Speech by Mr Marius Meyer at TUT Graduation Ceremony


Distinguished academic leaders, academics and support staff, guests, students, parents, other family members and friends.  Today is a special day: you are graduating after years of study. Today you are receiving your certificates as qualified HR and other students from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). Congratulations on achieving another major milestone in your life and career journey.  I always say:  HR and HRD practitioners spend so much of their time developing other people that they often forget about their own development.  You have successfully answered all the questions from your lecturers when writing your examinations, that is the reason why you are here today.  But today I want to pose another and more challenging question to you:  Are you’re a graduate only, or a professional or both?  A graduate can show a piece of paper. A professional can show a piece of professional work.  A graduate has a piece of theoretical knowledge, a professional has professional competence, i.e. someone who can make things happen in the world of work.  The real world of work is about action, it is about the delivery of professional work in the form of high level outputs. Professional work is about the professional ability to make things happen in a professional way that has impact, relevance and credibility.

The business world has changed significantly over the last couple of years. However, the sad news is that according to top economist Azar Jammine, a lack of skills development remains the biggest obstacle to economic growth in South Africa. We cannot afford to perpetuate the current unemployment rate of 25%.  Skills development is key in this regard, and your role as candidate practitioners is thus of utmost importance for the economic growth of the country.

Additionally, we need to realise that the world of work has changed. As the medical profession has advanced, it is predicted that the next generation will be able to reach and exceed the age of 100. This is good news, but if we consider that only 6% of the South African population has enough money to retire, the economic and social impact could be serious. What does it help us if we live longer, but we can’t sustain ourselves?  Furthermore, knowledge doubles every six months, and a certificate or diploma in itself is not sufficient to remain at the cutting edge.  TUT helped you over the last few years to become qualified, but what about the next twenty to thirty years?  These days, people also move much easier between jobs and employers.  In the old days you would work for forty years for one employer, now you move on at regular intervals, but yes, President Mugabe is an exception to this rule. Also, you need to manage your own career, your employer or TUT will not do it for you.

As a country, we are diverse. But we are simultaneously a nation of winners and losers. When it comes to certain areas we are world leaders, like banking, our stock exchange, auditing, our governance system (King III) and cricket.  Then there are other areas where we are lagging or losing the battle, like HIV/AIDS, fraud and corruption, skills gaps, our education system, xenophobia, unemployment, inequality and crime.  As qualified graduates you are the leaders who need to help us turning this situation around.  We are now the first country in the world with national HR standards, so as you sit here today you are part of the solution.  The HR Standards are there – all you need to do is to successfully implement it.

As the professional body for HR professionals in South Africa, the SA Board for People Practices has a dual role, i.e. to execute its mandate to quality assure universities and other learning providers of HR programmes,  and secondly to act as a professional body for HR professionals. We are therefore also in a position to accredit TUT so that you as students, academics, parents and the business community can be assured that we have evaluated the quality of learning provision and assessment practices at TUT.  When we accredit TUT, we do so according to the same standard we have accredited UCT, UP, UJ and Stellenbosch University. Over the last four months we have visited 14 universities, TUT is number 15 today.  We have formed student chapters all over the country, we have empowered the HR youth with knowledge and 21 universities have changed their curriculum and research agenda to the national HR standards.  This is higher education transformation in action.  All universities including TUT can become part of this initiative of providing world leadership to the HR profession and learning provision.

But what is professionalism?  Professionalism is the act of continuously meeting standards of ethics and professional practice in a chosen profession. Good news is that in accordance with the NQF Act, HR professionals can now register with SABPP and their designations are being uploaded on the National Learners Records Database at SAQA. More good news is that HR Professionals registered at the top four professional categories of SABPP (MHRP, CHRP, HRP, HRA) have now been approved by the Minister of Justice, Advocate Michael Masutha as Ex-officio Commissioners of Oaths. Thus, no more standing in queues at Police Stations or the office of an accountant to get your certificates and documents certified.  Just go to an HR Professional registered with SABPP.  This is a major achievement and significant milestone for us as qualified HR professionals.

According to Meister and Williard the 2020 workplace will be radically different from that we are used to today:

  • You will be hired and promoted based upon your reputational capital.
  • Your mobile device will be your office.
  • The global talent shortage will be acute.
  • Recruiting will be done on social networking sites.
  • The world will be networked and you will need a networked mindset.
  • Corporate social networks will flourish and grow inside companies.
  • Lifelong learning will be a business requirement.
  • Work-life flexibility will replace work-life balance.
  • Diversity will be a business imperative.
  • Social media literacy will be required for all employees.

