Why did Scaramucci crash and burn in the White House?

Antony Scaramucci’s term in the White House must be one of the shortest terms anyone has served in American politics. His departure after 10 days on the job was attributed to his use of vulgar and profane language. That was however the symptom, not the problem.

Generally speaking, untrained eyes and ears make the mistake of thinking that what they see is the actual problem while all along it’s a symptom of the problem. And we all know that treating a symptom doesn’t make the problem go away. Taking pain killers for a sore throat will treat the symptom but do nothing for the problem – the infection that’s causing the sore throat. In fact, it will make things worse by allowing the infection to spread.

Scaramucci’s bad language was merely a symptom of a greater problem he had. He was clueless as to what leadership is all about, let alone leadership in the 21st century. The leaders of Wall Street are those who make the best “buy and sell” decisions, amassing wealth for their clients and themselves, and making a name for themselves among their own kind as the “leaders” of the pack. They are thus allowed to speak and act as they wish because no-one is going to contradict them. In fact, those below them will admire their hard talking, straight shooting style. Younger stockbrokers will look at them and think, “When I grow up, I wanna be like him!”

After all, they’re the successful ones and you can’t argue with their (financial) success.

But, if Scarramucci thought he’s “straight” talking would win him the respect of his colleagues, members of the media and his fellow Americans, he was in for a big surprise – a surprise he duly received.

The sad truth is that he’s not the exception. There are still busloads of so-called business leaders who think the leadership model that’s been around for 99 years (since the end of the First World War in 1918) is still relevant.

That model of leadership was a military model of leadership and it has started falling into disuse as the workplace evolves.

In the military, the rank you occupy gives you certain power, authority and the right to do and say whatever you wish in order to accomplish your mission. The Mooch made a classic mistake – he thought that, once he was the Communications Director, he had the power and authority to speak like he wished.

I suspect he deliberately laced what he said with vulgar language to send a message to the reporter he was speaking to on the phone that he was now in charge and was not afraid to tell it like it is. He probably thought that he would win grudging admiration from him for shooting from the hip, so to speak.

He is but one of a battalion of leaders who still mistakenly think that they will be respected for being a tough guy. They probably think that those below them (and I use the word “below” intentionally) will feel more secure in the knowledge that their leader is tough and they therefore have nothing to fear.

Today, more than ever, there’s a need for strong leaders. The fundamental difference is that strength and toughness are no longer defined the way they were in the last century.

Today, strength and toughness in the workplace have nothing to do with military behaviour. While military leadership is all about power and force, and showing no fear or vulnerability, the workplace is not a battle field and therefore does not require military thinking or military behaviour for success.

Scaramucci thinks his mistake was trusting a reporter to not report his vulgar language, but his mistake was thinking that, as a military style leader, he could speak like that.     

Are you still a military leader? Do you still think your position gives you the power and authority to act and speak like you want to?

You may hang onto your job for longer than Scaramucci hung onto his, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re horribly out of touch with the shift in leadership qualities and skills necessary for the coming decade.

The world is crying out for “grown up”, emotionally mature leaders who understand that business is not a war in which “enemies” have to be conquered or eliminated. New leaders will be listeners rather than leaders who bark orders. But they will not be passive listeners. They will actively listen to their customers, their employees and their competitors in order to make smart decisions.

The Scaramuccis of this world are living on borrowed time. Don’t be one of them.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

5 traits of wonder women in the HR space

Working in Human Resources takes a special kind of person, that’s for sure. But merely fulfilling specific tasks is not enough – if you want to excel in this vital part of any company, you need to be a little bit special.

So, what kind of traits do you need to be a true wonder woman in the HR space? Here are some characteristics we think will stand you in good stead as your HR career develops:

1. Multi-tasking

Yes, we know the words “women” and “multi-tasking” are often mentioned in the same breath, but that’s because it’s true. HR professionals are hardly ever working on one project – they’re recruiting, training, crafting internal communication, conducting performance reviews, negotiating salaries and any number of other tasks. Therefore, the ability to multi-task and prioritise the most important tasks is a vital skill – and luckily one that most women have in spades.

2. Empathy

Dealing with other people requires a supreme level of empathy if you want your interactions to be fruitful. You need to be able to put yourself in their shoes, foreseeing their needs and ambitions, appreciating their fears and listening to their grievances. You also need to understand that they are people outside of their work environments, and most employees have families they are trying to provide for and protect. Offering generous medical aid packages is one way of extending this empathy further, and it also makes you a more attractive employment option.

3. Trustworthy

Above all, HR wonder women need to be extremely discreet and trustworthy. You’ll be privy to confidential information such as salaries and performance reviews – and if you end up gossiping and letting this information become common knowledge, you won’t be doing your job for very long!

4. Leadership

It may not be the first trait you think of when it comes to working in HR, but being a leader is highly important if you want to get people on your side. And because this job is about people, inspiring them to change their behaviour, upskill themselves or even get enthusiastic about a company fun run – will be a lot easier if you can lead them in a charismatic way.

5. People skills

This is an obvious one, but it’s surprising just how often people who don’t really like interacting with others end up in HR! Wonder women who succeed in this industry need to be interested in how others see the world, and like dealing with them on a daily basis. They don’t all have to be chatty extroverts, they could be introverts who are excellent listeners and are naturally curious and empathetic. Whatever your personality type though, you need to genuinely like people, and want to see them succeed.

As a woman in the HR space, it’s worth taking advantage of your natural abilities, and then working on any of those vital traits that don’t come as naturally. Harness your inner warrior and you’ll be an HR wonder woman in no time!

Provided by Fedhealth.

How much are bad hires costing you?

Regardless of size, geography or industry, every organisation requires exceptional talent that is both motivated and focused to deliver on customer promises. Yet, it is getting harder to recruit and retain talented, high performing employees. The Harvard Business Review states that as much as 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. Do you know how much getting it wrong affects your bottom line?

