Samantha Ottino


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Smart skills development for your employees

Every SA business with a payroll over R500 000 is obliged by law to pay 1% of their total annual employee remuneration to SARS each year as the Skills Development Levy (SDL).
But only 20% of the SDL actually stays in SARS’ coffers, because they pay 80% of the levy over to the industry Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) relevant to each payee. Too few companies realise that they can tailor their skills development plan so that they can claim back up to 70% of the SETA portion of the SDL.

The SETA’s administration absorbs only 10% of their allocation of the SDL, 20% funds the mandatory grant given to companies who submit their Workplace Skills Plans, Annual Training Reports and Pivotal Training Plans. The remaining 50% goes into the SETA’s Discretionary Fund which provides companies with the opportunity to apply for and receive funding towards the implementation of special training projects and Pivotal Training programmes, such as learnerships. This means that there’s a significant opportunity here for companies to actually reduce overall training costs by offering their employees or unemployed candidates specific learning opportunities.

A Learnership is a work-based learning programme directly related to an occupation or field of work that is managed by a SETA, which leads to an accredited NQF qualification. An employer needs to enter into a Learnership agreement with an employee or an unemployed candidate, which must be submitted to the SETA. Learnerships are typically implemented over a 12 month period with the learners attending an average of three days of training each month in addition to completing their portfolio of evidence containing details of how the learning has been applied in a work environment. For every learner undertaking a registered Learnership, the company can claim R60 000 in a tax rebate against the company’s income tax.

What a company needs to do step by step:

•    Taking into account your growth strategies, succession planning, B-BBEE Scorecard, leadership development, upliftment programmes, employee’s career development plans and your current skills needs; identify the training, including learnerships, that would strategically most benefit your organisation and your employees;
•    Register your Learnership with your SETA;
•    Compile and submit a Workplace Skills Plan & Annual Training Report to your SETA. You will find either a template for the Workplace Skills Plan on your SETA’s website or a facility to submit it online; and
•    Your accredited learning provider will then register the learners with the qualification and begin the learning journey.

To give you an example of what including learnerships in the company training plan can mean in money terms. If a company earns a R 1 million net profit before tax, and they put 10 candidates through learnerships, their tax is calculated at R 400 000 because they got a R600 000 tax rebate, that’s R60 000 per learner times 10. So instead of paying 28% company tax, which is R280 000 of a R 1 million, they would pay 28% of R 400 000, which is R 142 000. That’s a saving of R138 000.

Richard Rayne is the CEO of iLearn.

Recruiters are urged not to ignore the 2016 global trends

It’s a great time to be in recruitment. The need and demand for talent is massive and continues to increase. This year, recruiters are going to have to take an even more strategic and technical approach to talent acquisition and differentiate themselves from competitors if they want to succeed.
Six trends recruiters are urged to watch out for in 2016 include:

Cellphone recruitment:

We live in a hyper-connected world in which 43% of candidates use their cellphone to search for jobs. As such, it is fast becoming the preferred method for job applications. With this in mind, recruiters should ensure that candidates can complete and submit a job application from any mobile platform.  

Video recruitment:  

More and more recruiters are realising that a video is worth a thousand words and can have a profound impact on selling candidates. Video is also being used as a way to advertise jobs and it’s predicted that this year, recruitment sites will be jam-packed with insightful content to capture the attention of candidates.

Resumes are relics:  

Say farewell to the humble resume and hello to online profiles. This year, it will become essential for recruiters to utilise social professional networks, like LinkedIn, when searching for and placing talent.

Do you speak GenY? Generation Y (born between the early 1980s to around 2000), are entering the workforce en masse. Recruiters should start thinking about how they will deal with this tech-savvy, globally minded generation. According to research, 61% of millennials feel personally responsible to make a difference in the world, 50% want to start their own business, or have already done so and 44% are not expecting to stay with an employer for more than two years.

Employer Branding:

According to LinkedIn’s 2016 Global Recruiting Trends report, employer brand has re-emerged as a top priority. One of the reasons for this is that quality candidates won’t apply to a company if they can’t find enough information about the company online.

