Thursday, May 22, 2008

Business & people management in South Africa

Our minimum wage earners enjoyed their Php20 pay increase for exactly one week. Starting last Wednesdays, prices of goods shot up even more as transportation fare increased. It is a vicious cycle. Now they are spending more than the increase they got, which is still subject to tax.

Talking of something pleasant, it is very obvious to me that South Africa has made big strides in the way they conduct and manage their business from the five times I've been there before. And I am very happy to come across two books that chronicle and recognize companies and leaders who have made significant contributions to the burgeoning commerce and industry this part of Africa. Through these books, the publishers honor them and encourage others by their example to emulate their laudable corporate behavior.

One book is BEST EMPLOYERS SOUTH AFRICA, with foreword by Quentin Wray. Deputy Editor, Business Report, and published by CRF South Africa, 2007.

Wray writes that although society clearly benefits from good employers—after all, happy, well-paid employees are more likely to contribute to their communities than those who feel aggrieved every day at work—being a good employer is not just about altruism. "Ultimately, employers need to focus on ensuring that workers at all levels are able to meet the needs of customers who will otherwise take their business elsewhere. A properly trained and motivated workforce is far more capable of meeting the needs of customers than a poorly qualified and apathetic one. J. Paul Getty once said that the employer generally gets the employees he deserves."

Jacob de Villiers, executive director of Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut, asserts, "People are the cornerstone of every business success. Often in the light of a company's achievement and recognition, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of the human resource team responsible for securing, supporting and establishing the firm's employees.

One outstanding company is Exxaro:

Exxaro has a diversified resource portfolio that includes coal, mineral sand, base metals, industrial minerals, an interest in iron ore and is the only producer of zinc in South Africa.

Exxaro spends approximately 6% of its wage bill on development programs at all levels of employees and focuses on learnerships. There are currently 500 learners completing programs in mining and engineering. This is fed through a deliberate system of recruitment, performance management and leadership mentoring.

Emerging from a merger of two established organizations, Exxaro announced its vision, mission and values after an inclusive, intense development process. This are rolled out through an interactive series of CEO-led road shows to each business unit. Their leaders believe that values are the basis of a strong organization and employees are measured against their adherence to the values.

Part of their culture is encouraging employees to ask why and to challenge. This fosters explanation and, in turn, leads to an easier acceptance and change.

Ethical behavior applies to all stakeholders, in and out of the organization and good governance is entrenched through the implementation of a fraud hotline and a code of ethics. Gender equality is a focus for the organization and the company is trying to attract women to the traditionally male-dominated world of mining. It is the largest black-owned and –managed resources company listed on their stock-exchange with a 56% black economic empowerment shareholding.

As part of their corporate social investment, they address key issues such as education, skills, development, enterprise development (for small-scale mining), health and welfare, the environment, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, sports and recreation. Some specific projects include math and science improvement initiatives at high schools, stimulating local economic development, supporting peace parks and many others.

They have a presence in Namibia, China and Australia, but its intention is to remain South African-based and continue to be proud of their SA roots and heritage. They have a history of strong leadership throughout the organization, a tradition they value highly, sustain and cultivate as they go into a growth path.

Finally, Exxaro provides an exciting work environment for individuals who are competent, willing. ethics-driven, enjoy working in teams and across boundaries, and whose values match that of the company.

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