How Corporate Social Responsibility attracts top talent

While the notion of “corporate social responsibility,” may have once been regarded as a corporate philanthropy.

It has quickly become a crucial part of any large company’s long-term strategy – not just in marketing, but in recruiting, too. As consumers are ever more concerned with where products come from, employees now want more from their employer than a paycheck. They want a sense of pride and fulfillment from their work, a purpose and importantly a company’s whose values match their own.

In a survey detailed below, by the nonprofit Net Impact, ­53 percent of workers said that “a job where I can make an impact” was important to their happiness, and 72 percent of students about to enter the workforce agreed. Most would even take a pay cut to achieve that goal.

This phenomenon, which is particularly apparent in younger generations, was a key finding in my recent book The 2020 Workplace, where the focus on people, planet, and profits known as the new “triple bottom line” is increasingly becoming the main way organizations attract and retain new hires. Research conducted by Cone Millennial Cause group, detailed in The 2020 Workplace found that 80% of a sample of 1,800 13-25 year olds wanted to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. More than half said they would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation. What’s more, according to research conducted in The 2020 Workplace, by the year 2020, Millennials will be 50% of the workforce.

This is great news for companies already committed to social responsibility. But since so much of the corporate world has now jumped on the CSR CSRGY +% bandwagon, it can be hard for those exemplary companies to set themselves apart. Annually, about 40,000 CSR reports are released from over 9,000 companies, according to the Corporate Register.

Luckily, the social media boom has brought about more and more ways for companies to communicate their CSR efforts. And just in time, says Tim Mohin, director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Advanced Micro Devices AMD +% (AMD), because the standard 40-page PDF is a relic of past decades and has gone the way of the fax machine and the desktop computer.

“CSR has become such a common practice, we believe no one is really paying attention anymore,” Mohin said.

That’s why AMD now touts their CSR findings via Twitter and Facebook, and engages in conversations about them with its audiences on those platforms.

And to stay ahead of the curve, this year AMD also released condensed versions of their CSR findings – with easily digestible headlines and messages – via apps for iPad and Android, the technologies most directly aimed toward the all-important Millennial base. In this move, AMD joins a growing number of companies creating their own apps. According to a survey conducted by Symantec, 71% of global enterprises are either looking into or actively deploying their own mobile apps. With mobile apps eclipsing the 1 million mark, a growing number of companies are creating their own app stores: consider:, Barclays, Facebook, and Cisco to name just a few.

So what can other companies do to learn from AMD’s success? Here are 3 important tips.

1) Use CSR to boost employee engagement

Not only is CSR crucial to recruiting talented employees, it’s also a great way to maintain the engagement of your existing work force.

That’s certainly proven true for AMD’s “green teams” – groups of eco-minded employees who work together on things like reducing waste in the cafeteria, saving energy, saving water. “We asked our green team members,” Tim Mohin said, “does being able to contribute to a cause while you’re at work improve your commitment and level of engagement to your core job function and to the company? 96% agreed.”

But employee engagement – in the form of feedback – can also help companies improve their CSR practices. AMD seeks for input from their employees regarding what they can do to enhance their CSR efforts. “By increasing accessibility to corporate sustainability, AMD’s aim is to “crowdsource”  the ideas that will take us to the next level of performance,” Mohin said in a recent blog post.

After all, who has a better perspective on the company’s progress on their CSR agenda than the employees themselves?

2) Leverage CSR as a tool to develop global talent

Engaged employees are happier and more productive, but CSR has benefits even beyond the trickle-down productivity of high employee engagement. Research suggests that involvement in the company’s corporate responsibility practices teaches workers valuable new skills that they bring back to their regular roles for the company.

IBM IBM -1.79% found this to be true with the launch and growth of its Corporate Service Corps program, which is explained in detail in The 2020 Workplace. Essentially this program operates like a corporate version of the Peace Corps where IBMers   bring their core competencies and skills in such areas as project management, strategic planning, marketing or engineering to an entrepreneurial company based in one of the countries designated by IBM as emerging market for growth such as, Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, to name a few. These IBMers build their global mindset by working and living in one of these developing countries.  What’s important here is that IBM launched Corporate Service Corps as an integral part of a larger effort to facilitate the development of IBM employees into global leaders and global citizens. What better way to build global leaders than by having them be part of a global team to build a new business in a emerging market. CDC Development Solutions estimates 27% of Fortune 500 companies have programs such as this one at IBM.

3) Maximize your investment in CSR by leveraging all forms of social media

CSR has moved from a type of corporate philanthropy to a strategic investment for the organization. And this investment and its benefits need to be communicated to all the key stakeholders. .

These stakeholders include not only investors current employees and consumers, but also prospective new hires to your company..

Given the growing value placed on a company’s CSR practices by Millennials and the impending explosion of Millennials in the workplace, CSR  must become part of company’s recruitment strategy to attract top talent.

In a 2011 report by Forbes Insights, 60 percent of companies surveyed either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “Philanthropy and volunteerism are critical for recruiting younger qualified employees (i.e., Millennials/Gen Y).”

Since Millenials are the most socially-conscious consumers to date, according to the 2006 Cone study on the Millennial Generation – companies would be remiss to not emphasize their achievements when recruiting for the future workplace. These strategies will only become more important as we approach the 2020 workplace.

Readers, does your company have a Corporate Social Responsibility agenda? Do you know what it is and how it has impacted your company? What impact does your company’s CSR agenda  have on your day-to-day work experience? How do you want to become more involved in your company’s CSR efforts? Please comment below!

By Jeanne Meister, partner with Future Workplace, an HR Advisory and Research firm dedicated to providing insights on the future of learning and working.

This article appeared on

How Generation Z is redefining the role of the HR leader

The aspirations of a new wave of employees are impacting HR strategies and pushing organisations to clarify and redefine their purpose.

Companies are expected to demonstrate their values, which are ever more visible and subject to scrutiny, due to increasing digitalisation.

Leaders are instrumental in successfully attracting talent from Generation Z, those born in the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. Business leaders represent not only what their company does, but what it stands for. They will increasingly need to make their business attractive to these enterprising, resourceful ‘digital natives’ who are now entering their twenties.

With baby boomers, millennials and older members of Generation Z active in the workplace, the very nature of how a company operates is affected, and its management even more so.

Introducing Generation Z

Generation Z, the youngest of the set, are highly perceptive, due to their online access and culture, and can quickly see through corporate brands that are disingenuous. They want to see companies passionately uphold their principles and stand by what they advocate – not just ‘talk the talk’.

Leadership style, talent retention strategies and employee engagement are just some of the challenges companies will face as a result.

Esther Roman, PageGroup Regional Human Resources Director, observes, “Companies traditionally tend to approach work with a ‘there’s a job to be done’ mindset, whereas employees are increasingly driven by the mission and by being trusted to fully execute their job. Such employees tend to want to contribute, making them ideal entry-level professionals. Employers must therefore review their strategy, so they can find and connect with these potential employees.”

HR Practice Leader for Page Executive in Europe Raphael Asseo expands, “Generation Z put their work ethic, diversity and work-life balance at the centre on their interest and priorities when deciding whether or not to join a company.”

“Generation Z put their work ethic, diversity and work-life balance at the centre of their interest and priorities when deciding whether or not to join a company.”
– Raphael Asseo, HR Practice Leader, Page Executive, Europe

A new wave of resourceful employees

Generation Z are self-motivated and entrepreneurial in spirit. They have been confronted with uncertainties, more even than the millennials, the generation that preceded them. As a result, they seek a job that is meaningful: salary isn’t the bottom line. Furthermore, they have seen their parents’ and older siblings’ loyalty go unrewarded by employers, so for them loyalty has to be a two-way street.

They are digital natives who have grown up in the online world. They are progressive and have had access to more resources than ever. They tend to be great networkers, which significantly improves their chances of succeeding at whatever they put their mind to.

An example of a successful member of this generation is Nick D’Aloisio, born in 1995, a computer programmer and online entrepreneur who founded Summly, an automatic summarisation algorithm. He sold the app in 2013 for a reported $30 million US dollars, making him one of the youngest ever self-made millionaires. He later went on to lead Yahoo News Digest, before eventually deciding to return to university.

Nick D’Aloisio represents the entrepreneurial, go-getting spirit of Generation Z. Others are those who tend to prefer working in flatter corporate structures, and in companies where they can be agile and participate in the decision-making process.

