Dismissed employee challenges dismissal

A dismissed employee is entitled to challenge his dismissal on the grounds that the employer failed to comply with its contractual obligations as an alternative or in addition to any claim that such dismissal also constitutes an unfair dismissal in terms of the LRA.

The Labour Court, in Mathabathe v Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality and Another (2016) 27 SALLR 122 (LC), considered the following important issues:

(a) In the scenario where an employee’s employment contract contains a clause to the effect that the employer will terminate the employee’s employment contract in accordance with the LRA, is such employee entitled to elect to challenge the subsequent termination as unlawful on the basis that the employer failed to comply with the contractual obligation to execute same in accordance with the LRA?

(b) In the above scenario, if the employee is successful, to what extent will the employer be entitled to reinstate disciplinary charges against the employee?

(c) According to the Supreme Court of Appeal, in Fedlife Assurance Ltd v Wolfaardt 2002 (1) SA 49 (SCA), and followed by the Labour Court in casu, what is the relationship between an unlawful and unfair dismissal?

(d) According to the Supreme Court of Appeal, in Boxer Superstores Mbatha and Another v Mbenya 2007 (5) SA 450 (SCA), and followed by the Labour Court in casu, is a dismissed employee entitled to challenge such dismissal on the grounds that the employer failed to comply with its contractual obligations as an alternative or in addition to any claim that same also constitutes an unfair dismissal in terms of the LRA?

(e) According to the Constitutional Court, in Chirwa v Transnet Ltd and Others [2008] 2 BLLR 97 (CC), is a dismissed employee, so employed by the State and challenging his/her employer for non-compliance with the LRA, entitled to rely on an administrative law remedy?

(f) According to the Labour Court in casu, what is the effect of the Constitutional Court judgment, in Steenkamp and Others v Edcon Ltd (2016) 37 ILJ 564 (CC) on the entitlement of employees to bring their claims for breaches of LRA obligations, under the LRA?

(g) What is the content of procedural fairness in terms of the LRA, and so confirmed by the Labour Court in casu, with reference to Avril Elizabeth Home for the Mentally Handicapped v CCMA and Others [2006] 9 BLLR 833 (LC); (2006) 10 SALLR 118 (LC)?


Declaratory orders sought: 1. dismissal unlawful 2. specific performance

This is an application brought on a semi-urgent basis in which the applicant seeks declaratory orders to the effect that the summary termination of her employment contract be declared unlawful and of no effect, that the disciplinary proceedings initiated against her and which served before the second respondent constitute a nullity and that there be an order of specific performance of the applicant’s contract by reinstating her retrospectively from 1 June 2016, the date on which the applicant contends that the first respondent repudiated her contract. The application was opposed by the first respondent.

The claim was brought as one in terms of s77(3) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (‘BCEA’). That section confers jurisdiction on the Labour Court, concurrently with the civil courts, to hear and determine matters concerning contracts of employment.

Pertinent facts of the case

The material facts were not in dispute and were recorded in the papers.

For present purposes it is sufficient to record that, on 1 February 2014, the applicant was employed by the first respondent as its municipal police chief: safety and security.

Her primary obligation was to establish a metro police force for the first respondent.

The applicant’s appointment was for a period of five years, subject to terms that entitled either party to terminate the contract prior to the completion of the fixed term.

Specifically, the contract provided that it would be terminable at the employee’s initiative by the giving of two months’ notice and, by the employer party, on one month’s notice, if the applicant were found guilty of serious misconduct or deliberate neglect in the discharge of her duties.

Clause 15.2 of the applicant’s contract of employment was central to these proceedings. It provided as follows:

Termination in compliance with: 1. employer’s disciplinary code and procedures; 2. if absent SALGBC disciplinary code and procedure; 3. as well as LRA compliance

‘The Employer will be entitled to terminate the Employee’s employment contract for any sufficient reason recognised in law, provided that the Employer must comply with its disciplinary code and procedures, if in the absence of which, the disciplinary code and procedures of the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (‘SALGBC’) will apply, as well as in accordance with the Labour Relations Act, 66 of 1995. Reasons for terminating the employment contract may include the Employee:

15.2.1 committing any serious or persistent breach of any of the provisions of his/her employment contract;
15.2.2 being guilty of any serious misconduct or deliberate neglect in the discharge of his/her duties under the employment contract and signed performance agreement;
15.2.3 being unreasonably absent from employment without approval;
15.2.4 disobeying a lawful instruction or direction of the Employer;
15.2.5 having been convicted of a criminal offence other than an offence, which in the reasonable opinion of the Employer, does not effect [sic] his/her position as an employee; or
15.2.6 failing to place the whole of his/her time at the disposal of the Employer, when reasonably required.’ The parties have agreed that, for the purposes of these proceedings, the operative element of clause
15.2 is the phrase ‘as well as in accordance with the Labour Relations Act …’.

For reasons that are not entirely apparent, the first respondent’s disciplinary code was not applicable, nor was any procedure established by the bargaining council.

On 4 April 2016, the first respondent delivered a charge sheet to the applicant and called her to a disciplinary hearing in regard to three charges.


These charges, in broad terms, concerned allegations of misconduct in the form of a failure to disclose the receipt of remuneration from a third party (the Road Traffic Management Corporation), ignoring an instruction from the executive director: safety and security to complete a declaration of interest form, and culpable negligence in the form of a failure to take any or adequate steps to prepare for the establishment of the metro police force, the principal task for which the applicant had been employed.

On the same date, the applicant was booked off from work after a diagnosis of anxiety and depression.

On 12 April 2016, the disciplinary hearing was convened before the second respondent. The applicant’s counsel moved for a postponement of the hearing.

The postponement was sought on account of the applicant’s medical condition and on the basis that she had had insufficient time to prepare for the hearing. The first respondent opposed the application. The second respondent came to the following conclusion, in dealing with the postponement application:

‘It is therefore my ruling that there is [sic] exceptional circumstances that exists [sic] in this matter and that the matter should be dealt with differently to ensure that it is finalised as soon as possible. Therefore my reading is that the employer is to file a statement of case with supporting affidavits by 21 April 2016, with all supporting documents. That must be served on the employee and his legal team as well as on me … The employee to file an answering statement by 9th of May 2016 by 15:00 hours.’

Both parties proceeded to file documents in terms of the ruling.

On 23 May 2016, the second respondent issued what is referred to as the ‘outcome of the disciplinary enquiry’. The Labour Court did not intend, for present purposes, to canvas the whole of the ruling.

It was sufficient to state that, in relation to the nature of the proceedings, the second respondent observed that there had been no objection from the applicant in regard to his ruling that the matter be dealt with by way of a statement of case and response, and that the decision to determine the matter on paper had been taken, amongst other things, on account of the applicant’s poor prognosis and in the absence of any indication as to when she would be fit to attend a formal disciplinary hearing.

The second respondent specifically recorded that the applicant’s representative had not objected to the process at the time and had agreed to the timeframes for the filing of submissions.

After considering the submissions made by the parties in the documents that they had filed, the second respondent found the applicant guilty on all three charges of misconduct and ordered the parties to submit mitigating or aggravating factors for consideration of sanction by no later than 30 May 2016.

On 30 May 2016, the applicant filed an application for the recusal of the second respondent. In the application, the applicant contended that the second respondent had unfairly and without justification resorted to a procedure which was inappropriate to the determination of factual disputes and, further, that he could not properly have made an assessment in
advance as to whether the matter was capable of determination on paper.

The applicant submitted that the procedure dictated by the second respondent had the consequence of a serious deprivation of her rights, and then proceeded to attack the findings made by the second respondent.

The applicant concluded that the findings were so at variance with what any objective chairperson’s findings ought properly to be that the inference of actual bias was warranted.

On 1 June 2016, the second respondent issued a further ruling, dismissing the recusal application. The second respondent went on to find that dismissal was an appropriate sanction for the misconduct found to have been committed and he summarily dismissed the applicant with effect from the date of the outcome, i e 1 June 2016.

Findings of the Labour Court

The applicant’s claim was that she had a contractual entitlement to a disciplinary hearing (at least in accordance with the principles laid down in the LRA) prior to any valid termination of the employment contract and that she was, in any event, entitled to one month’s notice of termination of her contract.

The applicant specifically did not request the Labour Court to make findings as to whether a properly conducted enquiry could sustain the charges brought against her or whether those charges, even if they were proven, would sustain the sanction of dismissal. She accepted that, if this application were to succeed, the first respondent would be entitled to reinstate the charges against her. In other words, the applicant insisted on specific performance of the contract only to the extent that she asserted her right to a fair disciplinary hearing.

Relevant principles:

1. no right to a hearing at common law before dismissal
2. contractual right must be established The applicant conceded that the common law of contract makes no provision for a hearing before termination of employment, but relies on the express term (clause 15.2) that establishes such a right.
3. LRA does not exclude enforcement of contractual rights

The applicant also contended that she was not precluded by the statutory protection against unfair dismissal from enforcing a contractual right to fair procedure.

