Equal pay for work of equal value in a broad banded structure

Does a broad banded organisational structure facilitate compliance as opposed to a single graded structure?

The need for organisations to comply with the Employment Equity Act in terms of its requirement of “equal pay for work of equal value” has raised many opinions and debates. Opinions invariably differ across a spectrum of thought provoking standpoints and it tends to reflect interpretations based on the nature of the organisation, its business, organisational structure and remuneration philosophy.

The hierarchical structure of the organisation has a definite impact on the approach it will adopt to ensuring compliance with the principle of “equal pay for work of equal value”. This raises the question of whether a broad banded organisational structure facilitates compliance, as opposed to a single graded structure.

Before expressing any opinion on this, it might be useful at this point to briefly describe the characteristics of a broad banded structure as typically practiced in South Africa. Local organisations who have introduced broad banded structures, either across the full employee spectrum or only for certain levels of the organisation, have typically collapsed three or more single grades into one broad band. However, their remuneration approach has not typically resulted in a single continuous pay band or scale. There are reasons for this, amongst others:

• There are distinct differences in the levels of market-related remuneration for jobs in different functional areas, albeit that these jobs may be graded at the same level; and
• In a country like ours, where certain skills are in short supply, for example specialists in technical disciplines, a market premium exists and these particular skills attract higher levels of remuneration.

This has resulted in a practice where, regardless of these jobs being structured into a single broad band, the remuneration of jobs in certain functions are pegged at a different level in the broadband. In essence, from a remuneration perspective, the broadband is broken up into a series of mini bands. This then begs the question of why bother with broad-banding in the first place?

When it comes to job evaluation, the commonly accepted methodology for establishing the hierarchical ranking of jobs in an organisation, based on the relative value of contribution of the particular job, the employment equity act code of good practice is very clear on what constitutes fair and equitable criteria for this assessment.

An abridged outline of the basic criteria commonly used to evaluate the value of jobs by an employer, as prescribed by the Code, are:

• The responsibility demanded of the work, including responsibility for people, finances and material;
• The skills, qualifications, including prior learning and experience required to perform the work, whether formal or informal;
• Physical, mental and emotional effort required to perform the work. This refers to the difficulty related to and the fatigue and tension caused by performing job tasks; and
• The assessment of working conditions may include an assessment of the physical environment, psychological conditions, time when and geographic location where the work is

Furthermore, the Code states that “best practice indicates that the four criteria … are generally regarded as being sufficient for evaluating all the tasks performed in an organisation, regardless of the economic sector in which the enterprise operates”.

Most of the points-factor job evaluation systems commonly in use by organisations today are generally compliant with the above requirements. Assuming that the actual job evaluation process, that is the preparation of job profiles, the grading process, appeal and validation processes are in place and are equitably practiced, the results should be justifiable in terms of the Act.

Also, assuming that there are no specific remuneration practices at present that are based on arbitrary or constitutionally unacceptable discriminatory practices, differentiation in pay based on a justifiable ranking of jobs in the organisation should be above scrutiny. This should be the case regardless of whether the organisation is structured on a single grade or broad banded basis.

Against the above backdrop, we are of the opinion that a broad banded structure which is primarily intended to promote cross skilling, multi skilling and a flatter, more agile, structure with horizontal, rather than vertical, career development, will not necessarily facilitate compliance with the principle of “equal pay for jobs of equal value”.

In contrast, it is likely that a broad banded structure would probably create more problems than a single graded structure given that, by its very nature, attracts negative scrutiny on the issue of pay levels by employees who perceive themselves to be at “the same grade” as other employees in the band, albeit that these jobs are of less worth, and therefore expect the same pay.

In this respect, more often than not, employees in the lower pay levels of the band aspire to be remunerated at the top of the pay scale for the band. In large organisations that are very labour intensive, this likelihood would be exacerbated by challenges and demands from organised labour representatives.

Rebone Banda GRP® and Paul Marais GRP® are Remuneration Consultants at Remuneration Consultants, www.remunerationconsultants.co.za.

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

Do remuneration consultants drive CEO pay?

Don’t simply assume that the use of remuneration consultants contributes to excessive executive pay.

Accusations have been made that remuneration consultants are responsible for excessive pay. Is this an accurate statement or merely a myth? Consider the following statements from the media:

“Shareholder unease grows over executive pay following BP vote. It is clear that remuneration structures and levels of pay continue to be areas under intense scrutiny from both investors and the general public.” Glass Lewis & Co LLC
“Shareholders say no to $20 Million BP CEO pay after 12K layoffs.”
“When times are good the benefits should be shared between employees and shareholders, when times are hard it should be the other way around … bonuses can’t keep flowing,” retail shareholder, Phil Clarke
“Drug makers face opposition on chiefs’ pay by UK advisory firm. The balance of CEO realised pay with financial performance is not considered acceptable.”
“Companies should look into the scope of executive pay. They often tend to hold on to executive salary levels in bad times but increase them in good times.”
“Perhaps a guidance mechanism for executive and board remuneration is in order.”
“Are remuneration consultants causing this excessive executive pay?”

Remuneration consultants are the backbone of pay decisions made by remuneration committees, regarding executive pay of listed companies. Their mandate requires them to form a supply of data on different pay in comparator companies. They are additionally required and equipped with the means of advising on remuneration plans and aid companies on what remuneration plans to choose. They also have the ability to design remuneration plans, prepare plan documentation, implement the plan of choice and act as a go-between with regard to institutional shareholders. Despite their expert capabilities or, rather, in light of them, they are looked upon with eyes of distrust.

A more in-depth elaboration

Protesters of excessive executive pay have displayed a more negative view of remuneration consultants. Since remuneration consultants are hired to assist with establishing the going rate as well as pay packages of CEOs (commonly by benchmarking others within the same category), suspicion has been raised with regards to accuracy of surveys and the commercial arrangement between the consultants and those who are motivating for the increases. Remuneration consultant critics believe that remuneration consultants have a reason for conflict of interest and believe them to set pay at excessive levels. They want CEOs to render their consultation services as well as impress executives who may possibly make use of their services for a more seductive opportunity in place of their losing prospective assignments.

As a result, suggestions have been made for companies to look into the scope of executive pay, as they often hold on to executive pay levels in bad times but increase them in good times. A guidance mechanism is thus a requirement for executive remuneration. Three rules have been created to right the wrongs of executive pay:

1. Stop using consultants;
2. The role of corporate governance. The disconnect between fund managers who actually buy into companies and manage their stakes for most of the year and their corporate governance colleagues who tend to only get involved around AGM season has to end; and
3. Simplify executive pay.

The first point warrants a question mark. Is this really a solution to the sky high executive pay rates?

Busting the myth

In order to determine the truth behind these accusations, the US Securities and Exchange Commission made it a requirement for companies to declare whether a remuneration consultancy service was utilised to assist with determining remuneration. Researchers employed this data in order to create a comparison between the pay practices of companies that make use of consultants, with those that don’t. The researchers controlled for the variables of industry, company size and the like, and whether the CEO had an ongoing tenure or was a new hire.