What HR professionals will be focusing on:  

LinkedIn notes that in 2016, talent leaders will continue to value quality of hire as the most important metric to track performance, and most organisations are measuring it with employee turnover. This could be why employee retention has emerged as a top priority. Also, employee referral programmes are a key source of quality hires and are growing as a long-term play.

KC Makhubele is the President of the Federation of African Professional Staffing Organisations (APSO).

Cost effective ways to train and educate your team members

It has been said that there are only two ways that a manager can improve a team’s output: motivation and training. Businesses need a more effective workforce during these tough economic times, but cost-cutting often prevents this from happening.
What is often overlooked is the return on investment: training may just give your business the boost it needs to survive and thrive.

The training process has the ability to mould your team’s thinking processes and, if done correctly, leads to top quality performance.

For training to be successful and not a waste of employee time and budget; these 10 tips should not be ignored:

1.    Use what you have at your disposal

Before enlisting external training consultants, consider creating an internal training module to communicate your basic expectations to the team. This will provide guidance and information on expected outcomes in the workplace.

2.    Create a learning environment

Encourage all forms of learning, as this creates a culture of personal development. This is especially effective when education and training is provided to ensure that training gaps and areas of improvement are identified and addressed accordingly.

3.    Embrace functional training

Tailor your training to relate specifically to your team’s key performance requirements. This can be as simple as a one-on-one session with a manager for the team member to understand the nuances within a business, to external multi-week skills development courses to improve technical knowledge.

4.    Encourage management to become trainers

Many managers are in their position because of their extensive knowledge base. Encouraging managers to impart their knowledge, from the business’s CEO all the way down to the junior managers, is an inexpensive and effective way to conduct training and boost your team’s drive and self-confidence.

5.    Implement technology training tools

The digital natives (Millennial generation) are accustomed to using technology to look up and reference information they need. Online courses will appeal to them, and they will also appreciate regular updates on changes in the industry. Encourage these team members to share the information they find with the rest of the company – another cost effective way of encouraging and utilising their thirst for knowledge to the benefit of the business.

6.    State the objectives of the training and expectations post-training

Be clear with your team on what you expect to deliver with training as well as what you expect from them afterwards. Behavioural objectives should clearly outline what they should know or do by the end of the programme.

7.    Keep it interesting – use multiple approaches

–    On the job training: training given to the colleagues within the everyday working environment.
–    Off the job training: training provided away from the actual working condition. It is generally used in cases where upskilling is required. Instances of off the job training methods are workshops, seminars, conferences, etc. This is more costly, and effective only if a large number of employees have to be trained within a short time period.
–    Active learning approach: In this approach, trainees play a leading role in learning by exploring issues and situational problems under the guidance of their facilitator. The trainees learn by asking thought provoking questions, searching for answers, and interpreting various observations made during the process.

8.    Optimise team strengths

Each team member has a unique skills set. Identify these and make other team members aware of them. Individuals who use their strengths everyday are more likely to be engaged on the job and less likely to leave their company. This also makes the team stronger and more productive.

9.    Provide guidelines for reference that can be used during and beyond training

Identify members of your team who are passionate about training and recording processes, procedures and other business critical information. Encourage them to create manuals and handbooks (sometimes in an electronic form) to instruct and guide new and existing team members on technical procedures, corporate policies, and information that is not intuitively obvious or easy to remember.

10.    Use the law to provide bursaries for employees

Bursaries and scholarships increase value for employers and employees by improving overall skills levels. Bursaries in general are a win for the employer and its employees:

– the employee is not taxed on the employer’s payment of the training costs to the training institution;
– the employer has happier, better-skilled employees, and the training costs are allowed as a tax deduction for the employer.

One of the most welcomed budget proposals is an increase in the fringe benefit tax exemption threshold for bursaries provided by the employer to employees and their relatives. The income eligibility threshold for the employee (in the case of a bursary for his relative) is proposed to be increased from R250 000 to R400 000.

Training doesn’t have to be time-consuming and expensive. During tough economic times, it is worth considering how you can upskill your team to enhance their performance. A good training strategy will help harmonise your skills base thus ensuring that your employees feel empowered to work on their own without constant help and supervision from others.

Sandra Swanepoel is the Managing Director at Sage HR & Payroll.

