HR 2030: Launch of South Africa’s first labour market scenarios report


HR 2030: Launch of South Africa’s first labour market scenarios report
by Marius Meyer

The South African labour market has been criticised for various reasons over the last ten years.  The SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) therefore decided to work with top scenario planning guru, Clem Sunter in developing labour market scenarios for South Africa.  Adopting a strategic view in line with the aims of the National Development Plan (NDP), the labour market scenarios provide four possible routes for South Africa.  A group of 50 senior HR professionals, together with senior HR academics convened under the leadership of Clem Sunter to develop the four labour market scenarios.  In essence, the Labour Market 2030 Scenarios will provide us with a picture of HR in the year 2030.  The following is the result of the working group in March 2016:

A set of Rules of the Game and Key Uncertainties for the SA Labour Market emerged from the discussions:


The items identified in the figure above derive in large part from a “changing world of work”. The next section describes some of the features of this new world.

What do we mean by “the new world of work”?

However, a clear picture of possible labour market will be incomplete without taking consideration of the new world of work.  There are many publications on the nature of the new world of work and the drivers which will shape that new world.  Three of these are highlighted here to illustrate the general agreement on key features of that world of work.

In the 2010 book The 2020 Workplace[1] the authors identified three major drivers as follows:

[1] J.C. Meister & K. Willyerd. 2010. HarperCollins.

Three Forces.png

The UK’s Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), in their 2013 publication “Megatrends – the trends shaping work and working lives”[1] identify important trends affecting the work itself, the workforce and the workplace  as below:

trends to now.png

The major shifts in the demand for well-educated people are illustrated in the 1997 book Workforce 2020 : Work and Workers in the 21st Century[1] which uses data from the United States.

[1] R. W. Judy & C d’Amico, 1997. Hudson Institute

The workforce place

Changes in the workplace since 1997 would most probably change the demand  percentages (the right hand column in the above figure) so that the 4 year college degree requirement would be higher.

Clearly, the supply situation in South Africa (the left hand column in the above figure) would be different.  The White Paper of the Department of Higher Education and Training[1] has set a target of 1.6 million students at university (from 937 000 in 2011) and 2.5 million students in TVET colleges by 2030 (from 345 000 in 2010 and estimated 650 000 in 2013). These figures represent 25% and 39% respectively.  Assuming a demand situation which is less knowledge intensive than the US, it can still be seen that the gap will be extremely high.

Research by the Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment[2] has identified that new technologies are not creating many jobs; that technology has increased the range of tasks skilled workers can perform; that new “high touch” (as opposed to “high tech”) jobs are being created; and that many new personal service jobs are being created.

“With falling prices of computing, problem-solving skills are becoming relatively productive, explaining the substantial employment growth in occupations involving cognitive tasks where skilled labour has a comparative advantage, as well as the persistent increase in returns to education. The current trend is towards labour market polarisation, with growing employment in high-income cognitive jobs and low-income manual occupations, accompanied by a hollowing-out of middle-income routine jobs. However, our model predicts a truncation in the current trend towards labour market polarisation, with computerisation being principally confined to low-skill and low-wage occupations. Our findings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation – i.e., tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.”

[1] 2014.


The trends identified by the CIPD imply that employees in the future will be (even) more pressurised and the workplace climate will be less supportive.

More positive qualitative aspects of the future world of work are identified by Meister and Willyerd in 2010 as below. Some of these factors are already evident in South African workplaces, whilst others are possibly less likely to emerge.

1.       You will be hired and promoted based upon your reputational capital.
2.       Your mobile device will be your office.
3.       Recruiting will be done on social networking sites.
4.       Web commuters will force corporate offices to reinvent themselves.
5.       Companies will hire entire teams.
6.       Job requirements for CEOs will include blogging.
7.       Your corporate curriculum will use video games, simulations and other reality games as key modes of delivery.
8.       The world will be networked and you will need a networked mindset.
9.       Outsourcing will be replaced by crowdsourcing.
10.    Corporate social networks will flourish and grow inside companies.
11.    You will elect your leader.
12.    Work-life flexibility will replace work-life balance.
13.    Corporate social responsibility will be a key business driver and used to attract
14.    Diversity will be a business imperative.
15.    The lines between marketing, communication and learning will blur.
16.    Social media literacy will be required for all employees.
17.    Building a portfolio of contract jobs will be the path to obtaining full-time employment.
18.    Corporate app stores will offer ways to manage work and personal life better.

These aspects apply more to knowledge workers than other workers, for whom the new world of work could be less attractive if it is characterised also by a lack of job security and fluctuating incomes.

Whilst the actual work and workplace will change, as outlined above, the nature of the workforce itself will change, as the CIPD points out.  Popular descriptions of the attributes of the so-called “millennials” concentrate on their values (civic-minded, family-focused, favour lifestyle and experience over money and prestige) and wants (being able to express themselves, constant challenge) as well as their education level.  However, one aspect not often covered is their financial situation – as the result of their higher education level, millennials often start their careers carrying debt from their student days. They also face a shortage of jobs and as a result, their ability to save and buy their homes is very constrained. They are used to cheap credit. They understand that their financial long-term future is uncertain, especially as governments will be unable to fund their retirement. Hence there is often a preference to spend today rather than save for tomorrow.

Additional material on the future world of work will be sourced, developed and published by the SABPP over the coming periods.

