7 Focus areas for the South African HR fraternity in 2013

In view of the present economic uncertainty, investors’ low confidence, IR turmoil, imminent regulatory changes and socioeconomic disparity (see previous blog) I have identified seven key areas the HR fraternity and companies will need to focus on for the year ahead…


1.    Keep a strategic long-term view

Developing human capital and increasing employee engagement calls for long term interventions. Resources have to be committed for the long-term. Therefore despite disruption, high “noise” levels and continued change maintain a long-term strategic view.

2.    Build relationships

For far too long the management of Industrial Relations has been driven by compliance and labour law. The focus should shift more towards growing and strengthening relationships through building trust, collaboration, shared objectives and respect. In the words of Professor Barney Jordaan: “Move from a culture of conflict, to one of collaboration”.

3.    Address the socio-economic conditions of your employees

The tragic Marikana event highlighted amongst others, the poor socio-economic conditions of employees. Employers should address this with employees and trade unions. One remedy could be to improve the financial literacy of employees. Time and again employees find themselves in the clutches of unsecured loans provides and are exploited by HP agreements.  Work with local governments to provide better services, especially in the rural areas. The demand for a “social wage” will increase and definitely not go away.

4.    Retention, retention, retention

Even during tough economic conditions, companies find it difficult to retain high level specialised skills (Talent Management Survey 2012/13). As the world economy is now moving closer to normality, with a positive impact on the South African economy, companies should place greater focus on retention strategies. It is much more cost efficient to keep people than to replace them!

5.    Education, education, education

It is no secret that the South African education system is under strain. This reality has a negative impact on the competitive position of most companies. The same applies to government – in terms of services delivery. The education system is a massive system to change. Due to the nature of the beast, it could take decades before the education system is really world-class. We can’t afford to wait that long. Get involved with local schools. Form partnerships with companies in your area and share expertise and resources in order to upgrade education in your geographical area. Work with the principals and staff and upgrade their managerial and leadership skills as well as subject knowledge.

6.    Invest more in leadership development

The scope and pace of developing leaders should be increased. Leaders of today and tomorrow should possess the competency of systems thinking. They will then be more at ease with leading and managing change. Obviously, greater emphasis should also be placed on integrity and ethics and we look to develop leaders who can make sense of ambiguity and complexity.

7.    HR directors must lead!

Chief HR Officers and HR Directors must lead with optimism and hope. Break out of the transactional, compliance-driven paradigm. Go beyond those minimum standards. Lead with the other C-suite executives. Shape business strategy. Spell out realities. Invest and develop the capacity and capabilities of the HR personnel.  But more importantly, even though we’re in an environment of pessimism, low consumer and investment confidence, lead with hope and optimism.  The country’s greatest days are still ahead!

Today HR Directors are under enormous pressure. If you would to learn more about the high-level strategic issues that impact Strategic Human Resource Management now and in the future, join us at the Chief HR Officer’s Conference on the 15-16 May 2013. Top local and international experts will continue to examine some of the challenges I have examined in this article. Click here to learn more.

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Written by Wilhelm Crous, Managing Director of Knowledge Resources.

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2 thoughts on “7 Focus areas for the South African HR fraternity in 2013

  1. An easy to understand and highly inspiring article. It tackles some of the issues we usually take for granted!

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