Talent Lesson from Murder, Cataract and Property

Loss of Vision

Eye care professionals will tell you that regular, comprehensive eye health examinations, can detect vision disorders such as cataracts. The danger for the layman is that a cataract grows slowly over time, without a noticeable loss of vision. When you confuse different shades of blue, you are in already in trouble. Every year; thousands of patients discover the light, albeit bit too late for the knowledge to benefit their sight.

Property Bargains

During the 1990’s, there was a flight of minds and money from the Jozi CBD to the safe havens of northern suburbs. Property values in the inner city plummeted. Urban decay was the new reality. Some astute investors picked up dozens of flats for the price of a single unit today. I missed out. Unless you can turn back the hands of time, a once-in-a-generation opportunity is gone.

For those HRF readers trying to link the dots between the murder, a cataract and property, you can relax. The criminal did not murder the wrong person in the city because their vision was on the wane. There is a deeper connection that we sometimes miss in the noise of rat race: The key to capitalising on an opportunity or mitigating the threat, is finding it early, getting it early and acting on it early. 

In the war for the talent, we lose sight of being early. As the global economy slides into a recession, the ILO estimates up to 51 million jobs are on the line. With bottom line numbers on the top of executive minds, talent acquisition is no longer a priority. The logic is that business is slowing down, we need less staff and “no vacancies” are the standard message. Yet 2009 could be one of the best opportunities in a long time to edge out competition in the 2015+ war for talent. HR should reach out to skilled talent, whether they are disengaged in your competitors’ workplace or a casualty of downsizing.  Build a global community of talent that is passionate about working for your company. Management and HR can offer them crowd sourcing and volunteering experiences during the job freeze. Find and get them hooked on your company early and when the economy turns around, your future workforce will be ready.

Piped Gas

If I was a top dog at Sasol, I would wish the past twelve months away in any discussion of business and talent. Don’t get me wrong: the business is a cash generating machine and talent are engaged (if I take the views of recruitment agents and others trying to lure staff away). However Sasol has been dragged down by a several less-than -satisfying experiences: the Sasol Inzalo BEE offer (June 2008) not being such a great deal at R366 as you could have picked up the share at the end of 2008 for R280, the European Commission fine of R3.7 billion for wax cartel behaviour (October 2008), an e-mail hoax that Johannesburg water contained cholera after workers at a plant in Sasolburg were warned not to drink the water (January 2009) and four tankers involved in a fire at their Germiston plant, (January 2009). Then came the big one – leniency applications to the Competition Commission about price fixing in the phosphoric acid and piped gas business. By getting there early, by being the first to blow the lid on the cartel, Sasol could escape prosecution and save millions in potential fines. Over and above the usual HR work of values, culture and governance, management should take action against individuals behind these contraventions, whether it is negligence or corruption.

Until next month, rattle those cages in your company. You may be early.

(HR Future, March 2009)


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