Leading the country with the first successful HR audit against the National HR Standard: Telesure HR audit case study

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Leading the country with the first successful HR audit against the National HR Standard: Telesure HR audit case study by Kholeka Ngubeni-Henderson

In a ground-breaking first for the S.A. Board for People Practices (SABPP), Telesure Investment Holdings Proprietary Limited was the first company in South Africa to be audited against its new National Human Resource Management System Standard.  Telesure’s certification has been made public on 11 December 2014.

Telesure was established in 1998 to house the South African interests of the Guernsey-based international financial services group, Budget Holdings Ltd. The group owns and operates several of South Africa’s leading insurance brands and stands out with its multiple-channel, multiple-brand approach through direct sales, broker sales, aggregator sales and affinity partnerships.

All of the companies in the Telesure group target different segments of the insuring public. They are geared to assess the needs of the market they service and provide products and distribution channels to best suit those needs. Telesure is recognised as one of the most profitable short-term insurance groups in South Africa and has never made an underwriting loss in its history. No other insurance group can make such a claim, which is outstanding given the phenomena of the insurance industry’s boom-and-bust underwriting cycles.

Telesure’s slogan of “finding a better way” permeates its corporate culture. It’s a progressive, innovative, forward-thinking and pioneering company that employs people who challenge the mundane, are cutting-edge and revolutionary. Telesure service excellence is not a phrase that’s bandied about and misused – it’s a way of life. Our promises are clear-cut and our commitments firm. Our mission is to treat our customers fairly by removing all the hassle and making the process as easy as possible.

Telesure was the first company audited against the National HR Standard of SABPP. What does this all mean? It means the SABPP can now, through an integrated system model, confidently measure the effectiveness of an HR function as well as the competence of HR practitioners. Something unheard of until now.

This National Standard is a global first and is attracting a lot of attention from all over the world including developed nations such as the US and UK as well as developing African nations. The HRM Standard is complemented by a comprehensive HR Competency Model.

The SABPP standard is based on the principle of continual improvement. An organisation assesses its current situation against the Standard, determines improvement objectives, implements actions to meet these objectives and then measures the results. But what is the value of an external audit?  It lies in the SABPP audit team’s cross business sector expertise, their in-depth knowledge of HR standards and their extensive HR management experience in reputable organisations.

Telesure’s employee value proposition is positively boosted by their impressive human resource management strategy, which is fully aligned with that of their business strategy.

When I tell the story of my career, I have to begin where it all started. Actually, now that I look back it seems like I have come full circle. It has been an amazing journey and I have grown so much along the way.

After I graduated from high school, my first job was at the Natal Building Society and Bank (NBS). The professional work experience gained from there was invaluable. I have always had a passion for education, training, and development of people for as long as I can remember. It was only natural that when I was awarded a four year academic scholarship by the Institute of International Education (IIE), to study overseas, I pursued a degree in Human Resources Management and Clinical Psychology. As the saying goes the rest is history.

My education and work experience spans both South Africa and the United States. I have been fortunate to have worked in solid and cutting edge organisations that have allowed me to hone in my skills in human capital management. The companies that I have worked for have been diverse and have offered me a wide spectrum of experience in all facets of Human Resource Management and Business acumen.

My current role as the Executive Head of Human Resources in Telesure is giving me an opportunity to pull all my experience together and start my career self-actualisation process. It is giving me an opportunity to not only apply the knowledge that I have gained thus far but to continue to learn and grow. It is giving me an opportunity to continue to impart knowledge while gaining some in return. It is a build up from my previous roles as a Regional Business Partner at South African Breweries (SAB) – North Region, Human Resources and Transformation Manager at Mondi Business Paper – Merebank, Human Resources Manager at The Home Depot in Los Angeles, Human Resources Generalist at Alert Communications in Los Angeles, and Training and Development Manager at The Palace Hotel of the Lost City in Sun City, just to name a few. These companies have all played an instrumental role in shaping me to be the Human Resource professional that I am today.

When we decided to take part in the audit, we did not know what the outcome would be. However, we felt confident that we have come a long way on our journey to be business partners and not HR for the sake of HR.

We felt confident in our strategy because it has been developed in alignment with the business strategy to ensure that we deliver business results. As a result, our people processes were designed to ensure that we constantly up skill our employees and challenge them to challenge themselves to be the best that they can be.

In addition, in participating in the audit, we wanted to find out what we are doing well in terms of our people practices and what we needed to improve.  I am happy to report that the audit outcome served that purpose. It has confirmed that we are on the right track in terms of our people practices.  It has also identified areas where we need to improve.

The audit process was very insightful and enlightening. It reminded us that we need to make sure that we track every process we execute from end to end. We have to make sure that our processes are documented and properly filed. This allows us to be able to constantly check and ensure that our processes stay relevant to the business and people practice standards. If ever we needed to change them, we would know where to begin.

The SABPP auditors were very professional. They did a great job of explaining to us what was expected of us, what we could expect from them, and how the process would be run from beginning to end. We knew what to expect and that enabled us to prepare better for the audit.

One of the biggest lessons learned is what good looks like in terms of minimal people practice standards.  Now that we know how we rate based on these standards, we are aiming for excellence. We have to be meticulous with our filing processes to keep us on track. We also have to make sure that now that we know what we will be evaluated on in terms of our people practices, we must start creating our books of evidence from the on-set.  Tracking of our processes will be a way of life because it will also ensure that we drive the correct behaviours and thus make us better HR Business Partners.

I would recommend that other HR professionals follow suit and get audited against the SABPP standards because the outcome of the audit will only make them better.

We value the feedback that we have received from the audit. We are going to incorporate it into our goals to ensure that we put action plans in place to improve the areas that have been identified through the audit as areas of development.

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Kholeka Ngubeni-Henderson is the HR Executive at Telesure and a Master HR Professional with SABPP.  The full Telesure case study will be presented at the 3rd  Annual National HR Standards Roll-out at Sandton Convention Centre on 17 September.  The programme can be downloaded from www.sabpp.co.za

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