When considering the costs associated with recruiting and on-boarding new employees, making the wrong decision will result in a massive impact for an organisation. The cost of hiring a new employee extends far beyond their monthly salary. Job advertisements, time associated with screening and shortlisting  potential hires, administration and placement fees all rack up the Rands, and that’s before the new recruit even enters the company.

In my experience, it costs an organisation 200% of a senior hires’ annual salary to on board them, this includes recruitment fees, renumeration, back office administration, training and team time. It’s very expensive to replace people.

But bad hires extend beyond the monetary cost of bringing new people into your organisation. A survey among CFO’s suggests the biggest costs associated with a bad hire are not even financially related. Degraded staff morale, decrease in productivity and loss in revenue rank higher than fiscal expenses, and the worrying thing  is  they are all contagious.

The impact to an organisation of making a bad hiring decision is 50% of an employee’s annual salary.

Bad hires can create a domino effect within your organisation, eradicating inadequate employees is a timely, therefore costly, undertaking. Realising you’ve made a bad hire takes time, and in the months that lead up to the employees last day, your corporate culture could be severely disrupted.

Disengaged employees are likely to place strain on the rest of your workforce, while apathy and negativity may spread through your offices before the employee’s departure. This could result in the loss of more employees, creating a constant need to hire new people.

This is why quality recruitment methods are imperative.

We live in a world where technological revolutions are constantly changing the way we do business, and advances in recruitment technologies are reducing the chances of making a bad hire. Through science and technology, HR professionals can now make informed decisions when making new hires, based on both culture and skillset.

The vision is to find a way to change the talent management landscape by reducing bad hires from the get-go. We wanted to make the process of recruitment and people management more effective, helping companies find and manage the right people with the right skill-set and culture-fit; manage the career progression of employees; and ultimately lower the risk of attrition.

Using next-gen technology, potential employees are scientifically profiled, screened, shortlisted and ranked against culture fit, attrition risk and performance requirements resulting in 95% accuracy in candidate recommendations.

The focus isn’t just on making good hires, it’s on retaining them too.

While bad hires will always cost a company, a good hire does the opposite. Through AI recruitment solutions, candidate potential is ranked, thus forecasting the candidate’s growth opportunity within the organisation. This decreases the need for future hires, especially in more senior roles, as current employees who are attuned with company culture move up the ranks.

Jason Davies, the Africa Head of Leadership, Learning, Talent and Resourcing at Barclay’s Africa Group and Juan Swartz is the co-founder of Pivotal Talent.

Are you one of tomorrow’s leaders?

As it becomes increasingly clear that yesterday’s leaders are just that – yesterday’s leaders – so the search has to begin for tomorrow’s leaders – people who have the ability to see in three directions as they lead their countries, communities or companies into the future.

Yes, tomorrow’s leaders have to be able to see in three directions: behind them, ahead of them and inside themselves. Up until now, leaders have largely looked in one direction only – behind them.

Large consulting companies tell me they regularly encounter executives who are trying the same old, same old, not understanding why it doesn’t work. And they just keep trying harder, with the same results. That’s because they were trained to look behind them and they don’t know how to look ahead.

“Oh,” you say, “are you suggesting that there haven’t been any leaders with strategic thinking skills?”       

Not at all. There have been many leaders who have displayed great strategic thinking skills and who have led their companies very well … until now. That’s because their strategic thinking was applied in a world that was predictable, fairly static and unambiguous. That world is no longer the one we affectionately call Planet Earth. It’s gone for ever.

Take a quick look around the globe … What kind of political leadership have the Americans got? What about the British? What about the North Koreans? What about the Middle Eastern countries? Is there visionary leadership in Europe, South America, Australia or, for that matter, South Africa?

Mmmmm … It’s time for tomorrow’s leaders with three-way vision.

1. Tomorrow’s leaders have hindsight

Leaders without hindsight will have an inability to see the past for what it is and avoid repeating the mistakes of their predecessors. They will be able to take note of what arrogance, unethical behaviour and greed did to and for yesterday’s leaders. They will learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid the traps yesterday’s leaders so easily fell into. They will have the humility to acknowledge their own short comings and demonstrate a willingness to learn from whomever can teach them, regardless of at what level those “teachers” are in the business world or in society.

2. Tomorrow’s leaders have foresight 

Foresight is defined as the ability to predict what will happen or be needed in the future. This is probably one of the most important skills or qualities, if not the most important, tomorrow’s leaders need. A leader who is unable to predict what will happen or be needed is going to be pretty useless to anyone.

Remember that saying, “You have to be able to connect the dots”? That was applicable to yesterday’s leaders. Tomorrow’s leaders don’t only have to be able to connect the dots (in fact, that’s actually the easy part), they now have to be able to see what’s in the spaces between the dots. And that’s the “not easy” part.

3. Tomorrow’s leaders have insight

Insight is defined as the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something. That “someone” includes other people as well as the leaders themselves. Leaders who do not have the capacity for self-reflection to see themselves as others see them will have a relatively low level of influence because they will have huge blind spots that serve as stumbling blocks to their being able to exercise influence. You will never be able to win people’s trust if they can see things in you that you can’t. Look at what’s happening in our own political arena … Politicians are blissfully unaware of the view that people have of them.

In the past, leaders could live separate lives – a public and a private life. And what happened in the one didn’t have a bearing on the other because it was easy to hide things. In the world of tomorrow, it will be increasingly difficult to hide anything. Many leaders around the world are already finding that out. If you think the world has already become transparent with Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on, think again. We’re just at the birth of this transparency phenomenon. Wait until this baby grows up …    

In tomorrow’s world, we have to accept that none of us has sole rights to the truth and that none of us is as smart as all of us. Insightful leaders will understand this and be comfortable collaborative leaders who can lead people who are far more knowledgeable and, sometimes, far smarter, than they are and not be phased by that.