Surprisingly enough (or possibly not), the researchers found that it was not remuneration consultants that influenced executive pay but, rather, high paying firms have a higher likelihood of hiring consultants. From 2006 up until 2011, companies utilising consultants paid a premium of between 18% to 51% and over time that amount increased. A significant amount of equity was also offered by those companies. Since the correlation is not a causal one, that is, consultants do not cause the actual higher payment of the firm, the researchers examined changes in pay practices at firms that began or discontinued pay practices during this period which resulted in the conclusion at hand.

Why do companies use remuneration consultants to set CEO pay?

Remuneration consultants have several implicit and explicit functions, which are as follows:

• They provide advice and offer recommendations in areas of increasing technicality;
• They model the implications of advocated plans;
• They are well versed in matters related to remuneration and can thus articulate these matters to committee members;
• They are able to liaise with institutions on behalf of committee members; and
• They are equipped with proprietary survey data on pay of competitors – the committee may then utilise this to make decisions. As a consequence, they sway comparators choice and thereafter, the level of pay.

In an area of debate or uncertainty, the consultant has the ability of legitimising the decisions of the committee. The ability to legitimise, however, places its reliance on the extent of the consultant’s independence from the board as well as from the committee. However, this raises a red flag as this leads the public to ascertain the belief that consultants are in fact influenced by company executives, rather than remaining entirely independent. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, companies tend to employ different consultants.

Governance frameworks as a solution

Governance frameworks have been put in place so as to ensure appropriate expenditure and curb excessive executive pay. Such frameworks are:

Financial Stability Forum;
Commission of European Union;
Financial Services Authority;
King III;
JSE Listing Requirements;
Sarbanes Oxley (SOX);
Sarbanes Oxley (SOX);
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC);
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform; and
The Combined Code on Corporate Governance.

The question remains: are they working? Or do we need some form of legislation? It can be argued that no legislation can fix excessive pay. We need to rely on good governance including active shareholders and a strong media.


Despite suspicion of remuneration consultants influencing executive pay for self-gain, it seems that this speculation may be incorrect and remuneration consultants are merely advisers that follow the market. Suggestions going into the future are:

• Get different consultants for executive and nonexecutive directors as a check and balance;
• Publish the name of your consultant in your annual financial statement;
• Encourage shareholder activism and a free press;
• Ensure that your survey is audited for accuracy; and
• Implementing these suggestions will go a long way in avoiding erroneous legislation.

Dr Mark Bussin is the Executive Chairperson at 21st Century Pay Solutions Group, www.21century.co.za, 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.

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

Business Analysts can pioneer innovation and disruption

There is a growing demand and supply of skilled Business Analysts in an exponentially changing world.

Demand for business analysis (BA) skills is exploding as companies globally and locally increasingly realise the importance and necessity for wholesale digitisation for survival. As technology presents organisations with endless new opportunities to scale, enhance productivity and reduce costs, it is also equalising the playing field, making it more difficult to compete on the old-fashioned notion of cost and service, because customers now demand better, personalised experiences through service differentiation with competitive, or even lower, costs.

To address this exponentially growing demand for BAs, the industry needs to ensure that it attracts a steady flow of talent with different levels of expertise. Simultaneously, though, we need to retain these dynamic professionals as they move up the corporate ladder.

To do this, BAs need to be equipped with skills that can adequately meet the unique new demands in their world of work. This requires a holistic understanding of the complex and ever-changing landscape in which we now operate, as well as of the skills that BAs require in order to provide real value in this technology-driven environment:

Business analysts need to champion digital transformation. This means that we can’t just keep on at business as usual, but need to be the drivers of disruption in our industries. In addition to keeping our BA skills current, we also need to understand what’s happening in the related areas of user experience, process engineering and usability.

After all, nothing is more frustrating than interacting with a service that has not been fully digitised, or that offers a poor user experience. And don’t forget that we are seeing disruption come from new, unexpected, competitors. So, while your bank may be comparing itself to other banks, the disruption is likely to come from another industry altogether.

In order to ride this wave of disruption, BAs need to be at the forefront of implementation. This demands that we spend less time planning, testing and perfecting our products and more time implementing and updating them. Nowhere is this more evident than in the smart phone/app store mentality where perfection is substituted for functionality that is improved on the fly. Apps must be delivered to market as quickly as possible to gain or retain competitive advantage so they’re launched with the bare bones in place and customers are expected to suggest improvements as they engage.

This leads to high customer expectations of seeing those improvements implemented – that personal experience I mentioned before – and results in a rapid-fire innovation cycle by default.

Another characteristic of the mobile-driven market is that customers expect processes to be consistent from desktop to mobile. I may check in for my flight on my computer, but I want my boarding pass to be delivered to my phone. BAs need to drive this consistency and ensure customers are satisfied with the user experience.

With this consistency in place, there exists great opportunity to leverage information gathered across these various interfaces. In addition to maintaining a competitive advantage, this information must be harvested, processed and used for marketing, operational efficiency and managing risk and compliance. As BAs, we can’t rely on other departments to take care of these requirements, we need to ensure that we have the skills and insight to design for big data. Having a solid understanding of how information will be used will allow us to ensure that we create the right hooks in the right places, which will prevent retrofitting expensive and timeconsuming interventions later.

In addition to the forces of change and innovation that already exist in and around the BA, our industries are going to be disrupted by artificial intelligence – AI – machine learning, robotics and blockchain to name just a few technologies. We need to keep current of these developments and ensure that we are experimenting for usage. A resilient and curious about learning new skills. What an exciting time to be a business analyst! Clearly, though, resting on one’s laurels is not an option in this fast-paced world. Don’t get left behind.

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

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

Millennial meets Intranet

I am that strange animal which has been the subject of so much discussion, questions and conjecture lately: the fabled Millennial. Soon, my peers and I will be the largest percentage of the workforce; how are you going to cater for my foreign approach? How do you plan to engage me? The struggle is realll!! Please read on.

My generation has grown up with social media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MixIt, Instagram, Pinterest: name it and I am there and slaying. We are the digital natives, and we expect a similar digital environment in the workplace. Not because we’re demanding (although we can be: “#BoringMustFall!”), but because that’s what we know, it’s how we live and it’s part of who we are.

So how do you plan to connect with us? An intranet I hear you say? Not a bad idea, but you need to remember the ground rules. If you get it right, you may just hold our attention – and loyalty – long enough to get the best out of us. So, let me talk you through my expectations of your intranet.

Firstly, I want to be able to connect wherever, whenever. I want to be able to halla instantly with anyone in the organisation. Telephones – Really? E-mail? Meh. Desktop – Why? I have my smartphone with me. Give me some data and enough bandwidth to access your intranet anywhere, anytime or I’m done.

