Sonya Skipp

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Four must-do steps to successfully onboarding new employees

So, you’ve just hired a new employee? You no doubt went to great lengths to source the perfect candidate, spending hours on interviewing and background checks, or investing in a recruitment agency to help streamline the process.
But have you put the same effort into the onboarding process to which you’re about to subject your new star candidate?

It’s a fact that the first few months of a new employee’s time at a company are the most critical, yet many companies underestimate this period’s importance, especially the vital role it plays in talent retention.

Consider these three crucial factors: newly hired employees could still be receiving (attractive) job offers from interested employers; newly hired employees will, over the next few months, constantly ask themselves if they made the right decision joining your organisation; and newly hired employees are not yet loyal to or invested in their team or the company, making leaving easy.

Now think about your onboarding process for new recruits; does it do enough to welcome newcomers to the firm, to fuel their confidence in their decision to join the company, and to make them want to stay?

There are four areas where onboarding processes normally fall down, and that are most often responsible for new talent walking out the door before they’ve even seen their first staff Christmas party:

1. First points of contact: In their first days, once the paperwork has been completed, new employees interact with a range of departments, from IT to training. It’s imperative that all these departments (not just HR) are service-oriented, helpful and focused on ensuring a positive and user-friendly experience for new hires.

2. Workstation readiness: It’s surprising how often new employees (even those in senior positions) describe experiencing practical problems at their new company, like telephones, laptops or even entire workstations not being ready. That does little to inspire confidence in new arrivals. Make sure everything your new employee needs to seamlessly integrate into their team is ready from day one.

3. An inherent culture of welcoming: New staff need to feel genuinely welcome and important. Dismissive or arrogant behaviour from long-standing employees can be demoralising. Aim to create a culture within the company that specifically focuses on welcoming new employees, and that includes defined expectations from existing staff. Also ensure new hires have enough one-on-one time with their direct managers to ask questions and raise concerns.

4. Mechanisms for feedback: Aside from time with direct managers, new employees should have access to an impartial mechanism that allows them to talk freely about their onboarding experience. This allows you to quickly identify and rectify any potential negative experiences.

Just as important as perfecting the onboarding process is keeping an open mind when it comes to feedback on the process. It’s not always easy accepting criticism of the company from an ‘outsider’ and not holding their views against them as they proceed on their journey with the company.

But this is the feedback that will help improve and build a more robust onboarding process for your organisation. Given the significance of successful onboarding in retaining talent – which is only going to intensify in the future as the battle for attracting and securing top talent escalates – this input is invaluable.

Niteske Marshall is the Managing Director of Network Recruitment.

The green and clean energy we need in SA

The environmental change sweeping our world is happening at a rate far faster than previously imagined, concluded the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6) study carried out by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) this year.
With a focus on protecting the environment during World Environment Day, 01 June 2016, the move towards the provision of renewable energy through the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) Programme has been lauded for assisting in the reversion of the worst impacts of climate change, as recognised by the UNEP.

Renewable energy in general, and solar power specifically, allows for a reduction in the reliance on fossil fuels – while also providing a far superior option in terms of protecting the environment. The production of solar energy has minimal CO² emissions, little water usage, is inexhaustible, and it is safe.

Global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times over since 2000. Part of the reason for this is that solar is not a fuel, but a technology. Owing to economies of scale and increasing efficiency, prices of solar technology and supply continue to fall, as does the price of batteries for energy storage. As a result, the need for fossil fuels is falling internationally. It is only developing countries like South Africa that are still adding coal to the energy mix, more as a result of a rapid demand for further energy supply.

Not only is solar energy readily and freely available, but the cost of solar technology (internationally and locally) has come down substantially in the last few years. Internationally, the price has reduced as a result of technological innovation, the manufacturing learning rate, economies of scale and further competition.

Solar farms are commercially viable facilities funded by local banks and foreign direct investment and, unlike Eskom, do not need government funding and guarantees. It needs to be a priority in South Africa that we continue the investment in this source of abundantly free, green, sustainable energy.

Investing in solar power makes sense. It is the way the world is moving and South Africa is fast becoming a leading force in renewable energy programmes.

