Ndazo Mafadza



Some further predictions in store for HR in 2016

Cloud-based systems make their appearance in a big way.

In this month’s article I would like to carry on from where we left off last month, looking at the prediction for trends of technology within the HRIS space. The second primary trend identified in the Bersin by Deloitte research is improving the employee experience.

Experts are predicting that there is a massive groundswell movement away from the traditional licensed on-premise software solutions to the new generation of integrated HR and talent systems which are being made available through Cloud-based solutions.

There are quite a few misconceptions around what a Cloud-based solution truly is, so for the sake of clarity, a Cloud-based solution is defined as a software solution running off site, which is provided by a third-party to their clients, which can be accessed either via the Internet or through a dedicated line. Users are thus able to connect from anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection. In general, the maintenance of Cloud-based solutions is a lot easier, as they do not need to be installed on the organisation’s servers or the users’ computers.

In addition, the third party providing Cloud-based solutions is responsible for software updates, disaster recovery, backups, hardware upgrades and general day to day data base administration tasks. All of these application related services become “invisible” to the client, thus allowing them to focus entirely on utilising the rich functionality provided by the solution.

In the international HR community over the past year, many organisations invested billions of dollars in brand-new, core HR software, representing one of the biggest shifts in HR technology investments since the arrival of the client/server environment.

Research has shown a clear acceleration in the trend of organisations reducing the number of separate and disparate HR systems they have through a modernisation process of moving to Cloud-based technologies.

In 2015, Bersin by Deloitte conducted research that uncovered the main drivers in Technology Transformation for HR systems, the top four being:

1. 82% of organisations wanted their HR solutions to be easier to use for their employees;
2. 73% wanted to have integrated data and analytics as part of their solution;
3. 66% wanted to move to a Cloud-based solution; and
4. 59% wanted an HR solution that provided a fully integrated talent management solution.

Combined with this research, organisations were asked, “How will you upgrade your technology?”

The top four responses came out as follows:

1. 26.5% responded that they would remove their current solutions and move their entire solution to a Cloud-based offering;
2. 21% responded that they would use a combination of licenced on-premise software and Cloud-based solutions;
3. 18% responded that they would only move their Talent Management functions to a Cloud-based solution; and
4. 15% responded that they would move to a hosted/outsourced solution utilising either a single tenant hosted solution or by outsourcing the business processes.

The above research clearly shows that two of the biggest drivers today are around “ease of use” and “integrated data with analytics”. So it seems safe to say, especially from an international perspective that, by and large, HR teams have finally started recognising the importance of providing true “systems of engagement”, whilst bringing data analytics into the mainstream of the HR function.

Although the above research was conducted in the USA, these trends, albeit with a little slower uptake in South Africa, are following the same path. One of the big advantages of Cloud-based solutions is that the time to deliver to new markets is drastically shortened as effectively the same solution can be made available in any territory, with the only real limitation being Internet connectivity.

With great strides finally been made in South Africa with regards to a country-wide rollout of fibre optic networks, as well as the introduction of 4G/LTE technologies in the mobile data space, connectivity is finally been made available to the masses in a form that can be utilised for business processes, as opposed to just being available for Web browsing on a smart device.

In summary, there is now a definitive move of HR solutions from being just core “HR-centric” systems to becoming more “employee-centric” systems of engagement, aimed at providing an easier and richer experience for employees within the organisation. The prediction of the move towards the replacement of legacy systems is certainly accelerating, with one of the primary driving forces being the innovation of a whole new breed of Cloud-based talent management solutions, which organisations can no longer afford to ignore if they take talent management seriously.

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


Josh Bersin – Bersin by Deloitte – http://www.bersin.com;
Predictions for 2016 – A Bold New World of Talent, Learning, Leadership, and HR Technology Ahead.

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

Click here for part 1.

Click here for part 3.

Transform your customer experience

Change your staff culture and you’ll change your customers’ experience.

Customer experience is a strategic differentiator in any organisation which can lead to a competitive advantage. Organisations spend a lot of time and effort making the customer experience positive and memorable, but this process starts with staff motivation.

If staff in an organisation are having a positive experience working in the organisation, a positive customer experience will follow. The opposite is also true.

There is a direct link between staff culture and customer service. If an organisation aims to change its customer experience, it should start with its staff culture.

If staff work in a positive environment, have sufficient training with the necessary development programmes and remuneration, it will directly impact on how they treat customers. Therefore, organisations should first measure their staff experience before measuring customer experience.

In a 15-year study, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Strategic Planning Institute compared organisational growth and profitability. The study indicated that market share, return on investment and asset turnover are all linked to the perceived quality of an organisation’s goods and services.

Regardless of the industry, service quality is one of the most powerful tools for shaping perceptions of overall quality. Correcting customer service requires effort over a long period of time.

In today’s marketplace, service has to be outstanding. If not, it, it will be considered mediocre. The principal objective of an organisation focusing on service quality should be the integration of a service quality philosophy into customer-service training (Spechler, 1989:20-21).

Customer experience is defined by various authors in various ways. Their words differ, but a key message is that it starts with customers and their emotions and behaviours when interacting with an organisation, and runs through all the definitions like a golden thread.

Customer experience is a concept that has evolved over time to become a systemic and holistic concept focused on the customer. It is about a “human” interaction and therefore the emotions of customers are a vital part of this experience.

The definition by Seybold (2002:108) namely “a total customer experience is a consistent representation and flawless execution, across distribution channels and interaction points, of the emotional connection and relationship you want your customers to have with your brand” encompasses all the most important aspects of the total customer experience.

The customer experience is felt in all interactions within an organisation and, therefore, it is important to understand that customers interact with an organisation through various means, but the experience must always be the same.

In the 1980s, organisations focused on service quality as a means of delivering a better service to customers and, through this focus, obtain strategic differentiation in their strategies. Strategies contained concepts such as operational efficiency and quality processes. The measurement of service quality was internal and based on getting the processes and procedures of a high-quality and standard.

During the 1990s, organisations interacting with customers began to realise that customers’ expectations and the importance of understanding the customer were important. Strategies started to include concepts such as “a customer-focused organisation” and “customer centric”. Customer service was measured in the 1990s through the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI), focusing mainly on customer satisfaction.

Since the 2000s, a realisation came to the fore that service quality and customer service on its own are not enough to address the needs and expectations of customers.

Customers have become more enlightened and their expectations are increasing continuously.

Organisations wanting to focus on the customer today need a deeper understanding of the customer. Businesses need to understand and address the expectations of customers in the context of a total customer experience. This includes service quality and customer service.

Dr Adri Droskie is the MBA Director of Henley Business School South Africa, www.henleysa.ac.za.

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

Retain your talent

Use personal and professional development to ensure you keep the good people.

Throughout our lives we are faced with countless challenging decisions, many that influence the pathways we take and where we land on the career ladder. As an employer, and employee, in South Africa we are prone to focus on monetary and tangible elements in our work environment – raises, benefits, travel distance to work, working hours and more, all of which are important to consider, of course.

The South African employment market is currently experiencing an economic downturn in terms of employment opportunities, bonuses, salary increases and promotion. As a professional recruiter, I experience a daily stream of applications from job seekers – hundreds to be honest – with limited vacancies available. According to Statistics South Africa, “The unemployment rate in South Africa increased to 26.7 per cent in the three months to March of 2016 from 24.5 per cent in the previous quarter and above market expectations of 25.3 per cent. It was the highest reading since September 2005, as the number of unemployed rose by 10 per cent whereas employment fell 2.2 per cent.”