Show me what I need to see instantly. If I have to dig through piles of information that has no bearing on my life, or is just too boring, I am going to lose interest. #SorryNotSorry. Keep it intuitive – if I have to spend more time searching for it than I will be reading it, I can’t deal!

I know you think there’s a lot I need to know, but fam’ that’s not the case. I want my info in bite-sized chunks – because if it’s too long I’m probably gonna skip it. And why use so many words? Haven’t you ever heard of YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest? You can relay a message in pictures too.

You may think your corporate news and HR memorandums are interesting. I don’t. Not all the time. I want to have fun, too. An intranet that wants to engage me needs to include some entertainment like trivia, celebrity news, games and competitions. I will be more likely to remember what you are saying to me if you add a bit of humour. Bottom line: if your intranet is a dull, boring place that’s all work and no play, it’s an epic fail. Jussayin’.
Lastly, I want to be able to talk to you. Please listen to what I have to say. I have ideas. I’m smart. I want to be part of the decision making process. Let me micro-blog, contribute to forum discussions and comment on stuff. Make sure your intranet doesn’t talk at me. None of the other social platforms do. They create spaces where I can contribute and collaborate, where my opinion is valued. They encourage conversation. You should too.

When it comes to anything online, my generation has huge expectations and we are looking for the same things in an intranet. You must make us want to smash that site or don’t bother.

Thandeka Ntanda is the Project Manager and Millenial at The human.kind Group.

New liquid workforce your competitive advantage

Build your workforce for today’s digital demands.

Companies are investing in the tools and technologies they need to keep pace with constant change in the digital era. But to achieve their ambitious goals, leaders are refocusing on an often overlooked factor: the workforce. They are looking at technology as not just a disrupter, but also an enabler to transform their people, projects and entire organisation into a highly adaptable and change-ready enterprise. In short, business leaders are realising their new liquid workforce can become their new competitive advantage.

Walk through the doors of any tech start-up and you expect to find work being done differently. After all, these companies are renowned for their innovative culture, agility and passion for reinvention. What most people don’t expect is to see these same traits in traditional companies. But take a look at GE. The company is actively changing its culture from a conventional Global 2000 mindset to behaving more like a start-up.

Through a new approach called FastWorks, GE is embedding lean start-up practices into the workforce, pushing it to change faster and make smarter decisions, while staying close to customers. It’s doing away with rigid approval processes to instead allow employees to make rapid changes to their projects or quickly switch direction. And the organisation bolsters the evolving demand of these projects by providing constant training that gives employees the skills they need to adapt and thrive. GE is just one example of a wider change in how companies work today.

In response to constant disruption and fast-shifting business goals, forward-thinking enterprises are reimagining their workforces. In the past, anyone – from accountants to machinists – could spend their entire careers doing the same job, using the same skills to support businesses with largely unchanging goals. But today we’re seeing companies being continually pushed to change products, services, and sometimes even business models. And not just once, but constantly, as each new technology innovation emerges.

Business leaders are realising a more liquid workforce can become their new competitive advantage. Leading enterprises are reshaping themselves to rapidly adapt to any disruption. In essence they’re creating a ‘liquid workforce.’

Specifically, to compete in today’s market, companies must look beyond just updating skills. To drive change, they will need to become agile at each level of their business: their skills, their projects and their organisations.

By embedding the assumption of constant change enterprise wide, companies will be able to access critical skills sooner, innovate faster and operate more effectively. This digitally powered workforce isn’t just changing what businesses do, crucially, it’s changing how they do it. And it’s working. GE’s FastWorks methodology enabled it to build a new regulation-compliant diesel engine for ships nearly two years ahead of its competitors. Using the same approach, GE Appliances was able, in less than one year, to design and deliver a high-end refrigerator that sold twice as well as preceding models.

Shifts in the labour market

Before digging deeper into how companies are shifting to a liquid workforce, it’s important to understand why businesses are changing their workforce practices. Right now, core characteristics of the labour market are changing – driven in large part by technology. Digital technology has fundamentally changed every aspect of the business: strategies, processes, job functions and business models.

The workforce needs not only to adapt to meet evolving demands, but also to develop the skillsets to achieve their new goals. For example, to design for the Web and mobile devices, graphic designers need to understand coding languages such as HTML5 and others. Similarly, salespeople must understand the data and analytics tools that businesses use to drive growth. As a result, many enterprises are experiencing a skills gap. A recent survey¹ reports that 38 percent of businesses globally are struggling to find the right talent.

The employee pool is changing significantly as well. In 2015, Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce. This shift is significant for two reasons: first, because Millennials will soon become the predominant source of human capital; and, second, because businesses stand to benefit greatly from the technology acumen and talent this generation (also known as ‘digital natives’) possesses. But the flipside is that, as reported in the survey, 53 percent of business leaders are finding it hard to attract and retain Millennial talent. And that’s worrying, as this generation is expected to account for 76 percent of the global labour pool by 2025.

This ‘people disruption’ is about much more than just a new generation of workers. In the United States alone, it’s predicted that 43 percent of the workforce (60 million people) will be freelance by 2020. That’s roughly four times the number in 2015 (15.5 million). It’s just one more dramatic development affecting how enterprises find and deploy talent. As these disruptions mount, enterprises are starting to react.

According to the survey, IT and business executives reported that “deep expertise for the specialised task at hand” was only the fifth most important characteristic they required for employees to perform well in a digital work environment. Other qualities such as ’ability to quickly learn’ and ’ability to multitask’ or ‘willingness to embrace change’ ranked higher, indicating that leaders are placing a premium on candidates whom they believe will evolve with their business.

Fortunately, as well as driving these workforce disruptions, technology is also at the centre of creating the solutions: massive online open courses (MOOCs) for scalable training; collaboration tools such as Slack that foster collaboration; and predictive workforce analytics that allow vast organisations to make better decisions. These and other digital technologies are enabling businesses to solve their workforce challenges. The goal? To create a liquid workforce with flexibility fundamentally built into three areas: skills, projects, and the organisation as a whole.

Flexible, yet rigorous

An agile workforce will only flourish in an organisation that, in the face of change, is prepared and equipped to bend and flex. And that process demands rigorous oversight. Consequently, more organisations are investing in end-to-end workforce management solutions – such as those provided by Oracle, Workday, and SAP – to deliver key insights into workforce capabilities and readiness.

As they get more information about the workforce, business leaders can evolve their HR organisation from its focus on people management, to one becoming an orchestrator for optimising the organisation’s entire output. Xerox, for example, uses people analytics in its call centres to connect the right personalities with the right roles, effectively raising employee satisfaction while cutting hiring and retention costs. Businesses are evolving from rigid, decades-old structures to create a workforce that’s built to and for change. Creating an agile workforce might sound challenging, but the rewards on offer are immense. Once organisations start to harness the power within such a workforce, they will find that they can grow smarter and faster than they ever imagined. And in the digital age, that’s not just desirable – it is mission critical.

