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.



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




Lonmin Employment Relations Management practice compared to the SABPP HR Management Standard on ERM.

Today, 16th  August 2016, we reflect on the Marikana Massacre exactly four years ago.  Many of the 1000 new SABPP members registering over the last year may not have seen our analysis, and it is also a good time for all of us to reflect on the significance of this event in this history of our country.

Please click here to view/download the SABPP analysis of the situation at Marikana.

To register as an HR Professional in accordance with the NQF Act, and to qualify as an Ex-officio Commissioner of Oaths please send an email to or visit


Women’s Day 2016: “When you strike a Woman, you strike a rock.”


Women’s Day 2016:
“When you strike a Woman, you strike a rock.”
by Lathasha Subban

“Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo, uza kufa! When you strike the women, you strike a rock, you will be crushed [you will die]!”

The song that became the anthem in celebrating Women’s Day. It echoed through the streets of Pretoria as 20 000 women of all races and ages, from all areas of South Africa marched towards the Union Buildings on the 9 August 1956. These brave women made history as they displayed the true spirit of sisterhood, as they protested against the proposed law at the time that would further restrict the movements of women. Four women led the way for all South African women born and unborn for generations to come.

The SABPP salutes Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophie Williams and Lilian Ngoyi. In 1956 South Africa produced powerful women that stood up for their rights and legacy, and today in the time of transformation, South Africa can smile proud as it’s women reach greatness in their lives.

1.jpgThe 1956 protest led by Rahima Moosa, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Sophie Williams.

It has been a long journey for women empowerment, transformation and pure equality for women to be recognised within South Africa and globally. Women’s Day is celebrated around the world and embraced by nations to show respect for women and their value in all areas of life. The South African Constitution Bill of Rights, section 9 clearly displays its support for equality that moved a country from biasness to democracy, but incorporating the promotion of women’s right to equality.


The SABPP has been very proactive in driving the transformation and development of women in the workplace by the publishing of the yearly Woman’s Report. The report differs year on year discussing research and areas of concern for women who juggle careers, family and the traditional expectations of being a woman. These reports are made available on the SABPP website ( to ensure that the HR profession manages the dynamics in women empowerment effectively. This initiative is a collaboration with Prof Anita Bosch, Research programme – Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg.

Anita Bosch“Though we have tremendous advances in the standing of women in South Africa, we need to take a step back and ask whether all women in our nation enjoys similar freedoms. And perhaps it is a time for sustainable activism to re-enter the national agenda.”
Prof Anita Bosch, Research programme – Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, University of Johannesburg.

Human Resources proves yet again to be a crucial piece of the puzzle that leads business in areas that relate to gender equality, women in leadership policies, policies (maternity leave and benefits), work life balance, wellness and the culture that embraces the transformation that includes women development and recruitment.  HR is the heart of supporting women in their careers and assisting them to grow their professions from strength to strength.

4Hillary Rodham Clinton

Today women leadership is more evident. We see powerful female forces that disrupt the areas of a male dominated society. The likes of Thuli Madonsela, Devi Sankaree Govender, Michelle Obama, Ferial Haffajee, Gill Marcus, Helen Zille, Wendy Ngoma, Precious Moloi-Motsepe (to name only but a few), who are changing the world and the environment for women empowerment in different professions.

download.jpg“As an African woman, I’ve learnt the importance of self-definition and living purposefully. It’s vital that every girl determines, as early as possible, who she is and what her contribution to humanity will be.”
South Africa’s Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela.

The 16th annual report of the Commission for Employment Equity reflects a continued slow pace of improvements in achieving equity which is still a major concern in democratic South Africa.  Calls for economic transformation assume a greater urgency when management control and employment advancement opportunities remain disproportionately favourable to White males.

The SABPP is encouraged to see this shift in the Commission’s strategy. The findings of the SABPP and UJ’s Womens Report 2015 that there is an enduring pay gap between male and female employees in South Africa support these comments. The SABPP’s 2015 Fact Sheet on Equal Pay Audits sets out a process which organisations can use to ensure that this type of pay discrimination, where not justified, is identified and corrected.


The slow pace of women moving into leadership positions is improving yet still a concern. Women have fought to move away from the restrictions placed on them through a patriarchal society into a more diverse and recognised one. HR is then again looked at to drive these changes within the business environment by implementing employment equity policies, gender sensitisation and women leadership development programmes. A game changer in supporting the increase of female talent within the workforce is by creating access to education through learnership and bursary programmes.

HR needs to create benefit and understanding through the policies that do not discriminate against women, and developing a culture that drives gender equality within the workplace. The issues of equal pay, maternity, family responsibility, promotions for women have to be driven by HR to further expand the philosophy that drives our democracy in South Africa.

As per the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index 2015, exhibited South Africa ranked 17 out of 145 countries. Looking closely at the opportunities and access women have to education and leadership positions, the investment in promoting women education and their freedom of rights, South Africa is doing well in these areas. In comparison to some countries that still restrict the rights of women and their movements, South Africa through its Constitution drives and recognises women empowerment and gender equality. The index report below clearly displays the areas of weakness and strengths that South Africa sustains.



“Apart from the importance of the election, so much more it is apt to women around the world. Recently the youngest Noble prize winner, a young girl, stood up for education – she took the future of many in her own hands. Women are seen as mothers, wives, career women, sisters, aunts, caretakers and so much more. We freely give of ourselves to everybody around us.”
Annetjie Moore: SABPP Head HR Audit

Women need to lead women. Women need to empower other women through programmes like mentoring, coaching and create communities that share experiences and lessons. South Africa has developed strong women in Government, private sector, across different professions that break the boundaries that defined the “traditional woman”. Women in South Africa are more empowered and have the platforms to voice their demands and be heard. It’s a voice that still carries the echo of the march by those 20 000 women in 1956. It reminds us of our progress over the last sixty years and how much we still need to do.

Women of South Africa, stand proud and live free for the world has recognised your strength. Celebrate Women’s Day not because it is recognised but because it is a day that celebrates your strength, victory and legacy. Happy National Women’s Day.

This article was written by Lathasha Subban, Head: Knowledge and Innovation of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP). For more information, you can follow SABPP on twitter @SABPP1 and Instagram @sabpp-1 or visit their website on

The 5th Annual SABPP Women’s Report will be released in August 2016.