Twenty years ago, the limitations in terms of placement were connected to scarce resources and shortages of skilled people. Today, however, we have many graduate applicants but little opportunity for employment. This in turn leads to educated applicants being unable to obtain valuable work experience and, hence, not being selected for the available opportunities. Organisations have started looking for “already experienced, skilled and trained candidates”, in order to cut costs in terms of training and development. The result – your most valuable and skilled employees are being poached and head-hunted and retaining the talent becomes an obstacle in itself. With the development of professional networks such as LinkedIn and Branded.Me, this has become even easier. If you are currently a member on LinkedIn, you would know that the network even suggests possible job opportunities to you – even if you are not actively looking. So how do you ensure your star-players aren’t grabbed by other organisations?

Neglecting to invest in the personal and professional development of your employees can have dire consequences. Monetary incentives only provide motivation up to a certain point, thereafter factors such as cultural fit, personal growth, recognition, meaning and purpose become more important. Many times we have heard employees complain that, “I want to leave my company because I don’t feel like I’m growing,” and, “I don’t think that I make a difference anymore”. At this stage, they have consciously become aware that they have stopped developing personally.

As an employer, showing interest in the professional development of an employee is an important factor to consider. Employees can become disengaged and lose drive, energy and loyalty, inevitably leading to high absenteeism, high turnover rates and an overall negative working environment, to name but a few. According to Pech and Slade (2006), “The phenomenon of employee disengagement appears to be correlated with conditions where there is a lack of psychological identification and psychological meaningfulness.” As humans, we are complex and we are driven by different abilities, interests, preferences and ideas.

Identifying the strengths and development areas of each employee, on both a personal and professional level, can assist you, as an employer, to pinpoint exactly what drives and motivates each employee. By identifying these motivations, we can start to focus on driving performance through personal strengths and enhancing personal development through assisting the employee to address his or her development areas.

Employers who are actively taking part in building a culture of engagement in their work environment will foster employee loyalty and retention when other opportunities present itself to the employees (Swindell, 2011). A personal development initiative is one way of actively taking part and investing in the development of your employees.

Investing in a Personal Development Assessment is the first step. Each personal development assessment battery should be tailored to the employee being assessed. This is based on work level, secondary purpose of the assessment, that is, succession planning, type of profession and educational background. Ordinarily an assessment battery consists of a personality assessment, cognitive ability assessments and a learning potential assessment. Based on the results of these assessments, you can identify individual strengths and development areas. Centred on each employee’s personal assessment scores you are then able to compile a personal development plan (PDP). This is a step-by-step plan to assist the employee to identify their own strengths and be made aware of and understand his/her own development areas.

When considering using psychometric assessments to invest in your employees’ development, there are some factors to keep in mind when choosing your service provider. The assessor has to be a registered Psychologist whose scope of work covers workplace assessments. To be on the safe side, an Industrial Psychologist can be considered appropriate. They also have to adhere to ethical assessment practices as governed by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and other relevant South African legislation such as the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996), the Labour Relations Act (66 of 1995), the Employment Equity Act (55 of 1998) and the Health Professions Act (56 of 1974).

Ethically, this makes sense to both the organisation and the employee, as each employee being assessed is allowed to drive their own development and growth and the PDP is tailored to the individual and not a group. As an employer, Personal Development Assessments are ideal for succession planning, talent management, retention and identifying the diamond-in-the-rough. For the employee, these assessments are ideal for career guidance, study guidance, overall personal development and promotes feelings of importance and recognition. According to Solomon and Sandhya (2010) investing in your employees’ development and growth directly influences a decrease in absenteeism and leads to increased levels of employee engagement and loyalty. In short, a little investment can go a long way …

Marilize De Witt is a registered Industrial Psychologist at Africorp Solutions and Advisory, www.africorpsolutions.co.za, who specialise in placements, selection assessments, employee development assessments and team cohesion workshops.


Pech, R. & Slade, B. (2006). Employee disengagement: is there evidence of a growing problem? Handbook of Business Strategy, 7(1), 21 – 25.
Swindall, C. (2011). Engaged Leadership: Building a Culture to Overcome Employee Disengagement, (2nded.) (pp. 3-7) Cintro Publishers.
Markos, S. and Sridevi, M. S. (2010). Employee Engagement: The Key to Improving Performance. International Journal of Business and Management, 5(12), 89 – 96.

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

Manage your way through austerity

Instructions to the remuneration cadre: tighten your belts.

The economic downturn that began in December 2007 has still not allowed for the labour market to recover, despite its “official ending” in June 2009. The result of this turmoil due to mass downsizing is high unemployment rates and older workers forced into early retirement, most of which had not saved sufficiently or had to forfeit their savings in the investment market, forcing them to look for new jobs, rather than retiring completely. Workers, who managed to dodge retrenchment, remained stagnant in their jobs. As a consequence of all the above, the job market suffered depletion.

The impact of the downturn is now being felt by most companies. We can’t do what we always did, albeit it smarter, if our company has been affected. It calls for careful consideration of the various options. This article focuses on what organisations are doing from an HR and remuneration point of view.


The best way to capture this word is by describing a scenario whereby everyone withholds resources. Companies are becoming more cautious when it comes to investing in new products and services, which leads to new jobs being created and more layoffs taking place. At the same time, banks are less generous with loans for organisations and customers, which further limits the market and customers are unable to purchase products and services. This continuous spiral continues to kick the economy down every time it tries to get back up.

There is no need to over react but there is a need to carefully consider your options about what to do when the downturn bites your organisation. First prize is usually to hold on to jobs, avoid retrenchment and keep the ship running. If these are not possibilities, there are several remuneration options that form alternative options.

Please can I keep my job?

Keeping a job is important for medical aid and retirement benefits, keeping the mind going, dignity and esteem. If the job is lost, so are all of those, and finding one again will be difficult. Based on a recent survey conducted by 21st Century Pay Solutions Group, organisations are implementing many innovative practices in order to save jobs.

The table below sets out the 10 most commonly implemented solutions:

Summary of job saving practices

Future focus areas

In order to reposition for the future, organisations are placing emphasis on the following themes:

  • Flatter, faster, more responsive structures;
  • Strengthening the link between performance and pay;
  • Defensible differentiation in terms of the remuneration approach and spend; and
  • More efficient salary administration systems and processes including web enabled remuneration tools.

“Mass customisation”, where return on reward is maximised has seen a major demand. Big across-the-board pay increases are a thing of the past and we need to get better at spending the money more wisely. Many boards are saying, “Don’t come to us with a blunt instrument.” Rather, they require a lot more focus. The implications of this are, paying according to:

– scarcity of skill;
– performance;
– market positioning;
– track record; and
– value add.

Differentiating according to these factors needs to be done in a defensible way, but done more aggressively and more targeted, based on company specific objectives. This implies robust salary survey information and performance management systems.

Labour market myths

Common labour market myths concerning salary surveys are indicated below.

Myth 1: The cost of labour and the cost of living are pretty much the same.

The truth: While cost of labour and cost of living might be related, labour cost and cost of living are influenced by different market forces.

Myth 2: Labour market movement is measured by year to year change in average pay.

The truth: Average pay is considered an incomplete metric when measured in a salary survey. Salary surveys do not only capture every incumbent in a market, and the average does not indicate data dispersion, and it will benefit the salary survey team to combine different jobs or industries, because the average on the two is even less useful.

