be resolved through conciliation of the matter.
The review, which was brought in terms of s158(1)(g) of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (“the LRA”), was directed at the second respondent’s ruling in terms of which he found that there was an employer-employee relationship between the appellant and the fourth respondent.

Pertinent facts of the case

The fourth respondent is a Sudanese national. On or about 8 March 2004 and, while in the employment of Shell Sudan, he was assigned to the appellant. Shell Sudan, like the appellant, is a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC (“RDS”).

In terms of the human resources policies and practices of RDS, employees of its subsidiaries are, worldwide, allowed to be assigned to subsidiaries in other countries where it (RDS) has operations, including South Africa. The assignment was for a period of four years.

The appellant paid the fourth respondent on the expatriate basic administrative salary (“EBAS”) system, which was a completely separate remuneration structure from the one applied to the appellant’s employees.

In terms of EBAS, pension and retirement funds were held by Shell Sudan. While the fourth Respondent was on assignment in South Africa, he was promoted to the position of engineering manager for the Shell Oil Products South Africa.

During 2007-2008, RDS embarked on a re-organisation process of its operations and subsidiaries in its Africa business.

During August 2008, and as a consequence of the restructuring process by RDS, the appellant sent a letter to the fourth respondent in which he was advised that Shell Sudan had been sold to Oil Libya with effect from 01 December 2008.

In the same letter, the fourth respondent was also given notice to start planning his repatriation to Sudan before the effective date of the sale.

The appellant’s understanding at that stage was that the sale of Shell Sudan to Oil Libya resulted in the fourth respondent no longer having a relationship with RDS, “the parent company”, thus adversely affecting his assignment to South Africa.

On or about 9 November 2008, Shell Sudan handed a letter to the fourth respondent in terms of which he was advised that his services were terminated with immediate effect due to the sale of the business to Oil Libya.

The fourth respondent received a severance package from Shell Sudan in terms of Sudanese laws, collective agreement with the recognised union and his employment contract.

The fourth respondent did not challenge his dismissal in terms of the dispute resolution mechanisms in Sudan. He returned to South Africa and referred an unfair dismissal dispute against the appellant to the first respondent. The dispute was set down for conciliation on 19 January 2009.

Point in limine

At the commencement of the conciliation proceedings, the appellant raised a point in limine in terms of which the jurisdiction of the first respondent was disputed on the basis that there was no employer-employee relationship between the appellant and the fourth respondent.

Submissions of the employee

The fourth respondent’s legal representative submitted:

– that the question of whether or not the fourth respondent had cited the correct employer had to be determined before conciliation could take place;
– that the second respondent may need to hear oral evidence in order to resolve any material disputes of fact regarding the true identity of the employer; and
– that the parties had the right to legal representation as the resolution of the dispute relating to the employer-employee relationship did not form part of the conciliation process.

The second respondent then ruled that the appellant’s legal representative should leave the hearing and that an employee of the appellant should make submissions on behalf of the appellant.

Oral arguments presented by both parties

Oral arguments were presented by that employee and the fourth respondent.

During these oral arguments, both parties referred to some documents which were subsequently provided to the second respondent after the hearing.

Ruling of the CCMA at conciliation

No oral evidence was led by either the appellant or the fourth respondent. The appellant’s review was based on the following inter-related grounds:

– that the second respondent improperly refused to allow the applicant legal representation to allow him to argue the in limine jurisdictional point;
– that the second respondent failed to invite both parties to present submissions on whether or not legal representation was warranted or not;
– that the second respondent’s finding that the fourth respondent was an employee of the applicant was not supported by properly admitted evidence;
– that the second respondent had failed to realise that there was a material dispute of fact as to whether the fourth respondent was an employee of the appellant as defined in s213 of the LRA;
– that the second respondent failed to direct the parties to adduce oral evidence when disputes of fact pertaining to the status of the fourth respondent emerged, thus committing an irregularity that denied the appellant a fair hearing;
– that the second respondent misconstrued the submissions made to him and failed to allow the parties to introduce into evidence all relevant documentation which would enable him to make a proper determination;
– that the second respondent failed to realise that the repatriation of the fourth respondent to Shell Sudan did not constitute a dismissal and that his services were terminated by Oil Sudan and not by the appellant; and
– that the second respondent failed to decide the point in limine on the basis of applicable legal principles.

Labour court judgment

The labour court concluded that the proceedings in which the appellant had raised the point in limine were conciliation proceedings and that, since a conciliator had no discretion to allow legal representation at conciliation proceedings, the appellant was, accordingly, not entitled to legal representation during the proceedings in question.

The labour court expressed the view that the appellant ought to have raised the jurisdictional point by bringing a written application as contemplated in the provisions of rule 31(2) of the Dispute Resolution Procedures of the first respondent, which would have guaranteed it legal representation in the matter.

The labour court also, further, expressed the view that there was, in any event, no absolute right to legal representation at proceedings heard by the first respondent.

As authority for this view, the labour court placed reliance on the case of Netherbum Engineering CC t/a Netherbum Ceramics v Mudau NO and Others (2009) 4 BLLR 299 (LAC).

