HR professionals – Now is the time...

Heading: 

Once upon a time, there was the Personnel department. Unhappy with the connotations of "soft' skills, practitioners motivated for HR - a strategically focused functional area.

This did not deter critics, who pointed to the lack of understanding of business and the bottom-line. Metrics and benchmarking became the order of the day - operational efficiency - intended to convince the numerically driven directors of the business, of the relevance and value of the people function.

Then along came skills development and skills development levies - just another monetary activity? Or a strategic necessity for business? A debate at the Association for Skills Development Facilitation in South Africa (ASDFSA) centred around whether skills development facilitation was part of HR - why is this relevant?

On Monday 27 march 2006, the Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka launched Jipsa - the Joint Initiative for priority skills acquisition - an essential component for ensuring the sustainable growth of our economy, removing the skills shortage obstacle to economic growth.

Jipsa consists of a number of components to ensure the available skills:-

there is the need to attract skills from the international pool -

  • this will involve not only the appropriate sourcing and selection strategies, but also relocation terms and conditions, dealing with expatriates and the requirements of the Home Affairs department - all squarely a human resource activity;
  • this international workforce will necessitate the dusting off and appropriate revision of transfer and relocation benefit polices, clearly remembered by the older HR practitioners, but not used much lately other than by the few trans-national corporations;
  • there will exchange control regulations and the complexities of returning South African financial affairs,
  • there will be a need for inter-cultural work-shopping, to ensure the effective induction and integration into the workforce - clearly the domain of the diversity specialists;

    secondly, there is the need to encourage the previously retired, early-retired, and retrenched to return to the formal workplace, to contribute skills and knowledge, and to mentor and coach the young to ensure a sustainable transfer of such skills and knowledge -

  • this raises contractual arrangements: for those beyond retirement age, an industrial relations issue, with appropriate contractual arrangements needed to meet the requirements of our Constitution and the Labour Relations Act,
  • benefits policies may need to be revised, including a review of the terms and conditions of the group life arrangements,
  • alternatively, independent contractor arrangements will be made, with consideration needed of the relevant SARS schedules,
  • workplaces have changed, and there may be cultural factors to deal with, the domain of the change management consultants, and
  • not to avoid the uncomfortable realities, in certain cases there will be the employment equity policies, affirmative action plans and targets to deal with, and appropriate changes to include in the next Employment Equity Report;

    there is a need for numeracy, mathematics, science and technology knowledge and skills acquisition -

  • Abet interventions at the workplace are within the skills development arena,
  • As are the various forms of learning interventions now included in the second National Skills Development Strategy, namely skills programs, learnerships, apprenticeships, internships and bursary schemes,
  • Management skills may be acquired through a variety of these interventions, through formal study and at the workplace,
  • All of these interventions require not only an understanding of the skills development arena, but also the knowledge of the relevant employment legislation and appropriate contractual arrangements,
  • It is unrealistic to assume that skills development arrangements will not lead to labour relations issues both in unionised and non-unionised environments, and the attendant labour relations dispute resolution mechanisms - all within the province of the labour relations/industrial relations specialist - within the HR profession;

    FET colleges, public private partnerships, the requirements of curriculum development and learning material development -

  • all require inputs from the workplace,
  • equally, the requirement for workplace experience will be negotiated with the HR department, or practitioners.

    What is the conclusion from this analysis?

    I propose that an opportunity is being presented for all human resource practitioners, whether generalist or specialist to demonstrate the value of the profession, not only within the workplace, but also to the national economy.

    Sylvia Hammond writes in her personal capacity