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ImageHow Nigeria is powering Global growth in the Oil and Gas Sector

Speaking at the inaugural Future Talent Summit, Chris Osarumwense of Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) outlined his company's approach to building a local talent pool in Nigeria.

Even in the midst of the today's economic problems, the need to plan ahead for better times has never been truer for the oil and gas sector. Years of lay-offs, an aging workforce and a decline in the number of skilled workers entering the industry make the need for talent potentially one of its greatest challenges.

Shifting Resources

The Future Talent Summit, organized by CWC, an independent provider of energy analysis and information, brought together industry experts and decision makers to discuss the global skills crisis facing the sector and to explore strategic and long term solutions to this very real problem.

Delegates represented a diversity of countries including the USA, Libya, Trinidad and Tobago, Angola, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, South Africa, Ghana and Egypt.

Established in 1977, the NNPC has over 11,000 employees and operates both upstream and downstream. With six major joint ventures, the company's oil production is over 2 million barrels per day and accounts for 80% of the foreign earnings for Nigeria.

An aging workforce and a decline in the number of skilled workers entering the industry make the need for talent potentially one of its greatest challenges.

In his presentation at the Summit, Osarumwense, the General Manager of the company's Group Learning Department, highlighted the challenges faced by company in its mandate to deliver the nation's aspirations.

"For NNPC," he said, "the key is to truly become an oil and gas company, while addressing environmental challenges."

Image"There is a need for executive capacity in-country to meet the company's aspirations," he said.

Currently there is a shortfall and a capacity gap of around 2,600 engineers. Over the last three years, however, the company has partnered with engineering institutions and service providers to train engineers in order to reduce the gap.

The challenges for an emerging economy such as Nigeria's are many, Osarumwense pointed out. They include investment and funding, human talent and capacity building, technological challenges and resolving the Niger Delta crisis.

In recent times the company has reduced its staffing – the company underwent a huge transformation from a staff base of 18,000 to 9,000. Yet, with an age profile closer to 50 than 40, upskilling and succession are critical issues.

"Building a local talent pool is a strategic imperative for the Nigerian oil and gas industry....and it needs collaborative and creative solutions."

The fact that the average employee age is 46 is a consideration that spurred the recent recruitment of 2000 graduate engineers, taking the company's staff numbers up to 11,000. Other measures have also been taken to replenish the company's technical skills base, including accelerated professional and technical development and a concerted effort to "grow skills where traditionally we did not have skills."

'What's the Deal in Joining Us?'

NNPC's aggressive recruitment of new graduates and mature professionals has called on the company to crystallise what Osarumwense called its "employee value proposition".

"What's the deal in joining us? Development, growth potential and higher remuneration than at traditional civil service levels," he said.

The company has adopted a number of approaches to raise awareness of what it can offer young professionals through events such as careers fairs. It has also focused on universities and technical institutions where executives such as Osarumwense can explain the opportunities and job roles available. Customised remuneration packages also helps attract experts in the Diaspora, allowing NNPC to not only recruit home grown talent, but also contribute to reversing the African brain drain.

Training and Development

The company spends many millions each year on training and development initiatives to develop their talent and has introduced learning processes and systems including a fast-track accelerated development process, coaching and mentoring, a leadership development programme and dedicated career planning.

"Building a local talent pool is a strategic imperative for the Nigerian oil and gas industry," Osarumwense said, "and it needs collaborative and creative solutions."

The key issue for this sector, he added, is not the material resource but human resources. "Where are the engineers and geoscientists of the future going to come from?"

Changing Perceptions

"Research in India has revealed that future talent sees the oil and gas industry as an old and dirty industry but also one that offersImageexciting travel opportunities and the chance to be nationalistic – to serve my country," explained Osarumwense.

The perception of the industry is one that he urged delegates to address.

"We need to sell the industry much better than we have done," he said. "We need to help career decisions by showing fully mapped out careers even at a young age and to seek credible advisers to help people through the information maze."

Despite the challenges of the economic slowdown, the long-term needs of the industry have to be kept in focus, he said.

"We need to build a global talent pipeline for this industry. We need to invest in local institutions for people development and facilitate knowledge transfer for sustainable localization for countries where educational institutions may not have been as good as was needed."

ImageRecent changes in UK Immigration law have changed the landscape for employers seeking to recruit from outside Europe.

UK Immigration law has undergone a series of major changes in recent years, driven by the desire of the UK Government to attract skills needed in the UK while addressing increasing social concerns arising from immigration into the country.