The National Development Plan

Policy goals of the National Development plan are to:

  • Maintain fiscal discipline and macro-economic stability;
  • Achieve sustained GDP growth of 5.4%;
  • Reduce unemployment to 14% by 2020 and to 6% by 2030;
  • Overhaul the civil service to improve efficiency and implementation;
  • Promote market competitiveness;
  • Reduce the cost of living;
  • Reduce impediments to investment;
  • Create jobs via entrepreneurship and reduced regulation as well as a public works programme.

The “new world of work” trends outline above will challenge the achievement of these goals considerably, demonstrating that some creative solutions will need to be found by all stakeholders. Against the backdrop of the above discussion on the new world of work, four labour market scenarios were developed for South Africa.  These scenarios will be launched at the 4th Annual HR Standards Conference of SABPP on 28 July 2016 at Vodacom World in Midrand.  I want to thank all the HR leaders for the inputs into the Labour Market 2030 Scenarios Report.  I am proud to launch the outcome of the working group and I trust that the document will be used as a key framework for increased levels of stakeholder engagement in considering clear options for labour market reform.


Marius Meyer is CEO of SABPP. In 2014 he launched the world’s first National HR Audit Unit to audit organisations against the National HR Standards developed by SABPP. More information about the SABPP HR Standards is available on their website and their blog

  For daily updates on HR Standards and HR Audits, follow SABPP on Twitter @SABPP1 and Instagram sabpp_1



South Africa’s 1st Employer Branding Standard: Building your company brand in attracting and retaining talent


South Africa’s 1st Employer Branding Standard: Building your company brand in attracting and retaining talent
by Marius Meyer

In 2013 the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) launched the world’s first National HR Standards covering 13 key standard elements for sound HR practice.  These standards are as follows:  Strategic HR Management, Talent Management, HR Risk Management, Workforce Planning, Learning and Development, Performance Management, Reward and Recognition, Employee Wellness, Employment Relations Management, Organisation Development, HR Service Delivery, HR Technology and Hr Measurement.  This was the first phase of the National HR Standards project.  In 2014 phase two was launched, this time addressing additional HR Professional Practice Standards ranging from absenteeism management, through to succession planning, total of 19 such practice standards were developed.  Last year, the process continued and four new standards were commissioned to be developed. These standards were change management, incapacity management, workplace learning culture and employer branding.  Thus, there are now a total of 23 HR professional practice standards in South Africa, in addition to the 13 standards comprising the HR Management system as outlined above.

Today, I want to share a brief outline of the employer branding standard with you.  This standard forms a key component of talent management.  In fact, if you get this standard right at your organisation, your company will be able to not only attract the best talent, it will also be well positioned to retain key talent.  In essence, the employer branding standard focuses on infusing a strong employment value proposition for your organisation in attracting high calibre potential employees to your company.  The key question is the mind of a potential employee is: Why would I like and go and work at this company?  If there is no compelling reason, the individual is unlikely to apply for a position at the company.

Over the last ten years, employer branding initiatives such as “Best company to work for” or “Top Employers” have grown in the market place.  Some of these efforts amount to high level public relations and window-dressing exercises.  What happens in practice is that you do everything possible to attract talent to your organisation.  Then employees are signed up, and months or a few years later they leave when their expectations are not met.  That is the reason why SABPP developed the employer branding standard to prevent this problem from occurring.  We are now saying to organisations that it is imperative to develop a professional approach to employer branding.  While the best employers will continue to thrive with sound talent management in place, the reality is that average and poor employers will continue to suffer.  Some commentators are stating that the talent war is a myth, however, it is a fact that talented employees are attracted to good employers.  If average and poor employer continue to attract average and under-performing employees, they will feel the results in their bottom-line performance.  Already, many municipalities, government departments, state agencies and other state-owned enterprises are feeling the punch.  However, it does not have to be a win-lose situation.  All organisations could build strong talent cultures and employer branding should become a powerful strategy in achieving this goal.

The SABPP Employer Branding Professional Practice Standard proposes the following process for South African organisations:

Employer Branding Process

What is clear about the standard and its proposed process for implementation, is that companies need to make the paradigm shift from traditional recruitment and selection practices to a more proactive talent-driven approach to attracting top talent to your organisation.  This will only happen if your company as a good employer is branded in an appropriate and professional way.  Employer branding will also require HR, marketing, communications and public relations professionals to collaborate in making a success of employer branding initiatives. Ultimately, all HR practices will have to align to the overall employer branding and talent strategy.  I look forward to be at the launch of South Africa’s first employer branding standard on 28 July 2016.  If you have an interest in employment branding, I hope to see you there (see details below).  If you can’t make it, follow the action on twitter @SABPP1.

Marius Meyer

Marius Meyer is CEO of SABPP. In 2014 he launched the world’s first National HR Audit Unit to audit organisations against the National HR Standards developed by SABPP. More information about the SABPP HR Standards is available on their website and their blog

  For daily updates on HR Standards and HR Audits, follow SABPP on Twitter @SABPP1 and Instagram sabpp_1


The Auditor-General Report on local government audits: HR Challenges and Opportunities


The Auditor-General Report on local government audits:
HR Challenges and Opportunities
by Marius Meyer

Last month the Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu released its consolidated report on the audit outcomes of local government.  The report covers an analysis of the MFMA 2014-2015 audits conducted by the Auditor-General.  The scope of the audits covered by the MFMA includes all municipalities as well as municipal entities such as the Johannesburg Roads Agency, Pikitup, Mandela Bay Development Agency and the Cape Town International Convention Centre.  While the report clearly outlines gaps exposed during audits, it is balanced from the perspective that it also recognises commitments that leaders have made to improve audit outcomes from previous audits.  While good audit performance mainly in provinces such as Gauteng and the Western Cape are highlighted, sadly in some provinces such as the Free State, Limpopo and North-West performance has been poor.

