Lessons from HR Audits: Strategic HR Management

Lessons from HR Audits: 
Strategic HR Management
by Shamila Singh

Strategic human resource management supports long-term business goals and outcomes with a strategic overall framework. It focuses on longer-term resourcing issues within the context of an organisation’s goals and the evolving nature of work, and informs other HR strategies.

Several theories deal with the integration between business strategy and human resource management. Some of these theories are behavioural theories; resource-based theories; and interactive theories, based on the open systems theory (Dhar, 2010). Accordingly, behavioural theories assume that for the realisation of a certain business strategy certain employee behaviours are necessary.

To date two primary perspectives – a universal approach and a contingency approach have been used to describe the link between human resource management (HRM) and firm performance (Wright and McMahan, 1992).  The universal or best practice perspective implies a direct relationship between approaches to human resources and performance, whilst the contingency perspective posits that an organisation’s strategic posture either augments or diminishes the impact of HR practices on performance.

The SABPP HRM System Model positions strategic HR Management as the first HR standard as part of the business strategy-HR business alignment process.


The results of 18 HR Audits of the SHRM element of the National HR Standards Model revealed some interesting outcomes.  Although there are pockets of excellence in the SHRM element, the average South African organisation experiences major challenges in the development and implementation of HR Strategy.  Pre-audit assessments of SHRM element completed by 400 companies revealed an average score of 50% whereas the audit outcomes of the 18 companies was higher at 58.2%.  Moreover, some the auditees reported challenges on the strategic positioning of the HR.  A score of 60% is required to achieve the standard.

The following ten lessons were identified by the auditors at the twenty auditees:

  1. Overall, most of the auditees acknowledge that HR needs to be re-positioned to enable the organisation to achieve its strategic objective.
  2. The perception of HR is generally negative or seen to be focused on transactional issues.
  3. The auditees agree that the National HR Standards Systems Model provides a framework for HR professionalise and for HR to have a voice and gain credibility.
  4. For HR to contribute towards the strategic objectives requires CEO and top management support and buy-in.
  5. Of all the HR audits conducted none of the auditees had an explicit employee value proposition to determine the people intentions to attract and retain talent.
  6. From the perspective of the alignment of the HR strategy to the business strategy (vertical alignment), there is alignment but the challenge is that there is a lack of horizontal alignment of the functional areas of HR to the HR Strategy. In other words, HR management systems, policies, plans, practices and interventions are not fully aligned and leveraged for optimum impact.
  7. The lack of HR strategy implementation is attributed to several issues, namely, the HR strategy is not cascaded down into the functional areas of HR, a lack of measurement, deficient buy-in from top management, a lack of resources, insufficient support from line management, and HR’s ability to deliver is compromised by the competence of the HR team.
  8. Another issue that needs to be unraveled is what structure and capacity is needed to deliver the HR strategy. The empirical literature states the structure for HR is determined by the size of the organisation, the nature of the organisation, the complexity of the work and competencies of HR practitioners.
  9. Most the auditees agree that the competencies of the HR team is not aligned and reviewed in accordance with the HR strategy. Furthermore, even if the competencies do exist the lack of strategic orientation of HR constrains the deployment of the competencies needed to achieve the strategic objectives.
  10. Another challenge for orgnaisations in terms of competencies is that some of the HR teams do not have the qualifications in HR or may not have attained a HR qualification but work in HR and have largely acquired some of the skills through work experience. Furthermore, because of a lack of qualifications these HR practitioners are not professionally registered with SABPP in accordance with the NQF Act.
  11. Another finding is that some auditees focus on continuous professional development, but this is not consistent amongst the auditees. The deficient continuous professional development negatively affects the organisation’s ability to provide sustainable people strategies and innovation.
  12. As a result of the lack of integration auditees largely focus on compliance instead of an integrated governance, risk and compliance approach as outlined by King IV.

