HR – Blown Away in 2011




HR, Budget, Talent and more   

Well we have almost reached the end of 2011. And what an unbelievable year it has been! From natural disasters (earthquakes, tornados and more) and man-made financial woes, (US, EU) to revolutionary uprisings (Arab spring, Occupy Wall Street) and technology everywhere (gadgets, online networks). Too much upheaval for one year.  I covered a lot of stuff in the past eleven HR Future (HRF) columns, so let me share my HR favourites this month.

Depending on your organisation, HR is likely to finish the year, with blown budgets and yearning to blow the whistle on others. Perhaps you are unhappy about the internal winds blowing the wrong way or looking for opportunities with newcomers blowing new life in their industry. And as you pack up for that much needed vacation, you should be cautious about blowing a hole in your pocket.

Blowing the Budget

With hindsight, the 2011 Budget was overzealous about the economy and growth. But like previous Budgets, the long term mood remained intact: grab more from higher income earners and grant greater relief to lower income earners. My wish list – make it easy for employers to hire and fire staff, grant employers tax free holidays to increase employment by 50% within 5 years and a pact between government, unions and business, We can’t have real remuneration increases outstripping labour productivity and expect job creation. Unfortunately it remains a wish list. If you’ve blown the training budget, look for those individuals that are struggling to spend their budget and nudge them, before the year is up.

Blow the Whistle & HR

I’m not referring to the disappointment with the national cricket and rugby teams. Hopefully the misalignment between management and talent will be addressed next year.

In the March column, I covered the property market and the riff between the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) and Wendy Machanik Properties (WMP). At the time I noted that, “We work in a country where whistle blowing, especially in companies, is not promoted and celebrated. When last did your company have an awards function for whistle blowers? Or are they no longer employed?”

Well it is good to know that there are other minds that share the same sentiments. In October, the Open Democracy Advise Centre successfully launched the National Whistle Blowing week, celebrating a culture that exposes corruption. The bold campaign provides whistle blowers with access to information on the Protected Disclosures Act and confidential support. HR can make a valuable contribution in this area; we desperately need more employees to come forward in the workplace. I suggest that you add whistle blowing to your employment value proposition and check back after a year. You may be surprised by the type of talent that your organisation will attract and retain in future.

HR Blowing the Wrong Way

If I wrote down the “crushing message”, every time that an executive, managers and HR uttered it, I would have a riveting best seller on my hands. In some organisations, you are guaranteed that the crushing message will faithfully rise each day, just like the sun, to drain the energy of their workforce. You are likely to have heard the crushing message at least once in the past month. Or worse, delivered it to others. The words may vary, but the crushing message is unchanged: I have worked here for a long time. I have done “IT”, this way for a long time. “IT” works. I won’t change “IT”. Go away. If you are working for such an organisation, use the vacation to plan your escape.

Blowing New Life

Many newcomers arrived in the market and the real test will be their efforts to quickly attract and engage talent. Low cost airline, Velvet Sky made a buzz earlier this year and I didn’t get an opportunity to discuss the other newcomer, Santaco Airlines. Too many jokes about taxi owners flying airlines. Other companies have not been so fortunate. Wal-Mart is still hitting one wall after another, as government and unions try to renegotiate their agreement. And Shell has to navigate a growing opposition line to prospect for natural gas in the Karoo.

Blowing a hole in your Pocket

Finally, this year will definitely be remembered for the battles between employers (HR?) and employees over remuneration. The cost of living is going up. When we look back on 2011, it will be the year when we realised that the days of cheap electricity, food and transport are finally over. As the cost of living blows a bigger hole in your pocket, the demand for more pay is likely to get louder. Note to self: don’t overspend during the festive break; you will sorely regret it in January.

(HR Future, December 2011)



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