Myth 3: Labour markets are a function of size.

The truth: Company/organisation size is only taken into consideration when the salary survey team works with top executive jobs. Usually size does not have an impact at market level and sometimes a negative correlation between the company/ organisation size and what it pays for individual contributors, supervisors or middle managers might exist.

Myth 4: Labour markets are a function of each particular industry.

The truth: It will depend on the specific job. For example, the market for special Vintners is limited to the winemaking industry; however the market for specialised Accountants crosses every industry in the market. Many employees will find themselves in cross-industry jobs.

Myth 5: Labour markets are not relevant if business is great.

The truth:While your ability to pay more when your company/organisation is doing well is fine, your need to pay may not be. Many employers have made the mistake to overpay for labour or services rendered, just because they felt they could.

Myth 6: Labour markets are not relevant when business is terrible.

The truth: While your ability to pay less when your company/organisation is not doing so well is affected, your need to pay is not. In the long-term you will find yourself out of business if you cannot afford the market-related rate for labour or services rendered.

How important management is when dealing with austerity

Management must be sure to create an organisational culture whereby people are certain of their value and contributions to the organisation. Because specialists create a large pool in the job market, it is much more difficult to distinguish those that attain the required level of expertise. Seemingly, if you have already found the appropriate employee, keep them close. Management must also be sure to build partnerships both inside and outside the organisation as well as inter-departmentally so that one’s organisation gains a vantage point when customers or clients have attained a loyalty to your organisation and the performance of other departments is ultimately dependent on yours.

Budgeting and investments are also crucial responsibilities of management in times of austerity. The budget should be managed with caution and a conservative attitude. Budgets should not be built on growth prediction due to the fact that there is very little guarantee of this. This also means that only the projects with the highest guarantee of success with the maximum return of investment should be invested in. Last but not least, it is crucial to plan in advance. Those that plan exceed those that don’t. In order to grab any opportunities that come your way, it is important to be able to cope during chaos. Management should thus forecast what could happen and be prepared with the necessary resources for when the moment arrives.


There are some golden dos and don’ts that high performing organisations are adhering to in these tight times. Some of these include:

  • On-the-level feedback and communication to employees on the state of the organisation, financial health, future plans and importance of people;
  • Engage employees – engaged employees are less likely to leave, are happier, serve customers better, all of which improve bottom line;
  • Don’t stop training and development;
  • Don’t cut into the muscle and memory of the organisation as a preventative measure;
  • Co-agree across-the-board pay cuts before retrenching. Ask everyone to think like an owner: innovate;
  • Be concerned with systems and processes and how to improve them;
  • Clean up your act – notice the stain in the carpet, cigarette butts lying around, and weeds growing on the property. Make it pleasant for the customer to visit;
  • Speed up turnaround times;
  • Produce more for less, whilst improving quality; and
  • Institutionalise delighting the customer.

Concluding thoughts

Remuneration in organisations has shifted from an egalitarian approach to a very specific targeted approach for core teams that will take the organisation into the future. Building sustainable structures and rewarding them appropriately will set out the difference between employers that have an average EVP (Employee Value Proposition) versus those with a great EVP.

We are entering a new era that doesn’t tolerate bureaucracy, inefficiency, poor quality, poor customer service, arrogance or complacency. The financial shake up is a good reminder to be grateful for what we have, strive for more and above all get our house in order. All this, whilst remembering work/life balance.

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. Daniela Christos is a Candidate Human Resources Practitioner at 21st Century Pay Solutions Group, www.21century.co.za.

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

Why companies must keep Millennials engaged

Companies must keep their Millennials engaged in the new world of work.

Wikipedia defines evolution has the change in the heritable traits of biological populations over successive generations. If one were to forget about the biology, then evolution is very much a process that organisations need to go through in order to survive. Organisations need to constantly change their inherited traits in order to remain agile and strategic.

How we listen to music is a key example of how traits need to change in specific organisations. We have gone from listening to vinyl to 8-track to cassette tapes to compact disks to digital music, and now we listen in the Cloud (virtual storage), if companies like Sony had not adapted, they would no longer exist.

HR needs to keep up with these changing dynamics in order to remain relevant. Over the past few years, HR in South Africa has moved from being mostly transactional to transformational. The implication is that they are indeed more strategic and relevant, and the organisations they work within see HR as a key lever for success. CEOs and Executives often utilise the pillars of HR, like Talent Management or Workforce Planning, to drive the organisation forward and to help retain employees through engagement and culture shifts. The question remains, however: is the change happening fast enough and is HR doing all it can?

By 2025, jobs which were common place in 2015 will no longer exist. Students graduating in 2016, will have obsolete qualifications for which there will no longer be a profession by 2025. This is an unfortunate reality for the youth of today. This, of course, does not only have implications for people, but also for companies. As “WORK 1.0” changes to the new world of “WORK 2.0”, so does the workforce.

Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) are not only flooding the job market but also sitting firmly in many talent pipelines and, with this new workforce, comes a whole new way HR has to define employees and the work environment within which they operate.

To cater for this, organisations and HR need to evolve much faster and must work much more in sync in order to attract, retain and engage this new WORK 2.0 workforce.

A variety of research concurs that there are four main values that Millennials look for in an employer:

1. Development: Like organisations, Millennials know that their skills need to adapt to a changing environment and they are hungry for training and growth. Organisations must provide learning that is relevant and easily accessible. This does not only mean pushing content to Millennials, it means making the content exciting and applicable and maximising on ROT (Return on Training). This task is much harder than it sounds, as Millennials now learn continuously and autonomously. Platforms such as Google and YouTube provide an environment of collaborative learning, where information is sought from people who have learnt it already and want to share and teach this information. New ways of learning like Virtual Classrooms, Podcasts, online forums and E-coaching will be some of the ways to get Millennials to learn within organisations.

2. Meaning: Millennials want to do work that matters and beyond that they want to work for companies that make a difference to the communities and countries they operate within.

This is not just about a ‘feel-good’ moment, Millennials want to believe that they make a difference, and they will work for organisations that can help them achieve this.

Organisations must realise that CSI and Socio- Economic development are not just buzz words or compliance tick-boxes, but they can be sustainable strategic levers and key retention mechanisms for Millennials.

3. Autonomy: Millennials have a natural entrepreneurial spirit and prefer being driven through outputs and deliverables, thereby managing their own time. They appreciate feedback instantaneously so that behaviour can be corrected in real time for maximum efficiency. Organisations need to re-think how they “performance manage” Millennials. The archaic methods that still prevail in many organisations do not encourage constant feedback and coaching.

The technology within organisations must also cater for the entrepreneurial and flexi-time nature of the new workforce as these employees need to be able to communicate and collaborate while on the go. They need to be connected to the organisation in some way or another. Many organisations are employing the concept of Digital Workplaces and this has been shown to boost productivity, speed up innovation and drive operational excellence, all leading to strategic growth.

4. Transparency: Factual information that is either positive or negative is crucial to Millennials – they want to be kept in-the-know. In the digital age of the Internet, there is no lack of information and devices to retrieve this information. In fact, the average data storage per person has gone from 2GB to 20GB in five years. Millennials are used to having all the information they need at their fingertips. If organisations are not transparent and HR is not clear about processes and procedures, Millennials will not build a sense of trust and cohesion with the organisation. Once you have lost your employees’ hearts, you will never have their minds.