The above lessons reflect that although some organisations’ HR Strategy is derived and aligned to the business strategy whilst other companies still struggle to reposition HR.  South African organisations have acknowledged that HR has to be strategically aligned and hence more dedicated effort is needed to ensure that the HR strategy is developed and implemented.   The audits reveal that in South Africa, it appears as if good practices are implemented at some of the leading organisations.  However, we would like to see that these good practices are the norm and not the exception.  The HR Directors that have successfully developed and implemented HR strategy are the pioneers and can provide case studies and lessons for other organisations grappling with similar challenges in their organisations.


Dr Shamila Singh is Head of HR Standards at SABPP.  She also managed several audits against the National HR Standards. 

Thinking through ethical dilemmas


Thinking through ethical dilemmas
by Dr Penny Abbott

After a year of running the SABPP Ethics in HR workshops for members, it is clear that HR practitioners are constantly faced with very difficult choices to make in the workplace. Some situations are pretty clear in that legal or regulatory issues are involved, so analysing and deciding on what to do is more an interpretation of compliance requirements.

However, because HR work often involves balancing of interests, decisions to be made will entail ethical dilemmas. These occur when:

  • you feel that you are being asked to do things that are against your personal moral values;
  • you feel you have a conflict between two or more of your own values;
  • you recognise that a decision will disadvantage one person while advantaging another.

A general example of the first situation would be where someone working in a pharmaceutical company is asked to consent to overcharging a hospital. A general example of the second would be where a doctor is conflicted between duty to colleagues and duty of care to the patients. A general example of the third is where a teacher has to choose which class member to award a prize to when there are two or more very worthy candidates.

In HR work, examples of these are:

  • advising on a promotion selection when one candidate is known to be cheating on his/her marriage partner – if the HR practitioner holds strong views on fidelity within marriage, this might influence his/her advice;
  • advising a manager on how to deal with a difficult team member – the duty to assist the manager to maintain a productive and engaged team might conflict with the duty to assist the employee to maintain his or her job security;
  • advising a manager on selection of employees for retrenchment – when retrenchment for the group of employees would have negative economic or social effects to quite a different degree for individuals in the group, but the agreed selection criteria focus strongly on skills rather than personal circumstances.

The SABPP provides a quick test for HR practitioners to check whether a decision they are making or advising on is ethical or not, and provides free bookmarks for members depicting this test.  Formulated by Professor Leon van Vuuren from the Ethics Institute, five questions should be asked:


david-clutterbuck-2011-aprilAccording to a recent article by Professor David Clutterbuck , the key to working through such issues is a six-step process. The steps are:

  1. Articulate the problem
  2. Consider the context
  3. Consider the implications
  4. What other opinions/ perspectives may be relevant?
  5. Balance the arguments
  6. The final check

Articulate the problem

Find someone to discuss the problem with. This step is vital, because you may not have had time to think the issue through on your own, or may be avoiding doing so, because the conflict is too painful. It’s common to rationalise away the conflict, in the hope that the discomfort will fade. The starting point is often therefore to recognise that you are deeply confused. You may need help to understand the consequences of your behaviour / decisions. The unethical behaviour may appear to be the norm in your organisation and you may feel that you are the one out of step.

A coach, mentor or any skilled helping professional can be helpful in these situations. They can help you understand and describe the issue, by asking questions such as:

  • Who does it affect, how and why?
  • What is the nature of the conflict of interest?
  • What specific personal, organizational and /or societal values are involved?
  • What are the conflicts that you feel within yourself? (What is making you feel uncomfortable?)

Consider the context

Here we try to understand the scope of the issue and the environment, in which it takes place, using questions such as:

  • Who is involved, directly and indirectly?
  • Is this a new issue, or an old one in a new guise?
  • What are your specific and general responsibilities?
  • Who has been consulted?
  • Who needs to be consulted?
  • Is there a relevant code of conduct or guideline?
  • What is the general ethical climate here?

Consider the implications

Now we can begin to explore what will or is likely to happen as a result of following one path or another. Very often, our attention is focused on the small picture and the short-term. By widening our view and looking to the longer term, we begin to create a different perspective.

  • What risks are involved? (Safety, financial, reputational etc)
  • What precedents may be set by this decision?
  • What would be the impact if this were done on a much larger scale?
  • Would the implications be different if this were played out publicly or privately?