Lee Naik is the Managing Director for Accenture Digital, www.accenture.com.

¹ Accenture Technology Vision 2016.

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

Do you know how to recruit Afrillennials?

You need more than just a rational approach if you want to attract and keep Afrillennials in your company.

It’s happening. Millennials are steadily overtaking older staff as South Africa’s largest representative generation of workers, introducing an entirely new mindset that businesses will have to master to recruit and retain the new workforce.

In the US, Millennials are defined as people born between 1980 and 2000. South African Millennials or “Afrillennials”, as a Student Village study has named them, were born from 1990 onwards, and have been influenced by major local cultural, political and economic shifts.

Afrillennials aged 16-26 currently make up almost 10% of all employed workers. By 2025, this group together with the new batch of young workers will add up to nearly 40% of the workforce. By 2030, the original group and their successors will make up about 75% of all staff.

But Afrillennials have completely different needs and expectations of the workplace than previous generations, which will require new thinking to attract and integrate them.

What Afrillennials really want

Afrillennials grew up with TV, Internet and cell phones. If there’s a tech shortcut, they’ll find it to work smarter. They also want a more flexible work environment, says Student Village.

As the first born-free generation after Apartheid, Afrillennials are sensitive to social cohesion, the study says. Their openness to other cultures make them best positioned to create cultural harmony at work. Afrillennials want to be part of the solution and make a positive difference. They’d also love to travel and work overseas, but most want to return home.

Afrillennials value getting the right degree to land a high-paying job at a big, well respected, global company, says Student Village. They want it all – rapid career growth, the best tech, perks and work-life balance – and they want it now (YOLO, you only live once). With parents that grew up in an expanding economy and gave their kids a lot, Afrillennials are also very ambitious.

But the study finds they’re also scared to fail and very risk averse when making big decisions. They need lots of mentorship and feedback. They feel weighed down by Ubuntu tax (contributing financially to their families) and they dream about financial independence.

There’s a lot companies can offer Afrillennials. Many already have the right social initiatives in place and, as businesses move into Africa, there are more opportunities for international work and travel. But, this isn’t always mentioned in recruitment advertising.

Where HR goes wrong

Companies still use a one-size-fits-all approach to recruitment and don’t think enough about audience segmentation. While companies have put particular thought into graduate recruitment, they treat all other job seekers as the same.

You have to segment your audiences according to demographics like age, motivation and values to understand their triggers and share the right message through the best channel. This is especially key with Afrillennials as they’re so different from preceding generations.

The other big factor is how you integrate Afrillennials once they get to the workplace. Young workers will migrate to environments where they feel most comfortable. If they come up against old ways of treating staff, they won’t stay. The two worlds need to come together, but how are you reshaping the business at different levels to hold on to them?

How to recruit and retain Afrillennials

Instead of focusing career page messaging and job adverts on purely rational messaging, companies should engage Afrillennials via motivational triggers at an emotional level – the values of the business, what it’s contributing to society and what exciting projects they’ll get to action. The chance to be exposed to new things, developed and grow their networks is very important to Afrillennials. Google, AirBnB, Facebook and L’Oréal really get the emotional triggers right. They’re also good at using more engaging kinds of media, like video testimonials.

The work environment and how it operates is also important – how the office is laid out, what equipment’s available, what flexibility is available in working hours, and can they work remotely. The space should feel more like home with recreational areas, but have all the functionality of an office. Open plan is good as long as there are quiet spaces to get work done.

Where to start the process

Begin with your scarce skills areas. Get a few Afrillennial high-performers that fit your culture and conduct a profiling exercise with them by asking a lot of questions: what media do you consume? What influences your decisions? What kind of messages would attract you into a job? What keywords would you use in your search? What is it about a company that would most attract you? Once you understand them, it will be easier to create a recruitment advertisement that includes both the rational and emotional aspects that would appeal to an Afrillennial. You’ll also be in a better position to select the right channels most appropriate to Afrillennials.

Meeting of the minds

Everyone’s still grappling with how different Afrillennials are, which can lead to a lot of tension in the workplace. If you take the time to understand Afrillennials and start working internally with some of the key messages, you can start moving towards this younger generation.

Attracting the best Afrillennails in South Africa’s scarce skills market and integrating them is a priority since they’ll make up such a big part of the future workforce. If you don’t start now, you’re going to run out of time to prepare.

Andy Coe is the Head of Client Services at graylink, www.graylink.biz.

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

AI offers alluring promise of a blissful tomorrow

Consider this organisational overview of the human partnership with Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The aura of ‘Groundbreaking Technology’ has long been touted as the ‘majestic’ manifestation of human ingenuity with ‘innovation’ being the ‘compelling’ driver and ‘progress’ holding the ‘motivation’ portfolio. History has borne witness to three industrial revolutions and we are now in the throes of the fourth one. This has been highlighted by Klaus Schwab in his article ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond’, as follows:

Navigating the next Industrial Revolution

The rapid infusion of ubiquitous technology has prompted new genres of lexicon to capture the extent of transformation that is reaching into all spheres of human life. Some of these are: Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), Intelligence Amplification (IA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and so on. All such forms of technological advancement are in various stages of development/adaption/adoption in different fields, with AI capturing the limelight supplemented by the strides being made in aligned areas, such as Neurorobotics, Computational Neuroscience, Computational Linguistics, Combinational Materials Science, Cybernetics, 3D printing and others.

While there is general agreement that the pace of technological innovation and discovery will be remarkable in the coming decades, there are broad differences as to how this will actually manifest in the daily lives of people. Futurists/ forward-thinkers/ philosophers/ strategists are consistently voicing opinion on a multitude of factors that will gain prominence in the years ahead, impacting all facets of life. Such viewpoints need to be weighed up against the following seven questions:

1. What kind of changes will be there in the future?

This question refers to various types of changes, such as genetic transmutation, nanotechnology, autonomous transportation, real-time hybrid interactive education, autonomous manufacturing, highly customised services and so on.

2. Why will these changes take place?

This question refers to the needs that will drive such a change, such as cancer cures, extending life span, human accidents/ errors/ fatigue/ stress reduction, cost optimisation, knowledge storage/ preservation/ consumption, environmental concerns, product robustness/ reliability, wow factor and others.

3. How dominant will these changes be?

This question refers to the extent of influence exercised by such changes, such as its exclusivity, whether it will be pervasive, how long it will last, its obsolescence, and so forth.

4. Who will be the primary drivers of such changes?

This question refers to the influential stakeholders, such as top/ senior leadership, government regulators, policy makers, global consortiums, industrial alliances, judiciary, public opinion makers, amongst others.

5. How will these changes look like?

This question refers to the actual face of changes, such as medical nanobots, pilotless commercial planes, cyborg teachers, AI employees, holographic smart-shopping assistants and so on.

6. When will these changes take place?

This question refers to an educated determination of the timelines of such changes becoming ingrained in daily life, such as within the next five years, within a decade, around 30 years or longer.

