Gear up your IT system for the future

Get a clear picture of your problem so that your solution has maximum impact.

The impact of software solutions and IT based efficiencies in business today has changed the way we approach the business challenges that we face every day. As the saying goes, “Work smart, not hard.” Streamlining obstacles within the IT business environment has never been easier than with a click of a button.

The question is where to click. As with any technology, web-based software and SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions have exploded at an exponential rate, becoming incredibly powerful over the past decade, and choices are abundant.

The development of programming languages and libraries, browser compatibility, open source databases and the overall evolution of the Internet and Internet infrastructure has enabled software development firms to shift their focus from off-the-shelve product sales towards creating long-term revenue streams by providing affordable customized software solutions timeously on a subscription basis and hosting these service solutions centrally.

The concept of web-based service solutions affords several advantages for both the provider and end-users. Providers are afforded sustainable revenue streams and one of the major advantages for the end user is the limited risk, meaning the ability to discern the level of service, quality and support you will be provided by the development firm as a service, without having to purchase something in a box that may work, and may lift eyebrows due to budgetary constraints. You are able to opt out without an excessive fiscal loss.

Web-based service solutions and SaaS are not the be-all and end-all, though. Red tape and business realities will require considerations on several factors when opting to work smart and not hard. Internal hosting capabilities and business IT procedures on external hosting and outsourcing may limit clicking towards a solution.

If your business IT procedures do not allow for externally hosted applications, you need to know that any IT constraints on internally hosted packages will put a damper on SaaS and can lead to a number of other issues. Internal hosting brings with it considerations on whether the required in-house skills are available to facilitate such a process or whether to outsource.

One of the most common issues is the tail wagging the dog scenario where a decision to move toward SaaS is marred by substantial budget expenditure to update out-of-date operating systems that are not compatible with modern solutions in order to implement web-based applications. For example, many large businesses are still running Windows XP where this version of Windows runs Internet Explorer 7, which unfortunately does not meet the requirements of today’s web technologies and will significantly reduce the effectiveness of any web-based software.

Next step

Once you have determined the “if” of whether SaaS will work for your business, the next step is to consider the “how”. This comes with the development phase and cycle of web-based service solutions. With so many options in the market around SaaS and web-based service solutions, a clear and concise idea of what is required is essential for the business. This consideration should be coupled with simplicity and a stepped approach. Embarking on implementing a mega multi-facetted web-based solution may cause line of sight to be obstructed and may result in eyebrows eventually lifting due to overspend.

Focus on identifying the key issue that you are trying to solve. Once the issue is identified, do not crowd your application with functionality that is not crucial to solving the originally identified issue. Feature creep can lead to extended lead times, budget deficits and a system that is hard to manage and difficult to use. Have a flow chart that displays your needs to the service providers. This is very important since a flow chart will provide a good guideline on the way forward.

Build in small increments towards a larger system/application. This is very important since it is not helpful to build everything into the application all at once. There are a number of programming paradigms that focus on small releases, each of them developed as a way to overcome issues that arose when developing applications in a waterfall approach, meaning from start to finish, always moving forward never looking backward.

Gearing your business IT needs towards the future using web-based technologies is an advantageous move towards enhancing your business environment. There is no clicking your way out of a failed and costly web-based service solution due to a lack of careful consideration and correct application thereof. The key is to identify the correct solution that will have the biggest impact and select the most efficient resource to provide you with the correct solution, so that one day we all can work smart.

Paul Marais is a Consultant at Remuneration Consultants South Africa, www.remunerationconsultants.co.za, and a Global Remuneration Professional with the WorldatWork.

Byron Georgiou is a Web Developer supporting Remuneration Consultants South Africa with specialist web-based remuneration tools.

This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Recognition is the most under-utilised management tool

“The deepest need in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” William James, Psychologist and Philosopher

Recognition is probably the most powerful tool that managers have. They should know that people should not be recognised according to a set policy. It should come naturally. Those who deserve praise should get it and those who don’t should not.

That is the simple principle by which capitalism works and, to a large extent, the principle by which I believe companies and organisations should operate.

However, it does not always work in the real world, as managers are human and do not always understand this principle or apply it. We therefore need some frameworks in order to make sure recognition does happen.

Globoforce Worldwide recently ran a very useful article detailing such a framework which I thought was very useful. It was entitled “Recognition Best Practice”, and I have adapted the 15 building blocks suggested as being the foundation of a good recognition strategy.

1. Create one universal programme.

The first building block of successful recognition is simplicity of design. To be successful, you must create a single, centrally-managed, global programme that is accessible to all employees, in all departments, everywhere in your organisation and everywhere in the world. Make sure giving recognition is easy, intuitive and fast for people who want to nominate and congratulate co-workers. And make sure approvals are streamlined and include automatic notifications. It must be universal – with a unified focus and one brand, no matter how many locations or languages you support. This connects your entire workforce around common values and business objectives. It should reward equity and compliance with tax laws. This will cut costs by letting you streamline your recognition programmes. And it allows you to easily measure both your programme – and your culture – around the world.

2. Level the recognition field.

A common and costly mistake some companies have made in their approach to recognition is constraining it to hierarchy and departmental silos. If managers are the only distributors of recognition – and can thank only their direct reports, you miss huge opportunities to measure and manage your culture. A great recognition programme empowers and inspires all employees to recognise peers, managers and subordinates – across departments and geographies – wherever appreciation is deserved. When you give employees permission to recognise anyone in the organisation, you make everyone keepers of the company culture, and you foster a true culture of recognition.

3. Offer a broad winners’ circle.

To create positive change, your programme must actually touch your employees. Gone are the days of the uninspiring employee-of-the-month award with its reserved parking spot for the one “winner” in your company. Your superstars are already performing well for you – recognition should also cover the biggest part of your bell curve. Those employees are the engine of your company’s success and when the winners’ circle is an exclusive party, they are all made to feel like losers. The best practice for recognition is to reach 80%+ of your employees annually. Many frequent, lower value awards touch a greater number of people across your organisation and motivate everyone to make contributions worthy of praise.

4. Give timely, specific recognition.

Stale recognition is ineffective recognition. Recognition shouldn’t be a once a year activity. To positively affect behaviour and reinforce values, workers need consistent, ongoing feedback. Gallup’s Q12 survey, which is designed to measure employee engagement, found that companies whose employees had received recognition or praise for doing good work in the last seven days had 10% to 20% higher productivity results. A study by Stanford’s business school of effective recognition programmes found that recognising of five to eight percent of employees per week was a good benchmark for success.

5. Link to company core values and objectives.

A recognition programme that is not linked to core values is like a ship with no navigation – aimless. It’s a wasted opportunity, because recognition imbued with company values is a vehicle to get your values off the plaque in the hallway and injected into actual employee behaviour. In fact, research from Deloitte has shown that managers of higher profitability companies were 12% more likely to have a strong focus on core values and corporate culture. And a recent report from Bersin & Associates found that “those organisations that recognise employees for demonstrating company values, displaying certain identified behaviours and achieving company goals are more effective at enabling recognition than those that do not incorporate these attributes.”

6. Gain support of senior level executive champions.

Research firm Blessing White found that workers who trust senior leaders are more engaged in their work. To drive the adoption and effectiveness of your programme, senior leaders must champion it behind the scenes, and embrace and evangelise it publicly.

Engaged executives have engaged workers

7. Invest one percent or more of payroll.

One of the most common questions that come once a company has decided to build a recognition culture is, “What should we be investing?” Two percent + of payroll is the mean average for recognition spend, according to a World at Work survey, and that is a benchmark for top performing companies. But experts agree that you should dedicate at least one percent of your payroll for recognition.

8. Put recognition in the palms of their hands.

Workforces are more mobile than ever before. People are busier than ever before. Making your recognition programme portable, simple and easily available will make it more successful. In fact, a great recognition solution allows people to access the programme from their desktops, their laptops or from their cell phones. Make sure they can do any of the core activities nominate, approve, receive, congratulate – from all of those places, and also be sure all of these activities are captured on one consistent platform so that you have all the data at your fingertips.

9. Provide proportionate local awards for all regions.

Here are many horror stories about global merchandise awards backfiring – choices made in one country clashing with another’s local customs, awards in different countries being wildly erratic in value, or even gifts that have no value at all because they are locally irrelevant. The best practice for award giving is that the rewards be local, proportionate and appropriate. An award should have equal value all around the world and properly adjusted for local standards of living. It should also be locally relevant no matter where in the world an employee resides.

10. Brand your culture.

A top recognition programme will transform your culture for the better. So own it. Brand it. Create a recognition programme that your people identify with emotionally. Make sure it accentuates your company’s brand promise and corporate values. At some companies, the names of recognition programmes become verbs. Roam the halls of Amgen, whose recognition programme is called “Bravo!” and you may well hear an employee say, “I just Bravo’d my co-worker.”

11. Leave cash off the table.

Everyone enjoys cash, but when it comes to recognition, cash is not king. Studies show that cash awards tend to be lumped in employees’ minds with compensation and become quickly forgotten. Cash rewards tend to be spent on everyday bills or disappear into household accounts. More tangible non-cash rewards offer a more emotionally powerful and memorable experience.

12. Communicate with and train your people.

You can build the greatest recognition platform in the world but if people don’t know about it, it’s all for nothing. Build a solid communications plan around your recognition programme – from pre-launch, launch to post-launch. Make sure that employees understand the company’s recognition philosophy, and get new employees excited about the programme by making sure recognition training is part of your standard on-boarding process.

13. Make it social. Make it peer-to-peer.

Like most things in life, recognition is more fun and more contagious when it’s not limited to an elite few. When you encourage employees to recognise one another’s achievements and contributions, regardless of role or department, not only is it more fun, but you get more people on the lookout for behaviours that demonstrate corporate values, which will serve to reinforce them across your organisation. And by making recognition “social” – allowing people to easily see their co-workers’ awards and add their own congratulations – you amplify the experience, and directly impact business results. But a warning note on this one: unless you’re a big fan of allowing outsiders seeing company information, keep it social within the walls of your organisation.

Peer to peer recognition gets results

14. Monitor and measure.

When you have a unified recognition programme, and your corporate values are woven into that programme, you can easily monitor and measure it.

15. Leverage your crowd-sourced data.

Recognition is an essential motivational tool. Great managers and leaders get that intuitively. But here’s what many managers haven’t figured out about recognition: strategic recognition collects a treasure trove of powerful information and data about your talent and about your culture. This crowd-sourced information about your organisation can be used to gain deep insights into which values are thriving and which employees are excelling. Be sure that your recognition programme is not letting that data slip through your fingers. Offer it to managers to facilitate better talent and performance management, and use it to better measure and manage your corporate culture.