As the national and international leader in the area of Human Resource (HR) Management, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) has a particular interest in the outcomes of HR audits and our comments will mostly cover HR outcomes.  Having said that, and given the importance of sound HR and people management in municipalities and municipal entities, it is our view that good HR Management has a direct impact on other areas of audits, such as financial management, supply chain and service delivery.  It should also be born in mind that over the past five years (2010-2015), several municipalities in South Africa have reported a steady improvement in audit outcomes, with 53% having improved, while 13% regressed and 34% remained unchanged.  In particular, good improvement has been seen in six of the eight metro councils while about half of district municipalities and local municipalities have improved.

While the audit area that showed the greatest improvement was the audit opinions on financial statements, even within this area, problems were identified pertaining to material misstatements, competence gaps and concerns regarding the effective use of consultants.  Likewise, gaps pertaining to the management of consultants is not limited to financial reporting.  Also, weaknesses in the planning and appointment processes, performance management and monitoring and transferring of skills (all HR practices) were identified at 68% of the municipalities that used consultancy services.  Consistent with HR implications within financial management, HR factors were also prevalent within the supply chain of municipalities.  The Auditor-General identified a high prevalence of awards being made to suppliers in which employees, councillors and state officials have an interest.  The Report goes on to state that “little progress has been made in complying with legislation relating to awards made to close family members of employees and councillors.”

It is therefore also not surprising that the Auditor-General identified some key HR risks such as vacancies and instability in key positions of municipal manager, chief financial officer and head of supply chain management as risks affecting financial and performance management and thus also overall audit outcomes.  Hence, the report also flags the fact that competence levels of these key officials are a contributing factor to under-performance.  For instance, vacancy rates for CFOs stood at 20% and those for municipal managers at 17% by the end of 2015.   The practice of too many acting officials in these two key positions is of particular concern.  It is also evident that a lack of consequences for poor performance exacerbates the problem.  In addition, surely HR professionals were called in regarding disciplinary cases dealing with irregular, unauthorised and wasteful expenditure, and non-compliance with laws and policies. If not, this will once again point to a lack of consequences management.  In fact, the Auditor-General Report identified financial misconduct as one of the main problems.  In 45% of the municipalities, management failed to conduct the required investigations for all instances of unauthorised, irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure.  Clear incidents of conflict of interest, fraud and improper conduct have been highlighted in the report.

Regarding performance management, SABPP would like to commend the Auditor-General for allocating a full section on this important aspect of audit outcomes.   However, the report deals mostly with annual performance reports covering the overall performance of the municipality and not necessarily the performance management system affecting al managers and employees.  Be that as it may, it is good to see that there has been an improvement in municipalities’ reporting on the degree to which services are delivered in accordance with the planned targets as per their integrated development plans (IDPs) and the service delivery and budget implementation plans (SDBIPs).  Ultimately, service delivery is the most important function of any local government entity.  Whether reporting is reliable and accurate is of course, an entirely different question and perhaps requires closer scrutiny.

Interestingly, HR is included under section five covering root causes.  This section starts with the status of internal controls.  Three key drivers of internal controls are used, namely leadership, performance and financial management, and governance.  Although improvements in these areas were identified, a lack of documentation affected all areas of the audit outcomes.  It is worrying that the internal controls of most municipalities not only failed to prevent non-compliance with legislation, but also failed to timeously detect the deviations, some of which were only detected and responded to following the audits of the Auditor-General.

The Auditor-General’s Report has a section on the status of HR Management controls.  It covers reporting on HR controls since 2010.  The bad news is that HR Management has improved only slightly since 2010-11 and the previous year (2013-2014).  Out of 272 municipalities included in the report, regarding the status of HR Management controls, 26% (72 municipalities) had audit findings, 43% (116) with findings, while 31% (84 municipalities) with material findings.   The improvement in 2013-2014 is mainly due to increased adherence to requirements relating to minimum competencies and qualifications, improve management of senior management performance, and a focus on leadership on filling vacancies.   One of the biggest challenges for municipalities is to attract and retain qualified and competent persons in all areas of administration.  The Auditor-General therefore focused on the management of vacancies and retention of key staff.  However, if the right calibre of staff is not appointed, developed and retained, even a 0% vacancy rate would be meaningless.  While a high vacancy rate is indeed a problem in key positions, a low vacancy in itself does not necessarily resolve the problem, especially if competence is neglected during appointments.   Furthermore, the Auditor-General is indeed correct in asserting that rural municipalities are at a bigger risk given the increased difficulty to attract qualified and competent managers and other specialists to rural municipalities.  In cases where municipalities were placed under administration, some CFOs resigned and this put even more strain on an underperforming municipality.   The report clearly showed that those municipalities with stability in their CFO positions produced better financial statements or audit outcomes.   It is also a reality that municipal managers are resigning in certain municipalities due to political pressure.  In addition, with local government elections around the corner, some municipalities may be reluctant to appoint new municipal managers going into the new election cycle.

Regarding the municipal regulations on minimum competency levels, municipalities were required to ensure that staff members meet these standards specified.  These regulations define the minimum competency levels, not only in terms of proficiency in competency areas, but also higher education qualifications and work-related experience.  While some improvements have already been implemented, more focused work is needed to ensure effective implementation.