7. Where will these changes take place?

This question refers to the regions/ countries/ cities/ places where such changes will be realised more readily than others, such as North America, England, New York, small towns, agricultural communities, oceans, wilderness or other areas.

Despite the boldness of their opinions, hardly anyone is venturing into presenting a visual context of what the future organisation will look like in an era of Human-AI partnership. Allow me to present my view of the basic organisational structure of the future enterprise, a publicly traded company that will become the norm in technologically-advanced countries within the 21st century. See diagram on the following page.

I have picked a manufacturing example to convey my perspective. However, it can easily be viewed from a services side if the manufacturing functions are omitted and the services elements are inserted in their place. Let’s take a brief look at the key characteristics of the aforementioned basic organisational structure of the future enterprise:

General attributes

The organisational structure will be no more hierarchical; rather, it will gravitate towards a ‘Hub and Spoke’ model. Most organisations will be global in scope and generally operate with a human workforce of approximately 1,000 – 5,000. Such a size will be achieved by the huge induction of AI in different functions and massive layoffs of the human workforce. Consequently, current large multinationals, as a survival tactic, will reduce to such a size and new organisations/startups of the future will eventually reach such a threshold in employees.

The new size will evolve into a new type of entity that I will name a Medium-To-Large Enterprise (MLE). It will possess the primed agility of a medium enterprise and the matured sophistication of a large enterprise. It will be very highly focused on innovation and supremely technology-driven, with AI taking a shared and visible role with its human colleagues/peers. Business processes will be optimised at much higher levels than Six Sigma and practically achieve zero defects. Mergers and acquisitions will become extinct due to the ubiquitous nature of technology/ expertise/ know-how.

Basic organisational structure for the future enterprise

Management systems will be seen a sacred constitution and will be flexible, but robust enough to sustain market dynamics. Carefully defined core values will cement the corporate foundations and will be actively practised by both humans and AI. Formal designations will be minimal and will be largely replaced by strategic and operational roles with clearly defined relevant skill sets. Employees will be tech-savvy and multi-skilled, with significant crossfunctional exposure.

Talent Management will significantly tilt in favour of being a science than an art. Total Rewards package will be highly attractive. Attrition rates will be negligible. There will be high focus on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives and environmental ownership. Big Data use will be prevalent and used extensively in all facets of the organisation. The HR function will be split into Talent Management (TM) and Organisational Development (OD), with AI having rights as full-time employees through policies/procedures that will cater to their unique requirements.

Cerebral core

This will be the main hub of the organisation, and will be operated jointly by both human and AI colleagues/ peers. See figure 3.

Other functions

Shared-leadership functions will follow the pattern of the cerebral core by splitting responsibilities according to relevant skill sets. AI-led functions will have an AI as a functional head and will be assisted by a team of AI and human members serving in various assigned roles. Humans will only lead the TM and OD function and will be assisted by human and AI team members according to their relevant skill sets.

Human vs AI


The aforementioned reflection of the future enterprise has been presented as a thought provoking reflection of what can be expected in the years ahead. Technology is evolving at a furious pace, buoyed by the comforting proclamation of making lives easier, better, longer and richer, but such exuberant promise has to be realised with the sobering prospective downside of a world that is pervaded with AI, resulting in job losses/ mass reskilling/ shortened careers/ early retirements, safety and security of devastated working neighbourhoods, prospects of increased marginalisation of less privileged sections of society, rising costs of quality healthcare and fruitful education, unabated birthrates, population underutilisation, higher percentage of elderly people requiring proper care, and so forth.

Additionally, there is the little matter of assuming that there will be an amicable partnership between humans and AI without the latter getting any notions/ inclinations/ compulsions of trying to dominate on account of its superior skills in certain areas with/ without the assisted malevolent designs of fellow human beings trying to assert their own intelligence quotients. The optimist in me says that it will be delightfully complementary; the realist in me winks and says it won’t be that easy, while the nagging pessimist in me wants to cherish the gift of humanity in the here and now while we can. Let’s see what happens … Keep your fingers crossed!

Murad Salman Mirza is a Committed Organisational Architect, Positive Change Driver, Unrepentant Success Addict and a globally published author based in the United Arab Emirates.

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

Are you a leader with ability or agility?

For the past few thousand years, leaders have been appointed on ability. It made sense to have someone leading people, organisations and countries who had lots of ability and was able to do what was needed.

Yes, ability was drummed into all of us by our parents and teachers. We had to learn to be capable or we wouldn’t get anywhere.

That has been a very convincing argument … until now.

As humanity faces massive, unprecedented changes caused largely by the dramatic advances and innovations of very able people, we are finding that, in a VUCA world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, ability is no longer enough.

Ability was good enough on its own in a world that was two-dimensional, predictable and static – a world that didn’t change very much from one year to the next. But the world has rapidly gone past even three dimensional to four dimensional and more. And, as everything is changing at an ever increasing pace, ability is no longer enough. Our more complex world now also requires leaders to have agility.       

Wikipedia refers to agility as a combination of balance, co-ordination, speed, reflexes, strength and endurance.

When it comes to requirements for today’s leaders, it doesn’t get much clearer than that. Leaders with agility will have both feet on the ground (balance) and operate with a measure of comfort, despite the many unexpected developments that catch them unawares. They will be in touch with who they are and who others are so that they can get many different people and factors to effectively work together and collaborate (co-ordination).

They will be able to rapidly assess situations and make fast decisions, then quickly act on those decisions (speed), and will be highly responsive to their present environment as well as to the evolving environment in order to adapt and adjust accordingly (reflexes).

Because of the high risk associated with a VUCA world, agile leaders accept that they will fail at certain things but they are prepared to fail fast so that they can recover, forgive themselves and move forward (strength). Despite setbacks and difficulties, they will persevere because they know that the only way to move is forward (endurance).

Agility, therefore, is not just about managing to survive in a difficult world, it’s about being good enough to thrive in that world. Agile leaders will relish the challenges that come their way and enjoy finding innovative ways to address those challenges. Innovation requires one to think in ways one hasn’t previously thought. That requires agility.

The bus that Jim Collins spoke of in his 2001 classic Good to Great, when he described CEOs as the bus driver, is useless because the so-called highway that they were cruising along on has ended. CEOs now have to get out of their comfy driver’s seat and lead their teams through the jungle with no map, no compass, no GPS …

If you’re not an agile thinker in these conditions, you’re going to be in trouble.

So how can we increase our agility?

It depends how badly you want to genuinely lead from the front. Many leaders today lead on the basis of, “Follow me, I’m right behind you.” Those are not leaders. They’re pseudo leaders – people who lay claim to the title of leader but who really have not a cooking clue of what real leadership is. They’re in it for the status and the pay.

Leaders who have a passion to lead people to a better reality – that’s what true leadership is about – are prepared to teach themselves what they need to be and do to find a path through the VUCA undergrowth.

