From Talent to Telecoms

With the stock market rally continuing for the fourth consecutive year, discerning investors may want to move the smart money from natural resources on this planet to those breathing resources on corporate floors. There is a small but growing selection of human capital and recruitment counters on the JSE. The fundamentals are strong – a buoyant economy, war for talent, skills shortage in core industries, tight labour regime, casualisation of labour and job hopping AA candidates are bringing home the returns. If stellar performances from Adcorp Holdings Limited and Paracon Holdings Limited are indicators, the new listings of Workforce Holdings Limited and Kelly could be worth a punt. I currently do not hold shares in any of these companies so feel free to transfer any quantity to my online account. And for those HR personnel with an entrepreneurial thirst, jumping of your perch in the hierarchy to fire up a recruitment agency is attractive. Be prepared for competition with thousands of similar outfits on the bandwagon. 

Telecoms Action

It is difficult to rattle the cage of an organisation that has convincingly beaten me to the finish line. But I will try. When we purchase products or services on an arm length’s basis, it is accepted that the seller is securing a profit from the transaction. In fact, we would be concerned about the future of a seller incurring a loss on the transaction. The problem is when you desperately need the product or service, there are weak alternatives to the seller and you feel exploited in the transaction. You are powerless to change it. Telkom SA Limited probably holds a record for being the company South Africans love to hate.
How many companies can claim to have a dedicated parody website reporting their every movement, a ‘monopoly’ on the conversation of telecommunication prices and criticism by the President? How many companies have united individuals across the racial divide, small business in different industries, government (despite being a major shareholder) and unions in their opposition to exorbitant prices?

This is sad given the pockets of excellent service by dedicated individuals inside the company. It is a difficult period for those in HR to craft an employment value proposition to attract and retain staff in the current environment. Some talented individuals with technical expertise are heading for the door. The recent departure of senior executives and the CEO could be a turning point for the organisation. 

Climbing the Corporate Pyramid

Ever wondered if working in HR is a promising route to the top of your company?  I came across an incisive examination in The Pyramid Climbers, a 1962 classic by Vance Packard, renowned American journalist, social critic, and author. The book explores the changing organisation and the impact on the lives of corporate executives. In the chapter titled, ‘Dead Ends and Favoured Routes’, the author’s comment about the route to the top is:

“I found no one who thought the personnel department was now promising…The more serious handicaps for personnel directors are that it is hard to measure their contribution in dollars and cents and there is a tendency to take them for granted.”

It reminded me of a recent power point presentation by a HR Director to the board of a financial institution – the presentation was full of inspirational images, animation effects and high quality sound clips. Rounded off with motivational tones about the workforce, far removed from the castles of the board members. The only figures in the presentation were dry results from the employee survey and tiny numbering on the bottom of each slide. For now, the route to the top remains closed to HR directors.

Until next month, watch those recruitment companies, your telephone bill and add sexy numbers to your presentations.

(HR Future, May 2007)

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