In the words of former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, on presenting the changes designed to revolutionise the previous approach, "the UK needs a world class migration system to attract the brightest and the best from across the world, while at the same time being more robust against abuse".

Recent changes have placed a greater responsibility on employers while restricting the categories under which people can enter the UK. In March 2006, following a wide-ranging consultation exercise, the Home Office published proposals for a new Points Based System (PBS) designed to manage the flow of migrants from outside the EU coming to the UK for work or study. The new points-based system is, according to the Home Office, the "biggest shake-up of the immigration system for 45 years".

Global Talent

In the global war for talent, organizations are seeking the best employees from an ever wider pool and the need to recruit from outside the EU can arise for a number of reasons. In some cases, overseas talent is needed to perform jobs requiring specialist skills, such as technical or language skills that are not available in the UK. In other cases, it may be necessary in order to fill vacancies for which there is a shortage of skills in UK applicants or to bring staff in on secondment or transfer from an overseas division for developmental assignments.

Recent changes have placed a greater responsibility on employers while restricting the categories under which people can enter the UK.

While EU and Swiss nationals are free to enter, live and work in the UK, other nationalities now face new restrictions. Ten new countries joined the EU on 1 May 2004 and the British Home Office has established a Worker Registration Scheme to monitor participation in the labour force from eight of these. On 1 January 2007 Bulgaria and Romania became members of the European Union, but Bulgarians and Romanians, often referred to as 'A2' nationals, still need work permits or their equivalent to take employment in the UK.

The new system is intended to ensure a clearer, more transparent and consistent system, while better identifying and attracting of migrants who have most to contribute to the UK, says the British government. Such skilled migrants are those the UK hope will help deliver high-level benefits for the country including increased economic competitiveness and cultural exchange.

Work Permits/Tier 2

Before November 2008 when Tier 2 of the new PBS was introduced, work permits were the main mechanism for employers to bring staff to the UK or to vary their status once they were within the UK. ImageToday, Tier 2 is the route of most use to employers as it covers skilled workers with a job offer or who are intra-company transfers.

Under Tier 2, only employers that have registered with and are licensed by the Home Office are permitted to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Certificates are issued to a named individual, who must then apply for permission to enter the UK based on a skill set, experience and profile broadly equivalent to previous work permit criteria.

The onus is on the employer to undertake a strict verification exercise in order to issue a CoS. The complex nature of the CoS has led to a lower number of licence applications by employers to date than was expected.

Tier 2 is the route of most use to employers as it covers skilled workers with a job offer or who are intra-company transfers.

Employers have to apply online to become a licensed sponsor. A Tier 2 licence costs £300 for small organisations (fewer than 50 employees) and £1,000 for large organisations. Each migrant's certificate of sponsorship costs £170. Approval is currently taking at least six weeks.

A licence will be issued only if the employer is able to show that it has the necessary monitoring and record-keeping systems in place. In checking this, the government looks at five specific areas of employers' Human Resources systems: they must be capable of monitoring immigration status and preventing illegal employment, maintaining migrant contact details, providing accurate record-keeping, tracking and monitoring migrants, and logging professional registrations and accreditations.

Of particular interest to professionals from Africa is the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) that was introduced in 2002.

Organisations that want to use Tier 2 migrants must first prove that they cannot fill the post with a resident worker, unless the job is on a shortage-occupation list. To go on the lists, a job must require skills in short supply and it must be "sensible" to recruit those skills from outside the European Economic Area.

ImageHighly Skilled Migrant Programme/Tier I
Of particular interest to professionals from Africa is the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) that was introduced in 2002. This route into the UK was to provide stand-alone immigration permission for employment or self-employment for skilled, graduate professionals able to contribute the UK economy.

The HSMP was replaced by Tier 1 which was phased in from the end of June 2008 and keeps to the principle of stand-alone immigration permission for highly skilled migrants based on qualifications, age and earnings.

To apply under the points-based system and to be accepted into the highly skilled worker category, applicants must pass a points-based assessment. An applicant must score:

  • 75 points for their attributes (age, qualifications, previous earnings, and experience in the United Kingdom); and
  • 10 points for English language; and
  • 10 points for available maintenance (funds).

Applications will be refused where applicants do not score a minimum of 75 points for their attributes and 10 points for English language and 10 points for available maintenance (funds).