How does one teach oneself? Observe – look and listen – and take note of what works and what doesn’t. Adjust your beliefs, thoughts and actions as you explore new ways of achieving previously unheard of goals. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try things. Sure, you will get some things wrong, but that’s all part of the game.

People who are not agile have brains that have been set in concrete. They’re not prepared to try different things in the interests of finding newer and better ways. Be everything they’re not and you will be a leader with ability AND agility!

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

Win the war for talent through an investor focus

Investors will come to rely more on assessments of a company’s talent and leadership when looking at future performance.

Winning the war for talent requires recognising that the value of talent is defined by the receiver more than the giver. Without defining what it means to win, the war for talent is aimless. Hiring or training someone who fails to deliver value to key stakeholders is like preparing a meal without knowing what the patron wants to eat or playing a sport without keeping score. When I get my close friends a gift, I start by defining what would be meaningful to them more than what I can easily give. Since they ultimately define the value of my gift, I should start with what matters to them. I learned the principle of value creation many years ago in my marriage. Instead of getting my wife tickets to sporting events, I ponder on what matters to her, then offer her gifts that have meaning for her, not me.

Likewise, talent wars need clear outcomes to deliver real value. It is not enough to build on strengths, but to use strengths to strengthen others. It is not enough to measure the amount of training or staffing, but the impact of training or staffing on key organisation outcomes. It is not enough for a leader to focus on his or her personal successes (“I am worth $1 billion!”), but on the ways that he has helped others succeed (“I have helped create 1,000 millionaires.”). Authentic leaders who do not create value for others are narcissists, not true leaders.

Too often, talent decisions in hiring, training and leadership are based on value created for those inside not outside the organisation. For example, when the standard for talent is cost-perhire-per-employee, it underrepresents the value that the talent can create for others. When training is measured by the skills attendees acquire or even the impact of those skills on the business, the focus is primarily inside the company. When leaders are measured by how much they inspire employees as measured by engagement or productivity, the internal focus limits the full impact of leadership.

Talent choices focused outside the company

Talent value ultimately comes from how talent choices affect those outside the organisation, not just inside. In the past few years, we have argued that leaders are most effective when their behaviours reflect customer promises. When a firm brand translates to a leadership brand, leaders create more value for targeted customers.

We have focused on shaping talent choices (in staffing, training, rewards, communication, organisation and culture) by customer expectations. Customer promises set staffing criteria, training options, compensation standards, communication protocols, organisation governance and cultural definitions.

It is now time to shift talent value from internal (employee inspiration and organisation strategy) to customer expectations to investor promises.

Why investors care about talent

Investors have a simple goal of making money on their investment, but this goal is not easy to achieve. Investors realise that two firms in the same industry with the same earnings may have different market valuation. This difference comes when investors see beyond financials and reduce risks by looking beyond the cash flow to the intangibles that produce sustained earnings. These intangibles include strategy, brand, R&D, distribution and other business processes.

Talent is one of the most critical and underlying intangibles. If and when investors have more confidence in talent (from the senior leaders to employees throughout the organisation), they reduce the risk of their investment and they increase their confidence in future earnings.

Investors who assess talent go beyond financial results and strategic intangibles to the talent choices that drive long term success. In our work with investors, they often recognise the value of leadership as a subset of talent, but are not sure how to track it. We have written about the market value of leadership in Leadership Capital Index.

Talent proponents who link talent choices to the value created for investors move their talent choices from improving employee sentiment or firm strategy to improving market valuation. The war for talent is ultimately won when talent creates investor confidence that translates to market value.

So, how do investors determine if a firm has better or worse talent? How can talent managers link their work to market valuation?

How talent managers can increase investor confidence in talent

First, investors need to recognise that market value comes from intangibles like talent. Talent managers can prepare a graph of how their firm’s price/ earnings (or price to book) ratio compares to their top competitors over a significant period of time. Price/earnings shows the market value of earnings. Talent managers can prepare this chart to show the intangible value of their firm versus competitors. In our research we found that about 30% of intangibles is related to quality of leadership (surrogate for talent).

Apples intangible value 20015 through 2014
For example, in Table 1, we show that Apple’s PE ratio over a decade was 22.0 versus an industry average of 14.6. This shows that about 50% (22- 14.6 = 7.4/14.6 = 50%) of Apple’s $750B market cap is due to the intangibles. If leadership, or talent, is about 30% of this intangible value, then the value of talent to Apple is about $110B (30% of $375b).

Talent managers can prepare these charts to communicate the value of the intangibles and talent to the business.

Second, investors need to have a way to understand the quality of talent. Even when investors recognise the variance in market valuation due to talent, they often lack a rigorous way to understand and track talent. Talent managers need to prepare a simple but robust way to discuss talent with investors. Assessing talent management processes is difficult because a multitude of programmes and investments have been made to attract, upgrade and retain talent. Investors need to avoid the pitfall and allure of looking at one talent process (hiring or engaging or training or succession planning) and missing the importance of the overall talent management system. When we interviewed investors, they almost uniformly agreed that people matter and that talent management processes should affect their valuation of the firm. Prepare a logic for talent that has meaning for investors. We have found that talent processes can be synthesised into choices about the flow of talent into the organisation (sourcing new talent into the organisation), through the organisation (developing current talent, building commitment, preparing future successors), and out of the organisation (managing retention of key performers and removal of poor performers).

Third, investors need to have indicators to assess talent. These indicators might reflect overall commitment to talent such as:

• Revenue per full time employee;
• Total labour cost (payroll, contingent and contract worker pay, benefits) as a percent of revenue;
• Correlations of the service profit chain (employee sentiment correlated to customer affect to financial performance); and
• Firm reputation in social media.

Or the talent managers may share specific talent indicators such as:

• Bringing talent in:
– How many qualified applicants per advertised position?
– How long before new employees are fully productive?
– Managing talent through the organisation:
– What is training and development budget per employee? As ratio of sales?
– Track back up ratio for key leadership positions?
• Monitor employee engagement versus competitors;
• Attending to employees who leave:
• Review retention of pivotal employees; and
• Examine how firm deals with poor performers.

Finally, investors need to be informed of the organisation’s talent management processes. Talent managers might prepare presentations on talent for investors which might be 10 to 15% of investor calls or road shows. This might be talent managers preparing talent metrics as part of the investor calls or it might be working to help investors recognise the quality of leadership within the organisation. For example, Buffalo Wild Wings intentionally gives investors exposure to its broader leadership team; as opposed to companies more traditionally limiting exposure to CEO, CFO and their investor relations professionals. They host an investors day where the entire leadership team plays a role in sharing direction and strategy, add the COO to the Q & A portion of quarterly earnings calls, and have other C-level leaders (including CHRO) join the CFO on investor visits to show leadership depth.