Finally, it is also evident that broader governance structures play an enabling role to position HR Management as a key element of local government service delivery.  The South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, as well as the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation have all identified HR Management as one of the key performance areas in improving local government.  Whether these initial efforts will be successful and sustainable, remains to be seen.

In conclusion, it is clear from the Auditor-General’s Report that the main root causes of municipalities’ continuing challenges are as follows:

  • Slow response in improving internal controls and addressing risk areas;
  • Instability or vacancies in key positions or key officials lacking appropriate competencies;
  • Inadequate consequences for poor performance and transgressions.

In the words of the Auditor-General:

“The low level of action in response to the high levels of non-compliance, poor audit outcomes, supply chain management transgressions and unauthorised, irregular as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure demonstrate a lack of consequences in local government for poor performance and transgressions.  It is important that officials who deliberately or negligently ignore their duties and contravene legislation should be decisively dealt with through performance management and by enforcing legislated consequences for transgressions.  If they are not held accountable for their actions, the perception is created that such behaviour and its results are acceptable and tolerated.”

The Auditor-General also concedes that “their message on these three root causes has remained constant since 2011-12.”  All three root causes directly or indirectly have a strong HR link.   Given the fact that there has been “no improvement in the response to root causes over the past four years, while there has been a reduction in the municipalities where instability, vacancies, competency gaps and inadequate consequences were identified as the root causes of poor audit outcomes” strong action is needed to improve the situation.  While SABPP appreciates the Auditor-General’s focus on HR Management as part of its audits, we recommend a more all-encompassing approach to auditing the whole HR function, including strategic HR Management, talent management and HR risk management to enable local government to improve its HR strategy, system and processes.

Marius Meyer is CEO of SABPP. In 2014 he launched the world’s first National HR Audit Unit to audit organisations against the National HR Standards developed by SABPP. More information about the SABPP HR Standards is available on their website and their blog

The full report on local government audit outcomes is available on the website of the Auditor-General, you can download it from

  For daily updates on HR Standards and HR Audits, follow SABPP on Twitter @SABPP1 and Instagram sabpp_1


Think Innovation in HR


Think Innovation in HR
by Lathasha Subban

“Innovation” is a common term used in business today. To define it means to encapsulate the different understanding in its diverse usage. The Business Dictionary defines innovation as “ The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.”[1] It has evolved in its definition and further explained as “To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.”[2] The definition in itself has a very clear map that leads to HR in the usage of resources and processes. The two things that HR is the custodian of in any business, as everything starts with an idea generated by a “person”.



The idea or concept of innovation, as best practice, was coupled with the profit generating or product development areas of the business. It has always made sense to link innovation to customer needs and satisfaction outputs, yet presently innovation is envisioned holistically by organisations, with every area of the business expected to innovate. HR is not the exception.

In order to understand HR innovation, we have to create content and context. Since there are numerous definitions of innovation, HR innovation is captioned within the SABPP Competency Model below:

The SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) HR Competency Model Core Competency 5: Citizenship for the Future includes innovation in its definition:

“The ability to drive innovation, optimise technology and contribute to sustainability of organisations.”


Further to its (innovation’s) mention within the Competency Model, the SABPP has incorporated innovation within their National HR Management Standard: Standard 1: Strategic HR Management. Under the standard’s objectives, the HR Strategy must make provision to the change towards innovative thinking to:

“Provide strategic direction and measurements for strategic innovation and sustainable people practices.”

Innovation in HR relates to the responsiveness and the proactive approach used by HR professionals to drive their employee strategies. It speaks to the creative and game changing initiatives that HR utilises to understand, motivate and direct employee thinking, behaviour and needs.   In fact, the National HR Standards Project of SABPP is a good example of national and international HR innovation in action. The whole HR profession has been transformed by developing, applying and auditing the HR standards.

The common questions around innovation is always “where” does it start and by “whom”? Innovation in HR begins with the HR professionals and unfolds within the paradigms of HR practice. Organisations of today are evolving in their methods on how they manage people and leans towards HR to guide them with innovative people practices. Who, how and why you recruit individuals must be aligned to the business vision and growth. Hence innovation within the HR strategy is a crucial part of the business expansion.

Article: Reinventing HR: An extreme makeover[1]

  • HR needs an extreme makeover driven by the need to deliver greater business impact and drive HR and business innovation.
  • While CEOs and top business leaders rate talent as a key priority, only 5 percent of survey respondents rate their organization’s HR performance as excellent. This year, HR’s self-assessment showed virtually no improvement over last year’s.
  • Companies are now moving beyond talk to action, revisiting the required capabilities of the HR function, building HR universities, and modernizing relationships with internal business partners.

With technological development, growing competition and current economic conditions, South African organisations are relying more and more on their human resources and workplace innovations to compete and be successful. The acceleration of digital disruption coupled with rapidly changing competitive markets does not make this an easy proposition for any business. HR is now expected to meet the changing environment with a focus on the following areas.

  • Culture design and development: fashioning a culture that behaves and thinks innovatively to meet business strategy with creativity and uniqueness.
  • Ensure you have talent/resources who think creatively, deliver on products and services that meet customer needs, possess the skills and competencies to drive and deliver on innovation. Recruitment of innovative individuals are important for competitive business advantage, however HR must define the skill set before recruitment, hence defining the innovative skill set required for the position.
  • Reward and recognition is dominant within HR’s area of retention and attraction. Consistent with the SABPP standard on reward and recognition, FNB can be used as an example to magnify the success of recognising employees for their employees’ contribution towards the innovative culture and delivery.
  • Technology and digital platforms have been seen as a leading driver of innovation. Analysts have categorised the drivers of this change into streams: “social”, “mobile”, “analytics” and “cloud” in an effort to understand and manage the change, and it is dually acknowledged that these drivers are related to “technology”.
  • Performance management is a business process that can monitor and evaluate innovation. Business performance is driven by the employees and their individual performance drives business success.