What other options or perspective may be relevant?

Here we are widening the perspective even further, using questions such as

  • What might you be avoiding acknowledging?
  • Who might provide a robust challenge to your thinking?
  • How can you make other people feel more comfortable about speaking up?
  • Have you genuinely sought and listened to dissenting views?

A useful approach here is to explore the issue from the perspective of people, who are affected by it. “Walking in someone else’s shoes” helps us appreciate how they might feel – and how we might feel in their place.thinking.jpg

Balance the arguments

By now, the issue will have become both more complex (in the sense that there is a lot more information to consider) and simpler — because the choices, while they may be finely balanced, are much clearer. We can make a choice about what is the right thing to do by comparing choices both rationally and emotionally. We realise that no decision is going to be purely right or wrong, but that an ethical decision is one that tries to achieve a fair and compassionate balance. Useful questions include:

  • What would an impartial adviser see as fair?
  • What priorities should we apply to conflicting objectives and values?
  • What are the “zones of ethical acceptability” and what lies outside them?

The final check

This last step is equally important, but easy to miss out, because it requires an extra burst of energy and self-honesty at the end of what is likely to have been a gruelling and painful conversation. Useful questions we can ask include:

  • What decision-making biases might you be applying without realising?
  • How honest are you being with yourself? (How pure are your motives?)
  • Do you truly feel this is the right thing to do?
  • If we were to give this issue more time, would we come to a different conclusion?

Implementing the decision about the most ethical way forward poses its own problems. When someone takes an ethical stance, the reaction of other people is often very negative, because now their integrity is being questioned. The instinctive responses are fear and resentment. So you may also need help to develop a strategy for helping others overcome their instinctive hostility and engage in open, considerate dialogue.


The key to this stage is to focus on values and on your sense of your ideal self. You can engage with peers or more senior colleagues by asking them to confirm the values that they and the organisation espouse and try to live up to. Helping them to work out where the organisation might not be living up to its values is less likely to evoke the sense of personal threat. And discussing how they collectively might be able to live up to the organisational values and their personal values more consistently and more thoroughly is still relatively unthreatening. But from that point it is a lot easier to focus on specific behaviours or policies, which need to be changed.

This softly approach won’t always work. Sometimes blowing the whistle is the only recourse. However, a discussion partner can be a great support in working out tactics, giving encouragement and rehearsing difficult conversations. Therefore, thinking and working through ethical dilemmas in a focused way using a step-by-step process provides an opportunity for HR professionals to raise their game in fulfilling their ethical and professional duties in the workplace.


This article was written by Dr Penny Abbott with acknowledgement to Professor David Clutterbuck of the David Clutterbuck Partnership, in association with MDQ Associates in South Africa. Dr Abbott is the Research and Policy Advisor for the SABPP.

























The 10 D’s of ensuring a successful 2017

 By Marius Meyer

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The year 2017 is here and while most South African employees are enjoying the last part of their annual holiday season before the start of this year’s work, it is also the time when people start to prepare for work.  That is also one of the major differences between talent and non-talent.  Normal employees simply arrive at work to be told what to do by their bosses. Talented employees have already been through a clear thinking process before the first working day of 2017 starts.  They know what they will do this year, they also know what they will do differently to achieve success.  Talented staff don’t wait for things to happen, they make things happen.

In this spirit of positive affirmations and a clear vision for yourself, I want to share some guidelines for talented employees in focusing their goals, objectives and actions for 2017.  I present them to you as the 10 D’s of success:

