HR perspective on the bottom line

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The year 2015 was probably the turning point in the history of human resources (HR) in South Africa in particular, with more and more companies realising the importance of investing in human capital. HR experts say that although the groundwork has now solidly been laid and the focus on people are in place, 2016 will be the year in which management, both in the public and private sector, will have to retain that focus in order not to loose momentum. 

Although it is unknown what the workforce and workplace will look like half a century from now, there are a number of trends which are likely to be adopted and grow in popularity in 2016---and the importance of investing in and training employees will need to be a top priority.

According to Kay Vittee, CEO of Kelly and Quest, the increasing uptake of these trends enable businesses and the staffing and recruitment industry to develop and implement new strategies to remain competitive and attract and retain top talent in an ever evolving market.

The recently released report by Kelly and Quest, A Report on Recruitment and Workforce Trends in 2016, highlights that current recruitment and workforce trends have the biggest impact on the most valuable resource of any business, its employees.

Vittee says, “Flexibility, collaboration, diversity and employee well-being have consistency come through in our research and experience as major factors responsible for attracting and retaining top employees.”

“This is largely due to younger generations entering the workforce and the increase in ‘always-on’ connectivity. Generation Z, for instance, are looking for an employer brand and culture which they perceive to be the most innovative and which offers them opportunities for growth.”

“While the trend of creating collaborative working spaces---intended to inspire employees and foster a culture of cooperation and innovation---is expected to continue into 2016, employers are taking it a step further by shifting to progressive workplaces.”

“In 2016, more organisations are likely to pay greater attention to their employees’ well-being and make their workplaces ‘progressive’, blurring the lines between home and work,” she adds.

According to Sandra Swanepoel, Managing Director, Sage HR & Payroll, in a difficult economic climate, the training and education budget is often one of the first areas of the business to suffer cutbacks, as training can be expensive, takes people away from the work they’re paid to do and often delivers benefits that can be hard to quantify.

"But it’s worth remembering that every business with a payroll in excess of R500 000 pays a Skills Development Levy to the government for each employee and can claim back a portion of that amount in the form of training grants. Why leave that money on the table when you can use it to improve the performance of your workforce?," says Swanepoel.

Vittee says it is important to keep in mind that the progressive workplace resembles an enhanced community and includes the benefits of access to both work and personal life related services and spaces, many of which were previously only available to staff outside of the workplace. “Progressive workplaces often include gyms, coffee shops, lounges and even health and beauty spas for employee use.”

The number of millennials---or Generation Y’s---in leadership roles is also on the rise according to the report.

In a recent study, global accounting firm, Ernst & Young Global Limited (EY) found that 62% of millennial full-time employees worldwide fill positions in which they manage the work of others.

Vittee says, “Millennials will start having children in the next few years. With this said, we expect more employees will either select a new employer or stay with their current employer based largely on their flexibility programmes.”

Another consideration, she adds, is the widening skills gap, a concern in South Africa which has resulted from a mismatch of graduate skills and market demands.

Vittee says, “Businesses should be aware of the changing environment and adapt their workforce planning and development strategies to ensure alignment with future skill requirements.”

“Likewise, matriculates, graduates and candidates need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organisational forms and skill requirements,” she adds.

Another significant trend addressed in the report is that of technology. From digitalised hiring models utilised for long-distance first interviews, to the increasing use of big data and automating the recruitment process, Vittee notes that technology continues to evolve not only the workplace but specialised industries such as that of staffing and recruitment.

“Social media is a big player in this regard. We can definitely expect to see an increase in social media recruitment strategies by businesses and a further uptake of this platform by job-seekers. We will also witness an increase in social media updates and blog posts by companies which has become a significant platform for engagement,” says Vittee.

Swanepoel says that it is a fact that companies that are prepared to invest in their staff will reap the benefits in the long run and there are ways  that an investment in training can pay off:

  • Improve employee performance: The most obvious reason to invest in training employees is that it will help them to become more efficient, productive, effective and informed. Depending on the training, they’ll be: able to answer technical questions from customers without asking a colleague; more skilled and hence faster at doing their work; better equipped to make good business decisions; or able to add new tasks and duties to their job description.
  • Retain talent and improve company morale: Most employees want to feel valued by the company they work for. Giving them possibilities for self-improvement is one of the best ways you can help your people feel that you appreciate their talents and hard work. Offering the right training opportunities to your employees will help you to retain your best talent and improve morale throughout your organisation.
  • Boost customer service: One of the best reasons for investing in training and development is the halo effect it will have for customer service. Not only does training equip your people with skills and knowledge to enable them to do their jobs better, it also improves their job satisfaction. Happy employees usually mean happy customers. Whether you’re training your people to use your systems more effectively, educating them in ethics or law, or helping them develop softer skills such as negotiation and sales techniques, your customers will benefit.
  • Comply with regulations and laws: There are two aspects to consider here. The first of these is that staff may need to be trained in the laws and industry regulations that govern your business so that they can comply. For example, the company’s consumer-facing staff might need to understand what the Consumer Protection Act says about customer service, while the payroll team will need constant training to keep ahead of a changing tax environment. The other point to consider is how training and development can help you comply with employment equity and black economic empowerment codes. A good training and development programme can help you to build a representative workforce that meets the needs of these laws and regulations. 
  • Create career paths and succession plans: Your employees will want to feel as though there is a roadmap for their future with your business. By mapping out a training and development programme for them spanning a couple of years, you can help them to plan their career in your organisation. Taking this medium term view of career development for your staff will also help you to create succession plans for key roles in the organisation. Thus, you’ll be in a good position to promote from inside the company when a key person leaves or moves up the ladder.
  • Company-wide consistency: Most employees have some gaps in their skills base, experience and knowledge. The more proactive ones will go out and finding training and mentoring to close these gaps. Others will rely on colleagues to help them complete certain tasks. Either way, the result is inconsistent performance.


"A good training strategy will help harmonise your skills base so that employees can fill in for each other when necessary or work on their own without constant help and supervision from others. A structured programme will ensure that each employee has a consistent approach and set of skills to draw from," says Swanepoel.

Michele Curling-Hope & Clive Moagi






Sandra Swanepoel - Managing Director at Sage HR & Payroll.jpg IMG_3602.jpg
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