So, tomorrow’s leaders will have to have eyes in the back of their heads, eyes in the front of their heads and eyes inside their heads if they want to make an impact!  

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

How to address workplace social media security

Social media has skyrocketed for businesses all over the world, with many companies using it as a way of strengthening their brands and reaching out to new and existing customers.

It’s clear that social media is likely to continue its popularity with businesses although, in an age where information security has never been such a pressing issue, there are still questions that need to be addressed.

1. Is social media really a threat to security?

The threat posed to security by social media is nothing new. A report released by Cisco in 2013 claimed mass audience sites, which include social media, pose a significant threat to information security.

One obvious threat is the potential for blurring the line separating personal information and company data, particularly when a user is using a social media account for both personal and work purposes.

“Our right to privacy and the type of data we consider confidential is no different on social media than on other communication platforms,” says Charl Ueckermann, CEO at AVeS Cyber Security. Leveraging the business opportunities of social media can be done without giving away the right to privacy and without compromising confidentiality. It is therefore important that businesses use the tools at their disposal to help every person in the organisaiton understand the ‘rules’ of the social media game.

The risk may be underestimated by workers, many of whom may believe their social media accounts are not carrying anything of interest for cybercriminals, but it can still be used as a portal into a company’s wider network.

2. So, is social media a weak spot?

Potentially. The use of phishing to compromise e-mail accounts has been well-documented, but they can take on a new dimension when combined with social media. For example, if cybercriminals can compromise a LinkedIn account, they can potentially fool others on the network into thinking they are genuinely one of their co-workers, opening up the possibility of handing over sensitive information.

3. But if they don’t get that far, there’s nothing to worry about?

Not exactly. Social media output is a key component of a brand’s overall image. If a cybercriminal manages to compromise one of these channels it could prove damaging. For instance, in 2013 a hacker was able to gain access to the Twitter account of Burger King and then used it to display a MacDonald’s logo, along with explicit obscenities. Similarly, it’s not exactly reassuring when someone like Mark Zuckerberg has his social networks compromised.

4. What can be done to make things better?

Setting up a rigid social media policy to protect company accounts is always a good start. A code of conduct for employees, as part of a wider cybersecurity program, can include the implementation of strong passwords, with weak logins such as 13456 still all too common. Other potential points include monitoring engagement with brand mentions, offering guidance on how to spot malicious software, implementing two-factor authentication, and ensuring that only brand approved content is shared.

Implementing a policy is particularly important for businesses operating more than one social media account, although it is equally important not to discourage employee participation as this will hinder the benefits these platforms bring.

5. Is it the employer’s responsibility to safeguard social media security?

Employers should always try to educate their workforce on the potential dangers of social media as best they can, but employees themselves need to remain vigilant. For example, it’s important to be cautious of links embedded in email messages, even if they appear to be from a social network provider.

Always ensure links come from trusted sources. If in doubt, connect to a site’s URL directly by typing it into your browser. Always keep a track of what devices have access to your accounts, and utilise any available service that will notify you when a new login occurs.

Furthermore, workers shouldn’t risk leaving themselves vulnerable by potentially sensitive information on social media.

Carey van Vlaanderen is the CEO at ESET South Africa.

The customer service journey of the (not so distant) future

In the movie Big Hero 6, the inflatable Baymax robot is a healthcare companion who can diagnose and suggest treatment based on the 10,000 medical procedures he has learnt, all within a two-second body scan.

So, how far off are we from using such technology for customer service?

We are in fact already using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning on a daily basis when we use the Uber app to call for a taxi, or when Netflix suggests a series we may enjoy based on our viewing habits.

In the contact centre environment, this technology is being used to automate certain functions to enhance the customer experience, giving rise to the use of customer-facing chatbots and digital assistants that provide an initial layer of support that is accessible 24/7. The customer speaks to a machine and not a human agent.

Instead of going through long menus that force users to choose inadequate options and repeat their queries at every step, the chatbot uses automatic speech recognition (transcription) and text-to-speech (automated responses), to handle the initial contact and deal with basic interactions.

Intelligent routing

A chatbot must be able to correctly identify the intentions of the customer, and will have hundreds of possible scenarios available to it. It knows the entities involved, and what kind of immediate help can be provided. Ongoing training of the chatbot enables it to expand the range of interactions it can manage. It must also be able to detect the emotional state of the customer, and based on the interaction, transfer the call to a human representative if necessary.
For instance, a chatbot can handle a basic interaction such as an airport shuttle booking, but it will transfer the call to a human agent if there is a query it cannot handle, such as whether or not the shuttle will be able to accommodate a bicycle.

Machine learning

All the information and context from the contact is passed on to the human agent in order to swiftly answer the query and finalise the booking, and the chatbot will stay on the call to learn the correct response for future reference. This is machine learning being used to expand the chatbot’s knowledge.

Social media integration

When the power of AI and machine learning is combined with the integration of the contact centre function with social media, a powerful customer engagement is possible.
When a customer’s luggage does not arrive and they are frustrated, they may turn to the travel company’s Facebook Messenger to complain. A messenger bot will be able to respond with a view of the full history of the customer journey. The chatbot will be able to detect the tone and urgency of this interaction and will transfer it to a human agent if they are unable to resolve the query effectively.

Augmented Reality

These technologies combine and enable us to link all the data we have for customers and make it available to both virtual and human agents. By creating this dialogue between the customer, the human agent, and the chatbot, agents have the ability to access useful data previously inaccessible in real-time, bringing Augmented Reality to the heart of the contact centre.