Once your company has implemented a comprehensive recognition programme, it is important that its impact is continually monitored. There are, once again, a few ways of doing this – I found this to be an extremely comprehensive one.

This paper, titled “Measuring Recognition” was also taken (and edited) from Globoforce Worldwide, May 2009 edition. On reading it, I thought it gave a very comprehensive understanding of how recognition should work. It has been edited but the pith of the article remains. It carries the mantra “What gets measured, gets done. What gets rewarded gets done well”.

The benefits of implementing strategic employee recognition are clear. For employees, strategic recognition contributed to:

A 26% increase in employee commitment to the company (Intel);

A measurable culture change in just six months (Symantec); and

An increase in employee satisfaction scores by 20% (Dow Chemical).

Strategic recognition also helps achieve executive goals while impacting the bottom line by:

reducing spend on recognition initiatives by approximately 50% while dramatically increasing the number of employees recognised (global, distributed manufacturing firm);

motivating 93% of employees to sustain high performance (Intuit); and

influencing employee behaviours to achieve strategic goals (Amgen).

Yet many companies with the means and desire to measure the value of their “people initiatives” fail to do so. A recent Globoforce market research study showed a staggering 42% of organisations are not measuring the results of their recognition programmes in any way, leaving CEOs in the dark on programme effectiveness and wasting the money invested.

Executives know recognition is critical to boosting morale and performance. Yet they are unaware of how their investment is being used to recognise employees and if these investments are successful against measureable goals.

Five steps to measurement success

1. Determine metrics of recognition success.

Programme costs demonstrate how programme costs have gone down while results have increased. Productivity and performance impacts direct correlation in improvements in employee productivity measures, personal or group performance targets or other key performance indicators, relative to involvement in the recognition programme. By using company values and strategic objectives as reasons for recognition, executives can determine what divisions, regions or teams do not fully understand the strategic objectives or demonstrate the values necessary for success.

Only those touched by the programme (programme reach) can be measured for improvements in morale and productivity.

2. Establish a performance baseline for recognition.

Once the metrics for success have been established, a baseline of current performance must be determined (see the illustration on the next page). This serves two purposes. First, this baseline clearly illustrates the status of employee morale, productivity and performance relative to legacy recognition and incentive initiatives. Second, it gives a level-set against which future success can be compared. Without a baseline, it is impossible to accurately or credibly report percentage improvements in any of the areas discussed above.

Recognition activity relative to productivity

3. Measure regularly and consistently.

Measurements should be taken via the programme itself and through employee surveys. A strategic recognition programme should provide reporting functionality for budget-spend; reasons for recognition by team, group and/or division; and programme reach. Programme understanding, adoption and true cultural impact, however, should be measured through a regular employee survey that targets all employees annually and a percentage of employees more frequently.

4. Analyse results and identify trends.

Once recognition programme results are available through the programme itself and from employee surveys, analyse the results to look for trends. Be sure to compare the results between these two measurement tools as well. Any dissimilarities could uncover a communication disconnect. For example, though employee surveys may be anonymous, if a high percentage of employees surveyed in a division report not receiving adequate recognition, but a similarly high percentage of employees in that division are being recognised through the programme, then two potential problems should be addressed.

5. Report to the target audiences in a way that matters.

Solid results allow for custom reporting for various audiences. While programme metrics of success should target executive desires, line managers and employees themselves should also be advised of programme success. However, the same results are not relevant to all audiences.

Employees report to employees on recognition stories from colleagues across the company, demonstrating appreciation for employee efforts by the company, and continued investment in recognition going forward.

Managers report to managers on performance of a group or division against programme targets and retention of top performers. Stories of individual success within the area of managerial responsibility and dashboard reporting functionality are preferred to give both the flavour of recognition along with the hard metrics of success.

Executives report to executives on programme cost savings; understanding of values and objectives, and improvements in morale, productivity and performance. Easy to view dashboard reports that link programme results to desired executive outcomes, including trends over time, are the preferred option.

Recognition is not only a truly basic human need, but it has become necessary in order for a company to succeed. It is a sad fact that so few companies use this very powerful tool in order to motivate employees, but it is a very promising sign that it has become such a hot topic in our field. I hope that you, as a Human Resource Executive or Practitioner, will take this further.

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 South African Reward Association, and a former Commissioner in the Office of the Presidency.

This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Think differently about work measurement

Consider this job family framework solution to provide clarity about jobs in your organisation.

Any recent human resources research plays a familiar tune: “Human Resources need to be adding real business value to our organisations, have greater impact and be more innovative”. It is also clear that both the evolving workforce profile and nature of work have now gathered significant momentum, and organisations will need dramatic changes to lead this new world of work.

Retaining and rewarding the best employees, and managing talent in a very different business environment requires us to question whether our existing people management practices are future fit. If we are to be the innovative and valued business partner, we will need to progress the work measurement function from execution at a job level to an organisation-wide solution that is more integrated.

This requires us to think differently about the way we deliver work measurement and to consider how we can reinvent to address the business imperatives of simplification, integration and application ease.

We can gather clues on how to develop an innovative work measurement solution by listening to what our business leaders are asking for.

Streamline work measurement

Many organisations have suffered “job title explosion”, with the ratio of employees to titles getting close to 1:1 in the professional and managerial ranks. This is further exacerbated when the organisation is a global operation. In addition to creating administrative and HRIS problems, this contributes to problems in staffing, performance management, career development and succession planning, because there is no common understanding of what a role is supposed to do or common way of describing jobs globally.

Technical ladders and career paths help to develop and retain key talent. We evaluate all this in the work measurement process. We put this together to create a coherent model where staff can map out their own progression and are clear about what they need to do to move to the next technical rung. This tool also helps line managers to have development conversations with staff providing clarity on gaps and opportunities.

  • Is there a way of streamlining the job titles and using a common language?
  • Is there a way of simplifying the job evaluation process, where we slot jobs against descriptors or measure jobs against streamlined dimensions? and
  • Can you give us a model which shows career and technical progression?

Integrate your work fit model

So often, work measurement is a completely separate process, with separate documentation, separate competencies. Business leaders want HR to integrate the job elements (work measurement and value) with the person-fit elements. If there are assessments to do, these should be informed by a common framework which identifies a set of competencies critical to delivery.

We need an easy way to communicate career progressions that managers can use without becoming HR experts in explaining to their teams how to judge where they are in terms of contribution or development and advice on what they need to do to progress.

  • Can we categorise the jobs to make the process more effective?
  • Is it possible to design a common platform to integrate our HR processes and talent management applications? and
  • We need to bring communication tools and careers to the attention of our management.

Enable work alignment

Business leaders anticipate that there will be a continual renewal of the operating model and structure in the new world of work and many jobs may change in nature and scope. So the questions that need to be asked include:

  • Is there a way in which we can quickly define the new roles, their accountabilities, and the competencies critical to success in those roles? and
  • If we need a way to manage promotions, we need a standardised approach to performance management, so shouldn’t similar jobs be measured similarly?

What the best organisations do

Recent annual research Hay Group conducted, in partnership with Fortune Magazine, into the world’s most admired companies indicates that what distinguishes these admired companies from other companies is that they:

  • provide clarity: people know what to do;
  • focus on measurement: performance is continually measured;
  • engender commitment: people are accountable; and
  • execute on strategy: this creates a company culture that supports strategy implementation.

Innovative solution

There are novel ways of addressing these business needs. Job Family Modelling is an emerging best practice in leading organisations that breaks down silos in HR and offers a logical and consistent framework to describe the structure and content of roles (in families).

This is an alternative to traditional job descriptions, a way of easily “slotting” jobs into the structure, eliminating the need to evaluate every job, a way to integrate and have one framework for performance management, a way of linking competencies to jobs for talent management and employee development applications, career paths and the foundation for a career development programme.

Traditionally, this method of Job Evaluation (JE) has been used to assess and benchmark pay levels, where it adds great value and intelligence. However, successful organisations recognise that it has much more to contribute if used in a broader context, where it can help to forge and clarify the connections between organisational structure and HR processes.

While many still use JE in a narrow (pay only) context, others take a broader approach. This broader approach we call “work measurement” which provides organisations with the ability to link HR processes such as talent management, recruitment, training and reward.

Job family models are an ideal way to describe these new or changed jobs quickly, thoroughly and in a way that integrates with other human resource processes. In this case, the job family model may serve as the format to document job content in the new organisation.

These are a simple set of competencies that can be incorporated into all job descriptions and which help to describe the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to perform effectively in a given role. The Job Family and competency work is critical to creating a culture within the organisation that promotes transparency. By creating clarity in this way, the framework will help create a motivated workforce, with staff being able to understand the opportunities available to them across the organisation, and the development available. 

Beverley Wild is a Senior Consultant with Hay Group, South Africa, www.haygroup.com/za.

This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Make reality your friend

Ignoring brutal facts is not a smart strategy for leaders.

Many are the pathologies of the human mind and one of the greatest of these is its capacity for self-deception, be it via blithe optimism, stark denial or sour cynicism.

Of these, optimism and denial are perhaps the deadliest. My father, whose flying career started in open-cockpit fabric biplanes, developed in combat in Spitfires and Hurricanes in World War II and ended in commanding the first supersonic jet squadron in the UK, drummed into his sons, via stories of wreck and recklessness, the dread consequences of the disease of ‘press-on-itis’.

Press-on-itis is best described as the tendency to push on into the face of mounting adversity, ignoring all evidence of imminent disaster in the belief that things will get better. It’s based on a credo that adrenalin, optimism and guts will save the day. And frankly they often did in war. But it’s hardly a practice for peacetime and commercial pilots. Or business people. As our businesses grow through the early years of entrepreneurship, more assets are managed, more people begin to depend on us for our services, or for employment to pay their kids’ school fees. More people trust us and we start to have bigger responsibilities and more to lose. To our urge for progress we must add discipline to conserve and guard what we have, to ensure it’s around tomorrow. We learn to add systems, new skills, new layers of thinking and new depth of management.

We have to make reality our friend. If there’s low cloud or thunderstorms, or if the currency’s down, if our leadership skills are lacking or our customers are losing faith in us, then no amount of wishful thinking will make that change. It is what it is.

There’s a saying in aviation that there are no things as useless as air above you, runway behind you and fuel in the bowser. Or in business the equivalent could be last months’ order pipeline, projects behind schedule and cash sitting with your customers.