Solar power not only needs to be a priority locally in South Africa, but also the world. With increased pressures to reverse the effects of climate change, it is imperative the we focus our efforts on developing and improving renewable energy sources.

Paschal Phelan is the Chairman of Solar Capital.

Tips on managing employee performance effectively

Managing employee performance remains a key element of ensuring that businesses remain competitive by executing their strategies better and more efficiently.
Performance improvement cannot be achieved through traditional performance management approaches that focus primarily on employee assessments. For this reason top organisations are improving their practices.

In order to bring your organisation’s performance management up to date, the setting of clear performance objectives at the right levels of stretch, followed by more regular, real-time and forward looking conversations on performance between managers and employees is key.

The right level of stretch

This is the level of performance that encourages employees to do more than what is normally expected so that they can improve or sustain desired performance outcomes. It is important that performance objectives are defined in very specific terms.

Various guides are available to help organisations, managers and employees define stretch objectives including the widely used CSMART approach. This approach refers to defining objectives that are challenging, specific, measureable, achievable, and realistic and time bound.

Real-time conversations

Organisations should endeavour to create an environment where great conversations about the business are the norm and people are generally encouraged and feel it is safe to participate in them. Performance focused conversations should be held whenever support is required to make progress or when progress has been made. It is especially important to ensure that issues that impact on performance are addressed quickly.

Keep it regular

Traditional performance management approaches advocate set intervals, however, whilst this may work for some environments, it does not work in others. Flexible approaches are often necessary to cater for any event that may impact on an employee’s understanding of what they need to focus on and get the support they need to deliver great results.

Using a Reward Specialist

Where organisations are aiming at improving their performance management practices, the use of a Reward Specialist is advised. Reward Specialists generally ensure that their organisation’s total reward strategies and policies are formulated and implemented in a way that rewards people fairly and consistently in line with the value of their skills, knowledge and experience. They particularly have to ensure that performance based rewards encourage employees to maximise their performance.

Bonus plans, incentive schemes or stock options must fairly reward employees for achieving stretch performance objectives and contributing optimally to the success of the organisation.

As performance is a key decision factor for such schemes, a Reward Specialist has to ensure that their organisation’s performance management practices are effective and are therefore a sound basis on which to make performance based reward decisions. It is also important that they ensure that such schemes are motivational and speak to the needs and desires of the employees.

Lindiwe Sebesho is the President of the South African Reward Association (SARA).

HIV/AIDS discrimination in the workplace

Where an employer has HIV positive employees on their staff, can they use competence as a measure to dismiss an employee on that basis alone? No.
Yet, being HIV positive has become a dismissible offence according to the modern day employer. The stigma is far-reaching and the workplace is yet another arena where HIV positive employees are victimised.

People living with HIV constitute a minority. Society responds to their plight with intense prejudice. They are subjected to systemic disadvantage and discrimination. They are stigmatised and marginalised. They are denied employment because of their HIV positive status without regard to their ability to perform the duties of the position from which they have been excluded. Society’s response to them forces many of them not to reveal their HIV status for fear of prejudice. This in turn deprives them of the help they would otherwise receive.

Notwithstanding the availability of compelling medical evidence as to how this disease is transmitted, the prejudices and stereotypes against HIV positive people still persist. The impact of discrimination on HIV positive people is devastating especially when it occurs in the context of employment. It denies them the right to earn a living. For this reason they enjoy special protection in our law.

Employees often disclose their status to the employer out of fear of losing their job, or when faced with an employer’s questions about why they need a day off each month to collect medication. On the other hand they disclose their status in an attempt to retain their jobs. Employees are then faced with fierce discrimination, marginalisation, prejudice and ultimate dismissal in the workplace.

Discrimination and the law

Discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently from others because of prejudice. The Constitutional Court has mentioned that the basis for the prohibition of unfair discrimination is the recognition that all human beings regardless of their position in society have equal dignity. This dignity is impaired when a person is unfairly discriminated against.

