The first HR Audit against the National HR Standards in the Free State: Case study

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The first HR Audit against the National HR Standards in the Free State: Case study
by Marieta van Niekerk

Interstate Bus Lines is a Private Commuter Bus Transport Company in the Free State that serves the communities of Bloemfontein, Botshabelo, Thaba Nchu and surrounding areas for the past forty years. We deliver a daily passenger service from Monday to Sunday and commute 82 000 passengers in different directions and trips each day of the week. Our buses travel 1,36 million kilometres per month.

Interstate Bus Lines is an empowered Company with a 63% Black Broad Based Shareholding owned structure operating on a Government Contract in the Road Passenger Transport Sector. We regard a safe and quality service delivery to our clients as our primary objective, provide a sustainable future for our employees and care for the environment and the needs of our society.

During the early times of the existence of the company, the turbulent political climate and labour arrest during that period forced the company to invest in professional human resource practices. Over the years, Interstate Bus Lines recognised the contribution of the HR Department towards the success of the company and its impact on the bottom line. The HR Department is fortunate to be regarded as a strategic partner on the executive team.

The mission of the HR team to deliver a professional service to the company, resulted in the acceptance of the invitation to attend the SABPP’s HR Standards Development Session in 2013 as well as the HR Standards Roll-Out Sessions in 2014 and 2015.  Being part of the process and having knowledge of the HR Standards and the benefits thereof, we were left with no choice but to align our HR processes with the National Standards.

Despite the acknowledgment by management that the HR Department plays a major role in the success of the company, the HR Team felt obliged to assure the company that their investment in HR Practices complies with National Standards and that the HR Team is professional in their application of HR processes.

Although the company received a favourable audit report, we learned the following lessons:

  • The importance of the integration and synergy between all HR functions in the application of the HR Standards.
  • The partnership between HR and line functions and the employees’ engagement and understanding of HR Practices.
  • Committed and competent HR staff and teamwork is a pre-requisite for valued HR service delivery.
  • The application of the HR Professional National Standards is not an event; it is an ongoing journey.
  • Without an HR audit based on National Standards, the HR profession cannot benchmark its practices and assure management that there is value in their investment in human resources.

The appreciation for achieving the HR Audit Certificate is recognised by the words of the CEO of IBL, Mr George Mokgothu: “The one question that always came to my mind and that I could not answer with absolute confidence, is whether our HR practices, systems and processes are of such standard that we can claim professionalism and we can use strategically to build a great company and whether our HR department adds value to or decreases value from the bottom-line?  This extensive audit, a first not only for our industry but also for a Free State based company, undertaken by the reputable SABPP, allows me to say with absolute confidence that receiving this quality assurance certificate confirms the high quality of our HR systems, processes and practises. As CEO I have always been the number one supporter of the HR department because I believe that the first entry point of the right people, in the right positions is through our HR department and eventually our success at implementing our strategy rests on our people. I can now with absolute confidence say our HR practices, systems and processes are of such high standard, the department is professionally and ethically managed, and surely adds positive value to the bottom-line. The SABPP HR Standards Audit Certification is a stamp of approval on Our People, Our Pride. Our company is geared towards being a great company because “We stand on the shoulders of giants”

The audit process was an enriching experience to the HR Team and we have learned that the high level of the SABPP requirements compare with international standards. The professional manner in which the SABPP’s auditors conducted the audit, the comprehensive audit report and findings and recommendations forms the basis to improving our current HR practices. I believe that the audit of the HR practices and the compliance to National HR professional practice standards is non-negotiable and should be the objective of all companies. We are proud to be the first company in the Free State to be audited against the National HR Standards, and the first private transport company in the country to be audited.  I want to encourage other companies to do the same. Not only will it identify your gaps, it will also externally verify your good practices in giving confidence to the HR team, management and the board that your HR department adds value to the organisation.

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Gilbert Nomoziwa (Employment Relations Manager),  Henk van Zyl, HR Director and Marieta van Niekerk (HR Manager) and George Mokgotho (CEO)

Marieta van Niekerk CHRP is HR Manager at Interstate Bus Lines in Bloemfontein.  More information about Interstate Bus Lines is available on their website www.interstate.co.za   You can meet Marieta at the 4th Annual National HR Standards Conference on 27-28 July 2016 in Midrand.   Contact the SABPP office on  events@sabpp.co.za or visit www.sabpp.co.za

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