Creative implementation and intensive training will be needed to implement the Employment Equity Act
Two simple issues and requirements form the basis of the Employment Equity Act.
1. IDENTIFY BARRIERS
The first issue revolves around the reasons for the heavily skewed employment patterns in South Africa. It argues that, unless particular groups are inherently inferior, organisational and business barriers are responsible. The imperative then is to consciously identify and root out the obstacles. Therefore, the Act stipulates that companies must identify barriers to the advancement of designated groups. The barriers the Department Of Labour (DOL) primarily focus on relate to the Human Resource (HR) systems a company uses and the people management practices used in the workplace. However, a second level of barriers may have been overlooked. These are the company culture, climate and management practices such as:
Management Style and commitment to equitable HR practices
Language and literacy barriers to advancement
Communication style and culture and it's impact on participation in the changes
The company's performance management, measurement and development philosophy and policy
Detailed instruments/questionnaires compiled by Human Resource specialists are available to companies to begin the process of reworking their initial action plans as part of submitting an updated report to the DOL.
2. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION MEASURES LINKED TO GOAL SETTING
The second basic idea seeks to answer the question: if certain groups have faced barriers over an extended period of time, how is the gap ever going to be closed? The Act proposes accelerated advancement of persons from designated groups. In practice this means developing or recruiting new talent to meet the demands by the government to have a workforce that is demographically representative at all levels and categories. This is easier said than done in a country facing huge skill shortages in critical areas on the one hand, and a massive oversupply of employable and unemployable labour.
Companies who attempt to play the manpower planning game without the support of the correct demographic statistics for their particular geographic and sectoral situation will find themselves committing to unrealistic goals that they can be held to. Moreover, labour turnover and natural movements within a company also requires that companies have a dynamic goal setting system in place that can be monitored and updated on an ongoing basis.
The only real solution to this problem is to use decent software for the job. Companies need to be prudent when selecting software. Numerous "add-on" modules to well known packages are available. These packages are primarily HR tools and are not very useful to line managers for MODELLING OR CREATING MANPOWER SCENARIOS when companies face sudden changes (contraction and expansions) in their business patterns.
The potential for progress will always be uneven, related to uneven supply of skills among sectors. In some sectors, employers will need to pay as much attention to developing A POOL OF "SUITABLE" APPLICANTS in consultation with technicons, colleges and universities. In this sense, the Skills Development Act - and the provision it makes for training the unemployed to meet economic demand - is the twin of employment equity strategy.
Shortages of trained and skilled people have already made black skills more expensive. How will this free-market reality square with our labour law's quest for fairness, and the principle of equal pay for equal work? And how will highly paid young designated graduates balance a programme of phased development with the exacting performance demands implied by their packages?
How will the loyalty of other employees be secured? Management will have to come up with innovative strategies to retain important staff who could feel they have "little future" because they fall outside the designated groups. Promoting equity will be less effective if the advantaged don't share skills, and if business effectiveness is not maintained.
A key component to retain, develop and motivate all staff will the use of a balanced approach to Performance Management System that holds line managers and employees equally accountable for reaching development and performance goals.
These problems should not obscure the fact that mounting concentrated development programmes is feasible. What are the steps companies need to take to accelerate development?
Produce a profile of the skills and/or competencies required by the firm to compete over the next 3-5 years
Identify the skill and competency level of the current staff compliment by level and category
Identify individuals who would be able to rapidly move to a higher level with a combination of on-job and classroom-based learning; equip line managers to play a solid coaching AND mentoring role for this group
Identify individuals who will take longer to develop
- Plan the development interventions needed for this group; integrate their development programme with a sound performance management process; equip line managers to deliver their coaching role for this group
- Integrate this information with the goal setting exercise; monitor and evaluate progress every 4 months and make the needed adjustments to the numerical goals over time; submit the annual reports to the DOL as needed
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