“As our workforce becomes increasingly diverse, it is more important than ever for leaders to have a strong grasp of cultural awareness. In Asia, for example, authentic leadership styles displaying respect and humility can often more effectively build credibility than, say, being brash and overly authoritative.”
– Franck Johnson, director, Page Executive, South East Asia

More traditional companies now need to create common ground for working with such a generation. Flatter management structures and using an agile methodology are just some of the measures that will create the conditions for a more fruitful and mutually respectful working relationship and help in retaining talent.

Is what you stand for attractive to Generation Z?

Reflecting on purpose is important to Generation Z. Companies need to revise what they stand for, particularly as it is expected that the workforce will include at least 50% of Generation Z by 2020.

But how do employers do this effectively? For a start, they must go beyond the marketing blurb and corporate social responsibility (CSR) page that appear on their websites, as these will not whet the appetite of those wishing to be part of a greater cause.

CSR as a cynical act for tax-saving purposes will certainly not impress this generation. Does the company really stand by its chosen cause? Often businesses lose sight of this. Having invested great effort into sourcing a cause and aligning it to their business in the early stages, they allow the relationship to peter out over time.

Esther Roman explains, “Leaders need to ensure that in defining what they stand for, they don’t just ‘tick the boxes’. In an era where companies continually find themselves in the public spotlight, this will soon become all too apparent. This makes the visibility of the employer’s brand, in its broadest sense, increasingly important in the HR strategy, with the need to project value, culture and delivery – all of which need to be consistent and managed effectively.”

“Leaders need to ensure that in defining what they stand for, they don’t just ‘tick the boxes’. In an era where companies continually find themselves in the public spotlight, this will soon become all too apparent.”
– Esther Roman, PageGroup Regional Human Resources Director

Transparency and flexibility – a partnership in retention

As Generation Z pushes the boundaries of traditional work-models, HR departments will need to review their talent retention strategies. An extreme example is Buffer, a social media company founded in 2010 that publicly discloses its salaries.

In 2015, PayScale surveyed employees regarding job satisfaction and pay. It discovered that the more information employees have about why they earn what they do, the less likely they are to leave. They seek transparency on everything and this even includes management. Does your company have a development plan in place?

Additionally, flexible work models are something that many will not only be accustomed to but will also feel entitled to. At design software company Autodesk, based in the USA, employees can take advantage of a six-week sabbatical, and enjoy free meals and flexible working hours.

Offering flexible schedules and remote working capabilities gives employees a sense of control, particularly around the work-life balance. It also boosts engagement and can help resolve talent shortages.

Such models aren’t restricted to creative or start-up companies; large corporate enterprises are also taking note. They rightly recognise the need to review traditional, outdated policies in order to hire and retain this increasingly important element of their workforce.

Leading by example

CEOs need to be engaging and take every opportunity to communicate what they stand for.

Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO for Salesforce, is a good example of ‘going beyond business’. When his company was established, he initiated a 1-1-1 philanthropy model, donating 1% each of its products, equity and employees’ time to the community. Benioff is also vocal – and active – on social issues such as equal pay and human rights. His engaging and influential approach shows how an authentic leader can make a big difference.

As the prominent face of the company, CEOs and other leaders should show solidarity and a genuine intent to make a difference, or risk losing credibility. They must ‘walk the talk’, as ultimately employees will mirror managers and managers will mirror leaders.

Profitability is, of course, essential to running a sustainable business. But focusing solely on the numbers indicates a disconnect and a missed opportunity to identify and project what you stand for.

In conclusion

The real challenge for HR is retaining Generation Z, making it clear what the business is working towards and creating an attractive proposition for them. Leaders must consistently demonstrate why their employees have made the right decision in choosing to work for them.

Leaders must consistently demonstrate why their employees have made the right decision in choosing to work for them.

Increasing digitalisation means social media now plays a huge role in forming opinions. Employer review sites such as GlassDoor and Great Place To Work are often the first port of call for candidates wishing to vet a prospective employer, so leaders will need to look at the perceptions they are creating in the online world as well as on the shop-floor.

Key takeaways

  • HR leaders need to take into account employees’ expectations around meaningful work and flexible working
  • Leaders are highly influential in defining what their company stands for and communicating it in an authentic way

This article appeared on

4 ways to use Corporate Social Responsibility as an HR Tool

Given the choice of hunting for a job or giving up coffee for a year, I think sacrificing coffee would win by a small margin.

There are enjoyable pieces of job hunting, don’t get me wrong, but much of it is time-consuming and stressful. For that reason, good human resources (HR) personnel are lifesavers: people who know their job and do it oh so well. This post is for you, quality humans.

While corporate social responsibility (CSR) doesn’t always (or even often) fall to HR to direct, it can be a powerful tool when used well. Here are four ways to leverage and evaluate your company’s social responsibility programme as an HR tool.

1. Building Recruitment Pipeline

One way to shorten increasingly longer hiring processes is by building out a recruitment pipeline. Your CSR programme can be a way to deepen the pipeline of prospective candidates by attracting positive attention for your company. CSR platforms can also be a resource for data around employee engagement and satisfaction. Given the right tools, it can even empower your employees to share stories of impact themselves.

Checkpoint: Does your current CSR programme add to the tools you use to recruit great hires?

2. Navigating Changing Demographics

With millennials as the largest generation in the workforce and Gen Z following closely behind, employers continue to wrestle with how to best hire and retain them. There are a lot of floating opinions, but one consistent suggestion is to demonstrate authenticity and offer employees a chance to make a difference for good. A robust CSR programme, including giving and volunteering opportunities, is one way to attract and retain younger employees.

Checkpoint: Do your CSR efforts appeal to the types of candidates you are trying to recruit and retain? If not, what’s missing?

3. Setting Culture from the Top and Bottom

A CSR programme that lets individuals choose how they want to make an impact provides a simple way to get employee buy-in at all levels of your company. You see what your employees care about, your employees feel heard while seeing your top-level executives committed to doing good, and you can adjust your recruiting and engagement tactics accordingly.

Checkpoint: Does your CSR programme enable all employees to participate and feel empowered?

4. Unify Scattered Teams

With many companies adopting increasingly flexible work environments including remote employees, changing project teams, and variable hours, CSR can help your team feel unified. Choose a common focus on causes, nonprofits, and giving or volunteering goals. Celebrate one another’s achievements and humanize employees who may not be physically together while highlighting individual interests at the same time. A good CSR programme can achieve common purpose while also allowing choice as needed.

Checkpoint: Is your CSR programme a blend of common purpose and individual choice?

This is an exciting time for HR to take a leadership role in corporate social responsibility. Don’t waste any time: add to your tool belt for finding and keeping the best employees by maximizing your CSR programme today.

By Elizabeth Smith. This article appeared on flexible work environments

What is the HR Role in promoting Corporate Social Responsibility?

Your employees respect and identify with employers who give.

The world is a smaller place thanks to the Internet, global trading and new communication and technology advances. More U.S. companies are expanding overseas, and now manage a global workforce that has unique benefits, rules/laws, and different languages and currencies. With this global expansion comes a responsibility.

When companies are global, an important challenge in garnering success is to respect other cultures and workforce environments and start forming a global profile or social consciousness.

Recognise these differences with a sound Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan that can simultaneously increase shareholder value, boost employee engagement and increase employer brand recognition.

Human Resource Departments play a critical role in ensuring that the company adopts Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. Furthermore, HR can manage the CSR plan implementation and monitor its adoption proactively, while documenting (and celebrating) its success throughout the company.

Human Resources technology can help with a Corporate Social Responsibility programme, including reducing the company’s carbon footprint to benefit the planet. Start with these areas:

– Implement and encourage green practices.
– Foster a culture of social responsibility.
– Celebrate successes.
– Share and communicate the value of corporate social responsibility to employees and the community.

Implement and Encourage Green Practices for Corporate Social Responsibility

Implement green practices to assist in environmental waste reduction, while promoting and encouraging stewardship growth, better corporate ethics and long-lasting practices that promote both personal and corporate accountability.

The value inherent in embracing green aspects of corporate responsibility is clearly understood, given the direct impact that rising energy and utility costs have on employees’ pocketbooks. Conservation has become an accepted means of making our planet healthier.

Reducing each employee’s carbon footprint is a great way of getting energy conservation and recycling waste initiatives off the ground.

Here are suggestions to start:

  • Recycle paper, cans, and bottles in the office; recognise departmental efforts.
  • Collect food and donations for victims of floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters around the globe.
  • Encourage reduced energy consumption; subsidize transit passes, make it easy for employees to carpool, encourage staggered staffing to allow after rush hour transit, and permit telecommuting to the degree possible.
  • Encourage shutting off lights, computers and printers after work hours and on weekends for further energy reductions.
  • Work with IT to switch to laptops over desktop computers. (Laptops consume up to 90% less power.)
  • Increase the use of teleconferencing, rather than on-site meetings and trips.
  • Promote brown-bagging in the office to help employees reduce fat and calories to live healthier lives and reduce packaging waste, too.