I Fedlife judgment (SCA): LRA does not abrogate the employee’s entitlement to enforce contractual rights

The applicant relied on Fedlife Assurance Ltd v Wolfaardt 2002 (1) SA 49 (SCA), where the court said the following:

‘However, there can be no suggestion that the constitutional dispensation deprived employees of the common law right to enforce the terms of the fixed term contract of employment. Thus irrespective of whether the 1995 Act was declaratory of rights that had this source in the interim Constitution or whether it created substantive rights itself, the question is whether it simultaneously deprived employees of the pre-existing common law right to enforce such contracts, thereby confirming them to the remedies for ‘unlawful dismissal’ as provided for in the 1995 Act … The 1995 Act does not expressly abrogate an employee’s common law entitlement to enforce contractual rights and nor do I think that it does so by necessary implication. On the contrary there are clear indications that in the 1995 act that the legislature had no intention of doing so.’

The fact that a dismissal is unlawful, but also unfair, is irrelevant

And further:

‘When a particular dispute falls within the terms of s191 depends upon what is in dispute, and the fact that an unlawful dismissal might also be unfair (at least as a matter of ordinary language) is irrelevant to that enquiry. The dispute falls within the terms of the section only if the “fairness” of the dismissal is the subject of the employee’s complaint. Where it is not, the subject in dispute is the lawfulness of the dismissal, then the fact that it might also be, and probably is, unfair, is quite coincidental for that is not what the employee’s complaint is about.

II Boxer Superstores Mbatha (SC): dismissed employee an election: enforce contractual rights as an alternative or in addition to unfair dismissal

The Labour Court did not understand the law to have changed since Fedlife, certainly not to the extent of depriving a dismissed employee of any contractual rights where the employee elected to enforce those rights either as an alternative or in addition to any claim for unfair dismissal that may be available under the LRA. This much was made clear by the Supreme Court of Appeal in the later decision of Boxer Superstores Mbatha and Another v Mbenya 2007 (5) SA 450 (SCA).

III Chirwa (CC): employee employed by the state and alleges non-compliance with the LRA, not entitled to utilise an administrative law right

The situation is different where an employee employed by the state seeks to rely on an administrative law remedy. Here, the courts have held that, when a party alleges that the employer has failed to comply with the LRA, a remedy must be sought under that Act and the employee may not clothe the dispute as one that concerns the application or enforcement of an administrative law right (see Chirwa v Transnet Ltd and Others [2008] 2 BLLR 97 (CC)).

In the present instance, the applicant does not seek a remedy that is available to her under the LRA. Her complaint was that the respondents had breached her contractual rights, and it was those rights that she sought to enforce.

IV Edcon (CC): did not change the above position: if cause of action is based on a breach of LRA obligation, then LRA applicable

The Labour Court did not understand the more recent decision by the Constitutional Court, in Steenkamp and Others v Edcon Ltd (2016) 37 ILJ 564(CC), to have changed that position. In that case, the affected employees brought their claim directly under the LRA; their cause of action was one based directly on a breach of an LRA obligation.

The fact that the content of her contractual right to a fair hearing is defined by reference to what is provided by the LRA does not necessarily require the applicant to invoke an LRA remedy, nor does it deprive her of a contractual right – the issue is one of the nature and content of the contractual right. In short, the reference to the LRA in the present instance is one of definition.

Clause 15.2 does no more than define the scope of the contractual right to a fair hearing.

The issue to be decided therefore is the scope of a right to fair procedure defined by the phrase ‘as well as in accordance with the LRA’.

The nature and extent of the right to procedural fairness in terms of the LRA was the subject of a decision of the Labour Court in Avril Elizabeth Home for the Mentally Handicapped v CCMA & others [2006] 9 BLLR 833 (LC); (2006) 10 SALLR 118 (LC). The Labour Court held that the LRA, read with the code of good practice, fundamentally and significantly departed from the previously applicable ‘criminal justice’ model which likened a workplace disciplinary enquiry to a criminal trial, and developed rules and procedures, including rules relating to bias and any apprehension of bias, in that context.

Justice for employees: expeditious and independent review of employer’s decision and reinstatement primary remedy

The court said the following at p 838-9:

Justice for employers: promote rational decisionmaking and elaborate procedural fairness not required

‘The rules relating to procedural fairness introduced in 1995 do not replicate the criminal justice model of procedural fairness. They recognise that for workers, true justice lies in a right to an expeditious and independent review of the employer’s decision to dismiss, with reinstatement as the primary remedy when the substance of employer decisions are found wanting. For employers, this right of the resort to expeditious and independent arbitration was intended not only to promote rational decisionmaking about workplace discipline, it was also an acknowledgement that the elaborate procedural requirements that have been developed prior to the new Act were inefficient and inappropriate and that if a dismissal for conduct was disputed, arbitration was the primary forum for determination of the dispute by the application of a more formal process.’

Content of procedural fairness

The Labour Court went on to hold that, properly construed, the right to fair procedure in terms of the code of good practice provides for no more than the following:

‘When the code refers to an opportunity that must be given by the employer to the employee to state a case in response to any allegations made against that employee, which need not be a formal enquiry, it means no more than that there should be dialogue and an opportunity for reflection before any decision is taken to dismiss. In the absence of exceptional circumstances, the substantive content of this process as defined by item 4 of the code requires the conducting of an investigation, notification to the employee of any allegations that may flow from the investigation, and an opportunity, within a reasonable time, to prepare a response to the employer’s allegations with the assistance of a trade union representative or fellow employee. The employer should then communicate the decision taken, and preferably communicate this in writing. If the decision is to dismiss the employee the employee should be given the reason for dismissal and reminded of his or her rights to refer any disputed dismissal to the CCMA, a bargaining council with jurisdiction, or any procedure established in terms of the collective agreement.’

In the Labour Court’s view, the applicant was afforded a right to be heard on terms that satisfied the requirements of the code of good practice.

Written representations constitute procedural fairness

This is not the first time that the a disciplinary process involving the submission of written representations has received judicial sanction (see, for example, Broadcasting Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union & others v SA Broadcasting Corporation and Others (J 2239/2015)).

In the Labour Court’s view, the procedure adopted by the second respondent constituted compliance with the code of good practice and, thus, did not constitute a breach of the applicant’s contract of employment.

The Labour Court dismissed the application and no order as to costs was made.

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

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Cloud-based HR solutions – “Carpe Diem”

A look into HR’s crystal ball reveals that HR is key to a successful and well functioning organisation.

The HR profession is currently experiencing an explosion of new in-depth functionality through technology which is being made available through on-premises and Cloud-based HR solutions. Many HR professionals are wondering where this is all going to lead to, as they are being spoilt for choice, and sometimes having too many choices can be a lot more stressful and challenging than having very little or no choice at all. As an HR technologist, all I can do is echo the call, “Carpe Diem!”

With technology, there is no better time than the present. Failing to act could put you at risk of being left so far behind, and your systems could quickly become obsolete. What we are seeing in 2018 is that the HR team is being presented with a plethora of Cloud-based HR solutions, HR Apps and add-ons to choose from, to enable them to implement an HR solution to bring value to the organisation. When looking at current Cloud-based solutions on offer, there is a lot of common ground covered by them all, so I thought it a worthwhile exercise to list the top three innovations currently being made available.

HR in the Cloud

In just a few years, Cloud-based HR solutions have managed to move from being just a prediction for the future or seen as just a disrupter, to becoming a reality, and fast becoming the norm. Today, in any discussion around HR solutions, Cloud-based technology is starting to take a leading role, as the Cloud is no longer seen as a high-risk, bleeding edge solution. In fact, when reviewing the current HRIS options provided by the major players today, most have already moved to now only offering their solutions in the Cloud.

Some of the biggest advantages that vendors are finding through their Cloud offerings are that they can offer their customers increased flexibility and agility, faster and automated updates and upgrades, being able to easily add new innovations on a more frequent basis, all of this with enjoying an overall decrease in the cost of the solution.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Another innovation is that HR solutions are now offered in a SaaS model, with this model becoming more and more prevalent, with the advent of a Cloud-based solution. As the risk that was initially associated with Cloud-based solutions has decreased dramatically over the past few years, they have certainly become far more acceptable to organisations and their IT departments. The trend of opting for a SaaS based solution is also starting to replace the once prevalent on-premises model, and is fast becoming the norm.

By its very nature, the SaaS delivery model allows for anywhere anytime access, making all the relevant HR and Payroll information accessible 24/7 to bothusers and employees.

Industry experts predict that SaaS model usage will double in the next two years, impacting heavily on the way of work for HR.

Comprehensive Talent Management

With the widespread use of Mobile HR Apps, previously complex and difficult to use HR functions are now becoming second nature to both managers and employees. No longer do functions such as Performance Management, Succession Planning or Career Development need to be laborious complex processes, as on-premises solutions often presented them, but now with HR Apps, these functions have become intuitive by nature, much like Apps found on our smart devices.