60% of Millennials leave their company in less than three years. Organisations therefore need to focus on the above variables to retain their talent. The businesses that will survive into this new future are the ones that can maximise on their retained talent and not merely rely on their strength but rather rely on their ability to adapt to change.

Nishan Pillay is the Human Capital Manager: Group Human Capital at Primedia, www.primedia.co.za.


Frost & Sullivan, Will you be digitally relevant in the next 10 years?, W Houghton;
Grovo, The Disappearing Act – Why Millennials leave companies; and
HRLC. Generation X and Y employees.

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

Protect your Whistleblowers

Firms attack whistleblowers’ mental health to undermine claims.

Organisations demonise whistleblowers leaving some suicidal in an attempt to paint them as mentally ill and discredit their claims, according to new research.

Whistleblowers are protected by law in the UK so they shouldn’t be treated unfairly or lose their job, but a study of 25 workers who revealed wrongdoing in their organisations such as banks, healthcare or procurement services, paints a different picture.

The study found whistleblowers did lose their jobs either by being pressured out of the organisation or being dismissed. If they did stay, they suffered retaliation through bullying, demotion, isolation, and harassment, while some were forced by their company to take mental health counselling, and one saw her husband, who worked at the same bank, sacked.

Many did crack under the pressure, suffering mental illness through depression, panic attacks, and anxiety or developed drinking problems.

The stigma surrounding mental illness can be used as a weapon intended to defame and neutralise a person who discloses wrongdoing, with the process of whistleblowing only intensifying the likelihood of experiencing such negative health effects.

The mental health of litigants can be used by organisations in defending allegations and can result in diverting attention away from the seriousness of the disclosure and discrediting the whistleblower.

Co-investigator Kate Kenny, of Queen’s University Belfast, says, “As long as we as a society play along and turn a blind eye to the whistleblower’s plight, the organisations, who are in reality the true transgressors, will continue to have their way.”

Priory Clinic

In our working paper How Organisations Use Mental Health To Discipline Whistleblowers and Undermine their Message, one whistleblower John (not his real name), says: “They put me on psychiatric support at the Priory Clinic. So, what they do here is they pacify you as somebody with mental health issues. Therefore, there’s no validity.”

While Greg (not his real name) said: “You may know that you are unemployed because you did something right, that doesn’t stop you feeling isolated, it doesn’t stop you feeling low self-esteem, it doesn’t stop you being poor, it doesn’t stop your health being affected.”

In the 25 interviews with whistleblowers from the UK, Europe and the US, it was found the initial stage of secretly obtaining information was stressful, but when they went public, battling with the organisation was when many were pushed to breaking point.

Many find the stresses too much to cope with and they just give up.

They are forced to settle and not take the matter any further because the stress is overwhelming. Some even took the self-management of mental health to the extreme of not wanting it mentioned during interviews with health professionals for fear of it damaging their reputation.

The loneliness and alienation that comes from being positioned outside of the social, or organisational, norm leads to self-doubt and, if prolonged, can cause mental stress, illness or even attempted suicide.

This self-management and even self-censorship only feeds into the hands of the companies.

The more oppressive the struggle with mental health, the greater the likelihood of demotivation. Thus, some whistleblowers were forced to accept the bad practice as normal to fit in with the rest of the organisation and avoid any more stress, even though they felt guilt and mental anguish about the bad practice – a paradox they found difficult to cope with.

Demonising whistleblowers

‘Whistleblower retaliation’ – in which the company isolates or punishes whistleblowers, whether by demoting them, worsening their working conditions or terminating employment – was part of every one of the 25 cases we studied.

No organisation in the research was thankful for the whistleblower highlighting wrongdoing and sought to rectify it. Instead the reaction was one of denial and demonising the whistleblower.

A whistleblower named Georgia revealed the bank reacted by chasing her husband, who worked at the same bank, demanding he pay his mortgage immediately.

“They wouldn’t give him the finance to finish the houses … then they sacked him, so he didn’t have a source of income,” she says. “And they were threatening him because obviously if you don’t have any money, you can’t pay the mortgage.”

Georgia described the frequent bullying and harassment she experienced, noting it was a deliberate ploy to grind her down. “They wanted to see me break,” she said.

Liam (not his real name), who reported a case of corruption involving arms contracts, said: “Psychologically they almost got me. I think it had been working on me for some time.”

Anxiety and fear

Another whistleblower saw his company commission a report into his complaint, but found it was mostly about him rather than the issue raised, with it describing him as “emotional and not reasoned, measured or coherent”, which was then leaked to the press, including the Financial Times.

He said: “It was devastating. Can you imagine being described like that when you set out to do your job to the best of your ability?”

It is clear that retaliatory tactics might create vulnerability to poor mental health and the emergence of symptoms of mental illness: stress, anxiety and fear are a common occurrence.

Furthermore, retaliation against whistleblowers can also include character assassination. Accusations of being disgruntled employees, spies or ‘squealers’ can often undermine whistleblowers’ efforts to expose immoral or illegal acts.

By throwing around these labels, it only compounds the stress of whistleblowing and increases the vulnerability to mental health issues. It also serves as a way to demotivate other potential whistleblowers.

Whistleblowers’ disclosures save public money and protect the public interest. A growing number of countries are implementing legislation that aims to protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. This study has shown this is crucial for recognising the importance of candour and speaking up against wrongdoing.

Prof. Marianna Fotaki is a Professor of Business Ethics at Warwick Business School in the UK. She holds degrees in medicine, health economics, and a PhD in public policy from London School of Economics and Political Science.

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

Get ready for career disruption

Technology is changing the world of work.

Everyone is talking about disruption and disruptors and how technology is reinventing how we live our lives at home and work. And, while it may seem like just another trend or catchy business phrase, I caution every employer and employee to take note: this is a real thing!

Exponential technologies are likely to eliminate 60% of the jobs we know today and if you don’t get to grips with what this means for your company and how you work, you’re not guaranteed of work in the future – which is closer than you think.

The next industrial revolution is here

Not for the first time are we experiencing a revolution that is threatening jobs and disrupting industries. Just think agricultural revolution, industrial revolution and, even more recently in the technology age, how word processors obliterated the typing pool.

The next industrial revolution is here.

People connected in real time by mobile phones and billions of connected sensors, are resulting in a revolution driving efficiency and productivity. Devices are getting cheaper, more powerful and more efficient, which is pushing the Internet into the industrial world. In this world, capital expenditure is giving way to monthly operating costs where, for example, the low cost of Cloud Computing allows for the growth of greenfields organisations which means more entrepreneurship and resultant innovation.

Companies need to gallop with technology

In this tech-era, companies should measure themselves on their responsiveness, not just the traditional assets and regulatory frameworks that have secured their success in the past.

Competitors of the future will likely not be the same as those in the past, and they will be faster, cheaper and will do it better than you can. There is not an industry unaffected.

Employees need to reinvent themselves too It’s highly unlikely that businesses of the future will insource all functions. The business model is likely to be a mix of own and outsourced pieces and “employees” will need skills in managing outsourced relationships.

“On-demand” skills must be mixed with full time teams in order to allow companies to rapidly scale up and down based on innovation cycles, but also to ensure they’re constantly resourced with current and best-of-breed skills. In order to stay competitive, companies will need to ensure that their permanent employees stay current too.

Over 53 million Americans are already participating in the part time, “gig” or “on-demand” economy. We expect this to grow over time.