Executive development: Emerging markets’ next big thing?

It’s crucial at senior executive level to challenge patterns of thinking to facilitate growth in unconquered markets and companies are investing in executive education to help them do just that.
As multinationals increasingly expand into emerging markets – and local entrepreneurship grows alongside – the market for executive development has become all the more important, leadership scholars believe.

The affordability of executive development has been a key discussion point, particularly during times of recession, and hit a low point during and after 2008. However, as multinationals and entrepreneurs alike begin to see growth opportunities in emerging markets; executive development is becoming increasingly relevant.

By 2025, annual consumption in emerging markets is projected to reach $30 trillion – the biggest growth opportunity in the history of capitalism, estimates the ISB Centre for Executive Education. If such predictions are correct, emerging markets provide an unprecedented opportunity for growth.

But where does this growth begin? The first step is with the development of senior executives. There is no hard and fast rule. Each context is unique – no model will work for everyone. That’s why it’s crucial, at senior executive level, to challenge patterns of thinking first and foremost to facilitate growth.

If this sounds abstract at first, it should not remain that way – it’s critical that executives learn, and communicate, the tools needed to translate an “abstract idea into concrete actions”. These skills, he adds, are essential to facilitating the desired growth in emerging markets.

Other analysts agree. Independent executive development monitoring group IEDP writes, “It is not just the executives in emerging economies that are benefiting from the increased investment in their executive education markets. According to … the Independent, even executives in developed economies cannot afford to solely focus on their domestic markets, when the most exciting future career opportunities are likely to be offered elsewhere.”

Demand for executive education in China has risen by just 3% in recent years, but the rise in Latin America is more promising at 17%, and Africa is making its mark in no uncertain terms – earlier in 2016, Business Day reported that African business schools were receiving more applications than ever. And the BRICS countries were well represented in the Financial Times executive education rankings as well.

Stephen Shih, Asia-Pacific MBA recruiter at Bain & Company, told Business Because, “Leading companies are investing in talent.”

Kathy Harvey, senior academic at the Said Business School, added: “This is not about financial return but about gaining the insight and resilience to make a much bigger impact within the organisation.”

It’s not always necessary for executives to attend degree programmes in order to attain the kind of development that can facilitate personal change or kick-start a period of growth. Shorter courses can be enormously helpful in terms of stimulating dialogue and the exchange of ideas. For emerging markets, where growth is desired but affordability may still be a challenge, this may be an advantage.

People from many different industries may participate in a session, but the exchange of insights is often transformative when one has a group of very smart people in a room together.

Tim London teaches the Executive Development Programme at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (GSB).

Benefits of apprenticeships

As any employer or Human Resources practitioner will know, expensive schooling and impressive certificates are not always a reliable indicator that your candidate has what it takes to do the job you’re hiring them to do.
While education is vital, more and more business owners are waking up to the value of apprenticeships as they build and groom their next generation of star employees.
Many business owners, perhaps justifiably, view apprenticeships with a certain amount of suspicion. Taken on for the wrong reasons or managed incorrectly, apprenticeship programmes can indeed be a drain on company resources with little advantage to show for it. In the South African context, we’re seeing a lot of companies establishing government sponsored apprenticeships. Sadly, many only use their programmes as a way of getting cheap or free labour, with no idea of just how mutually beneficial apprenticeships can be if done right.
Apprenticeships are not cheap labour. In fact, they can be a significant drain on a company’s resources, compared to an experienced hire. Implementing an apprenticeship programme is likely to entail more work for you and your team. The upside is that if all goes according to plan, you will have taken a common resource and made it into a rare one. Here are ways that implementing an apprenticeship programme can revitalise your business:

Providing a skilled workforce for the future

Apprenticeships help to ensure new recruits develop exactly the skills they need to successfully join the organisation, which can only benefit a business in the long term. Managers can ensure that the competencies being developed are exactly those that the company will need more of in the future – filling in any gaps and allowing the business to source future leaders from within.

Increasing staff loyalty and retention

Employees trained in-house tend to be more highly motivated, committed to their role, and supportive of the company and its objectives. Apprenticeships encourage employees to stay with the company longer by demonstrating its willingness to invest in its new recruits and treat them as a valued and integral part of the workforce.

