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Let’s take up Madiba’s baton!

Bruniquel Bulletin #5-2014

Support the SABPP initiative to practise HR according to recognised and consistent standards.

Sadly, we lost one of the greatest leaders of all time, former President Nelson Mandela. Madiba was rightly accredited as being the major driving figure in the transformation of South Africa to a democracy. He was himself, however, quick to say that he did not do it alone. There were many unsung heroes in the process.

One group which played a critical part were the HR Managers at the time of the struggle. In the 70s, Personnel Managers (as they were then known) played a largely low key administrative role in bigger companies – smaller businesses did not employ them.

Then suddenly apartheid imploded. Strikes, protest marches and stayaways were followed by the Weihahn Commission, and the emergence of black trade unions changed workplaces overnight. Who had to manage all this? HR Managers – who were suddenly escalated in status and influence, with HR Managers such as Bobby Godsell and others playing critical roles in the change process.

Most of the old guard, of whom I am one, handled strikes and became experts in negotiation and handling conflict – we had to! We developed systems and training to assist line managers to adapt to the new circumstances. HR Managers also influenced top management to put pressure on the Nationalist Government to modify its hard-line approach. Business leaders eventually met with the ANC in exile.

After the political changes came new labour legislation – the LRA, EEA and SDA – bringing widespread changes with them. Again, it was HR Managers who had to manage the process.

New challenges

Now we have new challenges. There is growing dissatisfaction with the leadership of the governing party, and this is translating itself into adversarial relationships in the workplace, leading to strikes, many of which are violent and tragic such as at Marikana.

If we are to live Madiba’s dream of becoming a truly democratic, fair society which cares for ALL its people, HR Managers will once again have to step up and take the initiative.

There is however a major problem: the public service has mushroomed and businesses have grown so fast that there is a death of knowledge, skills and experience in people who have been appointed to HR positions.

This fact became abundantly clear in the facilitated conversations at last year’s HR Future SolutionsFest. Stemming from this, the SA Board for Personnel Practice (SABPP) did a magnificent job in defining HR Standards and Competencies for HR practitioners at all levels.

These Standards cover the whole spectrum of HR management as can be seen from the following diagram.

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Great promise for the future

The HR Standards initiative by the SABPP and its strategic partner HR Future is a world first and has the support of the Minister of Education, Blade Nzimande.

It holds great promise for South Africa by encouraging both the private and public sectors to develop and implement:

HR and IR strategies aligned to business strategy so as to ensure service delivery. This also includes preparing and implementing appropriate HR policies and procedures and strike contingency plans;

  • Talent management systems to develop people, especially previously disadvantaged groups and young people entering the workplace;
  • HR risk management to ensure that critical shortages and risks such as corruption are identified and addressed so that appropriate preventative controls can be put in place;
  • Workforce planning to ensure that the vagrancies of the economy, population growth, employment equity and problems in the education system are addressed;
  • Learning/ training and development initiatives to properly identify training needs and ensure that training interventions are fit for purpose;
  • Performance management systems, particularly in the public service where there seems to be no consequence for the lack of service delivery;
  • Recognition and reward system to ensure a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work;
  • Employee wellness is properly managed, especially absenteeism which has spiralled out of control in the public sector and in many businesses;
  • Employee/industrial relations is properly managed so as to develop a collaborative system of negotiations to ensure win-win outcomes, reduced conflict and improved productivity;
  • Organisation development to ensure that workplaces are organised in the best and most efficient ways to ensure service delivery;
  • Balanced scorecards are developed to measure HR Departments on the services they provide to line management;
  • HR metrics and technologies are put in place to measure and manage people within the public and private sectors;
  • Independent audits of HR departments are done to ensure service delivery and that HR practitioners keep on top of their game by continuous professional development and ensuring ethical behaviour at all times.

The SABPP and HR Future have rolled out the Standards through workshops in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and East London. Employers now need to come to the party by:

  • implementing the Standards;
  • enabling the assessment of the knowledge and skills of HR practitioners;
  • establishing training needs; and
  • ensuring that appropriate training and workplace experience is provided to upskill HR practitioners.

The next step will be the requirement that HR practitioners become registered and accredited with the SABPP. They will also have to ensure that their conduct is ethical and in keeping with the Standards in much the same way as is required of Chartered Accountants and the Medical Profession.

This is certainly one way in which we as HR professionals can take up Madiba’s baton, serve our country and make him proud!

Bruno Bruniquel