Websites like Freelancer and Upwork (which is not yet active in South Africa) have allowed employers to find skills more easily. These trends will continue. In fact over the decade ending in 2015, the only net growth in staffing in the US market was in the “gig” economy, primarily Uber drivers.

Reskilling for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence/machine learning, Big Data, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, robotics and the Internet of Things will soon be essential. Many of these technologies are coming out of a deceptive phase and becoming disruptive in the unlikeliest of industries. Robots are advising financial services clients, virtual reality is being used to solve pain issues in the medical realm and driverless cars have completed many millions of kilometers in California and Texas.

Skills of the future

21st century skills are not about reading, writing and arithmetic. Companies and individuals who want to stay relevant will need to be up to date and competent in many of these technologies. If we carry on providing “broadcast” education rather than training for the attributes required in the 21st century, we are doing our youth, and ourselves, a disservice as they will be incompetent to cope in the workplace.

The qualities of curiosity, initiative, persistence, adaptability, leadership, social and cultural awareness are the basic foundational requirements for success in the new world of work.

And cross-team collaboration, creative thinking and prototyping are going to be the key attributes in a high-speed world.

And when you think that people are also starting to live longer – the current mean lifespan of 67 could well start to reach 100 over the next two decades – workers may be forced to work for longer and have to stay up to date with technology changes too.

The good news is that significant opportunities exist to grow skills outside of schools and universities, with massive online open courses (MOOCs) being offered by organisations like MIT, Coursera and iTunesU.

Real proof of real change

Just in case you’re still not convinced that the disruption trend is here to stay and will have a significant impact on the world of work, consider the following …

Business messaging service Slack is working on bots that will replace managers’ roles to get updates, follow up on tasks and send information to others. This type of technology will start to erode the roles of middle managers. Expect big improvements in productivity.

Airbnb has bought a blockchain company. The reason is to build a digital reputation system, which makes ratings immutable and could be used on the site to access premium properties, or elsewhere as a form of digital ID (not unlike a credit rating). It’s early days yet, but one gets a sense of how this technology will be used in future.

Many new industries will use people initially, but automate tasks as technology matures. An example is Uber and Lyft investing in self-driving cars, Airbnb looking to unlock doors to rented homes using a mobile app (as against a person playing the key giver role), and online concierge services using artificial intelligence to replace humans.

We are living in very exciting times, but they are scary times for those who are not investing in their skills. Short term shedding of jobs is inevitable so standing still it just not an option when it comes to upskilling. But there are lots of new opportunities being created also. Think about how Airbnb and Uber have absorbed excess capacity; imagine when excess human capacity can be economically harnessed, it will create exciting new markets. I hope you’ll be ready.

Martin Pienaar is the Head of recruitment and consulting company Mindworx Consulting, www.mindworx.co.za.

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

Get your training needs assessment right

Manage the good intentions between where you are and where you want to be.

The world of business and organisations has become increasingly demanding and turbulent, and the level of competition among organisations is accelerating in pursuit of survival and competitive advantage. Thus, the level of pressure on HR and its practices is unprecedented as people became a unique source of competitive advantage.

According to Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book, Competitive Advantage Through People (Harvard Business School Press, 1994), there are 16 management practices that are followed, in full or in part, by highly successful companies:

1. Employment security;
2. Selectivity in recruiting;
3. High wages;
4. Incentive pay;
5. Employee ownership;
6. Information sharing;
7. Participation and empowerment;
8. Teams and job redesign;
9. Training and skill development;
10. Cross-utilisation and cross-training;
11. Symbolic egalitarianism;
12. Wage compression;
13. Promotion from within;
14. Long-term perspective;
15. Measurement of the practices;
16. Overarching philosophy.

From a human capital theory perspective, training is investment rather than consumption, and one of the major practices of HR that is in direct proportion to the achievement of such fierce competition. The more you train your employees and upgrade their knowledge and skills, the more your customer will be satisfied with the type of service or product you are offering, and the more profit you are going to make.

In my recent presentation at the 2nd GCC HR Conference (Training Role in Achieving Competitive Advantage), I threw the following question to the participants:

The answer is obviously, “Yes”. But for T&D to be used as a competitive weapon or tool, training strategies and associated activities must be focused on overall company vision, mission and business plan of the firm, as well as the level of performance expected from the people. There are three approaches that training organisations are following:

Reactive is the traditional approach that leads to investing a considerable amount of money with zero or little impact. We call it training on A la Carte, in which employees or practitioners selecting training topics from pre-made or public programmes without taking into account actual needs. Most of the money and time companies spend on training is wasted. That’s because the majority of companies use outdated training ideas and boring training methods. Training that is poorly presented goes in one ear and out the other. It’s no wonder employees don’t change their attitudes or behaviours after they attend a badly presented training session.

Active and/or Proactive is more systematic and it links training activities with the company’s mission, vision and strategies and enables experienced employees to play a major role in the learning process.

So, in order for organisations to enjoy the returns on training investment, the training itself must first be approached systematically. Systematic means that there are certain steps that organisations need to take in training and developing their employees. These steps begin with an identification of training needs, designing and developing an appropriate training to serve the needs, implementing the training according to plan, and evaluating the training programme to determine whether the original needs have been achieved.

Identifying training needs requires careful analysis and detailed investigation at an organisational, task and individual level, but with the current business nature such traditional view or approach is not adequate. Many organisations unfortunately fail to acknowledge the importance of the Training Needs Analysis (TNA) step in practice. Thus, the question that we have to ask ourselves as HR practitioners is whether or not to do further investigation in order to arrive at distinctly new results and, if so, how can it be characterised and what should it be labelled?

Human resources practitioners need to be aware that training is not the “cure all” for organisational problems. Neither should it be used as a tool to reward excellent performance or as motivation to correct poor performance. The purpose of training is to support the achievement of the organisation’s goals by increasing the necessary skills of its employees.

Expanded approach to TNA

Organisations spend a considerable amount of money on training each year. These training and development activities allow organisations to adapt, compete, excel, innovate, produce, be safe, improve service, and reach goals. Research claims that training is an important factor that could facilitate a firm’s expansion, develop its potential and enhance its profitability.

A TNA ought to be addressed in a systematic and comprehensive manner, or probably in a different way in order to avoid the risk of overdoing training, too little training or missing the point completely.

It can be as simple as asking an employee what training programmes they would like to undertake in order to improve themselves, or as complex as developing an individualised training plan for every employee in the organisation in the department where they work so as to update their skills. Organisations need to select appropriate training needs assessment approaches and tools in order to ascertain the needs and requirements of the employees.

A TNA should be conducted for all employees to create a superior workforce by focusing on the areas of weakness and developing them through training. Training needs assessment is a tool utilised to identify what educational courses or activities could be provided to management and employees to improve their management skills and work productivity. Focus should be placed on needs rather than believing that it is a necessity.

Training needs assessment

The first step in any training development effort is conducting a training needs analysis – a proper diagnosis of what needs to be trained, for whom and within what type of organisational system. The outcomes of this step are (a) expected learning outcomes, (b) guidance for training design and delivery, (c) ideas for training evaluation, and (d) information about the organisational factors that will likely facilitate or hinder training effectiveness.

An effective Training Needs Analysis will be able to identify training gaps or non-training issues. Some organisations have wasted resources and training budgets on training programmes unnecessarily, without conducting a proper Training Needs Analysis. Therefore, a TNA can’t be taken lightly any longer, and thus I propose a typology of TNA based on three dimensions level of analysis: People, Organisation and Country.