Foster a Culture of Corporate Social Responsibility

Creating a culture of change and responsibility starts with HR. Getting the younger employees, who are already environmentally conscious, excited about fresh Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives is a great way to begin. A committed set of employees who infuse enthusiasm for such programmes would enable friendly competition and recognition programmes.

Over the past few years, major news organisations have reported on large, trusted companies that have failed employees, shareholders and the public (i.e. Enron, Lehman, WaMu). These failures created a culture of mistrust in the corporate world.

All too often, employees and employers at all levels, who competed for advancement and recognition in harsh workplaces, were forced to accept corporate misconduct and waste as “business as usual.”

Employer brands are being eroded and the once sacred trust that employees had with stable pensions, defined benefits, and lifelong jobs, are being replaced with pay for performance and adjustment to new learning goals. In this environment,

Corporate Social Responsibility can go a long way in rehabilitating the employer brand with potential new hires and society at large.

It can help defeat the image that corporate objectives are rooted in single-minded profit at the expense of society and the environment.

Social and community connections that are encouraged by employers give employees permission to involve their companies in meaningful ways with the community. Employers can connect with their employees and the community through:

– Company matches to employee charitable contributions;
– Community programmes and volunteer days;
– Corporate sponsorship of community events; and
– Encouraging employees to participate in walkathons, food banks, and so forth.

Celebrate Corporate Social Responsibility Successes

Celebrating success is important to sustain the momentum of any CSR programme. Involving company leaders, and praising the success of these initiatives, gives the programme real meaning.

In the rapidly expanding global workplace, the celebration of these successes not only drives the implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives but also allows sound corporate HR practices to enable them.

Additionally, the publicity about these successes creates a mutual understanding of the cultures within each region that the company serves. The local population knows that, in addition to providing jobs, the company takes an active interest in, and participates in local issues.

Three Key Areas of Corporate Social Responsibility

Focusing on three key areas of Corporate Social Responsibility can help create a cohesive map for the present and future:

1. Community Relations

Encouraging Community Relations through your HR team includes implementing reward programmes, charitable contributions and encouraging community involvement and practices.

Examples of these programmes include sending emails and company newsletters to staff members that highlight employees and managers involved in community relations or creating monthly reward programmes to recognise efforts by individuals within the company.

2. Training and Development

Training and Development programmes that explain the connection between the company’s core products or services and the society at large and their value to the local community. They must also identify ways in which employees can get involved in appropriate CSR projects would sustain and direct these initiatives.

3. A Cohesive Global Corporate Social Responsibility Platform

Global Corporate Social Responsibility policy, centrally managed, is important to acknowledge successes and measurements according to accepted standards. Central to measuring and communicating these results is the use of a Web-based Human Resources Information System (HRIS) that is available globally to employees and managers with any Web browser.

In order to encourage and maintain a clear and cohesive global workplace, it is critical for the entire global workforce of a company to be on a single, multi-functioning HR platform, which allows for distributing a sound corporate responsibility plan.

Having a global HR solution that offers companies flexibility, ease of use and the right mix of tools is essential to the success of both employees and employers alike, as they manage and maintain work-life balance and thrive in a changing environment that includes taking on social responsibility.

The success of your Corporate Social Responsibility plan is possible with an HRIS that provides the capability to effectively plan, control and manage your goals, achieve efficiency and quality, and improve employee and manager communications.

The flexibility of your HRIS system is critical to tracking and pursuing a sound Corporate Social Responsibility plan and a Web-based system provides an unparalleled level of both scalability and accessibility to implement your Corporate Social Responsibility plan at a global level.

This is an increasingly important endeavor, as companies, societies and people coexist productively and in harmony, across the planet we all inhabit.

By Shafiq Lokhandwala. This article appeared on:

Let’s get women into the boardroom

Women who learn to play three games have a better chance of making it to the top!

Women are not in boardrooms. They are in functional roles, building teams, motivating colleagues, ensuring that processes and procedures are followed. Females are the heartbeat of many organisations, yet they are totally under-represented at the boardroom table. Females get excellent performance evaluations, yet they are not considered promotable to the boardroom. They are equally qualified, yet they get less challenging projects and earn less.

It is sad to say that 30 years ago the reality of females was exactly the same as the reality of the female employees in 2015. Why did things not change? Or did they?

Organisations are more than structures aimed at producing products and services. Organisations are social systems consisting of individuals, teams, leaders and dominant coalitions. Organisations comprises ambiguous and complex rules determining influence and power of individuals, groups and coalitions. To maintain the balance in the system, these power structures must be maintained and successfully used to their benefit.

Organisational power is determined by a person’s ability to sanction behaviour, and have control over information, knowledge and skills that are of value to the organisation. This will determine a person’s position in the network of strategic relationships. Women do extremely well in all these elements of power, except in the last one and that has a boomerang effect on the ones that they are good at.

The question thus is: if they were so good, why are they (still) not sitting in the boardroom?

Second generation gender bias

The reason is encapsulated in the term “second generation gender bias” (Ibarra, Ely and Kolb, 2013). Companies do not intentionally discriminate against women but, in various subtle ways, various realities in organisations are putting women at a disadvantage. The new generation of business women are suffering from gender bias, but it is more subtle than the gender bias that was prevalent three decades ago. First generation gender bias was open and in your face. You could see it in the rules of appointment and in organisation structures. Second generation gender bias is subtle, hidden behind principles of equal opportunities for women, making it significantly more difficult to fight. Where men were mainly responsible for first generation gender bias, women themselves are key role players in the second version that is keeping them and their sisters out of the boardroom. Unfortunately they are more often than not, blissfully unaware of that.

Says Ibarra et al, “Second-generation bias does not require an intent to exclude; nor does it necessarily produce direct, immediate harm to any individual. Rather, it creates a context – akin to “something in the water” – in which women fail to thrive or reach their full potential.

The purpose of this article is to alert women, aspiring to be a leader in a community, in a volunteer group, in an organisation or even to sit at the boardroom table of a company, to the path that will take them there.

Know the game rules

Betty Lehan Harrigan (1989) said that women did not succeed in the corporate world because mothers did not teach their daughters certain games and especially not the game’s rules. According to her, there are three sets of game rules that women in the corporate world should know – football rules, military rules and chess rules. If a woman knows football rules, she will understand what to do to score points and how the roles of the team facilitate scoring points. If she knows military rules, she will understand the importance of “pips” and what to wear when and knowing who she must salute and who must salute her. The last set of rules deals with chess and these rules will help her to understand the power different pieces on the board and how to plan a move for her to win.

What all this boils down to is that women were not taught to understand power and politics in organisations. Furthermore most women intuitively steer away form organisation politics. Unfortunately that is what leads to power.

Be noticed

People become leaders by internalising a leadership identity and developing a sense of purpose. (Iberra, Ely, Kolb, 2013). Thus, to be regarded as a leader, as somebody with leadership potential, a person must behave like a leader. However, is a person a leader if nobody notices, like the tree that fell in the forest? Was there a sound if nobody heard it? Behaving like a leader will impact on the person’s own self-concept as a leader and build her image as a person fit to fill a leader role. However, if a person does not get any affirmations for this role, it will eventually wither and so will the person’s perception of being a potential leader.

What is needed is that people of influence should become aware of these actions and start talking about the way a person handled a situation – like a real leader. This will give the person confidence to step up and speak up about her ideas and express them forthrightly. Consequently she will be seen and experienced as somebody who “stepped up to the leadership challenge” – all because somebody took notice of something she did and affirmed her actions. Being in a leadership role is one thing, being regarded as a leader by powerful people in the organisation is what will eventually make you a leader.

We do it to ourselves

This brings us to the reality that women relate differently to other women than men do. Men have networks based on long-term friendships, family ties, on being part of a sport team. Women do not have the same strong networks.

This put aspiring women in a difficult position. To be noticed by a network is much easier than by an individual. Unfortunately the female network is not that strong and we do things differently. There are so few female leaders in organisations to spot young women with leadership potential, not to talk about the non-existence of female networks. To make it even more difficult for women with leadership potential to be noticed, is that influential females respond differently to females than the opposite sex. It was found that an influential woman does not assist females to develop in their leadership roles to the same extent as men would. Men in positions of power tend to have a direct influence on the opportunities opened for junior men, whereas the same was not found in the case of influential women and younger women with potential.

