Go after top executives with those share incentive schemes promising the “get rich quick” life. Corporates jumped onto the employee wellness train. They signed up the executive team for the extravagant personal packages. And placed the rest of the workforce on employee wellness programmes for a flat access fee. HR ignored what employees actually wanted or their low usage levels. There was enough pocket change for business trips to Mauritius, extreme team building in Magaliesberg and social functions at five star venues. Why worry when the share price and customer base was going into orbit? As long as South Africans had an ATM in their wallet, they could fill the company coffers without bothering about the day of repayment. For business and their staff, it was a one way bet to 2010.
Times changed, ever so slowly that many consumers and business hotshots were lethargic in their response. Since June 2006, interest rates have bounced up, ten times. Fuel prices rocketed, from a few times a year to monthly. Electricity tariffs, food prices, healthcare followed quickly. The National Credit Act, high profile racist incidents, xenophobia and price fixing scandals happened.
With the current economic squeeze on the bottomline, employers are in cost containment mode. In many organisations, talent is again a cost to be cut, not an asset to be valued. For all this talk about the new economy, it is funny how old style solutions are in force. Organisations are restructuring to fix their past blunders. Others have placed a moratorium on new appointments or (gasp) retrenched workers. I’m meeting employees that working 60-70 hour weeks due to understaffing. Those ETD budgets are slashed back to 2005 levels, do more with less is the official line. Employee wellness is looking rather stressed these days. Even executives are glum, their share options are under water and they are flying economy class with staff. Bidding higher for talent remains a problem, I have seen some individuals leave for an extra R5000 per annum before tax.
For HR executives that complain about being the punching bag for line management or exclusion from the boardroom, this could be a turning point. Mobilise your HR team for talent engagement and delivering results. Be creative whether you are trimming employment costs or sourcing consultants. Your success or failure over the next 12-24 months will determine the standing of HR in the business.
Like other employers in the public sector, the Gauteng Provincial Government is struggling with a shortage of skills, loss of talent and service delivery issues. Working at the Gauteng Provincial Government is hardly on the wish list of skilled professionals. And their recent employment branding and recruitment endeavour sheds light on the reasons. I came across their mega outdoor advert on a Braamfontein building, featuring a pompous lion with smaller felines. The message was that employers are not all equal and talent should contact them on 0860 (Gauteng). Somewhat corny, but I’ve come across worse attempts in the private sector. I decided to give them the benefit of my doubts and contact them. Something about a cat having nine lives.
After the standard recording message, none of the self help options included careers/employment. I selected the ‘speak to a service consultant’; there was no HR support on hand. I later realised why they were not equal to other employers: you could leave callers on the line for over 20 minutes (some of my friends claim they waited longer) without repercussions. Imagine what it would be like to work there! How many more lives does this cat have with taxpayer’s money to attract and retain talent? I’m not finding out.
Until next month, take time to connect with those in your business and watch those numbers!
(HR Future, September 2008)
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