With the advent of HR Apps, employees can now also expect to start experiencing “push type” notifications and other mobile-centric features emanating from the HR system. In addition, smartphone options will begin to expand in a way that benefits both the organisation as well as the employees as these HR Apps become more widely offered and used daily.

And therein lies the huge benefit for the HR team. No-one could ever have predicted that someday employees and managers would be connected and using components of the HR solution as part of their daily lives. In the traditional Self-Service model, HR was happy to see employees having weekly interactions with the system, and from the employees’ perspective, the primary function of self-service was just to access their payslips online as well as view leave balances and submit leave forms online for approval. HR Apps have the power to change all this.

Making sense of People Analytics

Implementing People Analytics as part of your HR solution will enable your organisation to start making smarter, more strategic and informed talent decisions. A good People Analytics solution is one that can apply statistical analysis, through technology and expertise to your HR system’s database, and then convert this into information that is insightful. Applying analytics to your HR data will assist your organisation to make more informed management and business decisions.

People Analytics is a new area of expertise required in the HR team, and forward thinking organisations are starting to employ HR Data Analysts to perform this function. The skills required are an in-depth knowledge of HR combined with technical data base knowledge, and as the importance of People Analytics is recognised, so too will the importance of the role of the HR Data Analyst rise.

In summary, all HR professionals should start investigating the readiness of their organisations to move their current HRIS from an on-premises model to that of a Cloud-based solution to enable their organisation to start reaping all the rewards and benefits that Cloud-based solutions offer.

Rob Bothma is an HCM Solutions Architect at Oracle Corporation SA, www.oracle.com, a Fellow of the Institute of People Management and past non-executive director and Vice President of the IPM, co-author of the 4th Edition of Contemporary Issues in HRM.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Address the widening gender pay gap

Reporting may help to close the wage gap where legislation has failed.

For the past few years, the gender pay gap has been a hot topic in the world of HR, led by the catch phrase “Equal pay for work of equal value”. Plenty articles have addressed the injustice and the precursors thereof, and offered suggestions on how to lessen the gap. Despite efforts to conquer the problem, South Africa has found itself ranked 19 on the World Economic Forum’s latest global index report on gender inequality. Such a hefty statistic has led to the estimation that the wage gap will need an additional century before it can come to a close.

What has been done to reverse the widening gap?

Various legislations around the world have attempted to address the wage gap. For instance, the UK’s Equal Pay Act (2010) legislates for like work between males and females, to be rewarded equally. In other terms, a female with the same job title, roles and responsibilities as her male counterpart should receive the same remuneration as he would. South Africa’s version of this legislation falls under the Employment Equity Act that also demands for equal remuneration for work of equal value. South Africa’s Constitution regards all individuals as being equal before the law and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, colour, age, sexual orientation, social/ethnic origin, age, religion, conscience, disability, culture, language and birth.

The law does not allocate specific provision with regards to pay for equal work but the employer’s responsibility is to comply with the law and ascertain opportunity within the workplace by eradicating unfair discrimination in every realm of the workplace. This applies especially to remuneration, benefits, as well as the terms of employment.

Legislation such as this was intended to close the gender pay gap but unfortunately seems to be unsuccessful.

Why is the gender pay gap widening rather than closing? There are several suggested reasons for the existing pay gap. These are as follows:

1. Ignoring legislation:

Many businesses have opted not to comply with the law. This may be due to business owners with patriarchal values.

2. Demographics:

The manner in which employees are distributed across or within jobs plays a strong role in increasing the gender gap.

3. Females stepping back:

When negotiating a raise, males tend to dominate in the area over females. There may be an underlying assumption that females are less deserving of a raise, given the historical perceptions of the job market. However, this false assumption needs to be exterminated in order for the world to move forward.

4. The discretion of management:

Generally, there is an over-reliance on management to reward higher. This makes way for an increased gender gap.

What now can we do to combat the gender wage gap?

The UK has now set the bar and is one of the first in the world to bring in gender gap reporting in an attempt to eliminate the gender wage gap. As many as 9,000 organisations in the UK with over 15 million employees are required to publish their gender pay gaps. The attention thereon will automatically force organisations to aim for the optimal goal to stay in business, because, let’s face it, who wants to buy the products or services from a company whose ethics combat one’s own?

But why would a business then want to disclose their pay gap if it’s not illegal to keep it a secret?

Advantages of pay gap reporting

Pay gap reporting can be used as an advantage as businesses comply with closing the pay gap in the following ways:

1. Organisations may use the pay gap to their advantage by marketing themselves as fair and otransparent;
2. It may have a positive impact on the employees of the organisation, increasing their morale;
3. Attracting and retaining employees will become easier as people want to work for an organisation with sound ethics; and
4. Gender inequality will become a problem of the past.


It thus seems that gender pay gap reporting will become the new trend. Since legislation was unable to conquer the gender pay gap, reporting just may well be the way forward.

Dr Mark Bussin is the Executive Chairperson at 21st Century Pay Solutions Group, www.21century.co.za, a Professor at University of Johannesburg, Professor Extraordinaire at North West University, Chairperson and member of various boards and remuneration committees, immediate past President and EXCO member of SARA, and a former Commissioner in the Office of the Presidency. Daniela Christos is a Candidate Human Resources Practitioner at 21st Century Pay Solutions Group.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Upskill for automation

Is your company ready for automation and the new world of work?

As the world of work evolves, futureconscious organisations need to be aware of the business implications associated with automation and robotics. A fundamental consideration is how such changes disrupt and affect the world of work and long-standing traditions about the role human beings play in it.

Recent articles in international business publications indicate that many private sector business leaders worldwide lack a good understanding of how automation and/or digitisation will affect future skills needs. There are also conflicting views about the best way to obtain these future skills. One view calls for a balanced combination of hiring new talent and retraining and reskilling existing talent; another focuses mainly on retraining and some new hiring; a third viewpoint is that the solution is in fact primarily the hiring of new talent.

A positive trend, according to articles on the topic of automation, is that executives of frontline companies see investment in retraining and upskilling existing workers as an urgent business priority, and consider this an issue where companies, and not governments, must take the lead. Retraining and upskilling are seen as a business imperative over the next five years. Given the fast-paced and blind-siding nature of disruption, lagging behind could mean possible extinction. The view is that business leaders should be examining their organisations and trying to figure out the changes that automation will require of them and their employees.

The future will mean a change to terms and conditions of employment for many employees, and they will need to be consulted with, in accordance with labour laws.

Concern that automation will lead to unemployment

Concern about jobs is valid, particularly in countries like South Africa which has a high unemployment rate. The new world of work will have a significant impact on organisational structure and functions, with automation introducing the real possibility of a number of repetitive and low-value jobs becoming redundant. From an employment law perspective, this would trigger the process contained in section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

However, such redundancies do not necessarily signal doom and gloom. Automation introduces the real possibility of creating new types of jobs that have not existed before. The net result of automation on employment may accordingly very well be positive – enhancing the way people work, and making organisations more efficient, more productive, more competitive and ultimately more profitable. Organisations will need to be mindful of the potential impact on employees, and will need to support employees through issues such as the stress and uncertainty of change, the challenge of mastering new skills and the pressure to be even more productive. Employers who feel that such workers are not performing at the required standard will need to take such factors into consideration both when determining if an employee is a poor performer, and when putting in place the training, guidance and counselling as required by the Labour Relations Act, in order to allow the employee to perform at the required standard.

As upskilling for automation is unchartered territory, an investment in time and resources is required in order to be future ready. HR functions that will be key will be those of change management and organisation (re)design. Vital to organisations thriving in the new world of work is planning ahead, having a strong management team, timeously taking expert advice, and tactically implementing what is best for individual organisations. There are exciting times ahead.

Lusanda Raphulu is a Partner, Employment and Benefits at Bowmans, www.bowmanslaw.com.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Focus on the flavours in your company

Turn the combination of flavours in your company recipe into a delicious dish.

During your festive “break” you tasted something simply delicious at that restaurant everyone is raving about. An exemplary combination of ingredients to make a delectable seafood pasta. All these scrumptious meals have created a taste experience in each patron which has made an impact sufficient for them to go forth and speak well of the establishment. Is this not the result we all seek out of our businesses – some free flowing “Vive Voce”?

Have you ever tasted paprika alone? It is downright awful! Paired with the right combination of other spices, herbs and flavours, however, it supplements a recipe’s overall flavour. It is interdependent, just as our talent is.

For the purpose of this article, I ask that you indulge me and consider the foregoing analogy. People, or our talent, are the flavour of our business! No matter how good your core ingredients (resources) are, if you don’t have herbs and spices to bring them together, your “recipe” is no better than any other. Our leadership style is our cooking method. No matter how good your recipes are, if you under or overcook them or boil instead of fry them, your recipe may be utterly ruined.