Your appearance still defines you

Whether females like it or not, they are still judged on their appearance. Nobody will argue the importance of appearance but, in the case of women, it is more important – in many cases not for herself but for the “audience”. In a recent interview with members of Hillary Clinton’s press corps, a veteran reporter noted, “The story is never what she says, as much as we want it to be. The story is always how she looked when she said it.” Ibarra, Ely and Kolb, HBR, September 2013.

Women aspiring to leadership positions must understand the art of dressing for the occasion – not being overly concerned about it, as that in itself can be self-destructive. Women who focus too much on their appearance were also perceived to be less clear about their goals.

In conclusion

Getting to a leadership role or the boardroom is not easy for any person. The reality is that the road of females is more difficult. We can make it easier by knowing the rules and thus not investing energy on moves that will take us nowhere. Females already in positions of leadership have an added responsibility to take care of females with leadership potential, to identify them and open doors for them. Organisational leaders should be aware of the deadly effects of second generation gender bias. They should ask questions and look at differences between the reality of male and female employees. If they spot a difference, a flag should go up!

Dr Amanda Hamilton-Attwell is the CEO of Business DNA,


Grant, L. Mail and Gaurdian, April 24 2015, page 7. Men get lion’s share of income
Harvard Business Review staff. September 2-13. Women in the Workplace: A Research Roundup
Ibarra, H; Ely, J and Kolb, D. Harvard Business Review, September 2013. Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers

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

Sub-Saharan leaders under the microscope

Gurnek Bains tells Alan Hosking about the strengths and weaknesses of Sub-Saharan African leaders on the world stage.

Why is Sub-Saharan Africa increasingly important for many global multinationals?

Robust economic growth on the continent and the emerging needs of African consumers create new opportunities in a global economic environment that are proving increasingly challenging. In addition, local companies are also on the rise on the global stage. Long dependent on global companies for any large-scale economic activity across national borders, Africa is now producing its own successful multinationals in fields as diverse as telecommunications, brewing and food manufacturing. This is leading to many more people from the continent being employed by either multinationals or large-scale local firms.

What strengths do African leaders display in large corporations?

It is important to understand how to leverage these distinctive strengths and to appreciate the development issues that would help to accelerate the progress and impact of African executives in larger company settings.

I, with colleagues, analysed approximately 200 reports each from each of the world’s key societies – the USA, Europe, India, China, the Middle East, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. This research demonstrated both a number of similarities that executives show across the globe and some interesting differences. These are:

– Intellectual flexibility. African leaders achieve the highest scores in the world around intellectual flexibility and creativity, with approximately 42% having a strength in this area compared to a global average of 25%. This strength possibly arises from the fluidity and creativity that people need to show given the sheer unpredictability of the environment that is the context for many in Africa. This intellectual fluidity is potentially a tremendous source of strength, particularly, as the global economic environment becomes increasingly volatile and unpredictable.

– African leaders scored high on achievement drive, with 43%. Other cultures were also high but this was the strongest area for African leaders. This might reflect the compensatory drive of leaders seeking to prove themselves for the first time on a new stage. In our experience, it leads to a great desire for improvement and learning, which needs to be capitalised upon with African leaders.

– Over 40% of African leaders had a strength around “developing their teams”, compared to a global average of 25%. African leaders are very interested in the development of their people, particularly, in their immediate teams. It reflects the strong sense of in-group identification that is present in many societies on the continent and the sense that one exists in a highly interdependent and embedded way within one’s immediate circles.

– African leaders were relatively strong with respect to “positivity and emotional resilience”, although not quite as strong as leaders from the USA or Latin America. Positivity, joy and sense of fun is a feature of many corporate cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the culture more broadly – but certain conditions are needed to release these attributes.

– African leaders were relatively strong in terms of “breadth of experience” and this may be due to the fact that seniority for African leaders is dependent on age and experience. However, African leaders were less strong with respect to “breadth of knowledge” – perhaps because of limited opportunities with respect to business education or training.

What would you say are development areas for African leaders?

Analytical/commercial/strategic thinking. While intellectual flexibility is a strength, African leaders are significantly weaker than many other global leaders with respect to applying a structured and analytical approach to the exploration of commercial options or the development of longer term strategy. This finding may reflect a relative lack of training or exposure to such modes of intellectual enquiry.

Navigating the environment of large corporations. Surprisingly, African leaders were relatively weak in a whole range of areas to do with interpersonal relations, influencing and networking across large corporate settings. While African leaders are strong with their immediate teams, they generally struggle to manage interpersonal and relationship dynamics more broadly. This could be down to being comfortable in engaging in one’s immediate community, yet being wary when moving outside of such boundaries. Other features of African corporate life, such as the strong preference that African leaders show for employing members of their immediate community may also be influenced by this fact.

Visionary and emotionally compelling leadership that wins hearts and minds. African leaders came across as having a relatively consensual style within their teams yet can be much more directive outside of such settings. Nearly 60% have a development need with respect to operating in a more visionary manner and driving action through winning hearts and minds. This finding may reflect a preference for using power for achieving outcomes as opposed to investing in building commitment.

Action orientation. African leaders were relatively weak with respect to moving quickly into action and this may stem from a desire to achieve consensus in teams along with a relatively cautious approach to driving decisions that have been made. Lack of action and follow through can be experienced as frustrating by, in particular, Western leaders when they interact with or seek to influence their African operations.

Organisation/structure. African leaders were not strong in putting in place clear structures and organising the achievement of goals in a timely manner. This could be reflective of an “in the moment” and flexible approach to the pursuit of goals, or show that for many their dominant experiences may have been in relatively small-scale settings, where a more flexible approach is more appropriate and effective.

Some final thoughts?

Overall, African leaders displayed some significant strengths, which global multinationals could usefully access and build upon rather than just imposing their own models. It is important that while areas of development need to be addressed, they be done in a way that builds on strengths or in a manner that does not create ways of operating that are alien or inappropriate in the local environment.

Gurnek Bains is co-founder and Chairman of London-based YSC and author of his latest book, Cultural DNA: The Psychology of Globalization published by Wiley. YSC has 20 global offices including one in South Africa and also operates extensively in many parts of Africa.

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

Learn new leadership lessons

Consider using new sources to develop relevant and worthwhile leadership skills.

It can be interesting to pick up a book that describes management challenges some organisation faced in days gone by and compare that with what we face now.

We inevitably run into things that have changed dramatically, but a surprising number of management problems remain the same.

I recently read Susan Armstrong-Reid’s biography Lyle Creelman: The Frontiers of Global Nursing (Lyle is a distant relative of mine). Creelman was Chief Nursing Officer at the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1954 to 1968. In many ways this may feel far removed from the context of most of my readers; the stories are 50 years old, and from a public sector organisation with operations scattered around the world in days when long-distance phone calls were expensive and unreliable. For me, the differences in context make the similarity in issues all the more striking.

Here are five issues faced by Ms Creelman and WHO that are relevant today:

Be ready to resist showcase projects. There is a great temptation to put on something that looks really good to distant stakeholders. For WHO, this might be pressure to invest in a showcase hospital in a poor country. It might have looked good in a press release but often this kind of hospital was unsustainable and did not meet less glamorous but more important needs. It is easy to see why top leadership would want something dramatic to show stakeholders; however as practising managers we need to resist this. I can’t help but think Target’s disastrous failure to launch in Canada was in part driven by the desire to do something splashy, rather than make a less glamorous but safer entry to the market. Target invested $7 billion in a launch that ended up less than two years later with Target Canada in bankruptcy.

Be ready to battle intruding agendas. We are familiar with the idea of competing agendas, for example marketing and HR fighting to get budget or senior management attention. However, WHO faced even more serious challenges. For example, in the days of the Cold War, many political interests in the US were more worried about communism than global illness and attempted to have the WHO‘s practices driven by a political rather than health care agenda. Today not much has changed: most senior managers will find themselves immersed in a world of politics and intruding agendas. Battling those agendas is a core part of senior jobs.

Understand the local conditions. We think of global organisations as being new, but even in the early 1950s WHO was global and that meant it had to understand conditions on the ground before issuing orders from HQ. For example, Creelman ran into problems because in some countries female nurses would not be able to deal with male patients. It would be hard to understand the nature of the issue, and how to manage around it from a comfy office in Geneva. You have to get out in the field to find solutions. Today managers in a global firm need to spend time in the field, hopefully including some years actually based in a foreign country so they appreciate the subtle (and not so subtle) differences that exist from place to place.