Employers' Responsibilities

According to the UK Government, the new system is not intended to deter employers from using Tier 2 migrants. Jeremy Oppenheim, the senior civil servant who has been at the forefront of the points-based system, sees the new approach as simpler to understand and one that supports employers to bring in people who are "appropriate, right and skilled to do the job".

"The work permit system had potentially 80 different complex routes and sub-routes associated with it," he says. "The points-based system has five, with one currently in suspension. And the online approach means much of this work can be done almost instantly. People abroad can print out the relevant documentation to take to an entry clearance officer to enable them to gain entry to the UK."

For further information*:

* Source: CIPD

“Transforming HR from Cost to Benefit” was the theme of the recent training programme held in Lagos to address the importance of the Human Resources professional in business development.  The course marked the first joint project between Interims for Development and Regal Exchange and Associates and brought together 20 senior managers and HR Directors from major corporations and organisations across West Africa.

Privatisation of public services, corporate mergers and trade liberalisation across the continent are presenting new and demanding challenges to the traditional role of the HR Manager.  These changes require the HR professional to become a strategic partner involved in the transformation of the enterprise and contributing to company wide issues.  Africa’s private and public sectors need HR professionals today who are able to initiate policy, manage change and ultimately add value.

The two-day training programme entitled ‘Strategic Human Resources Management’ was developed and delivered by Interims for Development to focus on the key issues relating to the perception, image and actuality of HR in today’s businesses.



Designed to enable participants to review the business and interpersonal competencies that the HR role now requires, the course examined how to build and negotiate new relationships with staff, line and top management and how to communicate the strategic vision of HR to internal and external stakeholders.

The programme also linked business strategy with the compensation, recruitment and performance policies of an organisation.

Delegates were provided with an opportunity to review the key areas of HR activity and learn to develop strategic approaches to managing change, thereby making the HR function an essential partner for organisational success.  

“Africa’s private and public sectors need HR professionals today who are able to initiate policy, manage change and ultimately add value”

For Regal Exchange, specialists in financial services training in Africa, the programme responded to training needs articulated by many of their African clients and offered a longer-term opportunity. 

“By asking Interims for Development to join us to host ‘Strategic Human Resources Management’, we sought to give a more complete solution to the issue of training business professionals; offering delegates and their organisations not just the direct benefits of the course itself, but also the continuing benefits available through the services offered by Interims”, says Bayo Jide, Regal Exchange’s Head of Business Development for Africa. “Delegate response to this more holistic approach has been positive and we hope to be able to continue to offer the expertise of Interims in this field as an additional benefit to our portfolio.”

Vincent Owen, the Course Director and Senior Consultant for Interims for Development, led participants through an intense 2-day programme that challenged the administrative bias traditionally directed at the Human Resources department in Africa. 

“I was delighted to see so many participants from different kinds of businesses attending the programme, not only from Nigeria but also from Ghana and Sierra Leone”, says Owen, who has developed and delivered programmes for Interims across Western and Central Africa. “I think this demonstrates clearly the importance that forward looking African companies are now giving to the Human Resources agenda. It is frequently stated in Annual Reports that people are the greatest asset any company has; it is very encouraging to see that the ability of Human Resources to make a strategic contribution to the future success of companies is now being recognised”.

For further information about Human Resources Management training and services:

contact Interims for Development :
+ 44 (0) 20 8200 2373

ImageManaging employees that work in a different country or culture can be a challenge in its own right, but when the country or region is in a state of conflict, the challenge is all the more daunting.
Ensuring that your employees have the skills to sensitively manage employment and community relations is critical as hasty or uninformed decision-making can have a negative and high-risk impact on both the employee’s and the company’s reputation.Farnham Castle,
one of the leading providers of intercultural training, has launched a 2-day workshop to assist companies in delivering their duty of care to employees working in high risk areas.  The course, which was developed in partnership with Kroll, an independent risk consulting company, is designed to help companies reduce their exposure to global threats and protect their employees and assets.

Client Services Director, Jeff Toms, is responsible for the management and development of Farnham Castle’s Intercultural Training business.  In this role, he has been primarily responsible for the creation of the broadest portfolio of intercultural support programmes on offer anywhere.  With his prior experience as a Board Director with a number of leading UK and International Marketing agencies and his experience of living overseas, Jeff Toms is an acknowledged expert in his field.  ReConnect Africa spoke to Toms about his company’s new initiative.

RCA:  Jeff, Farnham Castle is well known for its intercultural training.  What was the prime factor behind developing the Doing Business in Conflict Risk Countries programme?