When people experience your business or one of your business processes (for example dispatch, sales or your finance department), they must want to applaud you thereafter. We all, within reason, have access to the same mechanical, financial and technological resources, but without the unique “flavours”, being your human resources or talent, this would mean nothing. Every chef has the seafood and the pasta but it is how it is put together with various flavours and cooking methods that makes all the difference. Human Resources are your company flavours, your cooking method is your leadership style. If you burn those flavours, it doesn’t matter what flavours you use. Some flavours need some heat, some do not. Take the time to analyse them and identify their strengths and weaknesses, what they pair well with and how their flavours are optimised with various cooking methods.

Some flavours, unless broken down to their core properties and a comprehension of how to pair them with other ingredients, may seem “pungent”. Break those flavours down! Understand them! Which are unique and which are easily replaceable? What flavours work well in many recipes and which only work well in a few, but are crucial? This information is invaluable in your succession planning.

Understand your staff thoroughly, understand their skills and capabilities, understand their emotions and behaviours. Knuckle down on this, and your succession planning, skills development, motivational “carrots” all become more apparent. Conduct assessments on your staff, the various products we offer nowadays are proficient not only for individual guiding and coaching but on the ultimate style for individuals.

In the HR field, there are many areas such as leadership style, employment equity and skills development, which merely become “tick box” exercises. Let us put the heart back into HR. Focus on your “flavours”. Focus on your emotional intelligence. Maybe, just maybe, this could be your competitive advantage in 2018.

Kristy Keating is the Senior HR Consultant at NKR Outsourced HR, www.nkr.co.za.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Generation Z enters the workplace

Fusing the old with the new is now a major priority for companies.

“I do this for the generation that is coming behind me.” Scottie Waves

Traditionally the domain of a serious set of older engineers, cement/concrete technology and civil engineering are currently undergoing a slow but steady transition. With smart future cities starting to become a reality, the generation that will be their future custodian is finding its voice – and is demanding to be involved from concept to development and construction. As a generation that expects to work harder than previous generations (to “fix” what we’ve already broken), Generation Z is already doing this from “within” the system; leveraging new technologies, digital transformation and new architectural thinking among others to renew and transform our century-old discipline. Finding the balance between encouraging their creativity and maintaining the principles of structural integrity has thus become the new challenge facing the sector: one we expect to continue grappling with well beyond 2018.

Connected from birth, the “iGeneration” or Generation Z is the demographic group following the world’s Millennials. Most have used the internet from a young age and are extremely comfortable with technology and interacting on social media. As the next generation preparing to enter the workplace and market, they’re not only excited to see what the future holds, but to understand how they can contribute to this directly.

With more Generation Zs considering civil engineering as a preferred career path, they’re pushing the boundaries of what was previously assumed, thought about and expected from materials like cement and concrete – making it critical to engage with them from the outset. While uses of these media have changed, design and structural principles haven’t and won’t however, meaning that they have to push boundaries within certain parameters.

Creating the appropriate framework for experimentation that leads to direct learning is thus an opportunity we have to take advantage of. While principles and concepts could simply be taught (and were accepted) in the past, this approach simply doesn’t work in the Generation Z space because of their diversity and complexity. They’re smart spenders for example, who aren’t sucked in by advertising or seduced by big brands. They don’t automatically believe or trust what you say and will research the facts you’re sharing with them as you’re doing so to verify them. They’re also impatient and demanding when it comes to service, and have an incredibly short attention span (roughly four seconds). If you don’t “hook” them during this window of opportunity, it closes. This makes learning by doing arguably the only viable approach.

Creating new learning opportunities has thus become a sector imperative – with some interesting new initiatives emerging. The Concrete Society of Southern Africa’s (CSSA) partnership with various local universities is a great example of this. The CSSA typically starts its engagement with new civil engineering students with its annual concrete canoe race. Here teams design, build and race their canoes whilst working in a new and inter-disciplinary way with project management and technology students.

(The canoe has to have a GPS on it for instance.) In a similar way, the CSSA’s “egg protection device” competition requires students to work within strict specifications to construct a bridge to protect their egg. The competition is sponsored by PPC, which means that the teams are provided with a specified mix to cast their bridges professionally. Seven days after construction, the teams come through to our PPC Jupiter plant where weights are dropped onto the bridges to assess which remain intact longest. This is only after the bridges have qualified however, being measured against the specs provided.

Our own PPC Imaginarium has also created a diverse and interesting creative incubation space for concrete as a design medium. Held annually, entries are invited from both expected (architecture, industrial design and sculpture) and unexpected disciplines (fashion, jewellery and film). Here again, while workshops are held to highlight mixing and other techniques, these are not compulsory – and entrants will need to grapple with specifications including size and weight; learning throughout. Gamification techniques have also recently been incorporated into CSSA’s offering to its younger members. Intended to leverage a natural desire for socialising, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status and self-expression, Concrete Quiz nights were introduced at branch level during 2017. Participants in these events are quizzed on their knowledge of concrete technology and the concrete industry, as well as general knowledge. Needless to say, the results of these and many other initiatives are not only encouraging but potentially industry-transforming in the long-term, with many of us from “older generations” both humbled and amazed by what can and has been produced.

Going forward into 2018 then, meaningful engagement arguably needs to become one of our pressing priorities so that we can unlock the potential of this techno-creative generation, and stand back to allow a completely new set of dynamic opportunities to emerge …

Hanlie Turner is a Group Specialist Technical Information Services at PPC and President of the Concrete Society of South Africa (CSSA).

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Future-fit companies operate like jazz bands

Why everyone should be in a jazz combo.

Like most middle-class parents in the 1970s, my mum and dad dreamt of me becoming an accomplished pianist. At the age of seven, they shipped me off to piano lessons. Every day, from then on, they endured me thumping the ivories with very little melodic or rhythmic ability. I pity them now. Especially as they failed so miserably in their endeavour. I continued with my lessons up to grade four before the teacher realised I couldn’t actually read music. I’d just been copying what she played.

So she asked me to stop.

I was delighted with that decision. Even at the age of nine, I was more interested in playing raucous Jerry Lee Lewis songs than elegant Chopin compositions. So instead of playing the lead role in the school orchestra, I ended up playing the bass in the school heavy metal band, which ended up being the start of a journey that led to me paying my way through
university by busking and eventually becoming a session musician for a few years.

In the intervening decades, my life in the business world has been greatly helped by my brief career as a musician. There are so many lessons I’ve been able to take and apply to my day job. And, as someone who now works with companies to help them reach better ideas, I’ve recently started using my guitar to help me explain management techniques. The world of music is proving to be a rich source of inspiration. Let me give you an example.

There’s a good chance your organisation runs like a large classical orchestra. That sounds nice and respectable, doesn’t it? But it’s possibly not suitable for the future we’re collectively strutting towards. I want to explain why it might be better to operate like a neat little jazz combo. Let’s compare the two approaches.


If you’re a grade four pianist, like myself, you’ll never get a job in an orchestra. You won’t even make it through the door unless you’ve reached grade eight and then spent time in a respected conservatoire. A formalised education system is the only way in.

This is in stark contrast to the way most jazz musicians learn their craft. Their education is more likely to come from spending hours alone listening to the same Charlie Parker riff again and again until they’ve nailed it. Jazz bands select their members on passion, how pleasant they are to hang out with and, possibly, how good they are in a fight. One approach results in an industry of very similar people and the other results in diversity. And, when it comes to generating ideas, increasing your organisation’s diversity is probably the single biggest way of improving your output.


One of the most incredible things about classical music is that you can witness a performance that’s pretty much gone unchanged for two hundred years or more. Often with instruments that are older than the original composition. It’s magical. But it’s also becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Jazz music has always been about doing things differently. No two performances are the same. The people who become the legends are the ones who discover their own voice and break new ground. Change and evolution are central to the genre. If you listen to modern jazz, you’ll be able to hear how far it’s come since the days of Scott Joplin or even Miles Davis. Much of it has evolved beyond what we’d even call jazz. Yes, there are followers and copyists. But innovation is central to the genre.


Just look at the way an orchestra is set up. All eyes are on the conductor. They keep the army of musicians synchronised and performing cohesively. If the conductor wasn’t there, the orchestra would be at a complete loss.

But jazz quartets don’t tend to have a conductor. In fact, most of them don’t even have a definite leader. They tend to have a pretty flat structure where people communicate with efficient little nods and raises of the eyebrows. All of them are aligned on what they’re trying to achieve and they’re collectively making decisions in real-time on how they’re achieving that. That makes them nimble and adaptable.

Job role

The job of a classical musician is to follow the notes on the page in front of them. They’re expected to play them in the right order at the right time as beautifully as they can. If you go off-piste and start doing things you’re own way, you won’t get much work. This isn’t about expressing your own ideas; it’s about expressing someone else’s. And sticking to
your niche.

Jazz is more of a balance. There is rhythm and structure that everyone follows. There are certain phrases you’d be expected to play. But within that, your role is far more flexible. Sometimes you’re playing together as an ensemble. Sometimes you’re supporting your fellow musicians when they’re soloing. And sometimes you get your own moment in the spotlight to use your improvisation skills to the full. Even if you’re the drummer. There’s a beautiful overlap. And overlap is where the magic happens.