Do leadership instead of being a leader. Does it sound glamorous to be a senior leader at a UN agency based in Switzerland? In fact, Ms Creelman’s day to day work was frustrating, difficult and sometimes dangerous. Steven Sample in his great book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership says there are a lot of people who want to be leaders, not so many who want to do the hard work of leadership. Creelman was driven by the desire to improve global health, not the desire to have a fancy title. We should promote people who are devoted to the mission and do the work of leadership because they really care about achieving the goal. When I see ads for MBA programmes saying, “Take our MBA and be a Leader!” I think they are attracting exactly the wrong kind of person. I’d love to see an ad that says, “Take our MBA so you can apply your skills to achieving difficult but valuable goals.” I’d hire people who chose that latter school!

Keep in touch with the human side. WHO nurses around the world, often working in difficult circumstances, greatly appreciated letters from Creelman showing that she cared about them as individuals. Often she could not do much to improve the situation, but she could always show she cared. In our mission to handle big things we shouldn’t overlook how big the small things are.

There are lessons for us everywhere we look. I suggest that all business leaders take a break from reading the usual management books and see what there is to be learned from unexpected sources.

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

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

Critical success factors for Human Resource audits

Consider these points when preparing to do a Human Resource audit.

Auditing is not a fad and can be traced back for centuries. The term “audit” comes from the Latin word “audire” (to listen), hence an auditor’s role is to listen to the records.

The modern form of auditing can be clearly evidenced as early as 1827 at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the United States (Flesher et al 2003). The foundations for auditing rely on both their independence and in effective evaluation techniques.

Auditors work within national standards, something that has been a more recent development in Human Resources (HR). The idea of auditing HR is not new, but detailed case studies are still not common. HR auditing is located both within and between each of these two fields. Be wary of writers who don’t locate the topic within the professional practice of auditing.

So what is an HR Audit? It is an audit undertaken of human resource activities, or within an aspect of human resource activity. Inherently placed within this definition is the auditing paradigm: the need for independence, standards against which the evaluation will be made, using evidence-based evaluation techniques and professional competence in auditing. A human resource audit is not an alternative form of management assurance – it is not the function of an auditor to take over the role of management.

There are different types of audit and often a human resource audit can be a specific type (compliance, risk, financial management, current and future performance, agreed-upon activities, and so forth) or a hybrid that incorporates elements of some or all of these elements.

But why do we use auditing as the evaluation technique when you can undertake a Management Review instead? According to McBrayne (1990), auditors will have time allocated to do the task (when HR practitioners often do not), auditors are independent, and they use developed and tested audit techniques. It’s the independence that gives the greatest hope, since it has proven hard to promote HR from within the function. In the lead up to an audit we can conduct a self-assessment, or self-review (never called self-audit, that’s an oxymoron). Senior management might also more readily provide funding for the actions to be taken in response to the audit when it comes in the form of an audit report presented to the Audit Committee.

In my own performance audit case study (undertaken as part of my doctoral requirements), I teamed with the Audit Director to undertake an audit that was formally part of the annual auditing plan. The organisation’s HR Department was well regarded and award winning, a fact acknowledged within their industry. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from an HR performance audit – the Director describing it as a deeper and more intensive experience than other forms of evaluation.

Critical success factors

So if we do decide to conduct a human resource audit, what might be the critical success factors (CSFs)? CSFs are usually a limited number of variables that have a direct and significant effect on the success of the audit. Let’s assume we understand the role of auditing and the auditing paradigm and move forward from there. The model suggested below broadly aligns with the work of Professor Stephen Teo (1997).


Senior staff commitment to using audit as the evaluation technique is a key factor. If they can’t really see the benefits from an independent examination, then question why you are going down that track.

Clear purpose, careful planning

The success of the audit will depend on the clarity around what is the purpose and intended outcome of the audit, certainty about what is being audited (and what’s not) and the audit team sticking to that agenda. Planning has been described as the secret weapon of the auditor. Once the audit is agreed between the auditor and stakeholder, detailed fieldwork is planned to ensure sufficient evidence is collected to enable findings to be made. Be very wary of scope creep in auditing, just as you are with other projects. Incorporate a risk assessment into the audit planning. For example, include a strategic and high risk activity in the scope of the audit, not a low risk operational activity that is operating efficiently.

Dynamic duo

Dolenko (1990) suggested you do not have to be a human resources specialist in order to conduct an audit of this type, but she found it was necessary to understand the importance of each HR function, the essential activities that comprise the function, and lastly the audit criteria that are used as a standard against which to measure performance. Based on my own performance auditing experience, a senior and experienced auditor combined with an independent HR Specialist who understands auditing is a well-rounded and professional combination. This combination was also suggested in the literature by Teo (1997). Be sure that your HR specialist can evidence competence in auditing, as required by the relevant national auditing standards.

HR standards

If detailed HR standards do not exist at the industry or organisation level, these need to be developed and agreed to between the auditor and the stakeholder before the fieldwork commences. Don’t start the game until you know where the goal posts are. When developing standards, have regard to the size of the organisation and its maturity – these two factors will potentially affect ‘what we would expect to see’. It is better to have national or industry standards developed and used as the base for the HR Audit, but remain open to amendments that might be required at the organisational level.

Evidence-based evaluation

Auditors are the evaluation experts. What they are looking to collect is sufficient evidence to support the audit findings. This might involve detailed examinations of documents (contracts, policies, procedures, and so forth) interviews, surveys, inspections, client satisfaction interviews, benchmarking reports, senior management feedback, line management feedback among others. Those who are familiar with evidenced-based HR evaluations will know what to look for.

Superior reporting and follow up

Auditors do preliminary draft reports, and then draft reports very well. This enables everyone to know there are no surprises when the final report is released. It allows the stakeholder an opportunity to make valid comments that explain the context of particular findings. It also allows the draft recommendations to be tested with the stakeholder for durability. The final report has stakeholder comments and suggested action-in-response. One advantage of audit is that the actions-in-response, when approved by an Audit Committee, have a greater chance of being funded. Auditors build into their audit cycle a follow up activity that checks to ensure there is action-in-response to audit recommendations. These follow-up reports also go to the Audit Committee of the organisation.


The critical success factors for HR auditing follow a pattern that is not specific to human resources, but is also not well understood by many human resource practitioners. Commitment to auditing as the evaluation mechanism, audit planning, team selection, HR standard negotiation, evidence-based fieldwork, well rounded reports and audit follow up are my critical success factors for HR auditing.

Dr Chris Andrews is an HR Director with a doctorate in the area of human resource management performance auditing. In the course of his research he identified the need for HR standards and later pursued that topic in relation to the Australian university sector, where he works for Bond University, Australia,


Dolenko, M. 1990, Auditing Human Resources Management, The Institute of Internal Auditors Research Foundation.
McBrayne, I. 1990, ‘Audit in the human resources field’, Public Administration Vol. 68, No. 3, pp 369 – 375.
Teo, S.T.T. Auditing Strategic HRM – human resource management – internal audit and HRM collaboration, Accountability and Performance, Vol. 3, No. 2, Aug 1997: 41-63.
Flesher, D., Samson, W., & Previts, G., 2003, The origins of value-for-money auditing: the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad: 1827-1830, Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 18 No. 5, pp. 374-386.

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

Many happy returns

Retain your top women through maternity transition.

Research is clear that the most challenging point in a woman’s career, and the most significant barrier to career progression, is the maternity transition.

Whilst there are many factors that influence the positive re-engagement of women returning from maternity leave, the line manager is critical in their retention: from the moment a woman discloses she is pregnant till the end of her role as primary carer.*

Maternity leave generally happens at a mid-career high point, and for most women, it is the catalyst for change, personally and professionally. Sadly, it can and often does result in an unnecessary exit or career change at huge cost to company and not always in the best interests of the woman herself or her family. If we are to make any real strides in getting more high performing women into leadership and executive positions, much attention needs to be paid to this critical phase in a woman’s career development.

We are seeing many organisations and professional firms re-shaping the employee value proposition, and implementing policies, procedures and programmes to attract, retain and ‘promote’ female employees. Although these initiatives are positive, it’s important that companies do more than pay lip service to them. It’s time to examine the culture and behavioural issues that either support or undermine top women staying in the game.

Tips for line managers to support maternity returners

Women returning from maternity leave are expected to get back into gear as quickly as possible, and confront the challenges of their new delicate balancing act. Similarly, the line manager, as the key interface between the individual and the organisation, has a responsibility to support this process. The manager’s behaviour and relationship with the returning woman features prominently in research as a key contributor to her long term commitment.