Prior to 1998, employees relied on the provisions of Section 187(1)(f) of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (“LRA”) which provided various grounds on which a dismissal could be deemed unfair. Employees also relied on Section 9(3) of the Constitution which sets out grounds upon which a person may not be discriminated against. The problem was that HIV/AIDS in both the above pieces of legislation was not a listed ground. This necessitated the introduction of laws to prevent and/or address discrimination against people living with HIV in all areas of life including the workplace.

The Employment Equity Act (“the EEA”) No 55 of 1998 was amongst some of the pieces of legislation introduced to deal with discrimination against HIV infected employees.

Section 6(1) of the EEA provides that no person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against an employee, in any employment policy or practice on one or more grounds including amongst others a person’s HIV Status.

Section 7 of the EEA prohibits medical testing of an employee unless it is permitted by legislation and if it is justifiable in light of medical facts, employment conditions, social policy and the fair distribution of employee benefits or the inherent requirements of the job. This section provides further that testing of an employee to determine their HIV status is prohibited unless such testing is determined justifiable by the Labour Court in accordance with these criteria. The definition of testing in the EEA is quite broad. Often employers design questionnaires which are couched in ambiguous terms to try and ascertain the medical condition of employees. The above section renders these questionnaires unlawful unless an employer obtains the permission of the Labour Court to do this. In the event that the court agrees to this it may direct that pre or post counselling be offered to employees and that the employers keep the information obtained confidential.

Nonetheless, employers are sometimes faced with a situation where an employee cannot continue doing the same duties due to illness. The Code of Good Practice on Key Aspects of HIV/AIDS which was introduced in December 2000 as well as the revised Code provides that employers have to accommodate employees as far as possible. This includes restructuring positions where they will be expected to do less strenuous duties, as opposed to merely dismissing them or medically boarding the employees. If an employee cannot perform their duties an employer is entitled to institute an incapacity inquiry, which can be the basis for dismissing an employee.

Steps to take after an unfair Dismissal based on HIV/AIDS
• Refer the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (“CCMA”) within 30 days.
• If the matter is not resolved at the CCMA you should refer the matter to the Labour Court within 90 days from the date of conciliation.
• An employee who is unfairly dismissed on the grounds of HIV is eligible to apply for damages and/or re-instatement under both Section 187(1)(f) of the LRA and the EEA.
• Employees dismissed on the grounds of HIV who have no resort to legal assistance can seek free legal advice at the HIV and TB helpline operated by Legal Aid SA on 0800 110 110.

I would recommend that employees familiarise themselves with the above legislation to ensure that their rights are not infringed upon and in the event that their rights are infringed to urgently contact Legal Aid SA in order to receive legal advice. Employees should know what steps to take when their rights are infringed upon. Similarly employers and trade unions should develop appropriate strategies and policies to understand, assess and respond to the impact of HIV/AIDS in their particular workplace and sector.

Ayanda Ngubo is a Partner in the Pro Bono Practice at Webber Wentzel.

Eight lessons for entrepreneurs who want to conquer the world

I recently had the honour of speaking to Executive MBA students from the University of Columbia when they visited Cape Town for a summer school. I shared with them some of the key lessons I learnt during my first couple of years of running a start-up business.
I would like to share my learnings with entrepreneurs looking for some guidance.

1. Data doesn’t tell you everything

Most successful entrepreneurs trust their gut and instinct as much as they trust formal market research. Creating a new business is about defying the odds and finding opportunities. It’s about heart and courage as much as it is about intellect and analysis.

2. Disputes can arise with business partners

If you have partnered with other people to build a business, be ready for some potential disputes once the idealistic glow has worn off. Be sure that your partners complement your strengths and weaknesses and that you are able to turn the challenges in the relationship into a net positive. Conflict, if well managed, can create great opportunities. 

3. The first employee is an important milestone

When your business is a start-up, you’ll find it hard to attract the right people. Your budget will be limited which means your choices of potential employees will be too. Great talent usually wants to work for well-known and successful brands. Don’t make a bad appointment out of desperation – take your time to find the right fit. Remember that you’re not just hiring a techie or a sales rep – you’re laying down the foundation for your future culture.