JT: Our regular briefings on “more challenging” destinations include information and discussion on the basic practical aspects of keeping the individuals involved, safe and well. In discussion with a number of clients, many of whom are in the extractive industries, we identified a need to provide a more in-depth briefing and discussion for destinations where there was a clearly identifiable higher level of risk. We therefore got together with one of the world’s leading independent risk consulting companies specialising in helping clients reduce their exposure to global threats, to develop a unique combination of country briefing supported by specific target country conflict risk advice.  

RCA:    So what can a programme like this cover in 2 days?

JT: The objective of this programme is to equip individuals with the necessary cultural awareness and understanding of the area of operation. It also provides the tools to assist individuals to define and operate a safe and practical personal security environment. Day one of the programme provides an overview of the underlying attitudes of the people of the particular region or country, a thorough understanding of the social and business culture and an in-depth introduction to conducting business in the target region and country. Day two of the programme focuses on the avoidance and sound management of conflict situations. These can cover a broad range of issues such as bribery, compensation, human rights, security and travel health. 

RCA:    What is the nature of risks that some of your clients are experiencing when it comes to Africa?

JT: In the extreme, the issues faced by companies operating in high risk areas range from kidnapping, bribery to theft of confidential and sensitive information. The other key area revolves around socio-political issues; situations where the conduct of the client’s business has an impact (positive and negative) on the political and social structure of the district and country of operation. 

“In an increasingly unstable world, companies need to invest in briefing and cross-cultural training for all international employees.”

RCA:    Jeff, you are a leading figure in the cross-cultural sector and you contribute regularly to presentations and discussions on many aspects of this industry. In your experience, how well do companies address cultural training for employees and business people working in high risk areas?

JT: Our experience shows that the support provided by companies is varied. It is a difficult balance between providing sufficient information and advice to ensure the safety of the individuals involved and the efficient and profitable conduct of business. Of course, many of the organisations have corporate policies in place and provide security briefings. However not all provide those briefings in the context of cultural understanding, which provides a foundation on which much of the policy can be implemented and many unnecessary and difficult situations can be avoided in the first place. 

RCA:  Farnham Castle holds the view that in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, the ability to manage cultural differences to competitive advantage has to be a corporate imperative, 'not a nice' to have option.  How well is this message getting across to multinational companies?

JT: Although cultural understanding is currently high on the agenda and will remain so for the foreseeable future, too few companies still do not afford it the priority and investment it requires. Whilst heavily sponsored in HR and Training departments, more often than not the budgets lie with line Directors and Managers, who see the provision of briefing and training as an avoidable cost rather than an investment inincreased security for employees, improved probability of long-term success and diminished impact on the bottom line!

RCA:    Providing a duty of care is implicit in the employment relationship.  What benefits do you see the kind of training offered by Farnham Castle in upholding this duty?

JT: In an increasingly unstable world, companies need to invest in briefing and cross-cultural training for all international employees. The benefits to the company are numerous and the moral argument to provide duty of care to individuals being sent abroad and their families is indisputable. There are an increasing number of reasons why employees no longer readily accept an overseas posting, a major factor being the safety and security of the family members. Providing an in-depth briefing provides confidence and assurance to all participants and allows them to settle quickly and effectively in their new roles. This allows the assigned individual to get on with the task without unnecessary distraction. Importantly it lessens the possibility of an assignment failure with all the associated human and monetary costs. 

For further details about Farnham Castle and the Doing Business in Conflict Risk Countries Programme, contact Jeff Toms at jtoms@farnhamcastle.com

ImageFor 50 years, the Institute of People Management (IPM) has led the way in addressing people management issues in South Africa.  The 2006 50th Annual Convention of the IPM with the theme of ‘Driving High Performance through People’ brought an array of international speakers, experts and HR professionals together in Johannesburg, and highlighted the key challenges facing South Africa in creating a high performance workplace.

 Professor Shirley Zinn, President of the IPM and Human Resources Director of South African bank, Nedbank, opened the Conference.  Welcoming the 700 delegates to the Conference, Zinn spoke of the role of Human Resources management today and the challenges HR professionals face in redefining their role within business.

“For a long time our role was relegated to hiring, firing, administration and transactional activities”, she said.  “HR has been in a revolution and this requires very different competencies from us.”

“We have a fantastic opportunity to really make a difference.”