More efficient recruitment

Apprenticeships can revolutionise the efficiency of your human resources efforts – saving you time and money lost to the recruitment process, as well as helping to make the need to replace employees a far less frequent bother. Apprenticeships are a great way to incubate the talent of your company’s future leaders and test the waters in a safe, insulated environment. You’ll also get to oversee and mould that talent as it develops. What’s more, having an apprentice around is a good insurance policy in case one of your team members should suddenly leave, because they’ll be leaving a trained “understudy” behind who can help pick up the slack.

Freeing up existing staff members’ time

As your business grows, your team will probably find their time being taken up by smaller tasks that tend to derail their main work responsibilities. Delegating these tasks to apprentices not only provides them with the hands-on upskilling they expect, but also frees up the time for your other employees to be more productive and less distracted.

A breath of fresh air

Bringing new, young people on board often translates to a fresh approach and a renewed positive attitude in the workplace, which can have the effect of enhancing workplace morale and cementing team unity. Apprentices inspire existing staff members to be willing to lend a hand in their training, as well as focus on improving their own skills. Apprentices from a variety of backgrounds and with different educational histories also give you fresh insight and out-of-the-box ideas to your business operations, encouraging change and innovation.
Companies considering taking on apprentices should not do so without considerable planning and the willingness to oversee every aspect of their apprentices’ progress. It is vital to be clear about your expectations as well as theirs, and make them a welcomed part of your team. With guidance, encouragement and good communication, you may find a few hidden gems among your new recruits, who may eventually show themselves to be your star employees in the future.

Pieter Scholtz is a business and executive coach and SA’s Co-Master Licensee for global franchise company ActionCOACH.

Do recruitment agencies add value to the hiring process

In tough economic times, when businesses are looking to reduce expenses, recruitment costs are a common target but it becomes even more critical to use the services of an external recruitment agency when hiring senior staff. Here’s why:
In spite of a slowing economy there are still many senior positions that remain unfilled because of an acute skills shortage in South Africa. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that professionals are more mobile than in the past. Very few engineers, for example, will remain with the same firm for more than five years. Research shows that the majority of professionals will have worked for three to five different companies in the first 10 years of their career. Identifying, hiring and retaining the right person for as long as possible has never been more important.

So what do firms do to try and reduce costs?

Online job portals and adverts are a great platform when searching for candidates and many firms use these extensively. And, yes, they do provide value in certain circumstances. In addition to those who are really looking for work, these platforms become a way for an employed person to test the waters and see what’s available. I would however argue that the importance of this tool diminishes as the level of seniority of the vacancy increases.

The setting up of an internal recruitment team is another popular option for some corporates. In addition to recruitment they are normally tasked with various other HR-related functions. However, it is extremely rare for an in-house team to have the requisite skills to hire the full spectrum of employees – from blue collar through to executive level.

The limitations of using job portals or an in-house function becomes more evident when searching for specific qualities in a candidate: just because there are candidates responding to an advert, it doesn’t mean they are the right candidates. In some instances the right candidate wasn’t even looking to change, and it was the industry knowledge and network of the recruitment specialist that made the difference.

In almost all instances using the services of an agency is on a contingency basis; no placement, no payment. This puts the agency at risk rather than the client. What corporates should be doing – to save costs and end up with a better overall service – is identifying those agencies that specialise in the sectors where they operate. These agencies will have an intimate understanding of the business, operate a network which they constantly monitor, and, more importantly, will have knowledge of the potential candidates. This short circuits the process of finding the right person for the vacancy.

Corporates with vacancies or excessive turnover at senior level should be examining their recruitment strategy: perhaps a useful starting point is to have a conversation with a professional firm. After all, the only time you pay is if we deliver a completed assignment.

Alan Russell is the Managing Director at ThornTree Group.

The nature of disputes and the impact on strikes

In Mawethu Civils (Pty) Ltd v National Union of Mineworkers and Others  (Case no: PA2/14), the court clarified that the nature of a dispute as either a right or interest dispute informs how the aggrieved party should seek recourse.
In Mawethu Civils, employees were required to abide by a long-standing employment practice which required them to work five and a half additional hours the week preceding a public holiday, then receive paid leave for the day following the public holiday. The employees refused to work the additional hours and did not report for work on the day following the public holiday either. As a consequence of the employees’ refusal to work, the employer, applying the principle no work no pay, did not remunerate the employees for the day following the public holiday.