Leadership must set the tone for innovation. HR must guide and groom leadership with development programmes like coaching, innovation awareness training, innovation skills orientation by using gamification/casestudies/videos. Innovation must be included as a major competency in leadership development plans. Leadership has a bigger role to play in managing innovative disruption in all forms. According to recent trends in driving innovative leadership, research has found that effective leadership must ensure the building of organisational capabilities that promulgates innovation routinely. These capabilities[2] are:

  1. Creative abrasion. This capacity for collaborative problem-solving includes the ability to generate a marketplace of ideas through discourse and debate. It requires a healthy culture of listening, inquiry and advocacy, alongside an underlying recognition that breakthrough ideas rarely emerge without diversity of thought and conflict.
  1. Creative agility. This capacity to learn by discovery includes experimenting through quick trial, reflection and adjustment. Typically associated with design thinking, this capability is a mix of the scientific method and the artistic process – in which you act, not plan, your way to the future. 
  1. Creative resolution. This is the capacity to create new and better solutions by integrating diverse ideas, even opposable ones, in unanticipated ways. No one individual or group is allowed to dominate – neither bosses, nor experts. Rather, the team practices a patient and inclusive decision-making approach that allows “both-and” versus “either-or” solutions to emerge.

World Economic Forum: What it takes to be an innovative leader

Think innovation within your HR strategy by developing people strategies that drive the organisations skills and competencies. Innovation in itself cannot be separated from the people who develop and create it. HR professionals have to be involved and evolved in their plans to develop and nurture an innovative culture within their organisations. They have the opportunity to enable the culture and platform(s) that harvest innovative thinking and practice, which is overall the drive of most companies today.
The SABPP is launching their first HR Research in Practice conference at the SABPP 4th Annual HR Standards and Research in Practice Conference on the 27-28 July 2016. This innovative approach has aligned to the SABPP’s is dedication in uplifting HR professionals in their delivery and practice. The Innovation in HR Fact sheet is available to all members of the SABPP and can be requested on




Lathasha Subban is Head: Knowledge & Innovation at the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP).  You can meet her at the 4th Annual HR Standards conference (see below), or email her on 

Follow SABPP on twitter @SABPP1 or Instagram sabpp_1




Launch of First Annual HR Standards and Audits Awards


Launch of First Annual HR Standards and Audits Awards
by Marius Meyer

Since the HR Standards and Audits were launched during 2013 and 2014 respectively, the journey to raise the standard of HR practice has continued.  It has been a wonderful experience to work so closely so many HR teams throughout South Africa and several other countries.  On the one hand we visited companies to raise awareness and to build the capacity of HR teams in aligning their HR practices to the National HR standards.  On the other hand, when companies achieved the level of confidence to be audited against the HR standards, auditors were sent in and 17 audits have now been conducted in five provinces (Gauteng, KZN, Western Cape, Free State and North-West).  Very soon, Limpopo and Eastern Cape will join the other provinces in having HR functions audited against the HR standards.

What was very interesting about the audits so far, is that examples of good practice have emerged at several organisations.  In other words, some companies provided evidence that they meet, and in certain cases, exceed the National HR standards.  This is the good news. The bad news, on the other hand, is that many organisations are not ready to be audited. We even observed fear for audits at certain organisations.  The SABPP Audit Council believes that it is unnecessary to fear HR audits.  In fact, the audit in itself become an important continuous improvement mechanism.

Having said that, now that we have audited so many companies, we are in the position to indicate who the leaders are in all 13 HR Standards.  For instance, we know which company scored the best in Strategic HR Management, in Talent Management, in Workforce Planning and so on.  In order to give recognition to these HR standards leaders, the SABPP management team decided to issue the first Annual HR Standards Awards at the 4th Annual HR Standards Summit.  What makes the HR audit awards unique is that we did not need a committee to recommend who the winners are, we simply took the scores allocated by the auditors who spent a full day at the company auditing their HR practice.  The scoring system provides clear scores on all the 13 HR standards.  In addition, we then compared the overall audit scores with one another to determine a national winner for all 13 HR standards combined, as well as a runner=up and a third place auditee.  Also, in recognising other companies performing well against the HR standards, we decided to issue two additional awards for companies scoring more than 65% average in all HR standards combined. Furthermore, an award will be issued to the auditee demonstrating exemplary practice in HR standards integration, i.e. achieving HR excellence by integrating best practices across HR standards.


The second part of the HR audit awards will be to recognise excellence in driving and supporting HR standards, given the fact that the HR standards journey is still a relatively new concept requiring buy-in and change management before most HR and management teams will embrace the importance of HR standards.  Fortunately, and thanks to the Auditor-General, the public sector has made good progress to align their HR practices to the HR standards, but a good pipeline of private sector companies is on board to be audited during the rest of 2016 and 2017.

The HR standards excellence awards as adjudicated by the SABPP Awards Committee are as follows:

  • Best university in HR standards alignment;
  • Best HR standards academic of the year;
  • Best HR standards research paper/dissertation of the year;
  • Best HR standards occupational learning provider of the year;
  • Best HR auditor of the year;
  • Best HR standards consulting product or service of the year;
  • Best HR standards alliance partner of the year;
  • Best HR standards champion of the year.