Appreciate context

While on maternity leave, women start to acknowledge the significant life change they are experiencing. Things start to look different – there’s a change in perspective, self-perception and a shift in priorities. In coaching sessions with senior women at this stage, even the highest achievers express anxieties about their return. Issues raised relate to child care, working patterns, coping ability, changes at work. This is compounded by a perceived loss of business confidence and competence.

Upon return to work, a common theme in coaching conversations is guilt. When women are at work, they feel guilty about leaving their baby at home, and when they are at home, they feel guilty about work. They are grappling with a ‘new normal’ – the integration of two demanding fulltime roles, sleep deprivation and complete selflessness.

Understand your balancing act as line manager

Maternity returners are hyper vigilant. They are observing and listening to how they are being perceived and treated, and whether the organisation is living up to its female-friendly pronouncements.

A big mistake colleagues can make is to assume that returning women only want to be back home with their babies. They draw the conclusion that they are uncommitted and not up for the challenge. This thinking could translate into ‘benevolent bias’ where they are excluded from events and projects or overlooked for promotion – which results in their feeling marginalised and under-valued.

The reality is that many women realise while on maternity leave, how important their careers are to them. We often see increased work engagement as a result of making the decision to be apart from their child. This is borne out by research. Since they see themselves as ‘investing’ in their careers, maternity returners want their managers to really appreciate that and not see them in an entirely different light.

Women regularly comment that they appreciate it when colleagues acknowledge their changed circumstances, but, being by nature hard on themselves in terms of delivery and deadlines, they do not expect or want to be molly-coddled.

Conversely, it’s a mistake to ignore the invisible bump and to act as if nothing has happened! Piling on work may be your way of showing her how much you value her ability, but consider that this may be perceived as insensitive.

So, for the manager, it can be a bit like being between a rock and hard place!

Always consult, always ask, never assume

The rule of thumb is to encourage dialogue, communicate appropriately and keep the communication channels open. I recommend a review session with her shortly after her return to evaluate workload, agree reasonable timeframes and discuss mutual expectations about travel and afterhours events.

Acknowledge the added value she brings post maternity leave

It is critical to remember that this highly skilled and committed professional woman, who left for four plus months to have a baby, is returning a better and potentially even more valuable employee than before.

Never underestimate the personal growth women experience on becoming a parent, which can be applied to deliver positive results in the workplace: a fresh perspective of people and relationships, enhanced ability to delegate, focus and prioritise. Maternity returners place high value on their time, and as such are often more productive and effective than their counterparts without children who don’t need to leave the office by a certain time due to childcare responsibilities.

To conclude

Line managers, in collaboration with their maternity returners, have a huge opportunity and obligation to facilitate their re-engagement, to help the organisation realise operational and cost benefits, and the long term dividend of keeping their top talent through to board and partner level.

Melany Green is the Chief Expectations Officer of Great Expectations Maternity Coaching,


* Bussell, J. (2008) Great Expectations: Can Maternity Coaching affect the Retention of Professional Women?

International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, Special Issue No. 2, Autumn 2008.

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

Gainsharing versus share participation

It would be advisable to take a fresh look at the gainsharing option to enhance productivity.

We review the arguments and the debate affecting how organisations decide to achieve ’employee involvement’ in SA – learning some lessons from recent success stories both in SA and abroad.

In overview

Hardly anyone will disagree with the argument that employers need to secure a greater measure of involvement by their employees in what they and their co-workers are doing and trying to achieve. Sporting analogies are often used here to explain that teams achieve far more than individuals in this kind of situation.

Economic sharing (in short, profit-sharing in some form) is acknowledged to be the solution – found in the earliest of times in all societies worldwide. It brings people together, and it builds teamwork.

The Japanese were arguably the first (in the 1970s) to use broadly-based bottom-line profit-sharing in their manufacturing enterprises to achieve this collective spirit, and to use that to boost productivity. It was with hindsight extremely effective in establishing self-managed teams on the production line.

Several team-based solutions were developed in the US in the 1980s to compete – ‘green areas’, ‘world-class manufacturing’, and others.

The point we are raising now is: what are the solutions for SA-based mining and manufacturing enterprises or, for that matter, for service-providing organisations? International competition is more and more intense, and organisations can no longer shelter behind the barrier of apartheid isolation. What can we learn from recent successes that fit with our own culture and style of doing business? Importantly, how are we going to compete with the Chinese and other Eastern manufacturers in the future?

The solutions that can be considered remain either:

– a broadly-based share scheme (called an ESOP, standing for an Employee Share Option Plan), or

– gainsharing (a form of profit-sharing which involves the sharing of profits in excess of a defined base level of profitability).

Let us revisit the debate as to which of these is likely to provide the optimum solution here.


There have been spectacular successes in the mining sector in SA in recent years (Exxaro, Kumba, Amplats and others) in terms of the scale of the pay-outs. But, have these really achieved ‘total employee involvement’ on the production line of the type defined by Japanese and US manufacturers? Our view is that they have not. They have been successful in achieving a redistribution of wealth – nothing more. The danger is that one successful round leads to demands for another – without any induced effort to affect productivity.

Example gainsharing scheme


Gainsharing, as defined above, at the level of the group (where more than one business unit is operating under the umbrella of a holding company) can surely be criticised on exactly the same basis as above – a lack of team-based focus on controllable performance criteria.

However, if gainsharing is introduced at the business unit level, you are on the right track! Because the results of the team (each department) can be posted on the staff notice board on a monthly basis; for example, hypothetically as in the example.

It will surely become a talking point, which is what you want!

Gainsharing of this kind has however never really caught on in SA to a meaningful extent. We have come across some success stories, but usually applying to small production or service units; this, despite the fact that Cosatu put out a paper in 2000 indicating that unions should be open to accept such proposals.

Against this, a survey in the US in about 2000 found that no less than 40% were using gainsharing and a further 40% ESOPS to reinforce the drive towards increased productivity.

Lesson in this for us?

The urgent need for productivity enhancement warrants we would suggest a fresh look at the gainsharing option in SA today to reward programmes of ‘continuous improvement’ (which are common in our economy currently). The staff costs to value added ratio can and should be brought on to the balanced scorecard of every team as its primary performance criterion.

Deon Thomson is the head of the financial research division of reward and consulting firm P-E Corporate Services SA, He is the editor of the HR Professional Library.

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

Employment equity in Human Resources

Address job descriptions and skills development to help achieve equity.

According to the Code of Good Practice on EE in human resources, a job description should outline clearly the requirement of the job.

This is what an employee must know in order to be able to perform the functions and duties of the position to which he/she is appointed. The code goes on to say these should not be overstated in order to present discriminatory barriers to the designated groups as defined in the Act.

So when job descriptions are developed or revised as required by the EE Act it is essential that employers are seen to be acting fairly. In the light of recent changes to legislation, I believe employers need to really give careful consideration to all aspects of the job description as well as to the education and qualification required to do the job so as to remove any barriers to employment equity. First and foremost, I believe the educational requirements need to be clearly outlined to allow for historically disadvantaged individuals who might not have had the benefit of an education but have now gained many years of experience in the workplace resulting in many acquired competencies.

Bearing this in mind, I would suggest that job descriptions be revised to take into consideration three elements relating to educational requirements. One or more of these may be a requirement:

– Required standard of education for the job;

– NQF qualification or part qualification in terms of relevance to the position or job at the required level on the NQF; and

– Possess a set of required competencies in order to be able to perform the function of the job.

This will ensure the job description refers only to the essential or inherent job requirements as required in terms of the Act and the Code of Good Practice. The code in addition sets out the following:

– Each task or duty is clearly stated and seen to be essential to be able to do the job;

– Competencies include only criteria essential to perform the duties of the job. These should be clear and unambiguous; and

– Requirements that are not essential to the job should be left out.

The secret to success in using this approach will depend on the company and its managers to develop a work environment that is conducive to developing employees and where a culture of learning has been developed. This will necessitate ongoing mentoring, coaching and training as might be required by each member of staff. This approach will in and of itself assist in the retention of employees from designated groups. Ongoing performance management will ensure the identification of further training needs which in turn will assist the employee to effectively perform in the current position or develop into a more challenging position and also assist in the retention of staff.

Skills development

One of the objectives a company should have is the development of a pool from designated groups from which the employer could choose when and if vacancies arose. This would assist in the achievement of EE objectives. This can be achieved if managers go back to hands-on managing instead of managing from their offices or from behind their desks. There is a need to:

– identify training needs;

– provide effective mentoring and coaching;

– provide structured and meaningful on the job training; and

– identify employees with potential and provide accelerated development programmes.