The contact centre agent of the future

This shift to integration of all channels and the use of chatbots will not make agents redundant, but rather allow them to focus on developing their communication skills and manage the more nuanced interactions that chatbots are not able to cope with. Contact centre agents will become super agents, with sophisticated social interaction and people management skills.
This will make for a better customer experience with swifter responses on whichever channel suits that particular customer best.

Michelle Osmond, 1Stream.

What is the loudest feedback you can give people?

With the presence of Millennials starting to become more significant in the workplace, managers are having to make a number of adjustments to what they’ve always considered “business as usual” when managing people. One of those views that needs an update is of how and when you give your people feedback. Millennials are rated as the highest maintenance workforce the world has ever known. That’s not a criticism. That’s just a fact. And with their high maintenance/high expectation qualities comes the need for constant feedback.

That doesn’t sit with well with typical Boomer managers who expect people to just get on with what they’re supposed to do and chat about it at the annual performance appraisal. Speaking of which … If you’re still in the annual performance appraisal mindset, you’re headed for trouble – if you’re not already in trouble.

Simply put, your Millennials will move to a company which gives them regular feedback that helps them understand how they’re performing and what they can do to grow, progress and succeed. That means you’re going to lose your talent faster than your competitors can hire it if you think that Millennials will be satisfied with hearing how they’re doing once a year.

In today’s fast moving world where a week is a long time, not just in politics but just about anywhere, you have to realise that the loudest feedback you can give your people is … no feedback. By not saying anything to the people who report to you, you’re sending them some very loud messages – such as that you’re actually not interested in what they’re doing.

In today‘s highly connected, self-indulgent world of selfie-crazy Millennials, that’s the kiss of death. One of the fastest ways of getting rid of the very people you want to keep is to ignore them. The opposite is also true. If you want to keep certain people, the most important thing you can do is tell them you want to keep them.

It might sound a bit simplistic, but people want to know that they’re appreciated, that their contribution means something to the company and that the work they’re doing has meaning.

When you don’t give people any feedback, they feel invisible – as if you don’t see them. They also feel that they’re not being heard. And one of the deepest needs any and every human has is the need to feel heard. Such people will then look for a company which does appreciate them and which does hear them. And with the global talent shortage, other employers will welcome your employees with open arms.

So make a point of listening to your people so they feel heard, then respond accordingly. Ask them for their opinion, then LISTEN to what they say. You might be wondering how listening fits in with giving feedback. After all, isn’t feedback about talking, not listening?

The point is, you won’t know what to say if you don’t know what your people want to hear. And by “want to hear” I don’t mean that you have to say things that will tickle their ears but will be meaningless. I am referring to things you should be saying that people will want to hear about their work and their jobs so that they know what to focus on in order to improve and succeed.   
One of the quickest ways of losing talent is to delay things until it is too late. It’s a complete waste of time begging a person to stay when they hand in their resignation. You should have told them long, long before that how important they were to your team – long before they started feeling unappreciated and started looking around.

Don’t, therefore, think in terms of annual or quarterly performance appraisals. Think rather in terms of regular, ongoing performance conversations where you regularly discuss with your team what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and when it will be finished.

Positive feedback is not necessarily feedback that simply tickles their egos. It’s feedback that also includes helping them to understand what you expect of them, what they can do to deliver a better performance and what you think of their performance so far.

As you keep the conversation going, you will build a more engaged team that uses your feedback to deliver excellent results in everything they do.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

How great office design boosts productivity

Your ability to focus and be productive greatly depends on your environment, and that is a fact that has been confirmed by researchers numerous times.

However, many employers do not consider workplace design as a good investment.

Regardless of their opinion, whether it be a home office or a company, designing an office in a way for it to be tasteful, attractive, and inspiring can boost productivity for everyone spending majority of time in it. Here are some pointers on how to increase productivity in your office by simply designing it with care.

Lighting and color

Everyone is aware that bad lighting can cause eye strain and fatigue, so make sure your office gets as much natural light as it can. But, do not forget other lights as well. Every corner of the office has to have light, because working in a dark space can actually cause depression.

If you want to make your office more spacious and bright, try painting the walls in some neutral and soothing colors. It is a well-known fact that different colors can induce psychological changes; for example – painting an office blue can improve focus for mind-work employees.

Comfort and ergonomics

An office job usually includes lots of sitting and spending time staring at the computer screen, which is fairly unhealthy. First and foremost, you need to provide your employees with the best possible furniture – adjustable chairs and desks, and even standing desks.

Many people sit at their desk and lose time and focus by adjusting, stretching, and moving around to find the best position. Let your employees know how to properly do an ergonomic check – distance between eyes and monitor, and proper posture when sitting among others.

Office flexibility

You can also design your office in a way that not all employees have to sit in the same spot all day. Provide employees with different spaces for different tasks by balancing open spaces with more private areas. It is a more comfortable way to increase productivity with employees. A more fluid office design that promotes movement and creativity can offer a perk of chance meetings and opportunities for new ideas.

People who run into each other in the hallway and talk have a higher chance of connecting. Another useful way to use this to your advantage is to install glass white boards on which people can share ideas, collaborate, or just brainstorm.


Instead of organising and placing together employees around job function or in specific divisions, try putting together colleagues that share the same goal or client. Not only will they be able to get answers and generate solutions quicker, but because you are directly accountable to the people around you, you are more likely to stay on task and be productive.

Lounge areas are also important. Breaks are essential in providing focus and improving creativity, so make sure you have a designated space for employees who decided to take a pause from work and unwind a little. Many groundbreaking ideas were born away from desks and conference rooms – instead, promote occasional breaks.

Bring in nature

It is important for your employees’ psychological and physiological functioning to have access to nature, in whatever form it be. Bring in pictures of the outdoor world and keep the office nicely scented. Scent can also induce psychological changes so pick one that seems optimal for your office and the nature of your job.

