“Employee commitment is currently an important factor in the effective operation of most organizations. Under more traditional arrangements, especially with ‘good’ employers, employee commitment developed as part of a set of mutual obligations that included long-term employment security and career development offered by the employer. As job security and other perceived employer obligations dissolved, so did employee commitment. How organizations will function in the absence of employee commitment, where workers have a more individualistic orientation, is an open question.”
Peter Capelli et al Change at Work (1997) at 215.
Mr Capelli makes a point. My father retired in 1968 after having worked for one employer for 42 years – a very loyal and committed employee. Today his job no longer exists – it has been computerized! Had he stayed on longer, he might well have become a victim of restructuring.
While trade unions still place a lot of emphasis on job security, it does not carry the same weight it used to in the old days. Companies in responding to rapid global and technological change no longer guarantee job security. Most companies have been through some form of restructuring process, resulting in the retrenchment and/or early retirement of employees.
This however is rapidly becoming a two edged sword for employers. Employee attitudes have changed. People change jobs with little thought of the consequences for the employer, sometimes leaving without even serving notice. Changing jobs every few years has become the norm for young graduates. It enables one to gain experience and to improve one’s economic position by trading one employer off against another. Add to this the pressures of BEE which has created artificial scarcities and we can see that employers have created a problem for themselves.
How then does one go about attracting and retaining talent and most importantly maintaining a positive employee relations climate? The answer is to get back to basics!
Make sure everyone is on the same page. Ensure the organisation’s vision, mission and strategy is understood and forms the driving force of all business activities.
- Develop and live good values! Effective leaders seek to get consensus on values that will create a positive organisational culture conducive to attracting and retaining talent. Integrity and respect are two values that must start at the top!
- Develop and implement sound human resource policies and procedures. Good, regularly updated policies and procedures modelled on best practice lead to consistency. Inconsistency on the other hand, leads to unfairness and IR problems as well as being one of the major demotivators in organisations.
- Develop a culture of self-discipline and accountability. Encourage employees to develop a sense of pride and responsibility by allowing them to make decisions. Self-directed/mission directed/empowered work teams – whatever you call them, are the way of the future. Supervisors need to be trained to think differently.
- Make sure people know what is expected of them. Jobs need to be clearly defined and aligned to the organisation’s business focus. The organisation structure should be ‘lean’ and as flat as possible allowing for effective decision making and good communication.
- Make sure people are fairly paid. There are a number of major job evaluation systems available, most of which correlate with each other so that pay between organisations can be compared. Jobs need to be described and evaluated and pay structured accordingly so that there is internal equity. Internal pay scales also need to be aligned to market rates to ensure that there is also external equity. If you have a top performer, make sure he or she is also paid accordingly!
- Implement a performance management system. Focus on outputs not activities. Reward employees who ‘walk the extra mile’ and do not put up with under-performers. A well thought out performance management system will not only encourage openness and communication; it should also identify talent and training needs.
- Reward good performance. Team bonuses and deferred performance bonuses are a good way rewarding and retaining talent.
- Apply a zero tolerance approach to discipline. Deal with small things while they are small. This will only happen if managers and supervisors are trained to identify troubled employees and take active steps to ensure they conform to rules and standards. Where serious misconduct occurs, this needs to be handled professionally. Do not lose disciplinary cases!
- Pay special attention to training and development. We have a huge skills shortage in South Africa and the only long term solution is to train and develop our own people – starting with our managers and supervisors.
For more information on B&A’s Labour Relations training and consulting services contact your local B&A office at Durban (031-3094627), Johannesburg 0861-474722, Cape Town 021-5270044, Port Elizabeth 041-3682019, Kokstad 039-7271773, Margate 039-3122698, Richards Bay 035-7531255