  1. Dream: Have a dream on where you want to be in December 2017.  By the end of the year you need another holiday, but you want to look back and say this was a great year full of successes and achievements.  Follow-up on this dream by visualising your success.
  2. Direction: Ensure that you have clear direction on where you want to go to in 2017. Be focused around clearly defined and specific objectives to achieve.
  3. Differentiate: Decide upfront how you will differentiate yourself this year.  Remember that you are competing with other talented people.  Be different with a clear strategy of differentiating yourself and the value you bring to the organisation and society at large.
  4. Dates: Work through your diary and make sure that all key dates and milestones are clearly visible.  Start planning towards these target dates and stay on track.
  5. Determination: Be determined to achieve success. Be positive, focused and determined to attain your goals for the year.
  6. Dedication: Once your goals are clear, the next important thing is to commit to these goals, thus you need to be dedicated in executing your plans, even when you encounter obstacles.
  7. Digital: While there may be some uncertainties in 2017, one thing is certain – this year will be more digital than previous years. Get up to speed with the latest technology and ensure that you leverage technology in accelerating your success.
  8. Do things: While goals are essential, achieving them will not happen if you don’t follow-through with clear actions.  Make things happen. Do things in a focused yet results-driven manner.
  9. Development: Realise that you may need to develop some new skills or talents this year. Adapt your personal development plan to ensure that you grow and develop yourself. Also, develop those around you to multiply your success.
  10. Diversity: Think how you can leverage the diversity around you – your colleagues, your teams, your partners.  Build a culture of diversity to enrich your thinking, experience and behaviour.

There you have it – the 10 D’s necessary to set you up for success in 2017.  Your own unique skills and talents are what make you successful, but some good thinking and planning could be just what you need to make this year your best year yet.  A positive mind-set is a good start, but some clear actions are needed to make this a reality.  The key question is: How can you optimise your talents this year in achieving success?  Have a great 2017!

Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP).





On behalf of the Exco of the SABPP Board, we would like to thank the HR Professional community for their support during 2016.   On 18 November the Board had it last meeting of the year, and then joined the Annual Committees meeting, a special occasion in which the different committees share their experiences, challenges and future plans. This was also a wonderful opportunity for the committee members to learn from one another and to apply integrated thinking within the spirit of the King IV™ Code of Corporate Governance.  I want to thank all the committees for their hard work throughout the year.

As we start our planning for 2017, let us use this opportunity of reflecting on the year 2016.  It was another exciting and busy year for SABPP with several highlights:

  1. Launch of a new vision, mission and HR Voice II Strategy for SABPP;
  2. Fourth Annual National HR Standards Roll-out Conference at Vodacom World in Midrand;
  3. Many in-house HR standards presentations;
  4. Our most visible year in terms of public conference exhibitions and presentations;
  5. Conducting six audits against the national HR Standards and release of 2nd Annual HR Audit Tribute and 1st Annual HR Audit Awards;
  6. Development and launch of Labour Market Scenarios 2030 Report;
  7. Visits to 16 university campuses and several student chapters formed;
  8. Green status in terms of uploads on the National Learner Records Database;
  9. A new record of 1068 HR professionals registered this year;
  10. Increasing our regional footprint to eight provincial committees;
  11. Good international recognition such as a visit by the largest HR body in the world, the Society for Human Resource Management from the USA, a visit by an Indian HR association to SABPP, as well as the first group of HR auditors trained in Zimbabwe;
  12. Participated in the development and launch of South Africa’s first talent management platform, Talent Talks;
  13. Establishment of three new committees, HR Citizen to champion volunteering work, and HR Governance to build a national HR Governance framework, and Change Management Committee;
  14. More than 100 articles published on the Internet, newspapers or in magazines;
  15. The construction and launch of SABPP’s first training room;
  16. Excellent growth in social media interaction with more than 11 800 twitter followers, as well as an Instagram account opened.

The above deliverables are clear evidence of the commitment of the SABPP Board and staff to build the HR profession.  Given the impact of the above successes, as the Exco of the SABPP Board, we are confident of yet another successful year as we get ready for 2017.  We will focus on key actions to drive the HR Voice II strategy of SABPP, and further expand our capacity to deliver according to the needs of the HR professional and learning provider markets.

I hope you all enjoy your well-deserved holiday.  We wish all our stakeholders a good time of rest with family and friends and we look forward to engage with you again next year.   Travel back home safely and have a blessed New Year full of new opportunities for making an even greater impact than last year.


Marius Meyer




Reflecting on 2016: 16 guidelines for leveraging lessons and opportunities

By Marius Meyer

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As most people enjoy the holiday season, it is time to reflect on the successes, challenges and opportunities of the year.  The skill of reflection is very important for all talented employees.  It helps you to sit back and say: What worked and what did not work?  Ultimately you want to draw on the lessons of 2016 to become even better next year.