Just like Victorian children, the audience at an orchestral performance should be seen and not heard. They are permitted to sit quietly and save their polite applause to the end. Coughing is a nono. A ringing mobile is an executable offence. And even loud breathing is frowned upon. Only once the last note has been played does the orchestra receive a muted indication of how they collectively performed.

Not so in jazz. If you do something special, you’ll know about it. Maybe even while you’re doing it. The audience gives you immediate feedback by clapping their hands and maybe shouting something along the lines of “groovy chops, hip cat!” That’s fantastic motivation for the musicians. It spurs them on to try harder. And it lets them know what’s working and what isn’t.


Playing a bum note is entirely unacceptable in an orchestra. You may be able to hide in the numbers and pretend it wasn’t you for a while. But if you do it habitually, the truth will out and you’ll find yourself looking for another career.

In jazz, you probably won’t even know if anyone’s played a note they didn’t mean to. It may, in fact, be applauded as a brave and interesting musical development. It may become a feature you can repeat and turn into a motif. You may impress the audience with how you recover from it and they’ll think you’re a genius. Mistakes are opportunities in jazz. And, just like DNA replication, it’s the mistakes that lead to an evolution of the genre.

By now, I hope you’ve worked out whether you’re working for a philharmonic corporation or a hip little enterprise. One is set up to efficiently execute someone else’s idea and the other is dedicated to constantly pushing boundaries. One values where it came from and the other values where it’s going to.

One is populated by team members who like to be told what to do and the other is filled with individuals who like to go places they’ve never been. I know which kind of organisation I dig, daddyo! What about you?

Dave Birss is a creativity and applied thinking expert and speaker in the Thought Expansion Network, a community of world-class thinkers, business brains and social activists: www.ten.io/talent.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Four new roles for HR professionals in South Africa

Redefine your role to remain competitive.

“Times are really changing in the modern work environment” has been the worldwide theme for organisations, executives and HR professionals who are responsible for recruiting and retaining talented staff who are geared to be the engine of any organisation. Traditionally, the HR function existed to mainly serve as the structural systematised policing arm of management in ensuring great staff members are identified and retained at all times.

The question arises: where the HR industry went wrong in South Africa? This is coupled with so many corporate scandals, high turnovers and various employees protesting for an increase in pay, such as Eskom, SAA and PRASA. These days, South African work professionals acknowledge that many of the jobs they apply for require them to pay recruiters or have an inside person to vouch for them and that formal job applications are rigged.

There is a strong conviction that, if HR staff in any organisation today are not restructuring themselves to be parallel with forward thinking practices, they should be held accountable and questioned by executive management. To enhance organisational value and culture, HR departments need to contribute to modern digital thinking and apply themselves to being resilient and adaptive in their roles.

The good news is that HR professionals who embrace and understand these new roles and applications will be the strategic drivers for organisational change serving business goals and talent management. The days of just calling oneself an HR person are long gone. The view needs to be well rounded in that HR professionals need to think like business people, becoming knowledgeable in finances, technology and measuring HR work processes to make better informed decisions. Subsequently, HR professionals will be forced to be immersed in knowing all the design of work systems to which employees will contribute.

Four new roles HR professionals need to embrace:

1 Become an HR strategist:

Adopt global mindsets by leveraging the golden opportunities that are incoming such as AI, virtual reality and HR technology.

2 Become a Change Agent:

Use leaner and simple methods for HR practices that drive change, innovation and improvement in developing people and shaping the vision of the company.

3 Become an HR Engineer:

Reengineer the HR interview process by being tech savvy in recruiting and growing people.

4 Become an Influencer:

Have a personality that goes beyond being HR professional. Develop the ability to connect and build close connections with people to strengthen trust in sharing and discussing needs and issues in their job roles.

The new roles for HR professionals today are not only influenced by internal factors but mainly macro factors ranging from legislation and technology to globalisation. It is vital that the South African HR industry re-evaluates itself to avoid disruption and weakening of confidence from the public as many organisations are structuring themselves for decentralisation to remain competitive in their industries.

Andile Makaring is a Technology Consultant at Different Life, www.differentlife.co.za. He provides insights on Cliff Central, Power FM and Republic Mail. Andile was among the Top 20 finalists of One Day Leader 2017 under 25 by SABC Entrepreneurship Show.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Three terrible employee scheduling practices that kill employee engagement

What not to do if you want engaged employees.

Employee engagement is a buzzword in the business world right now. These terms are often misunderstood and their meanings get convoluted. Most businesses seem to think employee engagement is important. That’s one thing that’s clearly agreed upon.

What is employee engagement?

Before we dive into a few ways that employee engagement is often cut off at the knees through bad scheduling practices, let’s review what employee engagement is exactly.

For the sake of this article, we will be using this working definition:

“Employee engagement is the extent to which people are personally involved in the success of a business.”

So, in short, this can be measured to a certain extent. It looks like employees who are personally involved and invested in the success of the company. And they must know what the success of your business looks like.

In order for your employees to feel personally invested in the work they do for you, it’s important for them to feel like you care about them as a person and they can relate to the goals and mission of your company.

Three ways the employee schedule can kill employee engagement

The way you treat a person’s time can have a dramatic impact on the way they perceive the value you place on them as a person. One of the most overlooked management practices that have an impact on your employee engagement is the employee schedule.

Why is it important? Because it affects your employees every time they clock in. It impacts how they feel their time is being valued.

Let’s look at a few things you can do as a manager to completely kill employee engagement and make sure your employees are not personally invested in their work. (Hint: Don’t do any of these things!)

1. Make it all about the budget (not your people).

Do you feel a strong emotional connection to making as much money as possible as the mission of your company? Great! Your employees will, too. No need to give them anything more than that for a mission.

Find ways to put profits over your people wherever you can. The schedule is a perfect place to start. Treat it as nothing but an operational tool for saving some money. Make sure your employees are not motivated to become personally involved in the success of your business by being careful not to become personally interested in protecting their time and work-life balance in any way. For example, if an employee asks to leave an hour early to catch something that is meaningful to their lives, make sure you let them know it could cut into your ability to make some money, and deny their punitive request with an emotional vacuity of which Darth Vader would be envious.

Learn what motivates your employees outside of work. Make sure the schedule stifles this in any way possible. Learn about their lives, hobbies, relationships and make sure their work schedule does not accommodate these things in any way. Remind them that their work schedule is for work, not to help support these things and provide a better work-life balance. This will make sure your employees don’t feel personally invested to help you at all.

Make every scheduling decision based on what’s best for profits and your people will make decisions at work based on what’s best for them. Show no commitment to your employees as people and their time, and they’ll show no commitment to you. Sounds great, right?

2. Try to control everything.

Now, that your employees know you don’t care about their life outside of work, it’s time to increase your micromanagement. What’s one of the best ways to show your employees you do not trust them enough to make decisions for themselves? Micromanagement. It’s one of the biggest killers of employee engagement.

Micromanagement is a great tactic for killing employee engagement with your employee schedule, too. Try to control everything related to the schedule. Do your employees want to change their availability? Better make sure it goes through you. Do they want to swap a shift with another employee? Not without your stamp of approval. Do they want to drop a shift? Pick-up an open shift? Do they want to access the next schedule? Only when you say so. Heck, better make sure you dictate how they access it, when they access it, and everything else, too.

A great way to make sure your employees hate everything about their schedule is to make sure they’re not involved in anything related to it. Control everything. After all, you’re the only one that could possibly create a good schedule, right?

3. Don’t ask for or listen to feedback.

After you make sure you’re the only one involved in creating the schedule, planning it and controlling it, make sure you don’t ask your employees how they feel about it. Employees love when they don’t feel like what they think matters, especially related to their time. Work is their entire life. It’s not like they have anything else going on outside of work, really.

After each completed schedule, make sure any feedback your employees might have is met with a cold, closed door. It doesn’t matter how they felt about it. It’s the schedule that worked best for you and your business. People love to be in conversations where they don’t get to say anything. Make sure this is how your scheduling process feels.

Don’t be that manager

By now, you’re probably sick of hearing terrible ideas. These are not great scheduling practices. Please, for the sake of your business and the good people that work for you, don’t fall prey to these scheduling blunders. Do the opposite (I’m not being sarcastic this time). Time is the most valuable resource we all have to give and receive. The employee schedule can be a powerful way to show your employees the value of time and that you care about their time. This will have a huge impact on their level of engagement while working for you. Make sure you and your employees are happier.

Put more value on time. The best way to do this is by improving the way you approach your scheduling process and your attitude toward it.

Spencer Rule is Head of Growth at ZoomShift.com, based in Boise, Idaho, in the US. ZoomShift provides scheduling and time tracking software to teams that treasure time, invest in their people, value simplicity, and foster communication.

Twitter – www.twitter.com/ZoomShift.
Linkedin – www.linkedin.com/company/zoomshift.
Facebook – www.facebook.com/ZoomShift.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Chinese management vs Western management

Which management philosophy will prevail?