I want to congratulate all the winners and finalists of the first Annual HR Standards and Awards ceremony.  The special awards ceremony will take place on 27 July from 18:00 to 21:00 at Vodacom World in Midrand.   While we want to celebrate with the winners and finalists, I want to invite as many other companies and individuals to join us at this special awards function.  Let us celebrate with our colleagues who were brave enough to put up their hand first.  Let us be inspired by their pioneering work in attaining excellence in HR standards alignment and actual HR audits.  Perhaps some of you could be winners next year.  But more importantly, the individual and collective inputs of hundreds of HR professionals helped us in achieving this significant milestone towards HR excellence. Please join me on 27 July at this special occasion in recognising South Africa’s HR standards and audits leaders. Book your seat on  Alternatively, you will see the announcements and photos on Twitter and Instagram during the awards ceremony.

Marius Meyer

Marius Meyer is CEO of SABPP. In 2014 he launched the world’s first National HR Audit Unit to audit organisations against the National HR Standards developed by SABPP. More information about the SABPP HR Standards is available on their website and their blog

  For daily updates on HR Standards and HR Audits, follow SABPP on Twitter @SABPP1 and Instagram sabpp_1


My experience during three audits against the National HR Standards: Reflections and Lessons


My experience during three audits against the National HR Standards: Reflections and Lessons
by Monamodi Matsapola

My involvement in the organisational HR Audit, firstly as shadow auditor and secondly as an auditor in two dynamic institutions, was an implausible exposure in the auditing environment. The approach was unique to the SABPP culture of professionalism and advisory without imposing attitude.

It was just marvellous to be part of the superb and resourceful team of professionals that were committed to walk the talk and fully apply the HR Audit methodology.   The experience of the audits revealed that the importance of the strategic positioning of HR in making a meaningful contribution towards organisational growth and development. It further confirmed the notion that repositioning of the HR function as a Strategic Business Partner is long overdue.

The once auditee was a perfect example of the strategic positioning of HR with the unwavering support of top management to add value and make a meaningful contribution to the auditee’s success and sustainability.

The reflections below depict the wealth of knowledge acquired as a participant in the HR Audit projects. These thoughts have been modelled around the lessons learnt at the auditees.

Guidelines Personal Experience Advice to future auditees
Solicit support and commitment from the Executive Committee. Preparations for the HR Audit are crucial. Create urgency, embark on the journey and sustain the momentum.
Initiate a project of aligning processes to the new business strategy. The training of the HR Team on the HR Standards is critical to the success of achieving and maintaining the standard. Solicit support and commitment from the Executive Committee as the sponsor from the beginning.
Align HR practices and processes to the SABPP Standards. Share the benefits of the HR Audit with the HR Team before the commencement of the audit. Prioritising those HR Standards that are critical to business success is key the success of this audit.
Train the HR team members on SABPP Standards Appoint champions and allocate responsibilities. Train HR team on the HR Standards and emphasise team work and integration.
Appoint champions to facilitate the processes. Establish awareness and partner with the departments to allow the involvement of employees in the participation of the HR Audit. Plan and prepare diligently for the audit to ensure that evidence collected is adequate and sufficient to meet the HR Standard.
Identify or appoint team leaders for the Standards. Employees must be prepared and invited in time for the audit interviews. Share successes of the audit to build credibility for HR.

Priorities areas requiring improvement.

Prepare for the HR Audit in a reasonable time period. Communicate the outcome of the audit with all the stakeholders: Exco, HR Team and employees. Maintain momentum until the end of the audit process.
Monitor and Evaluate the implementation of the SABPP HR Standards; In the same way discuss with these stakeholders how the organisation will derive value. Develop a full HR standards implementation plan.

Do a self-assessment against the HR standards.

Prepare a business case.

Hold regular meetings with the HR team to assess progress (if necessary involve Internal Audit). Sustain the momentum in the HR Audit process. Ensure continuous communication during HR standards alignment and the audit process.
Assess the readiness for the audit a month prior to the HR Audit to allow for amendments. Implement and embed the HR Standards in organisational delivery Model, Frameworks, Policies, Processes etc. Embed the HR standards fully in all HR practices and policies.

As a result of my involvement in three audits against the National HR Standards, I have gained valuable experience as an HR auditor, but also as an HR Professional committed to improving my own practice.  In the table above I outlined some of my major learning points.  I positioned these learning points as guidelines, personal experiences and advice to future auditees.  Given the value of HR audits as an objective and independent process in providing assurance for HR functions, I highly recommend HR audits for organisations.  I want to thank the SABPP Audit Unit, my co-auditors, my lead auditors and the auditees for affording me with the opportunity for being involved in the audit process.   Not only could I play a role in auditing the auditees, I have grown significantly as an auditor and HR professional.


Monamodi Matsapola is an HR Auditor for SABPP. He is also Chairperson of SABPP in Gauteng.


My first year as an HR Auditor: Reflections and Lessons


My first year as an HR Auditor: Reflections and Lessons
by Karin Nji

I was highly humbled and privileged to be part of an audit team consisting of two auditors, one Lead Auditor and two shadow Auditors for an audit that took place in the last quarter of 2015. I was assigned to audit four Human Resource (HR) standards namely: Workforce planning, Performance Management, Employment Relations Management and Organisation

Development. These are the HR functional areas that I am passionate about. After much preparation in crafting the audit questions that are in line with the various standard objectives, and equally researching on the auditee’s background, I confidently arrived at the auditee’s premises ready to audit their HR practices.