The employees referred a dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The CCMA identified the dispute between the parties as one of mutual interest, declaring that it remained unresolved and recording that a strike could be proceeded with as the appropriate means for resolving the dispute. The employees accordingly embarked on a strike against which the employer sought to have interdicted by the Labour Court. The Labour Court granted an interim order. When the time came for a final order to be granted, the Labour Court refused to make such an order. It is on this basis that the employer approached the Labour Appeal Court.

The employer opposed the CCMA’s diagnosis of the dispute as an interest dispute on the basis that it arose from a contractual arrangement between the employer and the employees and accordingly, remains a dispute over which strike action would be prohibited under s65(1)(c) of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) which provides that “no person may take part in a strike or a lock-out or in any conduct in contemplation or furtherance of a strike or a lock-out if the issue in dispute is one that a party has the right to refer to arbitration or to the Labour Court in terms of this Act”. The employer, however, argued that s65(1)(c) should be interpreted to include disputes that may be referred to the Department of Labour or the Labour Court in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, No 75 of 1997 (BCEA) and as a result the employees were prohibited from striking. Recent amendments to the LRA now include a provision that s65(1)(c) includes disputes that a party has the right to refer to arbitration or the Labour Court in terms of the LRA or any other employment law, which includes the BCEA. However, at the time when the Mawethu Civils matter was argued, the amendments were not yet in effect.

The judge held that the issue in dispute involves an alleged unfair labour practice which could and should have been referred to the CCMA in terms of s191(1)(a) of the LRA. If and when conciliation failed, the employees would at that point have acquired the right to request that the matter be arbitrated in terms of s191(5)(iv) of the LRA.

The court confirmed that the issue in dispute was one which the employees had the right to refer to arbitration in terms of s191(5)(iv) of the LRA and thus the strike was indeed prohibited and unprotected with the result that the Labour Court should have confirmed the interim order and not discharged it.

This case reminds parties to an employment dispute to always critically assess the nature of the dispute as this assessment ultimately dictates the recourse available to an aggrieved party.

Gavin Stansfield and Katlego Letlonkane, Employment practice and services, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. 

Navigating organisational politics

“I refuse to become embroiled in office politics.” This frequently used statement is generally intended to indicate that the speaker is focused at all times on an ethical approach, has no time for non-productive activities, maintains the moral high ground, and certainly would not stoop to devious means to achieve their goals.
This is a pretty strong statement for anyone to make, let alone live up to. However, it is fair to state that for the vast majority, the expression ‘office politics’ does have a bad connotation, and therefore is at the least seen as something which wastes time and energy, so few would engage in politicking if they can possibly avoid it.

But what about the assumption itself – that all ‘politics’ in organisations are deliberate, and worse still, maliciously intended? What if one was prepared to see things slightly differently and to recognise that in any organisation, if there are people, there will inevitably be relationships and dynamics? The situation shifts immediately from something to be shunned or criticised to a recognition that actively engaging to gain understanding and influencing those dynamics is central to a successful outcome for any member of the group, and the organisation as a whole.

Yet this is the truth of the situation. In the workplace, very few organisations consist of hand-picked people who have been specifically selected because of their compatibility with each other, even though care may have been taken to ensure their skills and experience are complementary. The make-up of teams changes, often at short notice, so the dynamics of the relationships within teams are just that – dynamic, and unpredictable.

So if these dynamics cannot be ignored, how should they be addressed? Here are a few points to consider for starters:

•    We are driven in everything we do because we perceive some benefit for ourselves. Try to understand what motivates your colleagues to behave in a certain way in a particular situation.
•    Look for specifics, avoid generalisations – no-one always behaves in a certain way.
•    Realise that finding ways to influence others is not being underhand or duplicitous.

Finally, being by accepting people as they are – offer trust and look for good intentions. Is that not how we would all like to be viewed?

Andy Johnson is a Partner at Change Partners.

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