Huawei Technologies is aiming to grow mobile shipments by only a modest amount in 2017, as it gears up to go head-to-head with the hotly anticipated 10th anniversary edition of Apple’s iPhone (“China Huawei readies to take on iPhone” – Bloomberg: Beijing, July 27, 2017). The world’s number three smart-phone maker, which in 2016 declared it will some day surpass both Apple and Samsung Electronics in market share, is shooting for shipments of 140 million to 150 million units in 2017 – up marginally from 139 million in 2016. But it’s also putting the finishing touches on its most powerful device yet, the Mate 10. Huawei is the largest of a coterie of Chinese smart-phone makers that have grabbed global market share via affordable phones with premium specifications. The Mate 10 will debut right around the time Apple is expected to take the lid off its own flagship device, but will trump the iPhone in many aspects, said Richard Yu, chief of Huawei’s consumer division. “We will have an even more powerful product,” Yu said in an interview. “The Mate 10 has a much longer battery life with a full-screen display, quicker changing speed, better photographing capability and many other features that will help us compete with Apple.”

There is a plethora of literature on Japanese style of management. But we know very little about Chinese management practices. China is known for its export orientation and there is a common understanding that China has succeeded in its economic growth through export earnings. The common notion for China’s success is that it has become a successful exporter through its low-cost manufacturing. But we have to unravel the causes behind low-cost production in China.

A significant force in the Chinese economy is its Township and Village Enterprises (TVE) owned and operated by village and municipal governments. They are significant players in China; but many of them have low technology and are poorly managed. China made a major shift in enterprise ownership and has faced the rigor of market forces. Though State Owned Enterprises were a new component in China’s industrial production, they became marginalised after economic reforms since 1976. SOEs accounted for just 25% of industrial output, though it is the government’s policy to retain SOEs in key industries. Many SOEs have been converted into joint stock companies.

Chinese management is collectivist in nature and this collectivism is part of the Confucian code of ethics. However, the new generation of Chinese managers is less collectivist and more individualistic. To that extent, the Confucian ethos is receding in Chinese management practices. The Chinese management has for centuries emphasised the values of gunaxi (relationships) and renquing (obligations) even in business transactions. These relationships put emphasis on reciprocity. But in today’s Chinese management the ideas of obligations and reciprocity are crumbling before the forces of a market-oriented economy. The reciprocity, according to Chinese moral code, maintains trust between parties. A core value in Chinese management practices, which acts against the principle of free market forces, is the family-based collectivism. And the family in China is a core social unit. The business transactions in China are based on the quality of inter-personal relationships. Therefore, the Chinese believe in settling disputes through mediation rather than through court proceedings.

The concept of contract

The Western world considers contract to be an important instrument for guiding business transactions. The contract defines business relationships and obligations. It is a form of
commitment for all parties which enter into a contract. Contract is a nature of agreement which can be legally enforced and is a basis of adjudication in the case of disputes between parties.

For Western countries, business relationships and personal relationships are separate. As mentioned above, business relationships are governed by contract. For Chinese management, however, business relationships are a part of personal relationships; they do not make subtle differences between the two. Chinese management, however, does not take “the contract” very seriously. Instead, Chinese people are pragmatic and may interpret “the contract” to suit their interests when it is possible to do so. This does not mean that Chinese managers do not follow “the contract”; but they interpret the terms and conditions in “the contract” from their own perspective. Thus, “the contract” for the Chinese is not gospel. For example, the dates mentioned in “the contract” for completion of work on delivery of goods may not be complied with by Chinese management in the strict sense of the terms. In fact, the Chinese consider the penalty attached to the delay in work as a dishonest practice of Westerners. Instead, the Chinese want a lot of flexibility in “the contract.” By contrast, “the contract” is a sacrosanct document for Westerners.

Short term vs long term

Companies in the Western world usually take a short-term view of business. They want quicker profits to amortise their investment in business. This is quite in contrast to the Chinese management’s long-term view of business. Therefore, Chinese managers tend to wait for a longer time to spread their business over a larger area, which takes a long period of time. This is because the Chinese value harmony in their culture and Chinese management believes that spreading business in unnecessary haste will disrupt the society and economy. This short-term view of business may disturb the several networks of relationships that Chinese management considers valuable. As mentioned above, human relationships or interconnectedness is highly valued in Chinese business management and Chinese society. One may conclude from the above argument that Chinese people cannot run a successful business either in China or abroad. However, the post-1987 scenario in China has proved otherwise.

In fact, Chinese people are everywhere in South-East Asia as small business entrepreneurs. Chinese entrepreneurs control large portions of the economies of South-East Asia, which shows that Chinese can be superb managers and entrepreneurs. About 1% of the population of the Philippines is ethnic Chinese. Yet, the Chinese control 40% of the economy. In Indonesia and Thailand, both 4% and 10% Chinese respectively, they controlled half of the business activities in these countries by 1996. In Malaysia, about one-third of the population was ethnic Chinese in 1996 but they control two-thirds of the economy. The same is true for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, which have a majority of ethnic Chinese, and they control a major portion of the economies of these countries. Most Chinese entrepreneurs are former executives of SOEs in China, who identified an opportunity while working for the State and had the contacts to transform that opportunity into a venture.

Concluding observations

Looking to the Chinese experiment in business management, we confront a dilemma: whether the Western way of starting and managing a business is the only way to grow a successful organisation. These strong points emerge in favour of Chinese management as compared to the Western style of management. First, the Chinese take a long-term view of business and take time to spread their wings in world-wide operations. The Chinese have proved their abilities in the manufacturing, construction and railroad sectors. Secondly, the Chinese management style proves that it is indeed possible to build business enterprises keeping human relationships in the centre. However, Western management does not believe in the centrality of human relationships in business. Could there be a meeting point between these two cultures?

Third, the Chinese people have built their business organisations on collectivist ethics and some type of centralisation in the workplace. In contrast, the Western business practices are based on individualistic ethics and a high personal achievement orientation. Successful CEOs like Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are heroes in American society. However, such heroes are hardly mentioned in Chinese society because they attribute success to the collectivist culture, teamwork and Confucian ethics. Is there a possibility of synthesising the two systems for better productivity and work ethics? It may, however, be added that corruption is rampant in both types of societies and we still do not have a clue as to how to make business practices either in the Western world or Eastern world free of corruption.

Dr Archan Mehta has a PhD in Management and is based in India. He has over 10 years of work experience in sectors like Media, Food Services, Hospitality, Education, and Security. He is currently a Consultant.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Change how you measure business success

Foster an internal culture where employees feel they matter.

The measure of success for people and organisations seems to have shifted from financial success to how much they “matter” in the greater scheme of things. In other words, people measure themselves and others on the difference they are making and not so much on their stock price and/or bank balance anymore. For example, Google is better known for its innovative culture than for its shareholder value. Companies are judged on their social responsibility and their company culture – and they are not only judged by their customers, but perhaps more importantly, also by any prospective talent.

Because information is so accessible and communication so instantaneous, people are no longer confined to the norm. They have woken up to the possibilities of being fulfilled at work – which makes them more selective when choosing an employer, even in times when employment is scarce. In previous years, most people accepted work as the daily grind that provided the funds to find enjoyment and meaning elsewhere. In the eighties, having a career was more about “survival of the fittest”. This didn’t mean that you utilised the health club membership sponsored by your employer as a perk, it meant that you needed to make a quantifiable contribution to the bottom line or you were out. Finding meaning and fulfilment in your work was hardly on the radar.

Leaders/speakers/authors like Simon Sinek, Peter Drucker, Kevin Murray and many others believe that this profit-focused approach is only effective in the short term. They are convinced that investing in your people’s fulfilment is what is required for long-term success and sustainability – as is clear in the growth that companies like Google, Twitter and Adobe have achieved over the last few years.

Thus, in order to remain relevant, companies must foster an internal culture where employees feel that they matter and are contributing to something that matters (that is, the company vision), while inspiring externally. This is about more than thinking outside the box; there is no more box – the pace of change is simply too rapid. It is about leading a dynamic environment from a solid foundation. This might sound like an oxymoron, but I know it can be done, and here is how:

1. Attract the right talent:

Prioritise “culture fit” when appointing someone new. This does not mean you merely look for candidates who will fit into your culture, but for someone who will complement your culture. Sometimes this means hiring someone with a unique perspective to enrich the dynamics in your team;

2. Communicate and encourage communication:

A body that fails to communicate fails to function. In the same manner that a damaged nervous system causes paralysis in the human body, ineffective or lack of communication immobilises pockets of the organisation which causes the whole business to suffer in turn. If people work in a communication vacuum, they are more likely to form their own opinions that poison the culture;

3. Show that you care:

This points to more than the modern-day perks that define a cuttingedge working environment like catered meals, exercise facilities, day care, relaxation spaces and the like. Leaders need to demonstrate real care for the wellbeing of their team members. It can be through small acts such as respecting their personal time and priorities outside of work, emphasising safety at work and providing support when needed; and

4. Trust them with your vision:

As mentioned earlier, team members don’t only want to feel that they matter, they want to know that what they are spending their time on matters. However, besides inspiring them with your vision and thus gaining their buy-in and discretionary effort, you have to provide a space for them to truly contribute. Empower them with the skills they need and then encourage them to be creative, bring a different perspective and take risks without fear. In essence, give them the means and ability to take ownership of their roles.