When meaningful job roles are clearly defined and managers are involved in ongoing performance management these objectives can be met. Conducting meaningful performance appraisals where the discussion in relation to skills development is taken seriously and the individual development needs of employees is recorded and then acted on is essential if we are to meet the needs of employees and employer.

All managers must be made aware of the training and development priorities of the company and should be encouraged to assist the company and employees in achieving these goals.

Should employers decide to make use of a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) approach to promote EE and validate employee skills and knowledge then there should be a specific RPL policy in place.

Des Squire is the Managing Member of AMSI and Associates,

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

New frontiers in talent management

Use these four ideas to jump start your talent S-curve.

Talent is the lifeblood of successful businesses, and talent management professionals play a vital role in meeting current and long-term business needs. However, the environment in which talent managers work is undergoing a radical transformation, and a raft of factors – including technological advances, shifts in consumer preferences, generational differences, geopolitical changes, and certain critical skills-shortages – has made their task increasingly complicated.

Not only must they now optimise talent across a global pool, but they also need to actively manage their company’s internal talent pipeline, leverage a portfolio of experiences to prepare high-potential employees for critical roles, and move away from knee-jerk intuitive “hunches” to long-term, holistic decision-making. That’s no mean feat.

All large businesses will be familiar with the concept of the S-curve, a way of capturing the life-cycle of any new initiative or project. As Exhibit 1 shows, in the early days, much time is spent introducing the new concept, ironing out any wrinkles, and bringing people up to speed with it. There is usually little improvement in performance at this stage but, following a steep learning curve, positive changes come thick and fast before eventually tapering off and plateauing.

Kickstart the talent S-curve

To move to the next S-curve and the next level of outstanding performance at the right time, talent managers need to join the vanguard of change, to challenge the status quo by asking tough, “Why can’t we…?” questions and, most crucially, to update their approach to the whole gamut of talent planning, from recruitment to retention, promotion and development.

Kickstart the talent S curve

There are four key shifts needed to jump-start the talent S-curve:

1. Understand the needs and dynamics of critical talent pools

Intuition has its place in business – but not when it comes to managing human capital on a global basis. Understanding the shape of a given country’s existing working population and being aware of ongoing and potential challenges can help businesses better plan their talent strategy and ensure that it ties in to broader commercial objectives.

The Human Capital Index (HCI) helps organisations do precisely that, and tracks the development and deployment of human capital internationally. Based on data gathered on four key research “pillars” – education, health and wellness, workforce and employment, and enabling environment – the HCI ranks 122 countries and regions and compares how they rate across 50 metrics that quantify how well human capital is developed, nurtured and deployed as a productive asset. The report is a valuable indicator of existing human capital risks, such as extensive youth unemployment and the crisis levels of jobs/skills mismatch, but it is also a predictor of issues that may escalate should no action be taken to address them, such as ageing workforces and obesity.

Additional indicators – for example, GDP per capita and the gender split across the workforce – combine to give a 360-degree view of a country’s critical talent pools. In analysing these data, talent managers will be better placed to influence their organisation’s growth and diversity strategies, determine talent-sourcing strategies, and target investments, all of which will ultimately have a beneficial effect on the bottom line.

2. Quantify what is happening inside the talent pipeline: the dynamics of the internal labour market

Analysing the flow of labour within an organisation can offer unique insights into how talent is moving internally – or not.

The Internal Labor Market (ILM) Analysis® helps explain movement within workforces by creating “maps” that summarise important rates and flows of employees by career level in, through and out of the organisation.

The Internal Labor Market ILM Analysis

In the example (Exhibit 2), the shape of the ILM is defined by the horizontal bars that represent the total number of employees at each level. Arrows depict the flow of talent: red arrows show the three-year average of turnover, blue arrows indicate the three-year average number of hires at each level, and green arrows designate promotions.

By interpreting ILMs, talent leaders can get a better fix on issues such as:

Shape: does the organisation, business unit, or function look as expected? What should the ideal shape be, given its business objectives?

Flow: are there certain points in the level structure where there is an over-reliance on external hiring, or choke points where promotion opportunities are limited and thus are causing unwanted turnover?

Attrition: which levels see the highest churn rates?

As valuable as this insight is, it really only starts to earn its keep once it is translated into action – identifying blockages in the pipeline is one thing, but unclogging them quite another. Ideally, talent managers need to adopt strategies that eliminate barriers and facilitate seamless upward flow. Very broadly, making great critical hiring decisions and removing the “blockers” that impede high-potentials’ progress should result in the upward progression that also leads to the desired level of churn. Depending on the overall shape shown on the ILM, some organisations will also need to create “stepping stone” roles that allow high-performing junior employees opportunities to develop professionally.

3. Shape a portfolio of experiences for critical roles

Identifying critical roles is essential for a business’s ongoing success. It is all too easy to describe every role as critical or to assume that the only critical roles are those that report directly to the CEO, but in fact there are four key categories of critical role: strategic, specialist, non-core and core. Once these roles are identified, talent managers can turn their attention to defining the future-focused competencies and portfolio of experiences that can shape the development of employees in these roles, such as:

– creating a customised mix of stretch rotations geared to the destination role; and

– encouraging lateral career trajectories through different functions or roles (for example, broad technical expert, intra-functional expert, or cross-functional expert).

A typical critical role for a multinational organisation is the general manager, the individual responsible for managing the P and L of an operation in a given country and who therefore has a significant impact on overall business results. So, when mapping the paths to such a critical destination role, it is important to describe the competencies using the widest lens of a “whole leader” – one such segmentation is known as “head, heart and guts” – and then to identify learning and development opportunities for each competency. “Head” includes more cerebral skills, such as business and financial acumen; “heart” encompasses interpersonal or relational skills; and “guts” includes more transformational skills, such as the ability to operate in a global environment and manage disruptive change. (“New age” technical skills, such as social intelligence, cognitive load management and design thinking will also be helpful.)

It is usually the high-potentials within an organisation that will be considered for the general manager role in due course, and they will benefit from assignments that take them out of their comfort zone, such as managing a turnaround situation, leading large teams, or undertaking global assignments, and which help them gain the hands-on experience they need. It is essential, though, that these developmental journeys are tailored to the individual, so that the candidates are able to improve in areas in which they are relatively weak – a one-size-fits-all approach is not the way forward here.

4. Approach talent management decisions with a long-term, strategic focus

The best leaders know how to make strategic, data- and logic-based decisions in order to develop and manage assets such as capital or brands, but they often fail to be as rigorous with the decisions they make about talent. And that is both a shame and a missed opportunity: strategic talent management is actually composed of a series of decisions, from who gets promoted (and when), to who should take on a mission-critical assignment, or who should get rewarded and for what.

We have found that when compared to classic decision-making criteria, talent management is lacking on all fronts. For example, in an ideal situation there should be clear criteria agreed upon in advance, a basis for the decision (that is, facts and logic), scope (a full system perspective), alternatives (an exhaustive set of options developed), and closure (all key stakeholders are consulted and on board). When working with clients, however, we often see that a more intuitive, hunch-based approach is common, and that the choices made are situational, limited in scope, and poorly communicated.


For most organisations, the conclusions to be drawn from the issues discussed above are clear. By addressing key talent questions and applying the right solutions, companies can succeed in attracting top talent to pivotal roles. In questioning existing policies and processes, and being bold enough to embrace change, the vanguard in talent management is already jumping S-curves, experimenting with new ways of tapping into the global talent pool, and securing a competitive advantage.

Christopher Johnson is a Regional Business Leader for Mercer’s talent business in EuroPac based in London,

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

Get your “coach selection” right

Have a chat to potential coaches to find out if they’ve got the goods.

Coaching in organisations has become an accepted practice over the past few years, more often focused on higher management levels.

As coaches have a degree of influence relative to your key leaders and future leaders, it stands to reason that there are significant potential risks to the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation should this relatively high cost intervention not achieve its stated and implicit objectives.

Coaching remains largely unregulated and, as an emerging profession, has no standard definitions of competence, processes, procedures or even minimum entry requirements. The broad range of coaching methodologies, training, certifications and credentialing make the selection of a suitable coach highly problematical.

In the criteria of some of the more well-known coach credentialing organisations, there is a differentiation between a ‘competent’ and ‘master’ coach, categorised in mainly behavioural terms. However research in both coaching and other related professions suggests that behaviour is only one aspect of mastery. Clutterbuck and Megginson point out that “credentials simply show a base level of skills that have been demonstrated rather than the personal development journey that the coach has undertaken” (The Handbook of Knowledge-based Coaching: From Theory to Practice).