1. The Micro Level Analysis

In this level, we focus on people and groups (the employees) and how they interact and learn, and ask what the performance issues are that we need to cover by training. Moreover, there are some observed signals that need to be taken into account, such as, performance evaluation results, notes from direct supervisors, psychometric tests results, employee opinion survey, career path planning and so forth. Other points such as differing skills and abilities of workers on the job requirements, inappropriateness of educational qualification and experience to actual job of some employees, and different patterns of actual behaviour of employees from the required ones, have also to be taken into consideration.

2. The Meso Level Analysis

We concentrate on the organisation. Organisational analysis is the process of reviewing the development, work environment, personnel and operation of the business.

Organisational analysis focuses on the structure and design of the organisation and how the organisation’s systems, capacity and functionality influence outputs.

Practitioners may use different tools such as SWOT for such exercise. Below are some observations for the analysis:

  • Adjustment of positions’ responsibilities and duties;
  • Relocation of certain positions in the structure;
  • Delegation for some positions;
  • Develop or stoppage of activities;
  • Increase of staff complains;
  • High staff turnover;
  • High absenteeism rate; and
  • Low employee morale.

Types of needs for staff
Also, using the guiding principles of DAPIM methodology, a proven model of success as a continuous improvement method that promotes strategic efforts toward long-term sustainable change, can depict the performance gap that ought to be closed by training.

Define assess plan implement monitor

  • Define what you aim to improve in line with the organisational Vision, Mission and Plan;
  • Assess the current situation by using SWOT analysis and thematic HR analysis;
  • Plans should reflect information gathered, the root causes for the defined problem and associated gaps;
  • Implement the agreed plans; and
  • Monitor the progress and the transfer of learning to workplace.

3. The Macro Level Analysis

Country or market analysis is critical to demonstrate educational and skills gaps that organisations must cover in their training plans. Practitioners can borrow some tools from the marketing discipline such as the Situational Analysis approach. The following case validates the necessity to conduct such imperative analysis.

“In 2001 at a telecommunication company in one of Levant countries, while conducting the TNA to prepare the annual training plan, we found out that training activities and programs for the technical function have to take into account the fact that telecommunication engineering studies is not offered in the country, and therefore we will have to inject massive programs to close the educational and skills gap that is required by the company.”

However, in my argument during the conference, the above analysis was not yet sufficient to establish the worth of training investment, thus further analysis is required. There are different types of training needs. Focusing only on performance deficiency in a needs analysis is too restrictive. Take a close look at the table above.

Finally, when training systems seek to expand their role and contributions to the organisation’s Organisational Effectiveness efforts, they add value.

Dr M. Amr Sadik is the HR Adviser to the Chairman at construction company DBA in Egypt. He is the recipient of the Peter F. Drucker Award 2015 Panama, and was named as one of HR’s Most Influential International Thinkers, UK, 2014.

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

Why should you build better HR departments

The answers to four questions will help you build a better HR Department.

In the last 15 to 20 years, the HR profession has been shaped by remarkable work captured in the ‘war for talent.’ However, in today’s business, HR professionals need to turn individual talent into stronger organisations. Talent is not enough. The whole organisation should be greater than the separate parts. Teams outperform individuals. Individuals are champions, but teams win championships. Some simple statistics show the importance of teamwork over talent:

  • In soccer, the winner of the Golden Boot (leading scorer) is on the team that wins the World Cup 20% of the time;
  • In hockey, the leading scorer is on the team that wins the Stanley Cup 22% of the time;
  • In basketball, the player who scores the most points is on the team that wins the NBA finals 15% of the time; and
  • In movies, Best Movie of the year also has the leading actor (25%) and actress (15%) of the time.

Relative impact of individual competences vs hr department activities on business outcomes

We believe that similar findings exist in organisations. People matter; organisations matter more. While the war for talent may bring great people into an organisation, the victory will likely come from the right organisation.

The importance and value of the organisation beyond merely focusing on individuals is reaffirmed in recent Michigan/RBL research on HR. This found that the quality of the HR department had two times the impact on business performance than the competencies of the HR professionals within the department. This research also found that the value created for stakeholders (employees, line managers, customers, investors, and communities) was three to five times more impacted by the HR department than by the HR professionals (see Table 1).

Upgrading HR professionals matters, but upgrading the HR department matters even more.

For HR leaders committed to delivering business results and serving stakeholders, building better HR departments is becoming an increasingly important challenge. In this article, we want to answer four questions on building a better HR department: Why? Who? What? and How?

Why does HR matter?

Businesses win by providing unique value to customers in ways that competitors cannot easily match. Traditionally, sources of competitiveness include access to financial capital, strategic differentiation, and operational excellence. Increasingly, competitors can match financial, strategic and operational systems, so companies are turning to organisation as a source of competitiveness.

In building organisations, HR delivers talent (right people, right place, right skills), capability or culture (“culture eats strategy or lunch” and outlasts individuals), and leadership (the key individuals who model good talent and shape the culture).

HR matters when it can clearly articulate why it exists in terms of outcomes it produces and how these outcomes support and inform competitiveness. When HR leaders build mission, vision or strategy statements for their departments, they should focus on delivering talent, leadership and, with increasing emphasis, the capability that enables the business to win.

Capability represents what the organisation is known for, what it is good at doing, and how it allocates resources to win in its market. Organisation capabilities might include the ability to respond to or serve customers, access and use information (analytics), drive efficiency, manage change or agility, collaborate both inside and outside, innovate products and business models, and establish the right culture.

Providing value through organisation should be less concerned with picking the right structure and more focused on establishing capabilities. Value through organisation should also be less to do with roles in an organisation structure and more about improved relationships between people undertaking these roles. For an organisation to be more than the sum of its people, individuals need to find meaning from work and to focus on relationships more than roles.

This is particularly important given the increasingly diverse nature of people working in organisations. Employees originate from different countries and cultures, have different demographics (age, lifestyle), and work with different working arrangements (contingent workers, including contractors, consultants and self-employed contributors). This context increases the difficulties involved in creating organisations that go beyond talent and leadership by developing the right relationships.

Better HR departments create better organisations and will often do this by enabling better relationships between the people working in them. Developing the right relationships is also an increasingly important part of creating an effective HR organisation, and provides the main basis for answering the remaining questions on the who, what and how of building a better HR department.

Who are the stakeholders for HR?

Traditionally, HR policies uniquely impact employees within an organisation. Increasingly, talent, leadership, and cultural outcomes connect HR work to those both inside and outside the company (for example, see Table 1 for HR’s impact on external stakeholders of customers, investors, communities, and regulators). HR professionals therefore need to ensure they have the right connections with those they need to know, have access to, and influence to be effective.

HR still needs to collaborate with and serve employees. In building employee productivity, HR should increasingly prioritise on value creating employees in key positions. Some HR departments spend too much of their time focusing on poor performers. A more useful approach would be to focus on employees in key positions who deliver the most value to their organisation. These may be individuals identified through tools like social network analysis as connectors and network brokers.