My experience of the audit process:

Under the watchful eye of the Lead Auditor, we set out to conduct the audit. Time was of the essence as we had to complete the audit in one day. The day started with a pre-briefing meeting with the auditee’s executives and HR team to share the audit process. Everything was well organised in terms of what needed to done at what time, with whom and where. It was an incredible experience to conduct the interviews and assess the HR practices in terms of the quality of approach, extent of application and quality of results in performing the HR function. The scoring and assessment of the evidence was done in accordance with the HR standards.   As an auditor, I was able to multi-skill, be confident, knowledgeable, open minded, listen carefully, think on my feet and not narrow myself only to the prepared questions but to probe further depending on the responses. In the auditing process it was necessary to be observant, maintain eye contact and take notes during the interviews. Furthermore, interviews with selected employees were conducted to assess the employees experience of HR practices.  Finally, a close-out meeting was held with the auditee to report on the audit process and the achievement of the audit objectives.  Overall, the audit was equally a learning experience for me.

Lessons learnt:

Reflecting on the audits I have been involved in, I have learnt the following lessons:

  • Having strategies, policies, procedures, processes and resources in place but not implementing accordingly puts the auditee at risk.
  • The 13 standards are interrelated and therefore evidence was shared between the auditors so that the evidence is integrated and analysed against the HR Standards.
  • Collaboration between the auditors is critical in arriving at a common conclusion.
  • Being focused and decisive help tremendously in time management.
  • Not only knowledge of the HR standards, but the auditor’s knowledge of HR practices and experiences assist with the HR Audit process.

Advice to auditees preparing for audit/considering taking an audit:

People are the most important resource for a company. They fuel the company’s engine to work but this greatly depends on the company’s HR practices. It is the right decision to undertake an audit which will enable the auditee to know the status of their HR practices. Based on this knowledge of HR Standards, the HR practices will be maintained and sustained so that the HR System remains relevant.   The really value of HR audits is as follows:  An HR Audit is the only way to objectively measure the quality of HR Practices from an external and independent perspective based on clearly defined national standards.


Karin Nji is an HR Auditor for SABPP.


An HR Auditor Perspective: How to use audits in improving HR practice


An HR Auditor Perspective: How to use audits in improving HR practice
by Moleko Rannona

Auditing is well established in the fields such as Finance and Health and Safety.  A Human Resource Department on the other hand is usually audited in bits and pieces as part of the aforementioned fields.  In many organisations, internal audit will add HR processes and policies to their remit, but this is not done in a systematic and integrated way.  Thus, Human Resources have not been audited independently until recently.

This is an anomaly as most organisations proclaim that human capital is their greatest asset. To correct this glaring deficiency, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) launched the National HR Audit Framework on 28 August 2014 so as to audit organisations against the thirteen National HR Standards, being Strategic HR Management, Talent Management, HR Risk Management, Workforce Planning, Learning & Development, Performance Management, Reward & Recognition, Employment Relations Management, Employee Wellness, Organisational Development, HR Service Delivery, HR Technology and HR Measurement. The establishment of formalised HR auditing heralds an exciting and progressive phase in the evolution of the HR profession.

I am one of the first group of Senior HR Professionals to be trained as Auditors and Lead Auditors.  It is an absolute honour to be part of the HR audit pioneers, but also a huge responsibility in repositioning the HR profession in organisations and society at large.

Audit Process:

An HR audit is conducted by a team of Auditors led by a Lead Auditor. The audit process commences with the organisation (auditee) contacting the SABPP Audit Unit and expressing the desire to be audited. The SABPP Audit Unit prepares the organisation in consultation with the Lead Auditor who has the responsibility to ensure that the appointed auditors are well prepared and co-ordinated to conduct the audit successfully.  From my experience, I found the team of auditors to be well prepared, professional and dedicated. The auditors exercised high level of integrity, independence and professionalism and observed a clear commitment to the principle of confidentiality.  With an explicit HR standards framework in place, clear guidelines and criteria for conducting the audit are in place.

The audit process consists of the scrutiny of documentary evidence and oral interviews using a random sample of employees and managers at the workplace of the auditee. During the audits it appeared that sometimes the organisations being audited were more concerned about the audit results than the process itself. This could stem from fear of the unknown as the notion of independent HR Audits is still in its infancy. It emerged during interviews that some employees were anxious about how they were selected for interviews and how the information that they provided is going to be used. Their concern diminishes once they had been assured that the focus of audit is on systems, policy and procedures, and not on individuals.

Lessons learned:

Given the fact that all the auditors have been thoroughly trained by SABPP, it is imperative for auditors to be professional and knowledgeable at all times. It is important to consistently remind auditees that they are been audited against the set standards and the outcomes of the audit results will be based on the standards and audit framework.  Hence, there is almost no room for subjectivity or personal opinions.  In certain instances, the auditee may have all the elements of the National HR Standards in place, but if such elements are not aligned with the strategy, they will struggle to provide sufficient evidence during the audit. In some cases, HR departments were only able to provide anecdotal evidence at best, or no evidence in worst case scenarios.

Advice to auditees:

The organisations who are preparing to be audited should first have their HR staff trained on the National HR Standards. They must align their HR systems and processes with the National HR Standards prior to the audit. In addition, it makes business sense to be audited by using uniform HR National Standards, in order to benchmark the auditee against competitors.  In addition, after more organisations have been audited, the audit trends shall be established. HR Auditing will go a long way in assuring boards, top management and HR professionals that their HR systems and processes are up to standard and is comparatively benchmarked with other organisations.