Alere, a global leader in diagnostics, recently worked with investors to show the quality of leadership. In their recent “buy” recommendation, investors looked at the quality of leadership. Here are some quotes from their recommendation:

• “We recently met with Alere’s management and came away with a greater sense of appreciation for the company’s deep commitment to quality, beginning with its people”;
• “… (the company) Invests in world-class people … Alere has made a large number of important hires over the past 12 months to ensure the best possible people are managing various divisions … Management team is ‘full, at the top of the house’, still filling out the team at the VP level. We come out of our recent meeting encouraged with the company’s commitment to quality, particularly to people’ ”; and
• “… we continue to recommend investors to accumulate shares of Alere given our expectations for multiple expansion as management executes on its core initiatives”.

These cases illustrate that talent managers can actively participate in investor conversations to increase investor confidence in, and awareness of, talent.


Investors who want asymmetrical data on a firm’s future performance will come to rely more on assessments of talent and leadership. Talent managers who want to win the war for talent will increasingly focus on how talent can be understood and tracked by investors.

Prof. Dave Ulrich is Rensis Likert Professor at Ross School of Business University of Michigan, www.umich.edu, and a Partner with the RBL Group, www.rbl.net.


1 The recent book Leadership Capital Index: Realizing the Market Value of Leadership (by Dave Ulrich) offers a complete index for assessing leadership. Managing talent is one of the ten elements of this overall index.
2 Dave Ulrich and Justin Allen. 2013 Talent Accelerator: Understanding how talent delivers performance for Asian firms. South Asian Journal of HRM Dave Ulrich and Justin Allen. 2013 Talent Accelerator: Secrets for Driving Business Growth in Asia. Manuscript prepared for Singapore Ministry of Manpower, published by The RBL Group.

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

Use these tricks to handle tough problems

When faced with tough problems, try one of these three approaches.

Simple problems fly by so quickly we hardly notice them. It’s the tough ones that occupy our days and perhaps our sleepless nights. It’s tempting to think that there is some terribly clever solution for our tough problems, a solution that is buried somewhere just waiting for us to dig it up. Sadly, most tough problems don’t have clever solutions. However, you can help yourself find acceptable paths forward by following one of these three tricks:

Trick 1: Gracefully accept that it’s an issue you’ll just have to live with

In “The CEO and the Monk”, Kenny Moore tells a story about a manager who was in conflict with one of his peers. Kenny showed the manager a description of his own horoscope sign and that of his peer. The manager looked at how opposite their personalities were (at least according to astrology) then laughed. He realised he and his peer would probably always rub each other the wrong way, and that was okay. The point has nothing to do with horoscopes. It’s about accepting that some problems will never go away and hence don’t need to be fixed. Once you accept this, the tough problems are often easier to live with. Acceptance is the “solution” to many tough problems and often leads to the realisation that the issue wasn’t really such a big deal anyway.

Trick 2: Step back and seek a much simpler solution

Sometimes we get caught up seeking more and more complex solutions to a tricky problem. For example, we might be trying to give our staff guidance on how to deal with customer returns. As we think about all the possible scenarios, we end up with such a complex list of policies that you’d need a roomful of lawyers to make sense of it. How do we find our way out of this mess? We step way back and simply tell our staff, “Use your best judgement.” Problem solved! Seeking ‘good enough’ simplicity is often the key to resolving tough problems.

Trick 3: Take the hit

Sometimes a tough problem might be how to save a project that is failing or fix a report that isn’t coming together, or tweak software that doesn’t quite work. These tough problems may have a clever solution, but often the best choice is to shut down the project, throw out the article or buy new software. All the actions appear costly, but they are cheaper than the alternative of sticking to a lost cause. It’s tough to “take the hit”, to admit failure and start again, but once it’s done then the headache may dissipate delightfully.

What these solutions have in common

Take a moment to reflect on the things these solutions have in common:

• The solution is not what you hoped for;
• The solution is simple; and
• You already knew the best solution yourself.

Often the worse thing to do is to hire someone who glibly promises to solve the problem in some incredibly clever way. Chances are that, if the clever way existed, you’d know about it. You have to trust yourself and face the reality that not all problems have great solutions.

Getting the help you need

I’ve said that you probably already know the answer to the problem, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need help. But the help you need is not that of the self-proclaimed experts, it’s simply the good listener who will help you talk your way through to your own answer.

Let me conclude with one last illustration of a tough problem. Imagine you are hiking to a friend’s cottage and discover the path has been washed away. You can climb a hill but that is going to be really hard; or you can go the long way around and you’ll be late; or you can just give up and send your apologies. You could consult an expert who promises to solve your problem, but the truth is that the choices are pretty clear. It’s true none of the choices is what you really want; but the solution is simple and you probably already know the best answer. Maybe you are up to the tough climb; or maybe being late isn’t the end of the world; or maybe giving up and sending apologies is simply the wise thing to do. And that’s the point about tough problems really; the solution is not in being clever. It’s in being wise. Finding a good listener can bring out that wisdom in you.

David Creelman is CEO of Creelman Research, www.creelmanresearch.com. He is best known for his insights on People Analytics, Evidence-based Management and the “Uber-ization of work”. Connect with David on LinkedIn.

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

Appreciative Inquiry builds productive relationships across an organisation

Sarah Lewis answers questions from Alan Hosking about Appreciative Inquiry.

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative Inquiry is an approach to change in human systems developed originally by Professor David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivasta at Case Western University in the USA in the early 1990s. It offers a radically different perspective on people, groups and organisations as living systems, capable of self-stimulated change. Over the years people have taken the underlying process in many different directions so we now have Appreciative Inquiry Coaching, Team Development, Organisation and Community Development as well as Appreciative Inquiry for Strategic Development. It is a highly versatile and adaptable approach to change. All Appreciative Inquiry practice is firmly based either on the core process, known as the 5D model, or on the core Principles, or both. These are explained fully in our book, as is the application of Appreciative Inquiry to change at the personal, group or organisational level.

Why is it good for Change Management?

As we are frequently reminded, change is now a constant feature of organisational life. However, change is still often treated as an occasional disruptive necessity rather than as an everpresent opportunity for improvement. So Change Management can become a minimal response, a begrudged push to avert something unpleasant. Appreciative Inquiry recasts Change Management as a constant feature of organisational life. In fact, Change Management becomes a bit of a misnomer as Appreciative Inquiry is focused on releasing change from the inherent potential for growth and movement in any living system. Change is not so much regarded as something that can be managed as something that emerges when the right conditions are created. Appreciative Inquiry can be classified as a predominantly emergent rather than planned change process, which isn’t to say that planning doesn’t have a part to play.

Appreciative Inquiry is particularly good for change as it recognises and works with the unique human process of growth. We tend not to grow towards our objectives in neat and orderly paths made up of evenly spaced intervals of advancement.

We only have to think how children, while always progressing (all being well) towards adulthood, develop adult skills in fits and starts, with occasional rapid bursts and then periods where apart from physical growth, not a lot seems to be happening. Also, babies don’t develop into children then adults because we tell them to, or because we have designed a project plan for them. They grow because they are grasping, curious, stretching towards the unknown yet attractive. They want to reach that toy, move towards those people, make their needs known, and it is these pull factors that fortify them through the difficult processes or learning to walk and talk.

