HR Standards 100% – but attend to fundamentals first


HR Standards 100% – but attend to fundamentals first
by Xolani Mawande

So you are going to advertise that role? You are looking for that disadvantaged candidate preferably from the township. You are looking for that black candidate who is intelligent and clever. That candidate who passed matric maths and science. Oh and English language too. You are looking for that candidate who graduated from university with a degree in engineering. That candidate who thinks out of the box. That candidate who has a good command of the English language.

Wait a moment…That candidate might not exist!

According to latest statistics, out of every 100 students who attend school, only one would graduate at university. Further, according to statistics 75% of our schools might be dysfunctional. The majority of those schools, if not all of them, are in the township or in rural areas.

Therefore, searching for black qualifying candidates might not be such an easy task. Line will be impatient and start to accuse HR of not prioritising their needs. Yet the problem is bigger that the recruitment consultant.

Better still you then get a second best (or third best) candidate and you employ such a candidate. This is not the best crop. The candidate struggles. Black people are then blamed for not being the best. You are then expected to train this candidate. All of a sudden training (which is part of HR) is not effective enough. Ultimately the candidate is dismissed or jumps before that happens. Then again you are back to square one.

By this time the line manager is not so patient to wait for months to get another candidate. You then open up the position. You get a white male who attended a private school and so on. He performs very well and the line manager is very impressed.
Can we then conclude and say white candidates are performing better than black candidates? That will be an unfair comparison. An apple and an orange are not meant to taste the same. These two individuals never went through the same conditions. One was probably taught by the best teachers while the other might have been taught by a maths teacher who never specialised in it yet had to teach in the school because no one else could. One might have been a product of a dysfunctional school where teacher absenteeism was the norm not the exception while the other was at school with all the resources. One might have been to a school where teachers strike and classes are cut short while the other was a school where there was no disruption. One might have been to a school where each class had over forty students while the other was in a class of maybe fifteen students.

So what is the point here?

HR professionals in South Africa have developed HR standards led by SABPP. These standards will surely mitigate risks in the working world. But before we can even say HR standards, as HR professionals we need to drive and lead the country back to basics. Our education system needs fixing. We will continue setting employment equity targets forever as long as we don’t fix the basics. Imagine if all South Africans received the same quality of education that compares reasonably well with African countries and other countries. Imagine if all teachers were well qualified and fully committed to their work. Imagine if all maths teachers were fully qualified. Imagine if teachers and principals sent their own children to the same schools they taught at. Imagine if all politicians could send their children to public school including schools in Soweto. Do I need to go on?

SABPP therefore before driving competency and HR standards thus recommend that HR professionals get to be active citizens. That is the reason why we created HR Citizen as a formal initiative for HR professionals to make a difference to society. What better way is there to create true talent pool than to start at grade R? We need to support our schools not just to paint and take photos on Mandela day. We need to empower principals to run schools effectively like a business CEO runs Old Mutual. We need to empower our teachers and make the environment conducive to allow the best graduates to consider teaching. If we do this right our job of recruiting, development and retention through the HR standards will be a lot easier and more meaningful. I invite HR Professionals to join SABPP and Partners for Possibility in transforming our schools for improved education. Our principals need it, our teachers need it, our children need it, our country needs it. Let us make it happen.


Xolani Mawande is the COO of SABPP.
You can follow him on twitter @xolani_mawande or contact him on


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