Here’s a real-life example of not making reality your friend. There’s a truism that ‘in the absence of information, fantasy reigns’. Last week I worked with a company rebuilding its brand and reputation. It had had a product quality issue resulting in the recall of a batch of high-tech chemicals. The team, including the CEO, had worked intensively to correct the problem, following the strictest ethical and manufacturing standards. It was by any standard a quality piece of recovery and they congratulated themselves on the saving of their reputation. Only they hadn’t. Their customers still hated them. Why? Because they weren’t told of this recovery work, except in a brief memo. In the absence of information, their fantasy was that the company was unresponsive, cold and mechanistic – and their wallets followed their viewpoints.

In the team’s collective fantasy though, they were heroes. They were uncomprehending and dismissive of their ‘spoilt’ clients. But if their target had been not just solving the problem but on ensuring their customers fully understood that it’d been done, then their reputation may well have risen – and with it their revenue. For trust is earned, and there’s no better way to earn that trust than when you show how you respond when the chips are down. In fact, I knew one rather Machiavellian consultant in Europe who used to engineer crises so he could show how well he responded to them and so teach his clients to trust him!

Facing reality takes courage. Captains of planes and industry need strength of character. Not the thick-necked, but the clear-headed, kind – the kind that hears all views, is open to and acknowledges all evidence, masters its own desires and holds its own assumptions in wry scepticism. We need leaders who can stand up to pressure from peers, anxious passengers, clients or employees, and can hold their minds balanced in the face of mounting pressure, emotion and antagonism.

Jon Foster-Pedley is the Dean of Henley Business School, Africa, www.henleysa.ac.za. He is a former airline captain, and was a flying instructor and aerobatics pilot for 15 years as well as a senior executive in the European aerospace industry.

This article appeared in the Spetember 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Provision of insured healthcare solutions in Africa

Consider which of these three healthcare insurance options will work best for your company.

Healthcare provision in Africa is an extremely important benefit to employees and employers alike. The greater focus on African healthcare over the last few years is mainly due to increased investment locally, and during that time the provision of healthcare services has evolved to meet the ever increasing healthcare demands.

African economies are expected to grow rapidly in the short term, and investment is increasing in these markets in order to benefit from this opportunity. Both multinationals and large corporates need to offer comprehensive employee benefits (such as health, risk and investment solutions) to local staff, and more specifically they are looking for a single pan-African solution that will meet these needs in one fell swoop. The ideal solution would comprise a standardised approach offering equitable HR policies and acceptable levels of quality across their African operations.

Working with just one employee benefit solutions provider also allows the international businesses to achieve economies of scale in procurement but frees them up from the administrative burden of dealing with multiple providers. African-centric or locally insured healthcare policies are now widely available and in some markets there is now often a mature offering, with plenty of viable options and alternatives alongside attractive pricing and strong networks. Global health insurers are also developing their offerings and propositions across Africa as organisations seek to develop their employee value proposition and provide such over to local nationals as well as expatriate staff and executives.

Working out which solution to provide to their African workforce is an issue many employers struggle with, but the text below concisely describes the three most common options, namely:

1. Self-insured

In this scenario, businesses manage risk by setting aside a pool of money to be used should an unexpected loss occur; and

Theoretically, you can self-insure against any type of loss. In practice, however, most people choose to buy insurance against potentially large, unusual losses.

2. ‘Admitted’ business – locally registered health insurance

In this option, a health insurance product compliant with local regulation and legislation is registered with an in-country insurer;

The in-country insurer insures the products in the appropriate country and issues a policy to the client;

The in-country insurer either takes on the risk in its entirety or passes on part of it to a captive cell which then 100% reinsures to an A-rated reinsurer; and

The health product is administered either through an in-country and local third party administrator (TPA). There are a number of benefits to using TPAs, including offices in the required location with staff speaking the local language, and provider networks that can offer treatment on a credit basis.

3. ‘Non-Admitted’ business – international health insurance

Under this arrangement, the health insurance product is registered offshore through an international insurer;

The health insurance policy is issued offshore to the client but it is important to note that this means the product is neither licensed locally nor compliant with local regulation;

No credit is available at national providers, meaning that members must pay for services themselves and then claim back these expenses from their employers; and

The health product is administered virtually via an international office. Premiums are collected into an international bank account and membership packs dispatched to a central collection point. As noted above, outpatient claims are handled by member reimbursement (i.e. there are no in-country provider networks or credit facilities).

Which is appropriate for your business?

Knowing which of these alternatives is more appropriate for your organisation and employees will require some assistance from, and analysis, by a specialist broker or financial planner/advisor who can advise on these types of solutions. Ultimately, the key factors will be headcount across the relevant countries and regions, the geographical split of the business and people, your company’s benefits philosophy, and the requirement for the provision of standardised benefits across your bases of operation.

Anne-Magriet Schoeman is the Talent/Country Leader at Mercer Consulting (South Africa) Proprietary Limited, www.mercer.com.

This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Leadership development is the top priority in Africa

Global Top Employers survey reveals how important leadership development has become on the continent of Africa.

The rapidly changing face of leadership has seen the growth of a collective – rather than individual – approach to leadership and the empowerment of employees to strive for leadership roles regardless of current positions.

In a global business environment in which talent retention and leadership development have risen to pole position in priority, a worldwide survey has shown that Top Employers are increasingly recognising the importance of creating a business culture in which the next generation of leaders can develop and thrive as a draw-card for talent.

This was reflected in the HR Insights report on leadership development, a research study looking at a sample size of 600 certified organisations from 99 countries, which was conducted by the Top Employers Institute, headquartered in the Netherlands and globally certifying excellence in the conditions organisations provide for the development of their people.

The research study within Africa found that 95% of the participating organisations had a clear description of their desired leadership culture as a core part of leadership development strategy.

Where once hierarchy was a deciding factor in leadership development, now selection process is increasingly looking not to job title or position, but to influence and performance, giving employees the tools to grow themselves within the workspace.

What the survey found is that the way we define and identify leaders is changing. Along with influence gaining value over position and a more collective leadership approach, is a strong move towards empowering employees to own their own development and growth within the business, placing more responsibility for personal and career development in the hands of individuals.

“Leadership is important to remain relevant in the changing markets,” says Patrick Hull, Leadership Development Director, Africa, Unilever, the number one Top Employer Africa 2015.

“It gives Unilever competitive advantage in the industry. It also boosts the morale of our employees to know that they are supported in reaching their potential throughout their career journey at Unilever. It is something for which Unilever is renowned. In terms of graduate recruitment, we have been hailed as a university to build and invest in our talent.

“One of our key talent principles is that leaders build leaders at Unilever. We have ‘thought leaders’ that help us shape our leadership strategy globally and leadership programmes that are designed to support our employees’ career path from entry level graduates to senior leadership.”

Hull says Unilever‘s world-class development programmes are globally aligned and run by qualified experts.

“We also tailor programmes to suit the local environment, for example, the rest of Africa. Our employees are given opportunities to implement their learnings in the workplace – this is also how Unilever measures the return on investment. We also fast-track careers through development by using internal programmes, global mobility, rotation and so forth.”

Key trends identified by the Top Employers Institute include self-select involvement, measuring methods and the use of digital technology, all of which are geared to give future leaders the opportunity to gain broader life and commercial skills and to step outside their comfort zones with challenging projects within and without the organisation.

Individuals should be encouraged to take the initiative in developing their skills and capabilities. There is a growing belief that people develop fastest when they feel responsible for their own progress. This was reflected in the survey results.

This culture of high-performing organisations, making the leader selection process available to any manager who is interested, is helping to contribute to better global leadership effectiveness. Anyone in an organisation can aspire to be a leader with the right commitment and support.

For this to work, it is crucial that information on the leadership development strategy is readily available, and this is still lagging. The global survey showed that only 69% of the global Top Employers offer freely accessible information to their employees, while in Africa 56% of participating organisations have virtual collaboration tools in place to support their leadership development programmes, and 42% have online coaching/mentoring tools in place.

It is vital that leadership development programmes help to equip future leaders with behaviours, capabilities, vision and perspective.

Having said that, much of the change is being driven by innovative developments in digital technology, such as online coaching and mentoring, e-learning, virtual collaboration and social learning and enterprise networks, but at present only global best-in-class Top Employers are reported to use all the technologies available. But it is shifting.

With changes in leadership development have come innovative new ways to measure global leadership initiatives. Traditional measures of effectiveness are now boosted by other means of measuring success, such as sales, productivity and engagement scores of leaders’ direct reports. In Africa, 72% of the participating organisations have defined KPIs to measure and steer leadership development.

What the survey has shown, is that this open approach to leadership development, one in which employees are empowered to grow, build and measure their own career paths towards leadership positions, is one which is being harnessed by companies globally which are focused on attracting and retaining talent, and it is changing the face of leadership development as we have traditionally known it.

Innovation in methods of leadership development

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samantha Crous is the Regional Director: Africa and Benelux at the Top Employers Institute (TEI), www.top-employers.com.

The full HR Insights report on Leadership Development can be found here.

Impact of social media on conventional systems

No-one could have anticipated the impact that social media would have on the way companies design their IT systems.

If somebody had asked me a few years ago, when social media was in its infancy, if social media would or could ever affect the thinking behind traditional systems design and development in any manner or form, I would have without a doubt answered with a resounding, “No. Never!”

How could having a platform aimed at the predominately younger generation for use to communicate and share information ever be able to impact on the highly technical and complex arenas of traditional systems development and design? Never!

Well, time has certainly moved on, and social media has become as common place and as regular as eating meals. In fact, more frequently, most people cannot have a meal without checking what’s going on in their respective social media accounts. But this obsession has enough content for another article of its own!

Look at how Internet banking changed our relationship with banking – All of a sudden, it was no longer necessary to go into a bank to transact. All this could be done from a pc and now even via smart phones. I cannot recall the last time I went to my bank, and have no idea who my bank manager is, as this is no longer relevant to my current way of interacting with my bank.

Now, social media applications – which are a cloud based solution running with millions of simultaneous users – have been developed to be totally intuitive, and deriving revenue from training on these applications was certainly never part of the business model. The business model was quite simple: get people to use the application in the quickest way possible, and this would lead to a critical mass, which could then be used to sell advertising. Once the critical mass of users had been achieved, the “purchase” option was introduced, a version where extended functionality was provided and where those purposely annoying adverts could also be removed – essentially reverting to the much tried and tested software sales model of charging users a usage fee, thereby creating an annuity revenue model for the owners on the relevant application.

So how does this all impact the thinking of software authors who are updating or designing traditional business solutions?

Today’s users are no longer computer or systems illiterate. Gone are the days when users to applications were a select few. If we look at applications in the HR and payroll space, we see that it’s no longer only the HR and payroll staff that are users of the system. Every employee is a user by means of the self-service components.

