South Africa 2015: HR under the spotlight

Francois manages the company and consulting in all areas of the business

Today, a sense of well-being, self-worth and being part of a winning environment is a dream most South Africans share.

South Africa’s political, social and economic environment has created stern challenges for leaders and HR professionals as the country’s efficiency levels, leadership conviction, skills development and value systems come under close, and often harsh, scrutiny.

Not surprisingly, organisations – large or small – face exactly the same issues as South Africa (Pty) Ltd.  What lessons can be learnt?  How is HR adapting to the challenges of South Africa 2015?

Francois Wilbers, founder and MD of consulting organisational consultants Work Dynamics, discusses the 4 changes that he’s seeing as South Africa’s leaders grapple with the challenges of today.


Organisations Re-design

Given the dismal growth over the last years coupled with unrealistic wage demands and the debilitating impact of strikes, Wilbers has noticed a distinct increase in consulting assignments which address  organisation re-design, as leaders look to improve productivity by examining the way that they do business.  He recognises a new urgency amongst organisations aiming to become less dependent on labour, eliminating duplication of functions and improving processes and procedures.


Prioritise Implementation Skills

Examining tender bulletins over the past eighteen months, Wilbers reports that more than 70 percent of the tenders relate to training, mostly in the formal sector. While skills development is essential for future economic growth and sustainable employment, one must add that development is essential for improved service delivery simply to maintain our standards and to live up to expectations of the citizens of South Africa.

Having been involved in competency assessments for over 20 years in both the private and public sectors, Wilbers believes that implementation skills need to be prioritised.

“It is pointless only focusing on future challenges, whilst deteriorating service delivery erodes the base that we need in terms of infrastructure to support development and economic growth,” says Wilbers.


Strong leaders don’t emerge overnight

The need for strong leadership is high on the agenda of HR management challenges. Daily, we read about (and experience) the inability of many state owned enterprises to deliver on their mandates. Following the acclaim and admiration of the Mandela leadership era, there are many disillusioned South Africans today as the realisation dawns that political freedom and economic freedom are not necessarily obvious bed partners.

The downgrading of South Africa’s sovereign foreign currency rating has hampered the ability of our economy, the public sector enterprises, and the private sector to raise capital from abroad, not forgetting the chances of attracting investment. Strong leadership in all spheres of our community is needed to curtail or arrest a negative spiral.

Unfortunately, identifying and developing strong leadership – a scarce commodity – does not happen overnight. For various reasons, we have failed to produce a generation of strong, competent Black leaders.

Wilbers says that organisations can learn from the leadership challenges facing South Africa.

“Succession planning to identify and develop talent for leadership and specialist roles is essential to ensure continued business growth and continuity. You cannot wait until you have a leadership vacuum. Rather, develop a leadership pipeline by identifying, developing, nurturing, engaging and retaining leaders.”

Organisation Culture

Culture-driven Organisations Outperform Others

In environments where the skills of employees in competing organisations are the same or similar, organisations which understand the role that culture plays normally outperforms their competitors, especially in adverse economic conditions.

While there has always been an understanding of the role of organisational culture, it has only really been embraced over the last five years – it is now regarded as one of the most important trends in human resource management.

“Over the next five years, we’ll see more thinking on how to manage and change organisational culture. Increasingly, leaders are accepting that the functional competencies of employees alone will not deliver objectives and ambitions. The extent to which employees can identify and align with the values and beliefs of an organization directly influences how committed and motivated they are. At a personal level, their own sense of well-being and self-worth is enhanced and this contributes towards a winning environment.”

Today, a sense of well-being, self-worth and being part of a winning environment is a dream most South Africans share.