Air quality is also a must! Make sure your AC is working properly and is not harming your health. Bring in plants – not only do they look nice, they also provide fresh and purified oxygen for the space.

Final thoughts

Creating an inspiring office is the first step towards a successful company. When employees are comfortable, there is no reason not to be productive. Boost your office productivity by following these steps and watch the numbers on the productivity chart rise.

Tony Solomon is the Editor at Media Gurus.

Here’s what you need to know when facing retrenchment

Facing retrenchment can be a frightening experience.

Its unchartered territory for most people, who end up feeling vulnerable because they’re unfamiliar with the legal processes and options.

So what should you know, and do, when faced with this harrowing situation?

Keep a cool head

It’s important to remain cool, calm and collected, especially when you’re on the verge of panic. This is a time to listen carefully, take notes and reflect. Becoming emotional or confrontational will only cloud your judgement.

Assess the situation

Understand the broader picture:

• Are you the only person impacted, or is this part of a bigger exercise?
• What are the reasons for the termination?  
• What was the criterion used to make the selections?
• Is there an option for an alternative role within the company or group?
• Is there a possibility of re-employment at a later stage?
• What assistance is being offered to the retrenched employees?

Gaining clarity will help you contextualise what’s happening and formulate helpful questions.

Don’t sign anything straight away

Don’t feel pressurised into signing documentation straight away. Retrenchment processes allow employees a reasonable period of time to review documentation first.

The documentation is also lengthy and complicated, so take a day or two to read and absorb the content. If there are points that confuse or concern you, consult with the relevant HR executive within your organisation, or seek guidance from an external professional to help clarify terminology and options.

Once signed, the document becomes a legally binding agreement, which sets out the full terms of the settlement between the employer and employee.

Not all offers are bad

Most companies go to great lengths to create decent retrenchment packages for their impacted employees. So don’t be quick to jump to negative assumptions. If you do have doubts, consult an external professional for their opinion.

What are the minimum requirements?

Circumstances will vary from company to company regarding the discretionary content of retrenchment packages, which are hugely dependent on available funds and HR policies. But financial limitations aside, retrenchment calculations are underpinned by the employee’s length of service as well as the circumstances of the employee’s termination (fault or no fault).

In South Africa, the minimum severance pay-out is one week’s salary for each completed year of employment with the company. You will also be paid out for any accrued leave days and your formal notice period (as per your contract). As well as the balance of your Pension or Provident Fund.

Severance packages can be negotiated

Employees are legally entitled to negotiate a better package. They can do this by themselves, through their trade union or with a labour lawyer. This doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be successful, but employees are entitled to negotiate for a fair package, which minimises financial hardship.

Most people take the path of least resistance during this difficult time, wishing to put the episode behind them as quickly as possible. But don’t underestimate the value of a carefully thought-out and professionally handled final negotiation.

What could be included in the package?

As previously mentioned this varies from company to company, but here are a few examples of package inclusions:

• 1.5 to 2 week’s pay for every full year worked with the company
• Immediate departure without having to work out the notice period (at no financial loss to the employee)
• An extended notice period with full pay e.g. 3 months notice instead of 1 month
• An extension of benefit coverage for a set period of time
• An Outplacement contract, to assist the employee in securing a new job

Seek guidance from a professional

There are many other areas that can be negotiated, which may significantly ease the burden of a sudden lay off. So if in doubt, seek professional advice and let them guide you through the possibilities.

For the brave, as they say ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’. The initial offer, once made, cannot be withdrawn – so you can always fall back on that if negotiations fail. This is another reason to treat the whole process, and everyone involved, nicely.

Note: Retrenchments take place for a variety of reasons; the company could be in financial difficulty, or undergoing restructuring, for example. It’s impossible to cover all scenarios. These are general guidelines.

Madge Gibson is the founder of The CHANGE Initiative (Pty) Ltd.

How recruitment practices may stifle diversity

Whether organisations are using a recruitment consultancy or an internal HR department to recruit, the role of the recruiter is critical when hiring the most applicable and capable candidates.

Yet, recruiters are overlooking an indispensable element, diversity, in favour of the X-factor.

When recruiters and HR professionals identify the top performing profiles in an organisation, they earmark certain traits as the X-factor they are after. This creates a biased cycle of only employing individuals that exhibit these particular traits, stopping diversity dead in its tracks.

An X-Factor is a “noteworthy special talent, quality or qualities” that a candidate possesses. It will, of course, vary depending on the role, company and other factors. Organisations generally refer to X-factors as something that they cannot identify, articulate or describe. This is highly problematic because instead of recruiting based on the key predicators of performance and the key skills that ensure the candidate will be successful, hiring practices become less accurate and difficult to measure. Often hiring based on X-factors is hiring based on something that is undefined and therefore subjective.

We know that diversity in the workforce is fundamental to success and innovation in an organisation.  

Why is diversity being destroyed at the recruitment level?

Recruiters may hire based on personal preference or seek out commonality using their own perception of what the X-factor is for a particular position. This happens because X-factor traits are not properly defined, which allows an element of personal bias to enter the recruitment process.

During the screening process, diverse candidates may be screened out due to cultural misunderstandings, prejudice, or a lack of interviewing skills on the part of the interviewer or the candidate. It is essential to educate recruiters to screen for key predicators of performance and key competency skills and to ignore personal preferences.

Another area where diversity is being reduced, is when organisations continuously recruit from the same stables. This will ultimately provide profiles that match previous hiring trends, but it will prevent diverse skills and competencies from entering the workforce.

To attract a diverse range of candidates, priority also needs to be shifted from minimum requirements, like degrees and work experience, to assessing the core skills, performance criteria and proficiencies of the individual against the job tasks pertaining to the role.