And this is the key point of which developers in today’s market need to take cognisance. Gone are the days where running an application still needed to follow laborious step-by-step processes, forcing the user to follow a distinct path of menu options in order to achieve the desired result.

Systems designed for use today should not only be intuitive, but their layout and presentation should be reflecting that what is relevant to the user at that point in time. A good example of this is when an HR user responsible for recruitment within the organisation signs in to their HR system.

They should be presented with a screen presenting data such as:

– current resignations by division or department;

– the status of the recruitment process per vacancy;

– manpower requirements for the various managers; and

– employees who are the closest fit for any vacancies.

Statistical information presented in graphical format could include:

– Average length of service of terminated employees;

– Employee resignations per manager;

– Average length of time to recruit for the various position types;

– Average cost per hire; and

– Success rate per source of applicant.

All of this information immediately presents the user with the relevant and up-to-date data to assist them in their decision making process, as opposed to just reporting on decisions taken.

And the key to achieving the above is to ensure the system is capable of presenting information much like the manner in which data is presented to a user when accessing their social media account such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Data presented within social media pages is presented immediately and is up-to-date and users do not need to run a myriad of reports in order to access any updated or new posts to their account!

And so, in conclusion, what is the answer to the question: “What is the impact of social media on conventional systems design today?” The answer is, quite simply, “Immeasurable”.

The whole landscape of systems usage and computer literacy of end users has changed, and so too should the way in which conventional corporate systems are designed, as they now need to meet the demands and expectations of users who today use a multitude of systems in their personal lives, which take advantage of all of the latest technological advances.

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

This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

What “Good Cause” entails

Foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas must choose between two evils.

The procedures available to foreign nationals who have overstayed their visa while in South Africa have become more and more stringent since the coming into operation of the Immigration Amendment Act and its Regulations in May 2014.

A number of foreign nationals found themselves in a difficult situation when the Amendments came into operation as they were not aware that the process that they had always followed previously, albeit an inappropriate process that is, exiting South Africa even with an expired visa and merely paying an administrative penalty, would no longer be available to them. Under the Amendments, if a foreign national exits in South Africa without a current and valid visa, they are declared undesirable.

Naturally, if a process can be followed that would avoid having to be declared undesirable for a duration of between one and five years, this would certainly be the preferred option.

The problem is that, with an expired visa, it is not possible for a foreign national to be able to attend to submission of an application for any other category of visa from within South Africa. The only way around this is by way of an application for good cause to the Department of Home Affairs.

This good cause process is dealt with very briefly in Regulation 30(2) of the Immigration Regulations. It specifically refers to authorisation to remain in the Republic of South Africa being granted on a “Form 20”.

A “Form 20” was always an administrative status granted by the Department of Home Affairs in order to allow a foreign national without any current or valid status to be able to make an application from within South Africa.

As such, where an illegal foreign national whose visa has expired and could not apply in time for any appropriate extension or renewal of visa at the Visa Facilitation Service Centre “due to circumstances beyond his or her control” such person should be referred to the inspectorate to determine whether or not good cause exists as to why they could not apply on time.

These kinds of applications are required to be made directly to the regional offices of the Department of Home Affairs and the application process is ultimately dealt with by the Provincial office.

The process requires the foreign national to report to the relevant immigration officer for purposes of an interview or to confirm the authenticity of supporting documentation submitted for the good cause process. Once the investigation has been concluded, a report is then prepared by the immigration officer with a recommendation being made by that immigration officer. The report, together with recommendations of the District Manager of Operations or Director of Immigration Services is then transmitted to the Provincial Manager. It is then with the Provincial Manager that a final decision is taken as to whether to authorise the illegal foreigner to remain in South Africa.

Where such authorisation is granted, a letter is issued which that individual can then present at Visa Facilitation Services which will allow them to proceed with making an application for a further temporary residence visa. That individual’s application must then be considered from within South Africa.

Where the good cause is not granted, the foreign national would be issued with a notice to depart from South Africa within a specified duration.

No specific clarity has been provided as to what such good cause may entail. It seems that the individual must be able to prove exceptional circumstances exist that would justify the reason for failing to comply with the relevant immigration laws in respect of ensuring continued validity of their temporary residence stay in South Africa. Again, one of the biggest problems being faced is processing times of this kind of application process. While turnaround times of anything from 30 days and up are being promised by certain regional offices of the Department of Home Affairs, these kinds of timeframes are simply not being adhered to. There is a substantial increase in respect of these kinds of applications also specifically as a result of the fact that applications which Visa Facilitation Services are not able to assist with, where visas have already expired, despite appointment dates having been booked for submission of applications and the relevant processing fees having been paid, such individuals are then referred to the Department of Home Affairs Regional offices to undergo this process.

The sad reality is that a number of the immigration officials within these regional offices are in fact advising foreign nationals not to undergo this process due to the lack of response being received on these kinds of applications.

For individuals who have overstayed their visas, even where they have done so with good cause, the only options that they have available to them are indeed to exit South Africa and be declared undesirable or to undergo this process of applying for good cause. The reality at this point in time is that it is still unclear which process is the lesser of two evils due to the long duration of either being in South Africa without status or being outside South Africa and declared undesirable.

Tarryn Pokroy Rietveld is an Attorney at Julian Pokroy Attorneys, Immigration, Nationality and Refugee Law Specialists, www.immigration.org.za.

This article appeared in the Spetember 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Breathalyser testing of employees

Nature of strikers’ demand and protectedness of the strike.

The labour appeal court, in Pikitup (Soc) Ltd v SAWMU obo Members and Employees of Applicant listed in Annexure “A” to Notice of Motion (2014) 25 SALLR 114 (LAC), had the opportunity of considering the following important issues:

(a) In the scenario where an employer has in place a policy and procedure so dealing with the consumption of alcohol and other abusive substances which do not include mandatory alcohol testing by means of a breathalyser device, is the employer entitled to rely on its managerial prerogative to unilaterally introduce such mandatory alcohol testing by means of a breathalyser device?
(b) In the above scenario, is an employer entitled to rely on the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 to justify its stance that, if the employees and the trade union object to the introduction of such a compulsory alcohol testing by means of a breathalyser device, it amounts to preventing such employer from complying with its legal obligations in terms of this Act?
(c) What is the viewpoint of the constitutional court so formulated in SATAWU v Moloto as to the circumstances required to exist before the constitutional right to strike can be limited in a specific scenario?
(d) With reference to the definition of “strike” so contained in s213 of the LRA, what should be the purpose of such strike in order to enjoy protection under the LRA?
(e) What considerations are relevant in order to determine whether or not a strike concerns the resolution of a dispute or the remedying of a grievance?
(f) What role does the element of “lawfulness” play when considering and evaluating the abovementioned issue?
(g) What is the test to determine whether or not the dispute concerns a matter of mutual interest so as to justify the strike undertaken in relation thereto to be branded as protected?
(h) To what extent does the introduction of a compulsory alcohol testing system, by means of a breathalyser device, constitute an inroad into the relevant employees’ right to privacy?

Overview

This is an appeal, with the leave of the court a quo, against the judgment of the labour court.

The appeal is about the right to strike.

It essentially concerns two issues, firstly, whether the demand by the first respondent (the union), that the appellant should abandon the conducting of breathalyser testing at its workplace is an unlawful demand and secondly, whether health and safety issues are matters of mutual interest.

If the demand is unlawful or the issues are not matters of mutual interest, then any work stoppage pursuant thereto would be unlawful.

Pertinent facts of the case

The appellant is a municipal entity, as defined in the Local Government Municipal Systems Act and renders waste management services in the greater Johannesburg area on behalf of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality.

The appellant’s employees collect refuse from households and businesses within the City of Johannesburg utilising, inter alia, specialised trucks belonging to the appellant. The appellant employed 262 drivers.

Issue: reporting for duty under influence of alcohol

The appelant alleged that it experienced serious and pervasive problems with employees reporting for duty under the influence of alcohol. Consequently, it introduced mandatory alcohol testing, through a breathalyser device, for its drivers and random alcohol testing for its other employees. The appellant also introduced a biometric access control device. The respondents objected to the introduction of both devices.

Only remaining issue: breathalyser device

The issue relating to the biometric device was settled and the only live issue in the court a quo was the one relating to the breathalyser device. The union, on behalf of its members, objected to the introduction and use of the breathalyser device. On 30 April 2013, the union referred a dispute, relating to the breathalyser and biometric devices, for conciliation to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (“CCMA”). The dispute could not be resolved and, consequently, the CCMA issued a certificate of non-resolution.

The union gave notice to the appellant of its intention to embark on strike action with effect from 29 July 2013. On 24 July 2013, the appellant sought and was granted, on an urgent basis, a rule nisi by Snyman AJ in the following terms:
“1. …
2. …
3. A Rule nisi is hereby issued calling upon the respondents to show cause on 12 September 2013 at 10h00 why a final order should not be made in the following terms:
3.1 The strike which the second to further respondents intend to embark upon on 29 July 2013 in terms of the notice in terms of section 64(1)(b) of the Labour Relations Act given by the first respondent and dated 17 July 2013, is declared to be an unprotected strike as contemplated by section 68(1) of the Labour Relations Act.
3.2 The second to further respondents are interdicted and restrained from embarking upon any strike action or conduct in contemplation of strike action in respect of the strike declared to be unprotected in terms of paragraph 3.1 above.
3.3 The first respondent is ordered to immediately call upon the second and further respondents not to commence strike action in respect of the strike declared to be unprotected in terms of paragraph 3.1 above – “

The union anticipated the return date. As a result, the matter was argued before Hulley AJ on 5 August 2013. He discharged the rule nisi with costs. This appeal is against Hulley AJ’s judgment. What follows is a summary of further relevant factors.

During 2009, one of the appellant’s drivers, Mr M P Motlou, was involved in a motor vehicle collision. He succumbed to the injuries sustained during the collision. An insurance claim lodged by the appellant was repudiated by its insurers, because the deceased had driven the vehicle whilst having more than the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. The repudiation prompted the general manager: fleet of the appellant to write an email to, inter alia, Ms Johanna Joja, the employee wellness manager of the appellant.

The email, in part, read as follows:

” – In effect it would mean that every claim related to this accident is at risk. The driver’s family will lose the benefit of his death benefit and there is a chance that the vehicle claim of approximately R250k could also be repudiated. This raises considerable risk to the business and I recommend that we strongly push the aspect of random testing of the drivers.”

The documents also contained anecdotal evidence of collisions in which the appellant’s drivers were involved, of which four were proved to have occurred whilst the appellant’s drivers were under the influence of alcohol. The substance abuse testing programme was accordingly launched on 23 October 2010 at the appellant’s head office.