What mastery is

There appears to be no common definition as to what constitutes “mastery”. Although scholars in music, business, education and science have attempted to clarify mastery, its vague nature makes it difficult to investigate and empirically characterise.

There is an observed theme in the literature on mastery of the unique reasoning that masters demonstrate which includes viewing problems from previously unconsidered holistic perspectives, having the ability to creatively solve problems that others find unsolvable, and being positively challenged by seemingly impossible situations rather than defeated by them. In addition, masters tend to transcend rules and modify existing knowledge with their own experience, are future oriented and committed to the domain of their mastery.

What mastery is not

Mastery should not be considered a function of innate talent, ability or capacities. Nor is it simply the elegant delivery of the initial, presented goal or outcome.

There is a popular contemporary idea influenced by writers such as Malcolm Gladwell that mastery may be obtained by 10,000 hours of practice. However Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch-Romer (who are the originators of the research upon which Gladwell based his suggestion), qualify this concept stating, “The belief that a sufficient amount of experience or practice leads to maximal performance appears incorrect”.

Selecting an executive coach

“The coach needs to be able to match the demands of their clients’ complex intellectual contexts, stay grounded in the face of the weight of ramifications of their clients’ choices, keep pace with the dynamic high intensity of the work, all with an uncompromising level of integrity and … stamina!” (Shinobu)

Our own research shows that coaches demonstrate little or no difference in their activity between ‘masterful’ and ‘competent’ levels at a conscious or surface level. This lack of clear differentiation makes the selection of suitable coaches a difficult and complex exercise. After all, if there is no way of distinguishing between coaches once they have achieved a certain level of demonstrable skill, and the coaches themselves do not easily differentiate core coaching competencies, how can organisations select the appropriate coach for a particular intervention (especially at executive level) with any degree of certainty?

Our research data supports current thinking in the field which suggests that reliance on credentials, behavioural observation, previous outcome success, recommendations and/or experiential hours (in coaching practice or in relation to the organisational context) might be less relevant than a robust conversation with the coach, that examines their underlying meaning-making and self-perception, and their use of knowledge in relation to their stated practice.

This would require that the buyer of coaching services understands how to elicit these underlying structures in a way that can better inform the organisation and facilitate better decision making. This proficiency can be developed and honed through training.

Internationally, many organisations prefer to engage an established and credible coaching consultancy to assist them with coach selection, particularly where their senior executives and teams are concerned. They find this relatively small upfront investment invaluable, both for ensuring they receive the expected return on their investment in coaching, and equally importantly, for avoiding making an expensive mistake.

Barbara Walsh is an executive coach and coaching consultant with Metaco, She has an MSc in Coaching and Behavioural Change from Henley Business School in the UK, and is an accredited Neuro-Semantics Meta-Coach and Coach Trainer.

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

Manage your Millennials

Intelligent management can result in high hopes for the intergenerational workforce.

Todays’ workplace is vastly different from anything we have experienced before. In previous years, employees had to fit in and adapt to the needs of the organisation if they had any hope of making it through their probationary period.

Today the organisation needs to adapt to the attitude and needs of their employees if they want to retain them.

Each time a new generation enters the workforce, so do their values, their strengths and also their weaknesses. It is important to remember that, while their personality traits and behaviours may be similar, their priorities are not. In order to effectively manage each generation, we need to understand who they are, what they expect from the organisation, and what drives them.

How Millennials communicate

Generation Y, or Millennials, as you have probably come to know them, are easily one of the most researched generations to date. Often unfairly pigeonholed as lazy or disrespectful, their work characteristics stem from the helicopter parenting style of their caregivers, their life experiences and the relationships which they have built with their peers over the years.

If you want to keep your Millennial employees happy at the office, grant them flexibility in working hours and work space, positive encouragement, regular feedback and a degree of mentoring.

Working alongside these employees is not quite as challenging as you may think. You just need to understand what drives them and then manage their expectations from there.

Interpersonal skills have deteriorated dramatically over the years, due to things like instant messaging, but they can be salvaged with good mentorship and soft skills training.

Challenges for employers

Managing an intergenerational workforce can be somewhat challenging, particularly when it comes to integrating the newest generation into the organisation. However, a diverse workforce is a huge competitive advantage, and one that should be recognised and cultivated.

Managers often complain about Millennials and their lack of commitment, their sense of entitlement, their laziness, their disregard for loyalty and their almost non-existent communication skills. While these are valid observations, it’s important to leave room for the possibility that Millennials are simply misunderstood. Instead of deliberately being disrespectful, perhaps they are only asking questions because they want to understand how everything works within the organisation, rather than being lazy, maybe their extensive experience with technology has just given them an edge to get things done faster, and so forth. So, rather than judge them too harshly, too quickly, it is important that employers take the time out to get to know their employees, despite any pre-conceived notions that they may have.

Managing intergenerational communication

Though it may seem somewhat daunting, intergenerational workforces are a reality, whether we like them or not. In order to create an age-neutral workplace, we need to build awareness about generational differences and tap into the knowledge of others. And if we can somehow have fun while all of this is happening, it will serve as a huge motivator for new starters and it will encourage employees, young and old, to join in and get to know one another.

The time (or era) in which someone was born has a huge effect on the way in which they view the world and what they put out there. Each generation is different, but understanding these differences is what brings us closer and allows us to feed off each other’s strengths.

Arno Kemp is the People Executive at e-learning design and development company, The Training Room Online,

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

Position the acquisition of a new HRIS

Demonstrate the effectiveness of a proposed HRIS to your Financial Director and you will have a better chance of getting it.

The process of selecting a new HRIS for your organisation is a very daunting task. However, the whole process can be made a lot smoother through some careful pre-planning, a properly planned document needs analysis and then of course securing the relevant budget for the entire project. And this is usually where HR comes unstuck. Usually the planning and needs analysis steps of the process are easily completed as they are within HR’s control, but going to the board with cap in hand for funds is often where the wheels seem to fall off.

One of the major causes of this can be the bigger organisation not being fully informed on the benefits the right HRIS can bring to the organisation and, if properly implemented, the return on investment that can actually be achieved.

Probably the simplest example of how the costs for the proposed new HR solution can be put to the relevant authorising body could be as follows:

Electronic pay slips

Current printing and distribution costs for payslips on a monthly basis is, say, R15,000; and

By implementing an HR system with full self-service functionality, this cost could be eliminated as employees would have access to their pay slip information either through the self-service portal or via their smartphone.

Projected savings for this single function would be R180,000 per annum.

Electronic leave form

Based on our historical averages, the HR team currently processes in the region of 5,000 leave forms per annum; and

By analysing the time taken and the hours worked, it has been calculated that the cost for our manual leave forms to be processed is in the region of R18,75 per form.

Projected savings for this single function would be R93,750 per annum.

By just using two of the most basic functions of an HRIS that utilises web-based functionality, the organisation could already be saving R273,750 per annum.

Now when you start looking at the full scope of a new HRIS which covers all areas of HR functionality, as per the list below, the project savings could be astronomically higher.

Consider possible savings in:

– Employee and payroll administration;

– The full scope of talent and performance management;

– Recruitment – managing an external pool of talent;

– Learning and development;

– Organisation structure and design; and

– Management of processes from hire to retire.

What we have seen over the past number of years is that the expectations of an HRIS have evolved from being just an electronic file keeping system to a system that is also required to perform primarily in a Decision Support role, with functionality not only focused on the HR and payroll departments but for the Executive Team, Line Management and the entire employee complement as well.

I say this in all honesty: if the system is going to be aimed at various people within the organisation and not only at the core HR and payroll teams, then best the system creates some excitement around the outputs it is able to deliver. Imagine, if you can, a situation where your employees showed the same passion and urgency in completing their annual performance reviews or updating their Job Profiles, as they show in those highly animated reactions when they receive their payslip with an error!

Taking all of this into consideration, the battle in the boardroom for getting support for additional expenditure for a new HR system should become a lot easier when the full picture is presented. In fact, those managers and executives who still see no value in true HR management being conducted by an organisation with the proper tools are probably a bigger threat than either the budgeted expenditure for the new system or, in fact, the so called value they bring to it.

However, it must also be said that in the past the challenge has been to get the HR department to fully utilise all of the functionality a new system will bring. More often than not, the current system is not even being used to its full capacity, and this helps create the negative impression that the proposal for getting a new system is not based on a true business requirement, but rather on some whim.

In conclusion, most HR teams could probably do with a technology upgrade, and a key point to consider when initiating this project is to ensure that all of the relevant stakeholders are properly and fully informed of the positive financial impact as well as those benefits the new HRIS will bring to the organisation.

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 June 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.

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