The only viable path to success is to use a scientific approach to match candidates to positions based on the actual predictors of performance. Not only will Pivotal Talent help to increase diversity, but it will also lead to better hiring decisions. By using an unbiased and accurate means of identifying candidates that is holistically appropriate for each specific role within the organisation, diversity is encouraged without compromising on performance.

Juan Swartz is the the CEO of Pivotal Talent.

How higher qualifications are not a reason for validating differential pay

Whether the employer had unfairly discriminated against farm supervisors by grading and paying them less than farm foremen who performed the same work but who had different academic qualifications.


In the matter of National Education Health and Allied Workers Union obo Sinxo and Others versus Agricultural Research Council 2017 CCMA (26 January 2017), the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (“Commission”) had to decide whether farm supervisors, who were being paid less than farm foremen, were being unfairly discriminated against in terms of the provisions of the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 (“EEA”).

Five farm supervisors were employed by the Agricultural Research Council for a considerable period. A dispute arose after it emerged that the farm-supervisors were being paid significantly less than the Agricultural Research Council’s farm foremen.

Due to an organisational design process farm foremen were subsequently, and after the farm-supervisors had already been employed for a number of years, given a global grade (GG) of nine, which required a tertiary qualification, and farm-supervisors a GG of seven, which required a grade 12 qualification. The Applicants were kept at a GG of five because they not possess a grade 12 qualification.

The farm-supervisors contended that they performed the same work as farm foremen. They had therefore been discriminated against. In response the employer contended that farm-supervisors could not have been discriminated against because the duties and responsibilities of the two positions were different and the two positions required different qualifications.

Commission’s decision

In determining whether the farm-supervisors had been discriminated against the Commission had regard to the provisions of the EEA as well as its regulations.

Section 6(4) of EEA provides that:

“A difference in terms and conditions of employment between employees of the same employer performing the same or substantially the same work or work of equal value that is directly or indirectly based on any one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (1), is unfair discrimination.”

Section 6(1) of the EEA, in turn, provides that:

“No person may unfairly discriminate, directly or indirectly, against an employee, in any employment policy or practice, on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, ethnic or social or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, HIV status, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language, birth or on any other arbitrary ground.”

In addition, the regulations to the EEA governing equal work for equal pay, issued on 1 August 2014, describe the criteria and methodology for assessing work of equal value as contemplated by section 6(4) of the EEA. It provides that a case must be made as to whether work is of equal value, whether there is a difference in terms and conditions of employment, including remuneration, and, if so, whether the difference amounts in unfair discrimination. The regulations must be read in conjunction with section 11 of the EEA.

Section 11 of EEA deals with burden of proof and provides that:

(1) if unfair discrimination is alleged on a ground listed in section 6(1), the employer against whom the allegation is made must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that such discrimination:

• did not take place as alleged or;
• Is rational and not unfair, or is otherwise justifiable.

(2) If unfair discrimination is alleged on an arbitrary ground, the complainant must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that:

• the conduct complained of is not rational;
• the conduct complained of amounts to discrimination; and
• the discrimination is unfair.

Taking the above into account the Commission held that in substance the work performed by the two positions was the same, or substantially the same. This finding was based, particularly, on the positions as they stood at the time of the hearing of the matter. The question then was whether the difference in remuneration was based on fair and rational criteria. The Commission found, in this regard, that although regulation 7 expressly recognises that qualifications can be a valid basis for differentiation in remuneration it does not automatically make differentiation on such a ground rational and fair.

Rather, what is required is a proportionate analysis in which no one single factor should be given undue weight. Given that the farm-supervisors had actually been performing the work for a number of years, the introduction of the requirement of a qualification may be justified for new entrants into employment but not the farm-supervisors. The Commission found that there was no question that by grading and remunerating the farm-supervisors at a lower level purely because of their academic qualifications impugned their dignity.

Accordingly the Agricultural Research Council was ordered to appoint the five farm-supervisors on the midpoint of GG 7 with effect from the date of the award.

Importance of this case

This decision highlights the importance of a thorough and careful analysis of payment practices within an enterprise. There must be a valid and rational reason for the differentiation in remuneration where employees are paid different salaries and perform the same or similar work. It may be insufficient to simply rely on one of the justifications provided for in the Regulations where it would be inappropriate in the particular circumstances.

Andre van Heerden is the Senior Associate and Jacques van Wyk is the Director at Werksmans Attorneys.

Why high trust is the key to high performance teams

Whether you’re a small business owner or CEO to a large enterprise, building a team of experienced and skilled individuals is essential to your success.

But we often forget one crucial element to establishing a productive work environment – trust. Without it, your team cannot work cohesively and effectively.

Creating a high trust team doesn’t have to be difficult, and establishing trust is simply the by-product of honouring your team member’s highest values – what it is that is most important to them. By allowing each member of staff to understand how they can contribute to themselves as well as the team is the first step towards building trust.

So how do you build a high trust team? Understanding your staff’s highest values is one of many stepping stones to establishing trust.

1. Stop fearing failure

The long-standing belief that failure should be avoided at all costs to achieve success, can often work against you. Allowing your team to make so-called ‘mistakes’ gives them room to learn and grow, and they’ll be less likely to ‘fail’ in the future. This will be advantageous not only to your business but to your staff, as they will trust that you’ll give them the freedom to challenge themselves, be creative and pick themselves up after experiencing ‘failure’ or what is actually feedback.

2. Avoid micromanaging

Loosening the reigns to avoid becoming the dreaded micro-manager will quell your team’s anxieties and show that you trust their abilities. Give your staff more responsibility and delegate tasks that may go beyond their current skillset or knowledge. They will go above and beyond to prove their potential and keep your trust, encouraging them to step outside their comfort zone and achieve things they never thought possible.