According to the aforementioned report, “EXCO” recommended that the testing programme should continue at head office. It also recommended that “negotiations continue with Employee Wellness and Organised Labour concerning the roll-out of the testing programme to all depots”.

Part Two will continue to refer to the contents of the report and the minutes wich reflected the nature of employees’ objections.

Dr Brian van Zyl is a Director at labour law firm Van Zyl Rudd and Associates, www.vanzylrudd.co.za.

This article appeared in the August 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Breathalyser testing of employees continued …

Nature of strikers’ demand and protectedness of the strike.

In her report to the Executive Director: Corporate Services dated 12 April 2013, Ms Joja repeated the EXCO’s recommendations and stated:

“Negotiations with labour were initiated but there was never an agreement between Labour and Employee Wellness on the issue of testing. Presentations at LLF never brought any changes in Labour’s stance on the testing programme.”

Ms Joja did not state what the irreconcilable differences were between the union and her department. The minutes of the meeting of the Pikitup Local Labour Forum held on 8 December 2010 shed more light on the issue.

The minutes read as follows:

“5.8 Organised Labour

· Submitted that the issue of subjecting employees to the breathalyser has to be treated within the Employee Assistance Programme that the company has.

· Is very unhappy about this exercise as it does not even know how safe are the tools used and how accurate they are.

· Stated that this practice must be withdrawn and must be included in the Employee Assistance Programme and the company’s Code of Conduct.

· Stated that the exercise of testing people is degrading to the people being tested – “

Assurances given by the employer

The objections raised by the first respondent were, despite a memorandum, dated 3 November 2010, sent to all employees at the head office by Ms Joja, wherein she explained how the breathalyser worked and assured the employees that it was hygienic.

She also explained why everybody that entered their building should be tested. In its replying affidavit, the appellant reiterated that the fears relating to hygiene were unfounded, because:

· the person being tested did not even touch the device with his/her lips; and

· because the person only blew towards it for the tester to take a reading.

Verification process introduced

It also stated that an employee, who incorrectly tested positive for alcohol, would be given an opportunity to have a second test and, if the result remained positive, such employee could demand that a blood test be administered.

Breathalysers valuable first line of testing

The appellant was also of the view that, even if breathalysers were less accurate than blood tests, they were still a valuable first line of testing which could profitably be used to enhance the safety of its employees and members of the public.

Calibration of devices and testers trained

It also presented proof that the breathalysers were calibrated and that the testers were trained to operate them.

The appellant stated that the first respondent’s contention that the tests were degrading was absurd when members of the public and other employees were injured and killed as a result of its drivers driving under the influence of alcohol.

Labour Court: rule nisi application

The issues, with regard to the breathalyser testing, were, inter alia, whether the demand for the abandonment of breathalyser testing was unlawful and whether it was an issue of mutual interest. Snyman AJ concluded that the demand for the cessation of breathalyser testing was not an unlawful demand.

He was, however, of the view that the implementation of the breathalyser testing policy fell squarely within the operational management of the business of the employer that could not form part and parcel of issues in dispute that would qualify for or form the subject matter of legitimate collective bargaining.

He explained his conclusion as follows:

“In fact, the very issue of the Breathalyser testing process can be used to illustrate what I am saying. If the issue of the Breathalyser test was for example coupled with a new automatic penalty such as an unpaid suspension for the day, then it would clearly have the necessary nexus to an employment issue and could form the subject matter of legitimate collective bargaining to change it. However, and in this case, the applicant has in its founding affidavit stated that other than conducting Breathalyser test on the driver before handing over the keys, nothing else changes. The applicant has in fact stated that the normal and existing processes in the applicant (sic) with regard to employees being under the influence of alcohol would apply which processes is (sic) not an issue in dispute between the parties.”

Labour Court: on return date

On the anticipated return date, Hulley AJ heard substantially the same arguments as Snyman AJ did, save that the first respondent had filed its answering affidavit and the appellant its replying affidavit when the matter was heard by the former. He discharged the interim order.

Matter of mutual interest

His reasons for doing so were, crisply, that the method used to provide a safe working environment must necessarily be a matter in respect of which employees have an interest.

Demand lawful

Secondly, that the fact, that the employer proposed administering a blood test (irrespective of whether it was upon demand by the employee) as part of the new system, raised serious concerns and was a matter of interest to both employer and employee. With regard to the unlawfulness of the demand, he found that the demand was lawful.

The appellants submitted that the strike was ultimately aimed at preventing the appellant from complying with its legal obligations in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 (“the OHSA”). Any work stoppage for the aforementioned purpose would therefore be unlawful.

The first respondent argued that the right to strike should only be limited if the limitation was clear from the legislation or instrument seeking to limit the right. It was submitted that the mere fact that a statute, the OHSA in this case, was designed to give effect to a safety and security measure, did not necessarily render the right to strike subordinate to such legislation.

It was further submitted that a demand, by employees, that an employer must bargain collectively and agree on a measure contemplated in the OHSA was not unlawful.

Findings of the Court

Right to bargaining collectively and the right to strike

Before examining these issues, it is apposite to discuss the right to engage in collective bargaining and the concomitant right to strike.

The right to strike and the right to engage in collective bargaining are entrenched in the Constitution.

S23(2)(c) of the Constitution: right to strike

Section 23(2)(c) provides that every worker has the right to strike.

S23(5) of the Constitution: right to bargain collectively

Section 23(5) provides that:

“Every trade union, employers’ organisation and employer has the right to engage in collective bargaining. National legislation may be enacted to regulate collective bargaining. To the extent that the legislation may limit a right in this Chapter, the limitation must comply with section 36(1).”

Collective bargaining, it is said, implies a right on the part of those who engage in collective bargaining to exercise economic power against their adversaries (in re Certification of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996 (4) SA 744 (CC) at paragraph [64])).

The constitutional court emphasised the importance of the right to strike as follows:

“Collective bargaining is based on the recognition of the fact that employers enjoy greater social and economic power than individual workers. Workers therefore need to act in concert to provide them collectively with sufficient power to bargain effectively with employers. Workers exercise collective power primarily through the mechanism of strike action. In theory, employers, on the other hand, may exercise power against workers through a range of weapons, such as dismissal, the employment of alternative or replacement labour, the unilateral implementation of new terms and conditions of employment, and the exclusion of workers from the workplace (the last of these being generally called a lockout). The importance of the right to strike for workers has led to it being far more frequently entrenched in constitutions as a fundamental right than is the right to lockout.”

Interrelated relationship

The right to strike and the right to engage in collective bargaining are interrelated. One cannot exist without the other. Collective bargaining without the concomitant right to strike will be rendered nugatory.

The right to strike is constitutionally protected in order to redress the inequality in social and economic power in employer/employee relations (see SATAWU and Others v Moloto 2012 (6) SA 249 (CC) at paragraph [61]). It is also important for the dignity of workers who may not be treated as coerced employees (see National Union of Metal Workers of SA and Others v Bader Bop (Pty) Ltd and Another 2003 (3) SA 513 (CC) at paragraph [13]).

Right to strike should not be limited by reading limitations into it

Given the historical and contemporaneous importance of the right to strike, it should not be limited or restricted by reading implicit limitations into it.

In SATAWU v Moloto supra it was said that:

“The right to strike is protected as a fundamental right in the Constitution without any express limitation. Constitutional rights conferred without express limitation should not be cut down by reading implicit limitations into them, and when legislative provisions limit or intrude upon those rights they should be interpreted in a manner least restrictive of the right if the text is reasonably capable of bearing that meaning.”

An interpretation which limits the right to strike should, therefore, be avoided if the text that seeks to limit it is susceptible to an interpretation that upholds and protects the right to strike. In essence, any legislative provision that seeks to restrict the right to strike should do so expressly, in clear and unequivocal terms.

The Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (“the LRA”), which is the vehicle that parliament used to give effect to and regulate the labour rights entrenched in s23 of the Constitution, contains limitations on the right to strike. It is uncontroversial that the LRA contains both substantive and procedural restrictions to the right to strike.

LRA procedural requirements fulfilled in casu

Procedurally, the right to strike will not accrue if the dispute, firstly, was not referred to the CCMA or a bargaining council and a certificate of non-resolution issued and, secondly, if the union had not issued a strike notice. Both procedural requirements were fulfilled in this matter.

LRA substantive requirements

The substantive requirements set out in s65 of the LRA are, strictly speaking, also not relevant for the resolution of this dispute.

Definition of “strike”: s213 of the LRA

The definition of “strike” in the LRA (s213) also restricts the right to strike and is defined as follows:

“‘Strike’ means the partial or complete concerted refusal to work, or the retardation or obstruction of work, by persons who are or have been employed by the same employer or by different employers, for the purpose of remedying a grievance or resolving a dispute in respect of any matter of mutual interest between employer and employee, and every reference to ‘work’ in this definition includes overtime work, whether it was voluntary or compulsory.”

Relevance of definition of strike in casu

The disputes in this matter hinge on two parts of the definition of a strike.

It is clear that the cessation, retardation or obstruction of work must be for the purposes of remedying a grievance or resolving a dispute. It is also beyond cavil that the dispute or grievance must be about a matter of mutual interest.

The appellant contended that the intended strike in this matter was not about a matter of mutual interest and that it was not aimed at remedying or resolving a lawful dispute or grievance.

Element 1: resolving a dispute or remedying a grievance

The labour appeal court dealt with the last mentioned issue first and said that industrial action for the purpose of requiring or compelling an employer to perform an unlawful act could not be protected (see TSI Holdings (Pty) Ltd and Others v National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and Others (2006) 27 ILJ 1483 (LAC) at paragraph [48]).

Lawfulness a requirement

Therefore, the cessation, retardation or obstruction of work must be aimed at remedying a lawful grievance or resolving a lawful dispute. Both parties accepted this to be the legal position.

The appellant submitted that the first respondent’s proposed industrial action was essentially geared at forcing the appellant to commit a crime in terms of the OHSA. It was contended that the OHSA places onerous duties and responsibilities on the appellant, which it has to comply with on pain of criminal sanction. Both Snyman AJ and Hulley AJ rejected this argument.

Was the rejection justified?

The OHSA provisions

Section 8 of the OHSA reads as follows:

“8 General duties of employers to their employees

1. Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees.