On the issue of the second respondent’s conclusion, that there was an employer-employee relationship between the appellant and the respondent without recourse to oral evidence, the labour court found that the second respondent was well within his rights to do so, as rule 31(10) of the first respondent’s above-mentioned procedures allowed the first respondent to determine an application raising a jurisdictional point “in any manner it deems fit”.

The labour court, accordingly, found that the second respondent had correctly found that the appellant was the fourth respondent’s employer.

Findings of the court

The main issue in the appeal is the labour court’s finding that the proceedings before the second respondent, notwithstanding the jurisdictional objection that was raised, constituted a conciliation hearing, thus, entitling the second respondent to disallow legal representation and to engage in a fact-finding exercise, instead of allowing the presentation of evidence to establish the existence of the employer-employee relationship.

Dr Brian van Zyl is a Director of labour law firm Van Zyl Rudd and Associates,

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

Waiver: Do exceptional circumstances exist?

Understand when a prescribed requirement can be waivered.

Section 31(2)(c) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002, as amended, provides as follows:

“upon application, the Minister may under terms and conditions determined by him or her – for good cause, waive any prescribed requirement or form”.

Accordingly, the power is available to the Minister to waive any prescribed requirement.

Specifically since the coming into operation of the Immigration Amendment Act 13 of 2011, which came into operation in May 2014, the waiver process has become much more of a necessity.

Specifically where this process is being utilised is in respect of the general work visa process where, in terms of the Amendments, it is now required for the employer to advertise the position and prove that they could not find a suitable South African to fill the position and for this recruitment process to then be reviewed by the Department of Labour. The Department of Labour also conducts its own recruitment process to determine the availability of South African citizens or South African permanent residents for the position. Furthermore, the Department of Labour conducts a site inspection at the premises of the employer in order to confirm compliance with South African Labour Law standards.

While all of this certainly still seems to be understandable for purposes of employment of a foreign national, specifically when we have such a high unemployment rate in South Africa, the complications with this kind of application process come in light of the fact that the Department of Labour does not then issue their report to the prospective employee or prospective employer. The report is only provided directly to the Department of Home Affairs. On this basis, the prospective employee still then needs to prepare all documentation, often at quite an expense, to submit the application at the relevant South African Embassy or High Commission or local VFS office. Ultimately, the Department of Home Affairs lays the majority of its discretion upon the report issued to them by the Department of Labour. If this report is negative it is most likely that the outcome of the work visa will also be negative.

However, certainly the Department of Home Affairs officials still have discretion, based upon the documentation for the work visa submitted as to whether or not to grant the work visa despite the recommendation issued by the Department of Labour.

If this Department of Labour report were issued to the prospective employee or employer from the outset, this would save much time, effort and expense.

It is for this very reason that a waiver is often utilised here in order to bypass this Department of Labour requirement.

However, for a waiver to be successful, the applicant, in this scenario, being both the employee and employer need to be able to motivate that exceptional circumstances exist why a suitable South African citizen or permanent resident could not be found to fill the position that is being offered to the foreign national.

The aim of the Immigration Act and its Regulations is “to promote economic growth through the employment of needed foreign labour which does not adversely impact on existing Labour standards and rights and expectations of South African workers.”

On this basis, documentary proof needs to be submitted that a diligent search has been undertaken and that the employer has been unable to employ a local candidate with qualifications or skills and experience equivalent to those of the foreign national applicant.

Ultimately, this does offer the employer two possible options in respect of moving forward with the work visa process – either follow the waiver process or follow the process of advertisement and the Department of Labour application.

The biggest problem here comes when the prospective employee has not worked for the local company before or perhaps has qualifications and skills that differ from those of the position that he is being offered. What needs to be seriously considered in respect of following this waiver process is that the Department of Home Affairs can be assured that the employer has undertaken every possible step to try and locate a local candidate to fill the position and been unsuccessful. Due to the high unemployment rate in South Africa, especially with certain positions, it is impossible to be able to prove this. Waiver applications are more generally granted where the individual has already been in the employment of the company for some time and wishes to apply for an extension of a work visa. However, on a first time work visa application serious consideration needs to be given as to whether such waiver process would be successful or not. The discretion will lie with the Department of Home Affairs as to whether to grant the same or not.

It is for this reason that we put forward the concept of exceptional circumstances existing before moving forward with the waiver application. This applies in respect of the waiver of any requirement in terms of the Immigration Act or its Regulations.

It is also important to note that if the foreign national is based outside South Africa the waiver application must be submitted through the South African Embassy or High Commission in that individual’s country of origin or usual residence and the outcome awaited there. It is then only once the waiver has been granted that an application can then be made for the appropriate visa category.

If the individual is already in South Africa with status of something more than a mere tourist or visitor’s visa, the waiver application can be made from within South Africa through the appropriate Visa Facilitation Centre. This requires the applicant’s attendance in person at the relevant Visa Facilitation office for purposes of submission and to then await the outcome of the application, once again, before the appropriate visa application can be made.

At present, the waiver application can take a minimum of two to four months to complete as from date of submission of the application.

Tarryn Pokroy Rietveld is an Attorney at Julian Pokroy Attorneys, Immigration, Nationality and Refugee Law Specialists,

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of HR Future magazine.

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