I have seen the difference that these fundamentals make first-hand within my own clients. An internationally-recognised brand recently experienced a significant shift in their team and cross-functional dynamics by empowering team members to initiate the difficult conversations that are so vital for maintaining good relationships and holding each other to account. Engagement levels at another client who is in the meat processing and retail business space dramatically increased when they decided to invest in developing their leaders with more than just functional skills.

I am confident that these fundamentals can make a positive impact in all organisations, large or small, because they are not limited by space, funds or company structure. Even in a business environment where constant change is the new norm, these four things hold true.

Brian Eagar is the founder and CEO of TowerStone, a leadership centre, www.towerstone-global.com.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Relevance may be replacing excellence in the digital world Part 2

Use this method to help determine your relevance.

The pyramid on the next page shows both the ‘Intrinsic’ and the ‘Extrinsic’ sides, with overlapping boundaries, of a professional seeking to gain a solid bearing of his/her relevance in the Digital world. This could be easily accomplished by using a checklist that consists of questions that the respective professional can ask himself/herself under the various components of the pyramid founded on five key pillars, that is, Attitude, Motivation, Values, Talent and Experience. For example:

Professional drive

1. Do I feel happy/energised in coming to work?
2. Do I have to push myself every day to meet job expectations?
3. Do I care about the quality of my work?
4. Will I go beyond the call of duty to help customers/clients/peers?
5. Can I be easily enticed by a competitor to switch jobs?

Professional integrity

1. Do I have a strong understanding of professional ethics?
2. Do professional ethics frequently conflict with my sense of righteousness?
3. Will I be willing to compromise my core beliefs to be a good ‘team’ player?
4. Can I be held liable on any of my key principles pertaining to maintaining a high professional standard?
5. Will I take a stand against a majority in the workplace when my veracity is challenged?

Professional savvy

1. Can I easily discern the right way for me to proceed with the accomplishment of my professional goals?
2. Have I been judicious in the utilisation of my skill set?
3. Do peers respect and recognise my views/perspectives/insights during teamwork?
4. Do I have the trust and confidence of my supervisor(s) pertaining to assigned work?
5. Do I volunteer for ‘high exposure’ assignments to create strong ‘visibility’ for my talent?

Professional competence

1. Am I preferred by my supervisor(s) for completing challenging assignments?
2. Do peers confer with me when they are stuck in their assignments?
3. Have I been justly rewarded and/or recognised for the high quality of my work?
4. Am I proactive in upgrading my skills/expertise even in the absence of any formal training/development assistance provided by my employer?
5. Have I been approached by high-profile competitors of my employer to work for them?

Professional focus

1. Am I easily distracted by corrosive organisational politics?
2. Do I need to recalibrate my priorities periodically?
3. Is there ‘internal harmony’ within me in terms of reconciling the realities of professional work with my core principles?
4. Do I frequently have ‘guilt-trips’ on my past achievements?
5. Am I determined to reach my ‘professional’ destination?

Professional astuteness

1. Can I develop a clear roadmap for sustainable career progression?
2. Am I open to conferring with a good mentor?
3. Do I actively engage in proactive professional networking?
4. Do I take advantage of promising training and development opportunities offered by my employer that may or may not be directly related to my current job?
5. Have I volunteered or maneuvered myself into a situation where I was chosen by my supervisor(s) to give an important presentation to the top management?

Professional capability

1. Am I comfortable in taking up challenging assignments that are generally avoided by my peers?
2. Does my employer feel compelled to retain my services even in precarious economic times?
3. Have I benefited my employer in terms of facilitating major expansion initiatives?
4. Have I significantly helped my employer in key cost savings?
5. Have I been firmly identified as a future leader for the organisation?

Professional readiness

1. Do I welcome the prospect of engaging with AI enabled entities as coworkers?
2. Can I easily align my personal ambitions with the strategic imperatives of my employer?
3. Am I comfortable in taking higher level of responsibility in the absence of my supervisor(s)?
4. Is my current skill set primed to meet the evolving needs and expectations of my functional role?
5. Can I provide innovative and practical views/ perspectives/insights in professional forums pertaining to my field?

Professional competitiveness

1. Do I feel at ease during my discussions with the supervisor(s) on performance parameters?
2. Am I frequently asked to lead teams comprising of my peers?
3. Have I created and/or developed any tools/ techniques/approaches that have significantly enhanced the quality of my work?
4. Have I worked with peers from different organisations on visualising and creating effective strategies for the ‘future of work’ in my field?
5. Is my work ‘referenced’ by others in their initiatives pertaining to challenging assignments?

Article 5 Image

Subsequently, the responses to these questions can be tallied under each category with a corresponding ‘Yes/No’ answer to qualitatively assess the relevant ‘reinforcement’ strength of the ‘tributary category’ to the ‘culminating category’. Ultimately, this provides an astute professional with the robust assessment of ‘Professional Relevance’ that he/she currently possesses with the incentive of developing a viable strategy to overcome any tributary deficiencies in a proactive manner before the bandwidth of desired talent narrows and the competition becomes even more fiercer among peers due to the increasing reliance/dependency on AI-enabled entities in the workplace. How relevant are you …?

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

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

This article is Part 2 of 2.

Take a more practical approach to HR analytics

Go from a world of no numbers to some numbers.

HR analytics invokes images of big data sets and smart data scientists. There’s a place for that, but it’s difficult to do in any but the most sophisticated of firms. Others narrow their view of analytics to better dashboards and storytelling, but that’s a tightly restricted vision that overlooks 90% of what analytics could be. There is a more practical approach to HR analytics and it’s found within the existing work your HR team is already doing.

Analytics isn’t a thing, it supports things

It’s only in exceptional cases that HR should “do analytics” as if it were a thing in itself. Most of the time, HR should just keep doing what it’s always been doing, but do it better. Doing it better means being clear about the underlying business issue, then choosing how to address it based on the best available evidence. Analytics is a tool for gathering evidence. For example, you are revising your onboarding but, rather than just going ahead and making some changes, you ask where onboarding has the biggest impact on the business, what options exist to improve it, and what evidence exists as to which is the best option.

Don’t we do this already? Sometimes, but it’s not often enough. Too often we take action based on what first comes to mind, what a business leader asks for, what we’ve always done, wishful thinking or any number of other less-than-analytical approaches.

Analytics is really about using clear thinking and available data for whatever you happen to be working on now. Analytics can be applied to problems in employee scheduling, the design of a new training programme, a reorganisation of the HR department, or a response to new legislation on data privacy. Almost all HR problems can benefit from the application of some analytics savvy. It’s a methodology for bringing data into HR decisions as a matter of course.

The analytics group can’t possibly address every HR issue, but they don’t have to. Most analytics can be done by the existing HR team. Usually it’s just a matter of going from a world of no data to a world of some data; and you don’t need a PhD to master that. I’m always surprised how numbers-savvy most young HR professionals are today; they just need a little training and support to bring analytics into their day-to-day practice.

To start doing analytics, get your HR team to list the problems they are working on; then ask them to bring some data and other forms of evidence to the table to guide how they address those problems.

Analytics savvy can’t be divorced from business savvy or HR transformation

Whenever you start analytics by asking an HR professional about a problem they are working on, you almost always have to step back and say, “What’s the real business issue?” For example, if the problem is managers complaining about too many open positions, and the HR professional wants to address that, they need to step back and ask how much impact does this really have on the business; is it equally serious for all jobs or are there just a few where it’s critical; is it really a problem at all?

What I’ve discovered over the years is that you can’t separate analytics savvy from business savvy. We often say that what matters most is asking the right question. Well, the right question always comes from a clear understanding of the business issue. The other thing I’ve discovered is that, as you move down the path to a more business savvy, analytics savvy HR function, you are inevitably moving down the path to HR transformation.

Companies are used to HR departments that provide services; a business/analytics savvy HR function inevitably becomes more of a partner that drives business performance. Other departments may not be used to this, and it takes some change management to handle resistance.

Getting started

You will need some kind of analytics team or at least designated analytics-savvy individuals who can champion analytics and provide some support for the HR teams if they get stuck. Next, train and support all your HR professionals in going from a world of no numbers to some numbers; and to go from a focus on the HR problem to the business problem. Finally, the CHRO has to take the lead in changing the business’s perception of HR a bit at a time. It’s hard at first, but once business leaders discover that a business and analytics savvy HR function is actually helping them solve their business problems, and then they will be delighted.