2. Without derogating from the generality of an employer’s duties under subsection (1), the matters to which those duties refer include in particular –

(a) the provisions and maintenance of systems of work, plant and machinery that, as far as is reasonably practicable, are safe and without risks to health;

(b) taking such steps as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard to the safety or health of employees, before resorting to personal protective equipment;

(c) making arrangements for ensuring, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the production, processing, use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances;

(d) establishing, as far as is reasonably practicable, what hazards to the health or safety of persons are attached to any work which is performed, any article or substance which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported and any plant or machinery which is used in his business, and he shall, as far as is reasonably practicable, further establish what precautionary measures should be taken with respect to such work, article, substance, plant or machinery in order to protect the health and safety of persons, and he shall provide the necessary means to apply such precautionary measures;

(e) providing such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees;

(f) as far as is reasonably practicable, not permitting any employee to do any work or to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport any article or substance or to operate any plant or machinery, unless the precautionary measures contemplated in paragraphs (b) and (d), or any other precautionary measures which may be prescribed, have been taken;

(g) taking all necessary measures to ensure that the requirements of this Act are complied with by every person in his employment or on premises under his control where plant or machinery is used;

(h) enforcing such measures as may be necessary in the interest of health and safety; – “

Section 9 of the OHSA reads as follows:

“9. General duties of employers and self-employed persons to persons other than their employees

(1) Every employer shall conduct his undertaking in such a manner as to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than those in his employment who may be directly affected by his activities are not thereby exposed to hazards to their health or safety.

(2) Every self-employed person shall conduct his undertaking in such a manner as to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons who may be directly affected by his activities are not thereby exposed to hazards to their health or safety.”

Section 14 places duties on employees at work and reads as follows:

“Every employee shall at work –

(a) take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts omissions;

(b) as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by this Act, co-operate with such employer or person to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with;

(c) carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by his employer or by anyone authorized thereto by his employer, in the interest of health or safety;

(d) if any situation which is unsafe or unhealthy comes to his attention, as soon as practicable report such situation to his employer or to the health and safety representative of his workplace or section thereof, as the case may be, who shall report it to the employer; and

(e) if he is involved in any incident which may affect his health or which has caused an injury to himself, report such incident to his employer or to anyone authorized thereto by the employer, or to his health and safety representative, as soon as practicable but not later than the end of the particular shift during which the incident occurred, unless the circumstances were such that the reporting of the incident was not possible, in which case he shall report the incident as soon as practicable thereafter.”

Regulation 2A of the regulations promulgated under the Machinery and Occupational Safety Act 6 of 1983 provides that an employer shall not permit any person, who is or who appears to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, to enter or remain at a workplace.

In terms of section 38 of the OHSA, any person who contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions of s8, s9 and s14 is guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to be sentenced to a fine not exceeding R50 000.00 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

Interpretation and applicability of the OHSA in casu

Section 8 of the OHSA places a duty on the appellant to maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without health risks for its employees.

Section 9 places a duty on the appellant to conduct its business in such a manner as to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that persons, who are not its employees and who may be directly affected by its activities, are not thereby exposed to health or safety hazards.

definition of “reasonably practicable”

“Reasonably practicable” means practicable having regard to:

· the severity and scope of the hazard or risk concerned;

· the state of knowledge reasonably available concerning that hazard or risk and of any means of removing or mitigating that hazard or risk;

· the availability and suitability of means to remove or mitigate that hazard or risk; and

· the cost of removing or mitigating that hazard or risk in relation to the benefits deriving therefrom.

Sections 8 and 9, therefore, place a duty on the employer to act proactively to avoid any harm or injury to its employees and others.

There is no standard as to what is reasonably practicable. Each case will have to be determined on its own facts and circumstances.

As can be seen from the definition of “reasonably practicable”, it involves weighing different considerations from risk evaluation, means of removing or avoiding the risk, resource availability and a cost-benefit analysis.

In Edwards v National Coal Board [1949] 1 ALL ER 743 CA, Lord Justice Asquith stated:

“Reasonably practicable as traditionally interpreted, is a narrower term than ‘physically possible’ and implies that a computation must be made in which the quantum of risk is placed in one scale and the sacrifice, whether in money, time or trouble involved in the measure necessary to avert the risk is placed in the other; and that, if it is shown that there is a gross disproportion between them, the risk being insignificant in relation to the sacrifice, the person upon who the duty is laid discharges the burden of proving that compliance was not reasonably practicable. This computation falls to be made at a point of time anterior to the happening of the incident complained of.”

Submission of the appellant (employer)

It was argued that the appellant had made an assessment and concluded that the reasonably practicable way to fulfil its obligations and comply with its duty was by subjecting its drivers to mandatory breathalyser testing. The appellant considered the breathalyser as an effective precautionary measure as compared to mere physical observation.

It was further contended that the breathalyser testing policy assisted the employees because they were obliged to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of other persons who might be affected by their conduct.

It was correctly submitted that all employees were obliged to:

· cooperate with their employer in order to enable it to acquit itself of its duties under the OHSA;

· carry out lawful health and safety orders; and

· comply with health and safety rules and procedures.

A refusal by the employees, so the argument went, to undergo breathalyser testing would be in breach of all three of the abovementioned statutory duties, because it would involve a failure to cooperate and disobedience with a health and safety order, rule or procedure.

Submissions of the respondent (union)

The union submitted that the appellant’s arguments were flawed, because it sought to subordinate the right to strike to the provisions of the OHSA in circumstances where the OHSA did not contain any express intention to limit the right to strike.

It was contended that the demand of the employees, properly construed, did not mean that they wanted no testing measures at all.

True nature of the dispute

The dispute, properly considered, was not a demand that the appellant should not have any policy or practice in place to detect whether employees, or drivers specifically, were under the influence of alcohol. The employees had specific problems with the breathalyser device.

The appellant had an alcohol/substance abuse policy in place before it decided to introduce breathalyser testing. Its original policy did not include any form of pre-incident mandatory testing.

Other methods available to detect alcohol consumption

It is not in dispute that breathalyser testing is but one of a range of measures that can be used to detect alcohol consumption – observation, urine test, blood test and the stroop test – are some of the other methods that can be used (see McCann et al Alcohol Drugs and Employment, second ed, Juta chapter 10).

The employees complained that there were instances where the breathalyser produced inaccurate and unreliable results.

The appellant stated, in its replying affidavit, that, to the extent that the breathalyser gave an incorrect result, the employee would be given an opportunity to have a second test and, if the result was still positive, such employee could demand that a blood test be administered.

It further stated that, even if the breathalyser was less accurate than blood tests, which appeared to be unknown to either of the parties, it was still a valuable first line of testing which could profitably be used to enhance the safety of the employees and members of the public. The employees raised a genuine concern relating to the reliability of the breathalyser.

Although the first respondent did not say what should replace breathalyser testing, it was clear that, in the absence of breathalyser testing, there were other lawful means of testing for alcohol consumption, be it observation, blood tests, urine tests or any other reasonably practicable means.

On the facts of this matter, it cannot be said that the breathalyser was the only reasonably practicable way to ensure the safety of the employees and others.

“Reasonably practicable” is a variable standard that must be determined objectively.

The appellant, as stated above, had an alcohol and substance abuse policy in place before deciding on breathalyser testing. Did that mean that it operated in contravention of s8 and s9 of the OHSA before it introduced breathalyser testing? The answer is no.

The absence of breathalyser testing surely did not mean that the appellant contravened the provisions of the OHSA. Mandatory breathalyser testing for all drivers or employees is also not a requirement of the OHSA.

Moreover the demand that “there be no breathalyser test” may mean that the union is of the view that the measure introduced by the appellant to avoid the risk is disproportionate to the risk, i e that the risk is so small that the preventative measure is not necessary.

The union can be convinced otherwise at the bargaining table.

The demand was justified and would not necessarily result in a crime being committed by the appellant.

The labour appeal court, therefore, agreed with Snyman and Hulley AJJ.

Element 2: whether the dispute is a matter of mutual interest

The labour court then turned to consider whether the dispute was a matter of mutual interest.

It agreed with Hulley AJ that the phrase “any matter of mutual interest” defies precise definition. The phrase is couched in very wide terms.

According to Grogan, the phrase is extremely wide, “potentially encompassing issues of employment in general, not merely matters pertaining to wages and conditions of service” (John Grogan Collective Labour Law Juta 2007 at 134).

In Rand Tyres and Accessories v Industrial Council for the Motor Industry (Transvaal) 1941 TPD 108 at 115, the following was said about the phrase:

“Whatever can reasonably and fairly be regarded as calculated to promote the well-being of the trade concerned, must be of mutual interest to them; and there can be no justification for restricting in any way powers which the Legislature has been at the greatest pains to frame in the widest possible language.”

Grogan concludes, correctly in the labour appeal court’s view, that:

“the best one can say, therefore, is that any matter which affects employees in the workplace, however, indirectly, falls within the scope of the phrase ‘matters of mutual interest’ and may accordingly form the subject matter of strike action.”

The phrase “mutual interest” seeks to limit the issues that may form the subject matter of a strike. It can, therefore, not be without boundary.

The matter should not be too far removed from the employment relationship so that it can properly be said that it does not concern the employment relationship. Matters that are purely socio-economic or political would generally not be matters of mutual interest.

If employees were to be allowed to strike over any political or socio-economic issues, uncertainty will reign and the employer will, in most cases, be confronted with a situation over which he/she has no control or influence. Many disputes, however, have, at bottom, political and/or socio-economic issues.

The facts of each matter will determine whether such issue is one of mutual interest (a useful discussion of the cases and an article in which the phrase was defined is contained in SADTU v Minister of Education and Others (2001) 22 ILJ 2325 (LC) at paragraph [43].).

Although ensuring the health and safety of employees and others is predominantly the employer’s responsibility, it is clear from the OHSA that the employee also bears duties and responsibilities towards other employees and members of the public. The employer may not always have all the solutions to health and safety issues at the workplace. The employees, on the other hand, may have the necessary knowledge and experience of a risk, how it affects or may affect them and/or others and how to avoid it.

The term “reasonably practicable”, which is the touchstone in the OHSA, also demands that various interests be considered as well as a cost-benefit analysis to be done. The whole scheme of the OHSA points to a need for employers and employees to work together in order to ensure the health and safety of everyone.

Employers might consider the minimum that can be done in order to satisfy the reasonably practicable requirement whilst employees, who are at the coalface, might want more to be done.

It is counter-intuitive to say that an employee has no interest in his/her own health and safety.

The giving of a breath sample might be less invasive than giving a blood sample, but it is still invasive.

Right to privacy

It represents an inroad into the employee’s right to privacy. The worker is coerced to give a sample in circumstances where his/her consent was not sought before the decision to subject him/her to breathalyser testing was taken. There is no indication that proper consideration was given to the right to privacy of the employees.

In Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada v Irving Pulp and Paper, Limited 2013 SCC 34, the supreme court of Canada said the following:

“49 On the other side of the balance was the employee right to privacy. The board accepted that breathalyser testing ‘effects a significant inroad’ on private ‘involving coercion and restriction on movement. Upon pain of significant punishment, the employee must go promptly to the breathalyser station and must co-operate in the provision of breath samples – Taking its results together, the scheme effects a loss of liberty and personal autonomy. These are at the heart of the right to privacy.

50 That conclusion is unassailable. Early in the life of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, this court recognized that ‘the use of a person’s body without his consent to obtain information about him, invades an area of personal privacy essential to the maintenance of his human dignity – ” And in R v Shoker 2006 SCC 44, [2006] 2 SCR 399 it notably drew no distinction between drug and alcohol testing by urine, blood or breath sample concluding that the “seizure of bodily samples is highly intrusive – “

The labour appeal court could think of no reason why the position should be different here. The rights to human dignity, privacy, freedom of movement and bodily integrity are entrenched in our Constitution. In the labour appeal court’s view, an employee’s consent is required before such an invasive and intrusive act can be required from him/her.

It is telling that Ms Joja was mandated by EXCO to negotiate with the first respondent. Such negotiations could only have been aimed at reaching an agreement on the breathalyser testing.

It is strange that, when the negotiations failed, the appellant then changed tack and alleged that it had no duty to engage in collective bargaining with the first respondent.

Conclusion

The labour appeal court, therefore, agreed with Hulley AJ that the health and safety issues in this matter are matters of mutual interest.

In the labour appeal court’s judgment, health and safety issues are primarily the responsibility of the employer but they are matters of mutual interest over which the parties may engage in collective bargaining and, if they cannot agree, the employees may embark on strike action in order to resolve the dispute.

Dr Brian van Zyl is a Director of labour law firm Van Zyl Rudd and associates, www.vanzylrudd.co.za.

This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

If I knew then what I know now

Experienced fathers say they would do things differently if they had to do it again.

One of the things that happens to parents when their children reach adulthood is that hindsight and insight help them see things differently. They realise that they were probably a lot harder on their children than they should have been and it’s then that they start to feel they would do things differently if they could do it again.

Our older two children were 11 and seven when our third child was born. Right from the start, we realised that our third child had different parents from the first two. We were, naturally, a lot more experienced, a lot more relaxed, a lot more understanding and a lot more accommodating with her, sometimes so much so that her two older sisters would reprimand us for being, in their opinion, too soft on her.

Were we too soft? I don’t think so. We were definitely a lot more easy going with her as a child because we had done this before and we knew what was important and what wasn’t, so we didn’t major on the minor stuff.

Did she grow up as a delinquent because we were a lot more relaxed with her? Again, based on her behaviour, personality and performance, I don’t think so. She always took her school work seriously and acquitted herself very well in her school leaving exams. She is now in first year university and her approach to her work is highly responsible. She is emotionally mature and completely independent in terms of her studies.

I realise with hindsight that I was a lot tougher on my older two as they were growing up than I needed to be but accept that I was doing what I thought was best, even though it was probably not really the best.

So what I would I do differently with my older two if I could do it again?

For a start, I would be a lot more accepting of the humanness of my children and not be so disapproving of some of the rather inconsequential things they did. If they did something that I thought was not appropriate, I would give them long lectures on why they shouldn’t have done what they did. A short explanation would have been sufficient.

Another thing I would do is not brand behaviour as “good” or “bad” when it really wasn’t. It’s more about what’s appropriate and inappropriate, what’s helpful and what’s unhelpful, what’s constructive and what’s destructive. Children are not “bad” people. They’re still learning to be people and do what they think is best. Sure, what they think is best may not be appropriate, and that’s what we need to help them see.

One more thing I would do is encourage them to explore more and not put unnecessary boundaries and limits on them. While certain boundaries are very necessary and give children a sense of security, there are definitely unnecessary boundaries which we impose on our children more for own sake than for theirs. All this does is cause a child to become a little more reserved than they need to be and discourages them from being curious and enquiring.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you go to the opposite extreme and let your children run riot. That’s just as bad as wanting to lock them up in their rooms until they’re 21.

After each visit to the paediatrician with our first baby, he would walk us to the door and say, “Enjoy your baby.” This was at a time when she was, in our opinion, very difficult – crying all the time and not sleeping. It was only much later that I came to understand what he really meant. That’s why I now always encourage parents to, above all, enjoy their children! 

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, an age management and self-mastery coach to senior executives, and the author of best seller What nobody tells a new father.

This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Do you know where you’re going to?

Align your HR destination with your organisation’s destination.

While waiting to board a flight to Cape Town from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport recently, I had some time to watch the “passing parade”. The seemingly endless flow of people with facial expressions as varied as the backgrounds they came from made me think of the song made famous by Diana Ross in 1979:

“Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life’s been showing you?
Where are you going to?
Do you know?

Do you get what you’re hoping for?
When you look behind you there’s no open doors
What are you hoping for?
Do you know?”

Every person comes from somewhere and is on their way to somewhere else. For a short while, at an airport, they all merge into a couple of restless queues at the various check-in counters, then file into an aircraft to settle into their numbered seats while listening to the sound of jet engines. Once they reach their destinations, they clutch their luggage and hurry off to face the day’s requirements.

Who are these people? Where are they going? It will be nigh impossible to get an answer from the public at large, so by means of assumption, we can safely say they are human, they come from somewhere and they are on their way somewhere –

Slow down a bit and think, if you will, for a moment or so about destination, yes, something as simple as destination. According to Google¹ the word destination started being used in late Middle English: from Latin destinatio(n- ), from destinare ‘make firm, establish’. The original sense was ‘the action of intending someone or something for a purpose’, later ‘being destined for a place’, hence (from the early 19th century) the place itself. It is quite evident that destination and purpose are closely linked – we do not have to dwell too much on purpose, maybe more at another time.

To reach any destination, an idea, a dream or a thought has to be mulled over, processed and converted to a series of actions with specific time spans so that the particular destination can be reached.

This also rings true for the field of Human Resources.

Without a decent, practical and collective HR destination, the likelihood of succumbing to side shows, politics, “internal terrorism” and fads is a reality. This should not be. That being said, is your HR destination clear, unambiguous and aligned to the organisation’s mission, vision and value statements and does every employee know where this destination is and how to get there?

To shed some light on this matter, let us consider what (or where) such a destination could be, by reflecting on the following questions.

1. Is the destination a place, an achievement or a state of mind?
2. Is the destination linked to the company mission and vision and does company culture feature somewhere in the equation?
3. Can the details of the destination be easily shared with and communicated to all levels of employees?
4. In the event of the HR Director leaving the company, will the destination remain unchanged?
5. Are there guiding milestones en route to the destination?
6. What happens once the destination has been reached and what happens thereafter?

There are many more questions one can ask, but let us think long and hard about the destination (strategic direction) in the context of Human Resources and the organisational strategy. To assist a bit with this thinking job of ours, Raymond Ackerman’s book, The Four Legs of The table² gives some valuable insight into the importance of harmonious relations between profit seeking shareholders and people, when he says:

“Profits are the bloodstream of the economic world, but social responsibility should be woven through a business person’s whole existence.”

In order for this to come to fruition, a company’s HR destination has to be aligned to the organisational destination. The HR destination should be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that it is still relevant and valid. An outdated HR strategy renders the whole HR department useless. It would be a shame to eventually reach the most spoken about and publicised destination only to find it deserted and haunted – by the ghosts of competitors who reached the destination ages ago and have since moved on! Think of the bitter disappointment and unnecessary squandering of resources –

So, what can be done by the astute, agile CEO worth their salt, to support the equally astute, agile HR Director in ensuring the correct destination is on the radar?

1. Involve the board, Exco and relevant stakeholders in a debate, with the goal on agreeing to the destination;
2. Consider wider input such as the PESTLE factors;
3. Take into account contributing factors like staff morale, staff turnover, CCMA/LC case load, onboarding efficiencies and the state of training and development;
4. Put best practice and increasing productivity high up on the list of “scoping” tasks;
5. Compile an action plan with an expiry date; and
6. After inclusive consultation and refining of the plan (with reasons why it is now the destination), compile a short brief with three to five bullet points for distribution to all employees. Create a communication strategy and plan before this communication.

As the process to identify the correct destination makes way for the plan and how to track progress on the way to the destination, the CEO/HR Director combo (they should be a combo by now, with all the time they spent working on this matter!) can rest assured that they and the organisation’s people can now honestly answer the questions in the song:

“Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life’s been showing you?
Where are you going to?
Do you know?

Do you get what you’re hoping for?
When you look behind you there’s no open doors
What are you hoping for?
Do you know?”

May the words of Steve Maraboli, the author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free, encourage all you Level Five Leaders in HR and organisations alike, when he states –
“When you establish a destination by defining what you want, then take physical action by making choices that move you towards that destination, the possibility for success is limitless and arrival at the destination is inevitable.”

Leon Steyn is the Group Human Resources Executive of TMS Group, www.tmsg.co.za.

References
www.google.co.za/#q=origin+of+the+word+destination;
Ackerman, R. 2005, The Four Legs Of The Table, p. 146;
www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/destination.

This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Can employee development lead to business mediocrity?

Greta Roberts suggests to Alan Hosking that employee development is not all it’s made out to be.

Employee development is a massive part of work life. Why the controversial view?

Our predictive workforce assignments yield staggering results, saving/making businesses millions of real, measurable dollars. Often this yield is in a single project. Business ROI with these predictive projects is so significant, that some of the findings may challenge some concepts we hold so closely.

Large organisations spend millions on training, coaching, mentoring, re-training and competency development programmes. We do this believing employee development programmes can train someone to better or even great performance. It seems to make sense. And, the only option a business has after hiring someone is try to develop employees to greatness. Better training, better managers, better raises, better perks, better culture, better benefits, more time off, better work life balance, more and more and more that the organisation needs to do, to prop up and hopefully “develop” the employee into being a better performer.

Are you suggesting that’s all a waste of time and money?

Here’s the thing – We recently completed two analytics studies quantitatively analysing sales rep. performance. Among other goals, we analysed sales rep. performance over time – both before and after training is completed. We documented their sales performance as new hires, during training, and finally after they reached full self-sufficiency in their role.

Both sets of analyses were for sales roles at vastly different types of companies. The first sales group consisted of financial advisors. The second sales group sold web/email and Internet connectivity into consumer homes. Each business measured real sales performance (not performance ratings) over time, during and beyond formal and informal training.

Both companies had made a significant, long term financial investment in formal training and coaching development programmes, to help sales reps to optimise their sales performance.