Many of you have done very well with your studies and even achieved distinctions.  However, some of you achieved 51%.  That may have been good enough to graduate today, but the bad news is that the world of work is tough and competitive.  Employers do not want 50% graduates, they want 80% or 90% or 100% graduates.  How many of you want to get operated by a doctor who got 50% at university, or fly with an airline employing pilots who got 50% at university?  The quest for excellence requires top achievers, employees and professionals who go the extra mile in doing not only their best, but what is required by their employers and customers.  Ultimately, it is not your employer who pays your salary, it is your customers, and customers demand excellent service, not good or mediocre service.

I also want to provide you with 5 tips for qualified professionals in view of lifting our game in 2015.  In line with the TUT philosophy of “We empower people” these 5 tips highlight the power you already have:

  1. The power of action: Make a list of the top 5 high-impact things you have learned from your studies at TUT and develop an action plan to make them work in your daily work as a professional.
  2. The power of technology: Blended learning is in, but e-learning and s-learning and m-learning will drive learning.  As I speak to you today, my presentation is not only available on twitter @SABPP1 on your smart phone as you sit here in front of me, it is shared with more than 5000 HR Managers all over South African and several other countries. That is the power of technology. Use it.
  3. The power of social media: Join the social media revolution. Get linked-up on linked-in, twitter and other social media platforms. You will learn and share faster and more effectively than ever before. Also, use social media to create and build a brand for yourself and to be connected with the best in your field.
  4. The power of relationships: Focus on networking, stakeholder relations and customer service. Imagine what all of us can achieve if we dedicate one year of exceeding customer expectations.  We could start a revolution that will make South Africa better.
  5. The power of professionalism: Get yourself registered as a candidate or professional with a professional body in accordance with the NQF Act (No 67 of 2008). Use the new National HR Competency Model and National HR Standards to benchmark yourself against the best. Build your professional career over the next 40+ years.

These five powers are in your hands.  Your diploma or degree is a powerful piece of paper opening the door for you, but you must enter yourself by walking into the room where the real action is.  However, not using this power means that you accept to be disempowered.  TUT did its part, now you have to do your part and that is to claim and use your power – the power of applied knowledge, action and the continuous pursuit of action and professionalism.  Unfortunately, you will also see managers in the workplace who abuse their power in advancing their own self-interest. Please do not become part of those who serve themselves and not society.  South Africa now needs ethical leaders – real professional people who will stand up for what is right.

The 5 e’s of professionalism are also useful in building your professional career in the workplace:

  1. Ethics – be a person of integrity;
  2. Engagement – be involved, be engaged, make things happen;
  3. Energy – show and channel your energy to make a difference, be powerful;
  4. Endurance – never give up, persevere until you reach and exceed your goals;
  5. Excellence – be the best you can be.

The successful organisations in the 2015-2020 era will be those who become people-driven entities based on the notion of corporate citizenship – sustainable organisations who are driven not only by business needs, but also by the human and stakeholder needs of society. These companies are able to adequately respond and position themselves strategically to grow, leverage and optimise people, both in and outside the organisation.

Hence, it is all about change. You are changed people after today. You came here without a qualification, and you are walking away with a qualification.   Also, I want to thank the TUT management and staff for the hard work and dedication to build a talent pipeline of qualified candidate HR professionals for the South African market.

And lastly, but most importantly, to you the TUT students:  While you are surely proud of your achievement today, the bad news is that the world owes you nothing.  Rather, you owe a contribution and value to the world for the space you occupy.  You can remain unemployed or under-employed or you can make yourself indispensable – the choice is yours.  Make us proud of you, your families, your organisations, industry sectors and TUT with your achievements – become the best employee and professional you can be. You are the change agents who will rewrite the history and future of your organisation, and leave a legacy for the next generation. The TUT tag line says “we empower people.”  You are empowered today. Accept and use this power as a gift from TUT. Use this power to build your career and the HR profession and thereby making South Africa a better place for all of us. I congratulate and salute you today, go out and celebrate, but please join me in changing the world tomorrow.

By Marius Meyer, CEO: SA Board for People Practices (SABPP)
Talk as guest speaker at TUT Graduation Ceremony, Pretoria
14 May 2015

Twitter: @MariusSABPP and @SABPP1

Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP), the HR and HRD professional body and ETQA for HR and HRD learning provision. SABPP is responsible for accrediting the HR curriculum of universities.  Previously he was qualification leader for the HR honours degree programmes and lectured in HRD at the University of Johannesburg and University of South Africa.  Marius is also doing HR academic work for North-West University, Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town. He has been an HRD professional, manager, consultant, academic and thought leader for the last 21 years.  He is a regular speaker at local and international conferences and author of 200+ articles and 22 books.  The three most recent achievements of his team are as follows:

  • South African HR Competency Model
  • National HR Standards for South Africa (first set in the world)
  • HR Professionals recognized as Commissioners of Oaths by Minister of Justice

More information about SABPP is available on their new website www.sabpp.co.za you can also follow them on twitter @SABPP1.

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