However, few people leverage the opportunity of reflection, especially after they have experienced a particularly tough year such as 2016.  Making some time to do serious reflecting is not only useful to get closure on the year, it is really a good first step towards setting yourself up for success the next year.  If you can do some serious introspection on the lessons of the year, perhaps where you made some mistakes as we all do, but more importantly identifying good opportunities for doing things better the next year, this form of reflection ensures that you reposition yourself as a more effective person going forward.  Here are  list of 16 guidelines for reflecting on 2016:

  1. Reflect on your successes. Write down all the good things that happened to you.
  2. Review your challenges and mistakes and identify opportunities for improvement and development.
  3. Identify all the people who made a difference in your life – colleagues, staff, friends and family and write a personal note to all of them who contributed to your success.
  4. Reflect on the balance in your life – did you really make sufficient time for all the things you like apart from your work commitments?
  5. Identify all the obstacles you encountered and reflect on how well you managed to deal with these stumbling blocks in your life.
  6. Think about all the interesting clients or places you visited throughout the year and consider how these unique experiences enriched your life.
  7. Write down the names of your top five relationships and treasure how these interactions helped you to be successful during the year.
  8. Identify the highlight of the year – what was that one or two achievements or incidents that made this year memorable?
  9. Think about all the new people you met this year and identify the one or two who really impressed you and see how you learned from this experience.
  10. Consider any regrets you had this year and think about ways of turning this around next year, if possible.
  11. Be honest with yourself by identifying what you learned about yourself this year that you need to stop doing or changing your behaviour in becoming more successful.
  12. Identify opportunities you missed out on this year such as a lost opportunity and consider how you can make up for that next year.
  13. Think about your worst disappointment this year and reflect on the lessons from it so that you can get closure on it.
  14. Consider the extent to which you achieved your goals for the year.
  15. It is possible that you neglected key relationships this year and decide on how you will change that next year.
  16. Reflect on the extent you have grown as a person this year and indicate how much development you still need to achieve your career goals.

Reflecting on 2016 brings you to one key question: Was 2016 a successful year for you?  If so, well done, you made it!  If not, don’t despair, the next opportunity is around the corner – the new year 2017 that will present new chances for using your talent to achieve even greater things than the year before.  Build on your successes and work through your challenges.  I also realise that talented employees are hard on themselves, they are achievement orientated and want to attain great things despite the challenges and negative things around us.  And of course,  your organisation culture, politics and the broader socio-economic environment may not always be conducive to good work. But as I always say to my staff and students: Yes, life is hard, but you are harder!


Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP).


The life and legacy of Nelson Mandela: 10 lessons for Talent Managers

By Marius Meyer

On 5 December 2013 South Africa and the world have lost one of the greatest leaders of mankind, Nelson Mandela.   It is now three years later, and the question is whether the world is a better place today.  We mourned his passing, but we continue to celebrate his legacy as we are reminded of his legacy this month.  Throughout South Africa and the rest of the world, people will honour his legacy by doing good deeds for their fellow human beings.   Recognised globally as an icon, no other South African has had more impact on so many people throughout the world than Nelson Mandela. He is the best example of true moral leadership in the most difficult of times. We have much to thank Tata Madiba for one of the most successful political transitions the world has ever seen. His biggest achievement was the eradication of apartheid, thereby helping the country to turn around from an oppressive regime to a fully-fledged modern democracy.

Perhaps it is not a co-incidence that one of South Africa’s top Human Resource (HR) professionals, Professor Shirley Zinn launched her book “Swimming Upstream” last year.  The book covers major lessons in life as she grew up in the Cape Flats during some of the worst years of our apartheid past.  Like Mandela, Shirley refused to accept life as a victim.  She prioritised education and career growth as two key aspects for achieving success in life and business, despite all the odds against her.  It is therefore very appropriate for Shirley to dedicate a full chapter of her book to South Africa today.  In that chapter she refers continuously to Mandela’s life and contribution to South Africa.  She asserts: “Having experienced Mandela’s leadership, we cannot slip back into anything less.”