HR collaboration also needs to exist between the HR department and line managers as well as with business leaders and heads of other functions. HR has often pictured itself to be part of a special triad with the CEO and CFO. These days HR professionals need a broader set of connections, which will often include:

  • Procurement: to ensure that full time and contingent talent are managed with appropriate similarities and differences so that both groups develop good relationships with one another;
  • IT: to ensure that HR can benefit from the development and availability of new digital and other technologies. These can be applied to the management of talent and development of organisation;
  • Marketing: to build integrated approaches to internal and external management. This means culture can be matched with the brand of the business in the mind of its customers; and
  • Property/Facilities: to align the physical workplace with the rest of the organisation design. This has always been important as a means to engage talent. Today it is even more central to support organisational relationships. Research shows that physical distance from other people has a steep impact on their propensity to collaborate together.

This collaboration with other staff leaders helps build better business teams.

Increasingly, HR should also collaborate with external stakeholders. HR connects with customers by ensuring that HR practices align with customer expectations. Hiring, paying, and promoting should be done to increase customer commitment. HR connects with investors by giving investors more confidence in the quality of leadership and talent which affects market value. HR connects with the community by building a more socially responsible organisation.

From thoughtful collaboration and rigorous HR practices, all stakeholders will benefit:

  • Employees become more productive;
  • Organisations implement their strategies (strategy execution matters as much as strategy formulation);
  • Customers increase their commitment to the company (customer share goes up);
  • Investors have more confidence (we have found that 25 to 30% of market value can be attributed to leadership capital); and
  • Communities strengthen their belief (firm reputation goes up).

To make these multiple HR connections work, HR needs to establish collaboration within the HR department. This means that specialists (functional experts, centres of expertise) and generalists (embedded HR professionals) need to learn to work together to add value to stakeholders.

Better HR departments model collaboration within their department and between their department and business leaders. Through these connections, they deliver value to multiple internal and external stakeholders.

Next month, we will answer the “What?” and “How?” questions.

Dave Ulrich is the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at Ross School, University of Michigan and Partner at The RBL Group. Jon Ingham is the Executive Consultant, Strategic Dynamics Consultancy Services Ltd.


Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, Beth Axelrod. 2001. The War for Talent. Harvard Business School Press.
The RBL Group. 2015. HRCS Round 7: Creating HR Value from the Outside-In. RBL Group.
Ben Waber, Jennifer Magnolfi and Greg Lindsay. October 2014. Workspaces that Move People. Harvard Business Review.
Dave Ulrich. 2015. The Leadership Capital Index: Realizing the Market Value of Leadership. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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

Is something amiss in the talent economy?

Keep expanding your skill set to “future proof” yourself.

Among politicians and economists there is an article of faith that more education will lead to individual success and economic growth. That is certainly true if one is talking about getting people to finish high school but, if you look around at the number of people with master’s degrees working as baristas, it makes you wonder if something is amiss in the talent economy.

Another confusing sign is the number of senior managers who are “in transition” (that is, unemployed). You would imagine that someone with many years of experience at a well-known company would have no problem finding their next job. That often isn’t the case. It can take a long time for these people to get work and, when they do, it’s often a few steps down from where they were. They’ve fallen off the ladder. Their skills, experience and talent are no longer in much demand.

Of course, there are professions where talent is in short supply, but that doesn’t help the large number of skilled people outside those niches.

My observations raise a question: have we reached a point where we have too many highly educated, well-trained people, and is encouraging people to go back and get another master’s degree not good advice?

Young people have to realise that the education system is a bit like the cosmetics industry. Ask the cosmetics industry how to get ahead and they’ll tell you to use cosmetics. Ask what to do after you’ve got all the basic cosmetics and they’ll tell you to buy more advanced cosmetics. Lipsticks and university degrees both offer some value, but recognise that the organisations offering them may put their own biases and economic interests ahead of what is best for you.

Older professionals have to recognise that it’s easy to fall off the ladder and that a track record of success may not be enough to get that next good job. A degree of paranoia is healthy if it encourages older professionals to keep their networks and skill sets ever expanding.

Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick have a new book called Stretch, which argues that professionals have to continually stretch themselves to remain “future proof”. I’m a little horrified that people need to be told this, but I certainly agree with the premise. However, I’d zoom in on something more specific. I think people, both young and experienced professionals, need to adopt a more “entrepreneurial” mindset.

The main difference between the employee and entrepreneurial mindset is that employees see the world as it is and entrepreneurs see a world they might create. The employee mindset ponders, “Where are the best jobs?” The entrepreneurial mindset ponders, “Where is there a need in the world that I find interesting and where I can create a solution?”

I’m not entirely happy with my choice of the word “entrepreneurial” because I’m not suggesting everyone ought to be launching their own start-ups.

I think more in terms of people making big lateral moves such as moving from being an HR generalist to working in business development for an HR technology company or in terms of becoming a free agent where you create a niche for yourself.

The point is that people, young and old, need to have the mindset of creating work, not just falling into a place where they are given work. They have to presume the structures they know, such as going to law school or moving up a job grade, may not work for them. The entrepreneur never expects the world to have a slot waiting for them to slide into, but they do believe they have the ability to create a slot.

David Creelman is CEO of Canada-based Creelman Research, www.creelmanresearch.com. His current focus is on helping companies take advantage of the “Uber-isation of work” and build evidence-based thinking into the HR function. You can connect with David on LinkedIn.

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

Embrace inclusion and diversity

Nellie Borrero explains to Alan Hosking the importance of promoting inclusion and diversity in organisations.

What exactly do you mean by inclusion and diversity?

Inclusion is a choice we make every single day, so every day we will decide how inclusive or non-inclusive we want to be. An example that resonates well with anyone around the world is to picture a networking event. You are very comfortable talking to people you know and you see that there are others that are having a more challenging time in integrating themselves into a conversation. At that point in time, you make a decision as to whether or not you want to be inclusive. You can decide to integrate and welcome that person or you can decide not to.

Diversity is a little bit different. The difference we represent is a fact so, if I take myself as an example, I’m a woman, I was born and raised in the United States, and I’m of Hispanic American or Latino background. I can’t change that reality of mine – it’s just a fact. We therefore need to create an environment where people are fully authentic to who they are without feeling that they have to assimilate to something that’s different. If we do so, we’ll get more out of those individuals – more as far as delivery and as far as engagement are concerned, because they are comfortable in their own skin. Inclusion is therefore a choice we make, while diversity is a fact, a reality.

Why are inclusion and diversity important in the workplace?

There are four places on earth that we as human beings would like to ensure that we feel respected, welcomed and loved. They are your family unit, your community, your religious institution, if you align yourself to a religious institution, and your work place. We cannot control someone’s family unit. We have limited power to control impact on a community, through corporate citizenship and other things we do. We have limited power to impact a religious institution, but we have a whole lot of power as to how we can impact a workplace.

We have a responsibility to ensure that we create an environment where people that join our organisation feel that they can achieve their goals and can aspire to achieve their dreams. We can create that environment to enable them to do that. So our responsibility is to make them feel valued and respected in the workplace.

We have power to change our environment, to welcome and respect differences. That together is very powerful, and it’s critically important that people understand that. When I travel around the world, I find that, for the most part, people want to embrace differences. The challenge is sometimes that they lack awareness of how to have conversations and dialogues with people who are different, and they are afraid to offend. Because they are afraid to offend, they’d rather shy away from having a conversation which is so critically important for them to get to know an individual.

How have you found leaders’ attitude to inclusion and diversity?

What I have found with leaders around the world is that it’s not that leaders truly want to be non-inclusive or outright racist or sexist. Leaders have multiple competing priorities and, because they have multiple competing priorities, sometimes they don’t take the time to pause and recognise how their behaviours may be impacting others either in a positive or negative way.