What did your analytics reveal?

We established that sales rep. performance does not measurably increase over time – even with substantial training and development by the business. What we found is perhaps shocking to many, though we see this time and again in our predictive analytics work across many roles.

Underwriter sales performance

In the one case (Figure 1), we did a study of underwriter sales performance. In this case, performance is measured by sales and bookings – so provides a lovely quantitative measure. This is not performance review information, this is actual sales performance in the job. Breaking out data by Performance Clusters, we began to see the true stratification that exists inside this group, and important lessons are evident:

– Relative performance levels were evident very early in tenure, even in the first quarters;
– Growth after initial training was only gradual (if at all) – with the exception of the top performers, after quite some time;
– At the individual level, we did not see underwriters crossing categories or increasing after the first year. Performance patterns were set in very early: and
– The first year, or even six months of performance, appeared to lay the baseline for the rest of an underwriter’s performance.

Analytics results showed that sales rep performance did not measurably increase over time – despite multi-millions being spent on development efforts including training, coaching, competency development and the like.

Top performers began as top performers – and continued to be top performers. The development and experience only made a significant impact on top performers’ sales and bookings over time. Average performers began and continued to be average. Bottom performers began and continued to be bottom.

Training might have had a short term impact, or a small impact. But long term business performance was “consistent” from the beginning throughout their tenure – with the single exception of the top performers who excelled even more once nurturing was applied to the ideal nature for the role.

What of the business cost of developing “Bottom Performers” with hopes of turning them around?

In many of today’s businesses around the world, when a bottom performer unfortunately enters as an employee, massive support systems are engaged to prop up, support, train, coach, prompt and cajole that bad hire into some kind of average performance.

The support systems required are extraordinary – and very, very, very expensive. The best possible outcome is that you can nurture them to averageness, not to greatness.

The only thing your organisation can do, once hired, is to try to develop that low or average performer, hoping to squeeze some kind of value out of them. It’s all you can do once they are hired.

The greatest cost to the business is what could literally lead a company to either mediocrity or wild success.

After five years, differing performance adds up significantly. The results therefore illustrate the power of top underwriters. The top performers each achieve 6.79 times as much revenue for this client as the bottom performers over the course of 12 years. This despite the same training and development being applied and available to all underwriters. This difference is worth mega millions.

Greta Roberts is the CEO and co-founder of Talent Analytics, Corp. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the US. In addition to being a contributing author to numerous predictive analytics books, she is regularly invited to comment in the media and speak at high end predictive analytics and business events around the world. She is Chair of Predictive Analytics World for Workforce and Faculty member of the International Institute for Analytics. Follow her on twitter @gretaroberts.

This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Manage your “numbers” people and “people” people

There’s a place for both types of people in the company.

There is a huge movement towards HR analytics and that is a good thing. However, there is a risk that this will create a culture war within HR with the “numbers” people squaring off against the “people” people. That war won’t be good for anyone.

In the extreme case, the numbers people believe that all the answers can be found in the data. They show distain for the opinion of experienced HR professionals unless those opinions are backed by data; and are more comfortable sitting with a spreadsheet than engaging with an employee.

On the other hand, in the extreme case, the “people” people actively avoid numbers. They say that the reason they went into HR is because they wanted to work with people, not maths. They argue that data doesn’t show the whole story (which is, of course, correct), but do so in a way that sounds defensive. They eagerly look for cases where analysis has failed and use that as an excuse to ignore data.

You probably don’t face these extremes, but the kernel of these world views likely do exist within your HR team; and we need to act to head off the predictable conflict. We will never bring more rigour to HR if we don’t get the “people” people, who are the bulk of our HR team, onside with analytics. Furthermore, the numbers people won’t succeed without the wisdom and skill of the “people” people since the answer never lies solely in numerical data.

Bridge the gap between the numbers people and the “people” people.

The way to bridge the gap between the numbers people and the “people” people is to create a process they both can relate to. That process is based on a field called evidence-based management. In a nutshell the difference between evidence-based management and analytics is that analytics focuses on the tools (the data, the software, the analytical techniques) whereas evidence-based management focuses on the decision that needs to be made.

While analytics looks for hard data, evidence-based management looks for the best available evidence. Evidence may include expert opinion, stakeholder views and academic research, as well as hard numbers. Analytics is a critical part of evidence-based management; it is greatly admired, but it is not the be-all and end-all.

Furthermore, whereas analytics tends to look for “proof”, evidence-based management tends to look at the overall weight of the evidence. Analytics people tend to say things like, “The data shows that – ” whereas evidence-based management people are more inclined to say, “Overall, the weight of evidence leads us to think – “

And, as always, evidence-based management drives back to, “What are we trying to do?”, “What question are we trying to answer?”, “What decision are we trying to make?” Whereas analytics can fall into the trap of saying, “We have a whole lot of data, I wonder what it means.” I say ‘trap’ which may be a bit strong, but it can be interesting to ask, “What can we do with all this data?” However, too often this focus on data leads to endless analysis with no, “So what?” When we start with the issue of, “What decision are we trying to make?” we have already resolved the, “So what?” question before we start.

When you decide to bring rigour to the HR department by asking clear questions and gathering evidence, then “people” people and numbers people can get on the same page. They both bring their unique strengths to the table and tcan learn from each other instead of fighting for dominance.

David Creelman is CEO of Creelman Research, www.creelmanresearch.com, in Canada. He works with a variety of organisations, academics, think tanks, consultancies and HR vendors in the Americas, Asia and Europe.

This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

Make your employees’ journey a good experience

In employer branding, experience is everything.

People are exposed to brand experiences continuously throughout their day, either as consumers, employees or candidates. The reality is that these experiences are rarely distinctive, consistent or deliver what is expected based on perceptions of the brand. At its worst, the impact can be loss of business (customer), accepting another job offer (candidate), resignation (employee) or damage to a company’s reputation (potential employee and/or potential customer).

There are many examples of great brands such as Virgin, Apple, Starbucks and Chanel. One consistent characteristic amongst them is how they make us feel because of the experience we have when we interact with their products, services and/or people.

Michael Holm, a Danish HR Senior Manager at Lego says, “Happy employees perform at their best. If they are passionate about what they do, work in a trusting environment with highly skilled colleagues and in a company they can be proud of, they will provide stellar performance. They are telling a story every day to friends, relatives, networks about work and, if that story is positive, they will attract other like-minded individuals to the company. That is the best and most relevant sourcing platform any company can build on – a positive employee experience is key!”

The only true source of competitive advantage of any company is its people and the value they create for their customers. High-performing employees committed to their work and company who are able to innovate and create valued experiences for customers is a critical factor for the sustainability of organisations.

The concept of employee experience

Employee experience can be defined as “the sum of all experiences an employee has with their employer, co-workers, supervisors, leadership, work environment, customers and other key stakeholders during their tenure.” Experiences influence an employee’s cognition and affection, and lead to particular behaviours that positively or negatively impact an employee’s engagement and consequent business performance.

Great employee experiences, just like great customer experiences, don’t just happen by chance. In leading brands they are supported by an integrated strategy across people, customers and systems. When employees have positive experiences with employers, they are more engaged in creating positive experiences for customers, which results in increased sales. This approach is what makes the Apple stores a retailing success story at a time when bricks and mortar retailing has been on a decline.

The Minchington and Morris Brand Experience Model™ highlights an integrated approach to delivering differentiated experiences by focusing on the Employer Brand Moments of Truth (EBMOT) in the employee lifecycle whilst being agile enough to adapt to the challenges in the macro environment (see Figure 1).

EBMOTs are the touchpoints (company reputation, leader/supervisor relationship) in the lifecycle where employees are more emotionally invested in the outcome, compared to more rational touchpoints (company website, workplace technology).

Minchington and Morris Brand Experience model

Employee experience assessment and strategy

To design the ideal employee experience journey and evaluate its reality, an employee experience journey map can be a very effective tool. Designed from the employee’s point of view, the map details each interaction or touch-point within each stage of the employee’s relationship with the organisation.

A survey tool is used to rate the employee’s experience at each EBMOT. Simplistically, it’s a way to walk in the employees’, candidates’ or alumnis’ shoes – to describe and understand what each is doing, thinking and feeling at each stage.

These employee lifecycle stages can be categorised as:

• explore and apply;
• join and on-board;
• perform, get recognized, learn and grow;
• separate; and
• reconnect and re-join.

As candidates and employees evolve their relationship with an employer, they have distinct objectives with different needs and motivators at each stage. Mapping out the overall journey and the touchpoints at each stage aids with identifying any disparity between the ideals and practical realities of the experience (see Figure 2). It will also highlight the stages or touchpoints which require closer attention in order to create a consistent employment experience that adds value to the customer experience. For example, if the company is poor at developing or rewarding people, most of the hard work and investment in recruiting the best talent is wasted as people cycle through the organisation looking for better opportunities elsewhere.

Key focus areas

To optimise the employee experience across the employment lifecycle, we encourage you to focus your efforts on the following areas:

1. Be clear on the brand experience you want to create for customers and align the employee experience journey.

2. Train leaders and employees in how to deliver the brand experience and align with your EVPs through supporting systems, processes and policies.

3. Engage leaders across functions at the outset to ensure a consistent approach to managing the employee experience journey.

4. Identify which cultural behaviours need to change to support the employee experience and align systems, processes and policies to support the change.

5. Conduct an employee experience mapping exercise to understand where the company delivers the most impactful experiences and those areas which need improvement, re-design and/or discarding altogether.

6. Develop an integrated communications plan with cross functional support and training to ensure employee behaviours and attitudes are reflective of the desired brand experience.

7. Identify and appoint ambassadors to role model the ‘on brand’ behaviours expected from employees.

8. Reward attitudes, behaviours and actions which reflect the delivery of outstanding employee experience.

9. Review the performance of the leadership to deliver an ‘on brand’ experience through quantitative and qualitative feedback provided by employees and address any gaps.

10. Remember the workplace is a key part of an employee’s lifestyle so approach the employee experience holistically and manage accordingly.

11. Learn, train and encourage leaders to use technology to enable and support the creation and delivery of signature employee experiences.

employee journey graph 2

Brett Minchington, MBA, is Chairman/CEO of Australia-based Employer Brand International, www.employerbrandinternational.com, an international strategist, corporate advisor and educator who has trained leaders in more than 50 cities in 30 countries around the globe. Follow Brett on Twitter: @brettminch.

Lisa G Morris is a Principal and a People and Change Practice leader at North Highland Worldwide Consulting, Atlanta, Georgia in the US. She specialises in employer brand strategy, employee experience design, employee engagement, and organisational development. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @LeeseMorris.

This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

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