4. Don’t be seduced by your own PR

As your business takes off, you might get opportunities to attend gala events with established business people. You could also get some PR. That’s all great, but don’t let it go to your head. Make sure you are focusing on your business fundamentals and not just your image. And remember, the press can be unpredictable.

5. As your company grows, your control may diminish

Many entrepreneurs dream of securing venture capital funding, being bought out by a bigger brand, or even listing their businesses on a stock exchange. It’s important to be willing to let your role evolve if you embrace such changes – you may need to be more transparent and flexible as well as delegate aspects of the business to others.

6. Learn how to cut your losses

If a product line or a division in your business is failing, act quickly. If it’s beyond redemption, dispose of it as cleanly and rapidly as you can. Don’t let a failing part of your business disrupt your strategic direction.

7. Share the wealth

As your business grows, make sure that your people’s prosperity grows, too. Making people feel that they’re recognised and valued is vital to employee engagement and retention of wonderful talent.

8. Change the world!

Use your talent and organisation to make a difference in the world. Give something back. It instils in your people a wonderful feeling of being part of something amazing. It also attracts investors, customers, and other stakeholders who want to be associated with a company that has a heart.

Ivan Epstein is the President for Sage International (Africa, Australia, Middle East, and Asia) and Chairman of Sage Foundation.

Leaders should look wider than a MBA

Ambitious executives considering furthering their education should carefully consider their options, and not automatically gun for an MBA as many have done in the past two decades.
Results from the company’s 2016 Executive Report, shows that while higher degrees definitely improve a candidate’s attractiveness, an MBA is no longer a ‘magic ticket’.

In the past, an MBA was a rare qualification, and its presence on a candidate’s CV made it a significant and prestigious addition. These days, MBAs are in abundance and no longer make the same impact.

According to findings, 90% of South Africa’s CEOs of Top40 companies have a technical degree, whether it be finance, sciences, business or engineering. Further, more than 90% of them have at least an Honours or other postgraduate degree. Interestingly however, only eight of these higher degrees were of the MBA variety.

The role of MBAs, as the research shows, is possibly over-estimated, with most leaders having higher degrees in other fields.

What is more critical when aiming for the top, is to ensure a strong financial, business or technical qualification, and secondly, having obtained a post-graduate degree.

Where previously a higher degree or MBA boosted a candidate’s chances above his peers, these days such qualifications are required simply to stay in the game. And the perception that an MBA is superior to other Master’s degrees in a technical discipline is incorrect.

There is certainly a case for a Master’s level qualification, as the research shows that 45% of SA’s Top 40 CEOs have obtained these. But the data confirms that there is no particular preference for the type of M degree.

The MBA as a postgraduate Master’s level qualification has had the benefit of fantastic marketing, but another Master’s – provided it is from a reputable institution and particularly if it is in a sought-after focus area – will do you just as well, if not better.

So before jumping on the MBA bandwagon, those considering further education and advanced degrees should carefully assess all their options before making the time and financial commitments required.

Meanwhile, another key insight from the research on the education of Top Leaders was that much more work was required at school-level to ensure transformation in the corporate sector, and that the basic education system was one of the key challenges in the country’s transformation journey.

If maths and science are not mastered at school, there is little hope that a candidate will be able to overcome the initial hurdles of acquiring a financial, technical or business degree, and ultimately claim a top leadership position.

So while we should continue to push at the top to ensure substantial transformation, there is crucial change that needs to be effected at the foundations, which currently do not support long-term and sustainable transformation efforts.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat is the CEO of Jack Hammer.

Social skills are crucial to succeed in business

According to research done by trade union Solidarity, nearly 60 000 South Africans have been retrenched over the past year, and it is believed that the actual number could be substantially higher.
With the recession forcing many companies to downsize and their concern being for the business’s “bottom line”, it is no surprise that when downscaling, only the cream of the crop remain employed.

This has led to working environments becoming increasingly competitive as individuals navigate their way to ensure that they secure their place within a company.

The reality is that people that enter the workforce today are most likely to have had over ten different jobs by the time they retire. The lack of job security that is experienced by today’s workforce is something that almost everyone must face at one time or another, and learning how to cope is essential to being successful and keeping stress away. So, how do you deal with this uncertainty?