Today I want to reflect on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.  Specifically, I want to internalise these lessons in my own life, not only at home, but also at work.  As the leader of the liberation struggle and later as first democratic president of South Africa, Mandela’s life provides us with a powerful legacy – and some profound lessons for talent managers.

  1. Humanity: Nelson Mandela epitomises what humanity is all about – the continuous pursuit of what humanity stands for – a world where human dignity is respected and valued. As talent management professionals we are champions for humanity in the workplace.  Mandela reminded us: “Our definition of the freedom of the individual must be instructed by the fundamental objective to restore the human dignity of each and every South African.”
  2. Diversity: No other leader taught us more about diversity than Nelson Mandela, his whole life was about creating and building respect for diversity, not only at a political level, but also in all spheres of society, including the workplace.   The biggest irony of Mandela’s legacy is that while he achieved freedom for blacks, he also realised freedom for whites – freeing them too from apartheid and the belief of white supremacy that dominated South Africa for many decades.  He also warned against tribalism and xenophobia, two challenges that still need to be addressed in South Africa.  Talent managers play a fundamental role to create diverse workplaces, and more focused work still needs to be done to attain true inclusive workplaces.
  3. Accountability: Mandela was a strong believer in accountability in both the private and public sectors.  In particular, leaders should be held accountable.  He said: “If you want to take an action and you are convinced that this is a correct action, you do so and confront that situation.”   Talent managers should be much stronger in striving towards accepting accountability for their talent management work, and not blame line managers and other stakeholders when things go wrong or when talent gaps are perpetuated.
  4. Adaptability: Mandela’s life is a wonderful example of adaptability. As he asserted: “Human beings have got the ability to adjust to anything.”   He learned that throughout his life, and ultimately adapted from revolutionary to prisoner to politician to president. Talent managers  should adapt to changing circumstances, and as business partners ensure that talent management strategy and services are continuously adapted to the needs of organisations and the realities of the changing environment.
  5. Change: Mandela said that while it is difficult to change society, it is even more difficult to change yourself.  While sticking to our values and principles as talent management professionals, we need to build, develop and change ourselves every day if we want to become better at what we do.
  6. Conflict: The greatest part of Mandela’s life was about dealing with conflict. He learned and grown as an individual through these tough experiences, and was prepared to die for his convictions.  Mandela expressed his view on conflict as follows: “One of the most important lessons I learnt in my life of struggle for freedom and peace is that in any conflict there comes a point when neither side can claim to be right and the other wrong, no matter how much that might have been the case at the start of a conflict.”  HR, Talent Management and Employment Relations professionals specifically are facilitators of conflict resolution in the workplace, and their skills in dealing with conflict situations are of paramount importance.
  7. Integrity: In a country still plagued by fraud and corruption, Mandela’s example reminds us of the importance of integrity.  He valued integrity throughout his life.  Referring to corruption, he labelled South Africa as a “sick society.”  Talent management professionals should be people of integrity and build ethical organisation cultures to create more ethical organisations and ultimately an ethical society.
  8. Relationships: Life is about relationships at the individual and collective level.  As a strong supporter of worker rights, he believed in good relationships between employers and employees. Likewise, he established good relationships with the business community.  Talent managers are key builders of relationships in the workplace and broader society.
  9. Opportunity: Mandela said: “You pass through this world once and opportunities you miss will never be available to you again.”  Every day talent managers are faced with many opportunities of making a difference, we must seize these chances of having impact.
  10. Leadership: Mandela’s greatest legacy was his leadership during moments of suffering and opportunity. He excelled as a leader in the most challenging times.  As talent managers we have to show greater leadership in leading our talent strategies and coaching managers in people skills to leverage the talents of their teams.




Ethics Hot Topic, December 2016

By Cynthia Schoeman

The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), a multilateral convention negotiated by members of the United Nations, was passed on 31 October 2003 and signed on 9 December 2003. Since then International Anti-Corruption Day has been observed annually on 9 December.