One of the key aims of the 2006 Conference, she said, was “to highlight the importance of HR and the role HR can play in meeting the diverse challenges South Africa faces.”  Zinn referred to the national imperatives and challenges AsgiSA raises for the HR professional in people terms by encouraging growth and job creation.

“We need to look at ourselves critically.  What is our role in all of this?” she asked.  “Are we involved in shaping the discourse or are we just going to stand on the sidelines?”

Zinn urged HR practitioners to take up the challenge and to seize the initiative.  “We have a fantastic opportunity to really make a difference,” she said.  “HR practitioners are the only people in an organisation to assess skills issues and to work with managers to make a difference.”

Zinn spoke of the challenges inherent in the country’s labour legislation – “we have a battery of legislation around us”, pointing out that “the laws and regulations clearly have a purpose in our country” and highlighted the value of effective learnership opportunities to give young people work experience.  Speaking of HR’s role to lobby and promote workable solutions, she asked: “where are our voices in addressing the issue of unemployed graduates? – we’re quick at pointing out the flaws but are we making a meaningful contribution to shaping the solutions?”

On the challenge of HR’s role in managing HIV/AIDS effectively, Zinn said.  “We have a critical role to play to ensure that we can start curbing the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  No economy can sustain itself without a strong programme in this area.”

Developing the HR Professional

“Our ability to fulfil our role starts with our ability to develop and grow ourselves,” Zinn concluded.  “HR continues to break new ground and each one of us has to decide our own contribution and our own personal commitment to this.”

Urging delegates to build their competencies and to take a strategic role, Zinn stressed the need for supporting, enabling and empowering each other to work towards a common vision and purpose for HRM in South Africa today and “to make South Africa not only a great place to live but also a great place to work.”

‘What Really Works’

ImageThe plenary presentation by Professor William Joyce of the Amos Tuck School of Business in the USA centred on the extensive research he conducted on management over a 10-year period.  The US$8 million Evergreen Study, funded by McKinsey and which led to Joyce’s best-selling book ‘What Really Works’, was a study which looked at 200 management practices in 160 companies. 

The study set out to identify why some companies outperform others and what must be done to make a company great.  Citing the rapid increases in the sophistication of technology, Joyce said, “This is the most interesting time in the history of management.”

Joyce argued that the average working week has increased at precisely when more people are saying that they want more to life than just work, posing a challenge to the HR professional.

Foundation and Complementary Practices

The study resulted in Joyce and his team identifying four key – or foundation – practices i.e. traits possessed by firms that excelled over the 10 period of analysis: strategy, execution/operational excellence, an adaptive, meaningful culture and a fast, flexible structure.  The firms that exhibited sustained business performance had what Joyce termed the ‘4+2 formula’ i.e. in addition to the four foundation practices, they also exhibited at least 2 of the complementary practices which were defined as: engaging and developing talent, leadership, innovation and growth.

Human Resources Management in South Africa

The visibility of the HR role was further emphasised by Peter Cheese, Global Head of HR for Accenture in his presentation. 

“The organisation that can capture the heart of its employees is going to be the one that gets the best results.”

“HR has never been more in the spotlight than it is today,” he said.  “The pace of change requires new skills and new targets, and workforce and HR performance are a top executive priority.”

Referring to a recent survey of 100 companies across 28 industries in South Africa, Cheese pointed out that the two big issues consistently raised were increasing the non-white management pool and skills development.

HR needs to develop its own and the organisation’s leadership capability, he said, with a clear vision and understanding of the magnitude of change.  “Get the basics right; understand the business priorities and focus on execution and the delivery of quick wins.”

From Capitalism to Humanism

“The organisation that can capture the heart of its employees is going to be the one that gets the best results”, said Joseph Johnson, CEO of US consultancy, the Telein Group.  In a riveting presentation on ‘Getting the best out of your Employees’, Johnson – who has worked with leading businesses in the USA – spoke of the need to move away from capitalism to humanism by creating new methods of working that result in a ‘win/win’ situation for employees and the business.

“Those organisations that capitalise on this new environment will be the ones that win in the 21st century,” he said.  Johnson defined the approach to humanism as ensuring clarity of purpose, a common vision and creating effective relationships with all stakeholders i.e. those who have a stake in the success or failure of your business.  He spoke of the need to exercise leadership and for business to empower people by enabling them to feel authorised, competent and motivated to act independently in the best interest of the organisation.  “Give people the skills and information for them to be and feel part of the whole system.”