In a study done by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute, all three found that 85% of job success related to getting, keeping and advancing in a job is connected to people skills, leaving only 15% to technical knowledge and skill.

As businesses mechanise and automate to take advantage of technological advancements, they also seek to re-mobilise human resources which are more easily adaptable to this new market. This means that to stay ahead and be in the forefront of being the preferred candidate or service provider you must outshine the competition by being likeable and socially adept within diverse environments. Being arrogant, shy or distant can only serve as a one way ticket out the door.

Further, instead of hiding behind your social media avatar and personal brand, have the courage to be your genuine self. Focus on building relationships in the real world. Listen to what people have to say and trust your instinct as that is the only way to genuinely relate, make connections, and understand people.

So yes, someone may be qualified for a particular job, fit to lead a team, and even entitled to a promotion because they have extensive experience and highly developed technical skills. However, while these things are crucial to professional success, it is imperative that people also have world class social and interpersonal skills for that competitive edge which sets them apart from colleagues and defines their path to success – luckily organisations offer interested parties the opportunity to brush up on business etiquette as well as interpersonal skills.

The question to ask yourself is: in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, averaging 25.27 percent from 2000 until 2015 (Stats SA), can you really afford not to be at the top of your business skills game?

Courtenay Carey is the co-founder and Director at The School of Etiquette.

What questions should we ask about leadership?

There are many questions we need to ask ourselves about leaders and leadership. By doing so, we might choose or follow better leaders and make sure that those who are not doing what they should be doing are soon replaced by leaders who are capable of leading properly.

While there is a tremendous focus on leaders and leadership models, few people ask one of the most basic questions. That question is: why should we have leaders?

It seems like such an obvious question, but an examination of possible answers could be quite revealing …

Before attempting to answer the question, it might be worthwhile looking at a definition of leadership. There are as many definitions of leadership as there are leaders. For the purpose of this discussion, I will therefore provide my own definition. In my view, leadership is about the qualities, skills and actions required to take people to a better reality.

This definition can be applied to leaders in government, companies, communities and any small group.

So, in a nutshell, leadership is all about a better future. If it’s not, what’s the point of having leaders? Who wants a leader who does nothing to change reality for the better? Who wants a leader who will take people to a worse reality or a worse future? Nobody.

Another question we should ask ourselves is: are the leaders we’re following taking us to a better future? And, if you are a leader yourself, ask this question: am I taking people to a better future?

It stands to reason … if we’re already living in a perfect reality, doing as well as anyone possibly could, we would have no need of leaders. But we do not live in an ideal world and every reality could be improved upon. So, while there is a need to move to a better reality, there is a need for good leaders.

To answer the question as to why we should have leaders, we need to ask ourselves if we’re happy with the reality in which we currently find ourselves. If we’re not, we need to think very carefully about the leaders we choose or follow.

Another question to ask is: what better reality or better future is the leader wishing to take us to? If it’s a future in which he or she will benefit but which provides very little, if any, better future for others, be very careful. That’s not a leader. That’s an exploiter – someone who is exploiting position, influence, opportunity, people and many other things to get what THEY want.

Good leaders will have a vision of a future which benefits everyone and not just themselves.

If, therefore, we’re not happy with our current reality, it might be worthwhile looking for someone who has the qualities, skills and actions to take us away from our current, undesirable, reality to a better one.

Now democracies end up with leaders who receive the most support – the support of the majority. While democracy may the best option we have at this stage in our journey as humans, the one flaw of democracy is that the majority is not necessarily right.

Companies and businesses are however not democratic entities – employees can’t vote the CEO or board out. Shareholders of listed companies can play a role in this regard, but not employees. If employees are unhappy with the leader of the company they’re working for, they will need to leave and look for a company with better leaders.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you cannot challenge your leader. The days of autocratic, power-full leaders who may not be challenged are fading. All leaders should be held accountable for their qualities, skills and actions, and we are the ones who should be holding them accountable.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.

Steve Rogers

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