Corruption in South-Africa certainly warrants an increased focus. Our score for public sector corruption according to Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) remains in the lower, less ethical half of the scale. In the latest 2015 CPI South Africa scored 44 out of 100, where 100 represents a “very clean” public sector and 0 represent “highly corrupt”.

But the public sector is not the only culprit. It is often private sector organisations that are the second party to bribery and corruption. While corruption serves to enrich the few who are party to such illegal and unethical behavior, the negative impact of corruption is very far reaching and insidious. It erodes the fabric of society, undermines people’s trust in political and economic systems, and depletes the funds that should ensure public sector service delivery.

Surely it is time for all leaders to stand together to prevent corruption and to make a visible, committed effort to embed ethics at the core of their organisations.




Let’s celebrate Heritage Day and Month


Let’s celebrate Heritage Day and Month
by Lathasha Subban

In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, former President Nelson Mandela stated:

“When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”[1]

This powerful proclamation defines the importance of recognition for the different heritages of South Africa. National Heritage Day is the celebration of diversity and embracing the variances of culture, ethnicity, and traditions by all citizens of South Africa. In 1996 as the day was marked as a public holiday, that in itself was an indicator of how important heritage is within the country.

Heritage is a colourful canvas of diversity but it links strongly with transformation, tolerance and acceptance of one another for our uniqueness. Why is it so important to South Africans, is based on the history of a forgiving nation. In 1996, President Nelson Mandela recognised that in order to move away from the repercussions of the past, a future of forgiveness must be the vision for the country. From a time where heritage was perceived and treated as a weakness, it is now a pride and strength for the country, and in order to achieve forgiveness, we had to familiarise ourselves with each other.

Our traditions, religion, dress, food, and practices define our rainbow nation, and creates our uniqueness as a global example of democracy. One popular practice of Heritage Day is the South African braai, which has become the norm on the 24 September. A proudly South African practice that brings friends and family together to celebrate their backgrounds and share it with others on common culture.

HR practitioners can use Heritage Month to drive their diversity plans and culture programmes. It is vital to ensure that companies promote and welcome their employees’ heritage by encouraging them to dress up in ethnic wear, share traditional food, and recognise their pride for their backgrounds. As professionals that manage the people strategy of a company, it is therefore a bigger responsibility to hold in creating diversity and tolerance within the workforce. It is not diversity or heritage that has to be created, it is the understanding and respect that has to embrace diversity and heritage in all aspects of its existence.

So even if you did not want to celebrate National Heritage Day this year, I challenge you to change your mind. As we are not just celebrating diversity and heritage in the present, we are remembering that at one time it was not there to celebrate, and by celebrating it now, we will always ensure that it remains our heritage to celebrate…. Happy National Heritage Day 2016.

[1] http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/national-heritage-day#sthash.BkQT2bHe.dpuf


Lathasha Subban is Head: Knowledge & Innovation at the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP).



2016 HR Voice & Fact Sheet Portal

February 2016:
HR Voice – 10 A’s Plan for the Year
Fact Sheet – Productivity Basics

March 2016:
HR Voice – Marching Forward in March: Major Milestones in Building the HR Profession
Fact Sheet – Service Level Agreements

April 2016:
HR Voice – Pledge: Racism Stops With Me
Fact Sheet – Talent Management: Past, Present and Future

May 2016:
HR Voice – HR Audit Tribune
Fact Sheet – Building Organisational Capabilities

June 2016:
HR Voice – Employment Relations: the changing landscape
Fact Sheet – Change Management

July 2016:
HR Voice – Special Edition: HR Standards 2016
Fact Sheet – Innovation in HR

August 2016:
HR Voice – Ethics Workshop
Fact Sheet – HR Technology

September 2016:
HR Voice – Talent Management
Fact Sheet – HR in Business Sustainability

October 2016:
HR Voice – Vision & Mission
Fact Sheet – The Learning and Development Landscape in SA

November 2016:
HR Voice – From a new Vision and Mission to a Renewed Strategy
Fact Sheet – Towards a co-determination model for South Africa

December 2016:
HR Voice December 2016 – World Aids day