3. Encourage debate

Surrounding yourself with likeminded, supportive employees who agree with your ideas, while a great false self-esteem boost, can become counterproductive. And you will quickly find yourself leading a team of blind followers, rather than innovative individuals. This will hinder the progression and growth of your business and stifle your staff’s potential and creativity. Allow your staff to respectfully disagree with you, this shows you trust their opinions and insights. Encouraging lively debate will present you with alternatives and new ideas that will work in your business, and your team’s best interests. Greater still, staff will speak up more and challenge you, proving they trust both you and themselves.

4. Provide regular feedback

Giving feedback outside of formal reviews will help you determine your staff’s strengths and weaknesses and help them develop in areas that require improvement. There’s nothing more disheartening than a team member sitting down for a formal review only to realise they’ve been completing a task inadequately all along. And even more disheartening; that they’ve been repeating costly ‘mistakes’ for months. This creates fear and distrust and can put a damper on employee morale and productivity. Address concerns immediately and provide constructive criticism and feedback. Your staff will appreciate this and will seek your guidance and help in the future, creating an environment with less stress and conflict.

5. Get personal

A great way to build trust is to encourage your team to bond with each other. Start by sharing the most meaningful aspects of your personal life, whether it be a hobby or a humourous anecdote. Your staff will open up and provide insight into their lives that will help your team work more effectively together and establish a more comfortable, relaxed work environment.
Strong teams are built on high trust and will create a cooperative, productive work environment, allowing your business to grow and prosper.

Dr John Demartini is a business and human behavioural expert.

How to manage Generation Z in your workplace

At one time it was all about Generation Y – the millennials. We’ve spent the last few years discussing, debating and even arguing over how to get this group of individuals engaged in the business world.

But now business leaders have shifted their attention to an even younger cohort of people – Generation Z.

Making up around 25% of population worldwide, Generation Z are growing up quick and as such are starting to make their impact on businesses. Here we explore a few ways in which organisations can manage this somewhat demanding group of individuals.

You need to understand Generation Z

First of all you need to appreciate who Generation Z are. There is no clear consensus on when this cohort starts, with some arguing its mid-1990s, while others suggest mid-2000s. Either way, they currently make up around seven per cent of the current workforce.

Hippies at heart – your business needs to have ‘impact’

A recent research carried out by Sage came up with a number of interesting findings, but most crucially they found that 60 per cent of post-millennials desire their job to have ‘impact’.

While ‘impact’ is an arbitrary word, and could be taken for a lot of things – i.e. cultural, environmental or political impact – it is generally taken to mean ‘good’. If your organisation isn’t completely ethical in their eyes, regardless of what you pay them, it may cause some friction.

The best way to solve this is glass-like transparency with all members of staff and introducing policy which demonstrates good intentions – such as offering a portion of profits to charity, or hosting various fundraisers. Do good things with your profits and you’ll appeal to Generation Z.

Ambitious and financially ruthless

It appears that Generation Z is much more entrepreneurial than previous generations, with the study finding 72 per cent desire to run their own business. This presents organiations with an opportunity to tap into this desire to produce results. Give them a project to manage and these budding entrepreneurs will take ownership straight away.

When it comes to remuneration or salary – Generation Z is much more demanding than previous cohorts. 65 per cent prioritise salary over anything else, so while you might offer a few perks such as gym membership, healthcare or even a company car, excluding these from contracts and adding a couple thousand extra to a salary package might work better to your advantage. Be warned though, you may be prepared to negotiate.

Emails too slow for Generation Z

The youth of today are used to one thing and one thing only – speed. Dependent on social media and striving to communicate in the fastest way possible, emails are sadly too slow and cumbersome for Generation Z.

While we’re not saying you have to overhaul your complete communications process to house a few impatient individual, we advise that line-managers communicate with their younger staff through instant-messaging mediums, such as Skype, if they’re looking to get things done. This generation needs information straight away and won’t be too pleased if they’re sat about waiting for an email.

Written by John Bernard.

Why employees want more meaning in the workplace

Employees are no longer content with just a pay cheque and good benefits.

There is a soul-searching epidemic afoot in the workplace where they want meaning and passion. Employees search for something greater than themselves to believe in and they cannot help but to extend that search to their work lives.

The search for meaning and purpose is a spiritual search for meaningfulness of one’s existence, a search for understanding how one’s life (including one’s work) fits into a larger context. It is a spiritual quest to find a reason for ‘being’ and a feeling that this ‘being’ is of significance and relates to a sense of fulfilling a higher purpose beyond just surviving, but having made, or being able to make a difference in the world.

Spirituality should not be equated with religion. Instead it’s all about having a sense of meaning in one’s life and a feeling of connectedness with other people and the universe. We bring our spiritual selves to work and much of our spiritual odyssey occurs within the context of the workplace. Because work is a central part of our modern lives, people are searching for a way to enrich their working lives with meaning.

People attach meanings to work beyond that of economic utility. They want to see a larger purpose in their daily toiling at work. The practical significance of meaning in life is revealed when phrased as, “what makes my life worth living and my work worth doing?”

Attitudes to work are changing whereby people are trying to integrate their spiritual selves with their work lives. Growing numbers of people are hungry to find meaning in their work and to give their lives a better balance. Especially, what the well-educated workforce wants more than anything else is meaningful employment with time to pursue other interests besides work. Extended education has brought with it rising expectations that one is entitled to personal needs and expectations being met in the workplace. Young people are beginning to claim the right to an interesting, meaningful and a fulfilling job.

In addition organisations are evolving from arenas of pure economic and social activity into places of spiritual engagement, a place for employees to find meaning, looking to the company’s leaders to answer their questions about meaning.

People tend to evaluate themselves according to what they accomplish in their work. If they see their job as hampering the achievement of their full potential, it becomes difficult for them to maintain a sense of purpose or satisfaction. Without a focus on aiding employees to find meaning in their work, every choice to improve job satisfaction is random and arbitrary.