David Creelman is the CEO of Creelman Research, www.creelmanresearch.com. He is best known for his workshops on Agile Analytics, Evidence-based Management and the Future of Work.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Five best practices for aligning employees with corporate goals

Aligned organisations achieve higher levels of performance because all of their contributions are focused on driving measureable objectives.

When you align teams, resources, planning and processes, you reduce wasted time and misdirected efforts. Everyone works in sync towards the most important company priorities. Yet, HBR research shows 95% of employees do not understand or are unaware of company strategy.

This misalignment between what the CEO needs completed and what teams actually work on leads to redundancies, inefficiencies and poor overall performance. Further research shows managers aren’t doing their part in communicating the company strategy with their teams: HBR also found 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their direct reports in general. Employees feel the disconnect as well. The same source indicates 57% of employees complain their managers don’t give clear directions.

To solve these challenges, you must align employees with your company goals. Organisations such as Google use OKR (Objectives and Key Results) goal setting alongside ongoing performance management tactics to achieve this alignment.

1. Develop a One-Page Strategic Plan

The One-Page Strategic Plan (TOPS) outlines all of your company’s initiatives and the alignment of its resources (time, people and money) to achieve high performance and results. It defines your mission, vision and values. Your mission and vision then inform your top company priorities.

The purpose of creating a one-page strategy is to enforce clarity. A one-page strategy keeps your company focused because it is easier for teams to connect with. The succinct yet focused strategy is also simpler for managers to communicate to their direct reports.

2. Set top company priorities

After establishing your strategy, set company priorities by answering, “What is most important to the company right now?” An example of a top company objective is: “Grow the corporate global business.” Then set Key Results (KRs) for the top company Objective.

OKRs work by defining the “what” and the “how” of a goal. (The Objective answers the “what,” while the KRs answer the “how.”) Ideally, KRs will follow SMART goal criteria (specific, measurable, aligned, relevant, and time-bound). This goal setting formula creates a sense of measurement so you can track the progress of objectives.

More importantly, written, shared goals are more likely to be achieved than those that aren’t shared or made visible to the company. Dominican University research shows 70% of written, shared goals are accomplished, compared to just 35% that aren’t shared. OKRs allow the entire company to see the most important corporate priorities so everyone focuses on what really matters.

3. Cascade clear, measurable objectives

Once you’ve set top company objectives, cascade them to the department, team and individual level. This ensures everyone’s contributions support company priorities. Have managers collaborate with their direct reports to set objectives. Make sure the KRs are measurable so both managers and teams can track progress, using a data-driven goals
management approach.

All objectives should contribute to the company priorities in some way or another. Yet, effective managers also work with their teams to set goals that build strengths. Gallup research shows strengths-based goals encourage employees to be more productive. Moreover, managers who develop their teams’ strengths (instead of trying to “fix” weaknesses) support higher retention rates. Employees are less likely to leave when they use their strengths to achieve objectives. Further research indicates managers who use objectives to develop their teams’ strengths can improve employee engagement by 61%.

While effective goal setting is an essential part of keeping employees aligned with corporate goals, it is only one step. Managers must also check in with their teams to track progress, re-clarify expectations and enforce accountability.

4. Use one-on-one check-ins

One-on-one check-ins are considered the greatest management practice of all time. To achieve them, managers meet with each of their direct reports once weekly. The check-ins are brief but provide an opportunity to discuss updates on objectives. Employees receive praise for weekly wins or coaching as needed. Managers also discuss the priorities for the upcoming week to re-clarify expectations and ensure teams are always laser-focused on objectives.

Checking progress weekly prevents you from getting to the end of the quarter and realising progress fell short. Instead, managers step in and course correct in real-time. They provide actionable feedback for teams to drive better performance right away. They also consistently review expectations so teams know exactly what they are accountable for.

In addition to securing goal achievement, one-onone check-ins also achieve a number of outcomes to support engagement and retention strategies, allowing managers to:

– build trust with teams by showing commitment to their success;
– discuss employee development planning, including personal career goals; and
– continuously communicate the company strategy in ways employees understand it.

Lastly, one-on-one meetings save time because you communicate expectations and progress updates regularly. You will spend less time putting out fires and tracking down teams for updates as a result.

5. Maintain an ongoing feedback loop

Modern performance management is not a onetime event. It is a series of activities managers must continue to do regularly to ensure teams remain focused on company goals.

Employees have a basic need to be recognised, and need feedback to stay motivated to continue working towards their objectives. Millennials, who are now the largest age group in the workforce, need feedback more than any other generation. Yet, Gallup research shows only 19% of Millennial employees receive ongoing feedback, and only 17% of those polled consider the feedback they do receive is meaningful.

Managers must give prompt, actionable feedback on an ongoing basis to keep teams aligned with and focused on goals. Give constructive feedback that focuses on the behaviour (not the person) and what the team member can do differently next time. Give praise in the way that your direct report prefers to receive it.

Most importantly, continue to implement each of these best practices on an ongoing basis. In doing so, you’ll create a goals-driven culture with high performance as a natural byproduct.

Zorian Rotenberg is the Founder and CEO of Atiim, www.atiim.com, based in Boston, Massachusetts, in the US.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Elevate your company’s culture

Chris Dyer shares his thoughts on company culture with Alan Hosking.

How do you define superb company culture?

Company culture at its base is the combination of easily seen ideals, such as vision statements and values, combined with harder-to-see norms, behaviours, languages, beliefs, and systems. Every company has a culture, good or bad.

Organisations with superb culture have seven distinct pillars that they not only focus on, but do better than anyone else in their market. These pillars are: Transparency, Positivity, Measurement, Acknowledgement, Uniqueness, Listening and Mistakes. Every company deals with these topics in different ways.

From Google to Apple, Amazon and Facebook, the approaches could not be more varied. But, these companies take very specific approaches to each cultural element. This maximises their outcomes and keeps them at the top of their game.

What inspired you to write your book The Power of Company Culture?

In 2008 I began a journey to change my company, PeopleG2, and improve our culture. I read every book possible and began to interview the most successful people I could find. I cornered them at conferences and bullied my way into phone conversations. As time went by, I realised that my obsession of learning more from the best was something that other business owners could benefit from.

The wish to share my knowledge – and to gain more – turned into a radio show in which I explore the concept of talent. In four years as host, I have spoken with experts, thought leaders, practitioners, and start-up entrepreneurs. As I pursued what made these people and their companies exceptional, and how the best organisations operated, I discovered a core set of truths. No matter what the company sold or where they operated, the best of the best did seven things better than their competition.

I call these the seven pillars of cultural greatness. In the midst of finalising a deeper understanding of the concepts, Kogan Page approached me and asked that I write a book for them. A year and a half later, the book is finally here!

How much of the book is theory versus practical tips?

The book is filled with stories from small to wellknown companies, with real-world examples to help any leader impact their organisation. I back that up with research details and peer-reviewed studies that put these stories in a larger context.

Why? My favorite business books are constructed this way. If I find myself fascinated by a particular set of facts, I then read the study, article or reference cited. I wanted to expose readers to the core concepts, along with clear examples for deeper mastery, for those ready to go farther.

One of the most important parts of the book is entitled, “Culture in Action.” This how-to-make-ithappen guide delivers practical tips to enact change plus an overview of cognitive biases that might obstruct positive action. The influence of biases is often undervalued by leaders, and it is an area of science that we should all know more about this year.

What has surprised you about culture this year?

Two distinct areas have held pleasant surprises as 2018 unfolds. The first is that many companies are getting better at culture generally. The second is that the #Metoo movement, which highlights the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, has had a major impact on companies globally.

The first trend indicates that some of the basic cultural concepts for a company to rise from good to great are being addressed. Everything from flexible work, autonomy, improved communication and diversity has seen a huge improvement, although there is still a great deal of work to be done. This also means that companies below the norm are falling further behind and may miss out on top talent, share of the marketplace and the ability to attract the right kind of clients.

The second trend, challenging gender-based power dynamics, had some of its beginnings in my backyard of Hollywood, California. Publicly exposing the inexcusable decisions by some men to exert sexual pressure on women, dramatically impacting their careers, is changing the workplace. The horror stories that came first from casting rooms and, later, across many industries, have now shed light on all types of working conditions, for men as well as women. The effect of powerful leaders leaving organisations, and a positive shift in attitudes about how we deal with the complex issues of the #Metoo movement, have been unexpected and with positive consequences.

Companies that focus on this evolving issue will certainly find opportunities to improve their cultures. How they do this and what changes might occur along the way, however, could be painful and a major threat to everyone involved. The good news for any company willing to lead by example is the chance to elevate their culture and make their business environment a shining example of how we should live and work.

Profile Chris Dyer is the Founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a background check and intelligence firm based in California in the US. He is the host of TalentTalk on OC Talk Radio and iHeartRadio, an in-demand speaker on company culture, remote workforces, and employee engagement, and a frequent contributor to Forbes, Inc, HR.com, the Society for Human Resource Management, and many more. Chris is the author of The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits, out now, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.

Your Cart