Moleko Rannona MHRP is an Auditor for the SABPP Audit Unit


HR Audits focus on objective evidence


HR Audits focus on objective evidence
by Sivaan Marie

HR audits focus on objective evidence against the National HR Standards. The purpose of an HR audit is to provide assurance that an organisation meets the HR standards.  This assurance is based on objective evidence against the standards.  However, one needs to be permanently aware of the risks to objective assessment during the audit process. It is possible that these risks begin to threaten or influence the audit even before the audit day, and sometimes even after the audit visit has been completed.

This need for vigilance has shown itself in various different audit experiences, in differing ways, and to differing degrees. Heightened vigilance on the part of the audit team allows for one to identify the threats to an objective presentation (and consequently assessment) of the factual state of affairs within the auditee.  By identifying the threats, one is better prepared to filter out the effects thereof, and ensure that the assessment is not tainted, and the auditors are not unduly influenced.

On a more fundamental level, one is actually better prepared to ensure that the audit can proceed to begin with, as was evidenced in one audit experience, explained below.

It is easy to accept that such threats and risks exist and must be managed, but less obvious (until experienced), that such threats can emanate from any level within the auditee; and from within and without the HR team, and management team.

Some of the factors that may precipitate threats against the objective presentation of the factual state of affairs within the auditee include the following factors:

  • Relationships between audit stakeholders (and other interested parties within the auditee);
  • The true reason(s) for requesting the audit;
  • Competing individual agendas within the auditees;
  • The mood within the auditee at the time of audit;
  • A history or track record of poor HR service delivery;
  • The relationship between the interviewee and the perceived owners of the HR function;
  • The perception of the audit process as an opportune vehicle to air personal grievances or grind personal axes;
  • Other political dynamics or characteristics of the organisation culture.

Do the above risks diminish the business case for HR Auditing? I submit a resounding “Not at all!”  If anything, it further builds the case for the holding of audits and the implementation of improvement plans post-audit. It is precisely because of the inevitable existence of these confounding factors, almost all based upon subjective human experiences and relationships, as well as competing interests within the auditee, that the need for objective external assessment of the HR environment is critically required by any employer wishing to ensure the successful operation thereof.

An independent, external audit of the HR function by competent, experienced, specialist professionals, based upon the National HR Standards framework, and assessed on the objective facts and evidence provided (whilst filtering out the obfuscations of the above, and other, confounding factors), is the only sure way to gain an accurate reading of the present level of functioning against the National HR Standards, so as to found a suitable course of continuous improvement in this area.   While HR departments will never be perfect, the HR standards and audits are positioned to improve the status quo by infusing a quality mind-set and commitment to improving HR practice. It goes without saying, that continuous improvement in this area, can only lead to continuous improvement in organisational performance.


Sivaan Marie is a Lead Auditor for SABPP.  He conducted several audits against the National HR Standards.  He also chairs the HR Citizen Volunteering Committee of SABPP.  Sivaan is an HR Director at one of the top companies on the JSE.


The first year of the HR Audit Council: From good governance to our first audit awards


The first year of the HR Audit Council: From good governance to our first audit awards
by Maropeng Sebothoma

Permit me to share my delight on the progressive journey that the HR community initiated from just a mere practice towards that of a full professional dispensation. The HR audits against National Standards epitomise what HR professionalism is all about.  The hard work by the SABPP staff and broader community in this regard cannot be appreciated enough for such professional turnaround strategy and execution.


Setting the standards is a major milestone empowering the professionals to carry out their duties in a structured, systematic and harmonised manner thereby enabling positive impact on business and organisational objectives.  However, standards should first be applied and then auditing provides an assurance framework.


Over the years, auditing proved its worth in diverse fields such as Governance, Financial Management, Quality Management System, and Information Technology.  As one of the practitioners in the South African Excellence Model and TQM, I recall the survey by the International Accreditation Forum published in 2012 across the globe.  The study revealed that the key drivers for seeking certification were predominately for Internal Business Improvement (47%), customer requirements (32%) and regulatory compliance (13%).  Generally, organisational certification is underpinned by rigorous auditing/assessment of some sort.  For that matter, on the side of people practices and management, the SABPP HR Standards Auditing Framework has reference and is reconcilable to internal business improvement and legislative compliance to a larger extent.


The HR standard Audit is a flagship of SABPP, as such we have assembled the Audit Council to oversee and direct the audit framework implementation and build enough capability to cater for envisaged high demand by organisations irrespective of size, geography, product or service offering.


The Audit Council was set up to provide good governance in HR Audits. This will give the auditees confidence that SABPP takes governance of audits seriously.  While we started the year with the Audit Council, we are now proud to present the first Annual HR Audit awards.  These awards will showcase companies that have performed the best during the audits.  The awards function will take place on the evening of the 27th July.  Please join us for this historic occasion.  We will also share our second Annual HR Audit Tribune summarising the outcomes of 17 companies audited against the HR standards.


In marching forward, I remain absolutely confident in the nuts and bolts of the HR Auditing framework and associated based processes to leverage evidence- based continuous improvement and value for money.  I thank and congratulate all the brave HR Directors for putting up their hands to be audited against the National HR Standards. On 27 July we will celebrate your success as pioneers in professionalising your HR functions.


Maropeng Sebothoma is Chairperson of the Audit Council, Board member of SABPP and an HR Executive at SARS.