Viktor Frankl, the Jewish psychiatrist who survived Nazzi concentration camps and author of the acclaimed ‘Man’s search for meaning’, argued that the essence of human motivation is a striving to find and realise meaning in one’s life.

Research supports Frankl’s views, confirming with overwhelming consistency that meaning is an important correlate of almost every aspect of mental health. In contrast, meaninglessness has been found to correlate with a lack of well-being and psychopathologies in a roughly linear sense. Research on meaning in the workplace confirms that meaning significantly correlates with positive work outcomes and attitudes, such as higher engagement, higher intrinsic motivation, willingness to take on tough challenges, yet experiencing more satisfaction.

Business people often experience their work, family life and their spiritual selves to be in separate compartments. This separation leaves them feeling dry, unfulfilled and unhappy. This is often experienced as a profound void or absence in people’s lives, or an existential vacuum. People spend too much of their time at work, or in work-related social activities, to compartmentalise their lives into separate work, family, religious and social domains. If personal or social transformation is to take place, it will most likely take place at work.

The concern for finding meaning in work becomes greater, leaders move into the role as spiritual guides in the search for meaning in the workplace. Helping employees to find more meaning in their work is simple and does not cost much – if anything at all.

For instance:

• Sit with every employee in your team and ensure they know and understand the importance of their job and the reason for doing it properly. The security guard who understands that she/he is the face of the organisation to customers will act differently and with meaning.
• Ensure that every person, across all levels, know and understand their contribution to the success and future of the team and the organisation. This is similar to the anecdotal story of the broom sweeper at NASA who claimed that his job was to put a person on the moon.
• Make sure that every employee understands how the organisation contributes to building a better society and a future for society – and that it is not just about the money
• Instil and embed spiritual values in your organisation, such as care, respect, integrity, dignity and generosity. This will enhance engagement and performance significantly.
• Embed a culture of self-transcendence in which the organisation and employees do not only take care of themselves, but also reach out to each other and the community to help and assist where there is a need.

But remember, these actions do require sincerity and take some effort; superficial attempts will quickly vaporise or become transparent, resulting in loss of credibility and reputation. On the other hand, honest attempts will be highly rewarded.

Leadership has a spiritual tone that we are not always aware of, yet cannot ignore. The task for leaders is on a much deeper level of spiritual interaction with subordinates than what is often anticipated and those in leadership have a duty to assist their employees on their journey to find and fulfil a higher life purpose through their work.

Mias de Klerk is a Professor in Human Capital Management and Leadership Development at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

Expatriate Guide for Dummies – employment rules and best practice

When you employ a foreign national in South Africa, the rules and best practice are significantly different for them than normal employees.

One can always fit foreign nationals into an existing human resource structure, but there is either a significant and unnecessary cost thereto, or plenty of administration.

Here are some pointers to ensure you make the correct start:

Expatriate selection and preparation

The journey starts with sourcing the correct resource for the job, which is of critical importance and must be given the necessary thought. These considerations would include the emotional and psychological effects on an expatriate employee and their family and whether their family is accompanying the expatriate on the assignment or remaining behind.

Psychometric assessment that focuses specifically on a candidate’s ability to adapt to different people and situations as well as their ability to cope with pressures and set-backs can offer significant and useful insight to employers as to the suitability of a candidate and their likelihood to be successful on assignment.

Immigration and work visas

The work visa process needs to be tackled as soon as possible after a suitable candidate has been chosen. There are several steps to follow, which include identifying the correct category of visa for both the expatriate and their family, determining whether the applicant must apply in their home or host country, and then, most importantly, the process of collecting the necessary documents from both the employee and the employer.

This can be quite a lengthy process, especially where poorly managed and the sooner it gets underway the better. Work visas are easy to understand if you know what you need and how to go about it, but near impossible where you are inexperienced.

Tax planning and compliance

When employing expatriates, specific tax planning is required to ensure that, amongst other things, a non-residency tax status is secured and solely South African source (as opposed to world-wide) income is taxable and employee benefits such as housing exemptions are optimally structured.

Likewise, applying for SARS waivers on items such as home leave exemptions on rotational home leave trips can save companies large amounts of money. Obviously, of utmost importance is to ensure home and host country compliance at all times.

Expatriate remuneration

Expatriate remuneration can be a highly sensitive and contentious issue. It is therefore crucial that an objective and consistent methodology is used when adjusting an expatriate’s salary to the specific assignment for which they have been selected.

Employment contracts or secondment agreements must be setup to ensure correct wording from a work visa perspective, optimal tax planning and compliance as well as addressing standard expatriate items, i.e. aligning your agreement to leading market practice.

It is vital that an international mobility policy is formulated, taking into account market best practice, local laws and current business affordability. Companies would often make use of an “Assignment Cost Calculator” calculating the total assignment costs, including home and host country taxes.

Outsourced employment

Where employers bring in a group of expatriates for a fixed term period project, they often utilise an outsourced vehicle through which to employ professionals. Should it be a business consideration, one of the main benefits of this type of structure is to ensure complete confidentiality of remuneration. It also lessens the administrative burden of, for example, setting up a split payroll and administering offshore payments and Reserve Bank approval processes.

Other benefits ensure the correct bank account setup with exchange control, social security clearances and expatriate specific benefits. No expatriate should be forced to contribute to a South African based retirement scheme, as they do not plan to retire in South Africa (if they do, we are in breach of tax and exchange control).

Expatriates who are correctly selected and integrated deliver exceptional value to an organisation. However, end up with unhappy employees and there will be layers of frustration, as any human resource administrator who has been through this process can vouch.

Marisa Jacobs is the Director – Head of Immigration and Mobility at Xpatweb.

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