When we regard the organisation as a living human system, we can call on similar processes to create growth and movement. Appreciative Inquiry works to create visions of attractive futures that pull people towards them. It brings everyone affected by an issue or an opportunity together, accessing the power of our social natures, our desire to be part of something bigger then ourselves, our desire to create positive social identities, and our need to experience a sense of belonging. It works to create a positive emotional atmosphere where people feel able to stretch themselves, engage with others and deal productively with difficulties.

How is it different from other approaches?

The vast majority of change management processes are based on a predominantly rational and logical view of the world and organisations. They proceed as if analysing the facts, solving a problem, laying out a path of action and telling others to follow it will result in engaged, committed, self-energised, future directed, motivated change efforts. The fact that we spend so much energy discussing how to ‘overcome resistance’ and ‘get buyin’ suggests this isn’t a predetermined result.

Appreciative Inquiry approaches change from a different perspective. It understands organisations as living human systems and it accesses human psychological processes to produce change, rather than relying solely on the power of plans. With Appreciative Inquiry, the emphasis in the early stages is on gathering the whole system together to cocreate an understanding of the existing resources, for instance the strengths, values, achievement etc. of the organisation. And then on identifying the most desirable futures that address, encompass, diminish, enlarge or in some other way engage with the opportunity or challenge that the system has identified. Only once everyone feels part of the emerging process of engagement and action might smaller groups translate the co-created sense of direction and desired futures into more detailed plans. With Appreciative Inquiry everyone affected or involved has a voice in what is happening right from the beginning. Not only does this improve decisionmaking, since the right people are present in the discussions, but it also reduces, if not completely bypasses, the problems of resistance.

How is it relevant to other Human Resource challenges?

Appreciative Inquiry is a highly versatile approach to human development. It is successfully used for performance management, coaching, culture, strategy, leadership, conflict resolution and mediation as well as during difficult times such as downsizing.

Together with positive psychology, Appreciative Inquiry offers a positive approach to engaging with any human challenge. It might be worth emphasising here that Appreciative Inquiry is not, as is sometimes mistakenly thought, some sort of Pollyanna approach to life. Appreciative Inquiry fully recognises that life produces difficult, distressing and damaging experiences and doesn’t deny the reality of these. Rather, it works on the basis that the most productive way forward, once the period of mourning or emotional response has served its useful purpose, is likely to be found by discovering the best resources from past experience, creating a mood more conducive to effective thinking in the present, and creating an idea of future states that help pull people forward to somewhere better.

How does Appreciative Inquiry add to the Human Capital of the organisation?

One of the many benefits of Appreciative Inquiry is that it acts to build good, productive relationships across the organisation. By bringing the whole system together around an issue, it acts to break down silos and build cross-function relationships and understanding. At the same time, the process is based on releasing innovation and creativity across the organisation. In this and other ways, it is highly empowering. By accessing and activating the brains, and skills and knowledge, of the whole organisation rather than just a select few, it increases the capability of the organisation without raising headcount. Appreciative Inquiry is a great way to grow your human capital whilst achieving important organisational objectives.


Sarah Lewis is a chartered organisational psychologist and one of the principal positive psychology and appreciative inquiry practitioners in the UK. She works with organisations both commercial and not for profit to achieve effective, sustainable, positive change. She is an Associated Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Principal and Founder Member of the Association of Business Psychologists.

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

Quality hires take you to greater heights

While the recruitment of quality talent remains a business challenge, many employers still seem to hire candidates at face value.

Employers continue to overlook vetting their prospective employees and thus end up with fradulent candidates who do not have the necessary qualifications or skills to do the job.

In light of this, one should be asking the following questions: How many businesses have already hired fraudulent candidates? How is this affecting businesses and, subsequently, the South African economy as a whole? Can the downfall of many businesses, big or small, be attributed to their poor staff recruitment strategies?

A good example here is the recent ‘degrees for-sale’ scam at the University of Zululand, which continues to raise questions regarding the validity of many of the university’s qualifications.

In addition to this, findings by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), indicate that school leaving certificates are the most faked qualification at 41%, followed by degrees at 32% and diplomas at 13%.

This is where investing in specialised recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) for a quality labour force becomes essential for your business. An RPO forms part of business process outsourcing (BPO), where an employer transfers all or part of its recruitment processes to an external service provider.

RPO providers go well beyond just recruitment. They actively participate in the sourcing process, screening of the candidate, training of candidates and even following up after the successful employment of staff.

Research clearly indicates that organisations that use RPO are able to build their business on flexibility, scalability and outcomes. These organisations tend to achieve on par or better than the best performing organisations in their respective industries.

In this turbulent economy, the cost of recruitment able to remain competitive in the long run. This is where RPO comes in handy, allowing the recruiter to keep costs in check, all the while assuring the organisation’s recruitment activities are being handled efficiently.

Most employers who use an RPO service provider have multiple reasons why it works so well for them. “Time is money” often comes out on top, because hiring new staff involves both of these aspects and more. Every aspect of recruiting staff, from filling a vacancy to shortlising candidates, is expensive for the business, tapping into various resources simultaneously.

In most cases, an RPO service provider can be introduced not only to source the best talent, but also with the aim of cutting time and costs associated with hiring, ensuring that the business’s needs are addressed both efficiently and effectively.

Getting RPO right from the onset is also important, thus it is critical that the business – especially the internal HR Managers – familiarise themselves with best practice and methods of outsourcing.

Here is how you can ensure a successful RPO with your provider:

Have a support plan: RPO has the ability to provide you with the right talent for your organisation. To leverage from it, however, you will also need to have a strategy in place. Start off by devising a holistic, well thought through, plan that is aligned with your company’s overall business strategy, thereby ensuring that you find the best employees to achieve your company’s goals;

Keep roles and responsibilities clear: You will need to constantly govern the programme to ensure that all parties are on the same page. Client and provider must make sure they clearly understand each other’s roles and responsibilities. Trust is also vital throughout the entire journey;

Communication is critical: It is vital to maintain consistent and constant contact with your RPO provider. This will also allow your supplier to better understand your company’s culture. As RPO is a consultative process, it is important to constantly communicate with your RPO provider;

Simplicity is key: Irrespective of how big your company is, your approach to RPO should be clear and relevant to your business. In the same breath, RPO is no exception to the rule, and any strategy needs to be carefully tailored to your specific market if it is to succeed; and

• Ensure that the processes are standard: It is crucial to ensure that your processes are standard and streamline into a sigle framework.

RPO is a viable option for any company or organisation not only because of its ability to fill roles or positions with the right people, but also for making an immediate and measurable positive impact on the efficacy, productivity and profitability of a business.

Kay Vittee is the CEO of customised staffing solutions company within the white-collar recruitment industry, Quest Staffing Solutions, www.quest.co.za.

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

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