These could be projects that they are leading or it could be something in their personal lives. There is so much going on every single day. The first thing they think about is what they have to accomplish that day. What are their deliverables, what are the expectations that they have for the day and what are they appointed to do, and whether it’s family, whether there are other responsibilities, that’s what they think about.

Leaders don’t get up thinking, “How am I going to be able to really create an environment that is truly 100% inclusive?” Those are things that we have to programme ourselves to think about, probably on a daily basis. So, as we think about creating this environment, we have to discipline ourselves to understand this as a business imperative. Just as we think about having to balance budgets, we have to think about staffing, we have to think about selling more to our clients, and we have to start thinking about inclusion and diversity as a business imperative and a business responsibility.

Many organisations started thinking that diversity was the nice thing to do, then it evolved to the right thing to do, then it evolved to, “What’s the business case around this? What’s the return on investment around this? And then we got to, “Who’s accountable to ensure that we have the metrics in place and the programmes in place to embrace and grow our diverse talent?” And now it’s about diversity being a responsibility so everyone is responsible for creating that inclusive environment.

Does the approach differ from country to country?

Each country is at a different maturity level regarding diversity. There are some countries that are very progressive on inclusion and diversity. They have done a very good job of empowering all segments of diversity. The United States and the UK have led the way significantly in this space. Australia is really starting to lead in this space. Japan is really pushing forward on the women’s agenda in a very innovative and creative way to tackle the gap around women and leadership.

So I have seen that the discussion volume around inclusion and diversity has increased significantly. Today, almost every organisation on this planet is talking about diversity. People recognise the need for it. We have finally gotten to a place as a culture in many parts of the world that this is now viewed as a business imperative.

What can people do to embrace inclusion and diversity?

I always tell people that courage is critical because, in order to change, you have got to embrace new ways of thinking. It takes courage. People need to understand why sometimes people either contribute or don’t contribute. If you are in a room and you see a lot of people are talking and others are not, don’t dismiss that silent person. Try to understand what is behind their behaviour. Chances are that, if you develop a relationship with that individual, they will start to get to a place of comfort and come out of their shell and really contribute.

Are there differences in diversity issues according to geographical locations?

Each geography has its own challenges. The US and South Africa are more focused on ethnicity. Is ethnicity something Japan’s going to be focusing on? Probably not. I know that there are different value systems and different business imperatives.

If one looks at the women’s agenda, across every single geography, that is a priority. Full stop.

Regarding the LGBT community, there are countries that are very advanced. There are also countries where there is a law against such communities. There are countries where one wants to make sure that your first priority is the safety of your LGBT employees. So there are countries around the world where one has to be very cautious. One doesn’t want someone to come out in a country that they don’t feel comfortable coming out, where they may feel they may be physically harmed.


Nellie Borrero is Global Inclusion and Diversity Managing Director at Accenture, based in the metro New York office. She focuses on the women’s agenda globally, on ethnicity and heritage in the US, UK and South Africa, on the LGBT community globally, and on persons with disabilities and cross cultural relationships.

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

Win the talent contest

Use these four strategies to overcome the recruiting slowdown.

Recruiters today report greater complexity in hiring requirements which have, in turn, complicated recruiter workloads, recruiting processes and hiring decisions. There are however four strategies that help organisations accelerate recruiting, without jeopardising the quality of hire.

Recruiters have never had it so tough; their workloads have increased by 33 percent in the last five years, with more hiring stakeholders involved in the process, greater compliance and regulation requirements to meet, and more talent pools to source from. Despite working harder than ever before, the recruiting environment is only getting more complex and hiring managers’ demands for higher quality hires faster, are increasing. What’s more, the ease of candidates finding and applying for jobs leaves many recruiting functions burdened with a large volume of low-quality applicants.

It is no wonder that recruiting’s cycle times are suffering. Our recent analysis shows that the average time-to-fill is 63 business days, which is 21 business days – or four additional weeks – longer to fill a position than six years ago. Worse still, filling critical roles and positions that organisations consider to be pivotal to their success takes even longer, at 81 working days, up from 49 days over the same period.

These hiring delays have serious, and ever-growing, consequences for organisations and their ability to execute on strategy and day-to-day operations. They leave firms of all sizes exposed to the risk of losing talent to competitors while adding immediate costs to the business.

In fact, the average company loses upwards of R6,400 a day per open position. With the average time-to-hire at 63 days, this can quickly amount to over R403,200 in lost productivity and recruiting costs for every vacancy that remains open.

The knock-on effect of having open positions puts additional pressure and stress on colleagues who not only have to pick up the extra work, but they also rely on this position to help them do their job effectively. This can lead to burnout and reduced job satisfaction as employees try to compensate for the missing team member.

Four strategic elements to a best practice approach

Companies have the opportunity to improve time-to-fill without compromising the quality of hire. Our research shows that time-to-fill can be reduced by 32 days without reaching the point at which the quality of hire decreases significantly.

To improve time to fill without sacrificing quality, recruiting organisations need to refocus their efforts on differentiating their approach to sourcing, strengthening their employer brand, streamlining hiring workflows and improving their talent selection methods.

 Recruiter workloads recruiting process and hiring decisions
1. Market-driven sourcing. Set an agile sourcing strategy that strikes a balance between fulfilling the defined needs of the organisation and adapting to the realities of talent supply in the external labour market. When looking for candidates with highly specialised skills, recruiters should broaden the hiring profile by relaxing job requirements and rebalancing hard and soft skill requisites. In addition to this, they should look beyond conventional talent sources and recruit outside of traditional channels to reach candidates with more diverse backgrounds.

2. Brand for influence. Give applicants information that will help them want to work for the business, rather than just telling them it’s a great place to work. Recruiters should identify, define and clearly communicate their brand promise – the offerings, rewards and benefits that are unique to their business. Jobseekers consider how these attributes align to their personal and professional aspirations before putting themselves forward for a role. A brand promise that is well crafted and communicated is vital for influencing candidates’ decisions and securing the right match between the candidate and employer.

3. Streamline recruiting workflow. Drive sustainable improvements in hiring speed by streamlining the hiring workflow. This means aligning limited resources with business priorities to:

  • Minimise recruiter workload complexity by reprioritising resources to alleviate the distractions of a diverse workload;
  • Simplify complex recruiting processes by removing hidden process inefficiencies and standardising tools; and
  • Shape hiring decision-making by reducing and reorganising the information that is shared with stakeholders.

4. Add greater precision to people selection. Apply assessment technology and analytics to free up recruiter resources for high-value activities. Harnessing the power of assessment gives more precise insight into candidates’ current attitudes, behaviours and abilities. This not only informs and improves hiring decisions, but also accelerates the hiring process and impact of the programme. The aggregate results from the assessment process can provide intelligence on the capabilities (and limitations) of the talent entering the organisation. This intelligence enables HR and business leaders to make better strategic decisions about hiring, as well as employee development and succession planning to ensure the organisation has the talent needed, today and for the future.

To survive in today’s talent market, recruitment must be both quick and effective. By improving sourcing and attraction strategies, streamlining hiring workflows, and investing in technology assessment tools, companies can halve their time-to-fill without losing quality. When done correctly, all of these activities and investments can save organisations thousands of Rands per hire and drive real business impact through influence.

Jean Martin is the Talent Solutions Architect at best practice insight and technology company, CEB, and Stefan Ferreira is the Managing Director of South Africa at CEB, www.cebglobal.com.

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

Carice Anderson



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