Engaging the human spirit is what will make the difference, Johnson suggested.  “Focus on what creates successful performance and outcomes will come by the way.  Focus on the means and it will make the ends.”

Attracting and Retaining Skills

The greatest challenge in attracting skills, according to search consultant and panellist Wendy Weir, is researching and understanding where those talent pools lie.  With staffing mistakes costing an estimated 15 times annual salary, HR professionals need to have a clear idea of human capital mapping in Africa and globally, said Weir.  Bringing South Africans outside the country back to being at the forefront of change was also an issue highlighted during the event.

The challenge of retaining skills was one that a number of speakers addressed during the IPM Convention.  HR’s role in proactively leading, nurturing and developing talent was described as a critical contribution to ensuring retention.

“People will stay with an organisation as long as they feel they are adding value.”

Commenting on what she described as “the myth of job hopping among black managers”, Keamogetse Moula Nyoka of search specialists Spencer Stuart pointed out that “people will stay with an organisation as long as they feel they are adding value.”

The key message on retention strategies centred on companies implementing good inductions for new employees, enabling employees to see themselves as part of the organisation and tracking performance.  The issue of scarce talent leaving a business was described as colour blind, with one speaker pointing out that the issue is universal and it is only South Africa’s history that has caused the application of the colour factor.

“Talent wants to work for successful organisations,” delegates were told.  “It is the role of the business and the boss to make sure that talent wants to stay.”

Photo Gallery

Exhibition alongside the IPM 50th Anniversary Convention



 Delegates at Convention Gala Dinner



For further information about the IPM 50th Anniversary convention, www.ipm.co.za
ImageIn a world that is seeing the fastest rate of technological change ever, we ask leadership expert Paul Bridle to reflect on what this will mean to businesses and to their people.
My son left university in 2005 having been part of the education system for seventeen years. I reflected on the way the world had changed in that time. When he started in primary school, there were no mobile phones or digital technology and the fax machine was the latest modern piece of equipment that every office needed to have.

By the time he entered secondary school the e-mail was not yet available to the public and the World Wide Web was not developed. In fact through the seventeen years he was at school and university, technology grew faster year on year than probably any other development in the history of man.

This made me reflect on what the next seventeen years will be like. In other words, for the child entering primary school this year, what will the world look like when they graduate in fifteen to seventeen years time? The truth is we do not know exactly what the world will look like, other than to know that technology will continue to change the way we live and the way the world operates. We can however recognise that change will continue to happen in many ways and it will affect the way businesses operate in every part of the world.

At the same time as this change is taking place, people are having different expectations about life and work. In emerging nations, people see the standard of living in the West and are prepared to work and learn what is necessary to achieve that standard for themselves. In the West, people are seeking work-life balance and ways to make work part of their life rather than something that funds their life.

The issues everywhere mean that the way we have thought of work in the past will not necessarily be the way we will have to see work in the future. For leaders it means that the style and approach to leadership will have to change and adapt to be effective in the future.

What will employment be like?

For companies and organisations to compete in the future there will need to be more focus on achieving outcomes. The achievement of these results requires that people at every level are engaged and part of driving the business forward. Organisations will not have the luxury of carrying people who do not make an active contribution to the outcomes of the business. This means that employees will need to be focused, self motivated and responsible for their own actions and even for their own frame of mind. They will need to be prepared to learn and even relearn how things are done. It will require them to be flexible and most people will develop expertise or specialise to ensure they can bring value to the business.

The future will not be about being busy but rather about achieving results. It will not be how hard you work but about how effective you work. The future is about how productive people are, compared to the amount of energy expelled.

The truth is that organisations that cannot capitalise on the strengths of their people will lose their business to other organisations that will do it quicker, cheaper and more effectively. The competitor may even be from another country

This means that management is also going to have to take a different approach to the way that they manage and lead their organisations and their people. Managers will need to recognise that people are their greatest asset and also their greatest weakness. If they are capable of mastering and unleashing the energy, creativity and capability of their people in the right way, they will probably go on to be highly successful. If they don’t, they will create a hole in their ship below the water line that will eventually sink their organisation.

This will apply in all sectors of industry as well as private and public services. Some will take longer to feel the effects but eventually it will apply to all organisations.

So the future will not be about blame between management and their people but rather about mutual solutions that achieve a business with a future. Many organisations have issues with communication because both management and people use this as an excuse to blame the other for issues that arise. The organisations of the future will need to recognise that communication is a mutual responsibility. Managers will need to create an environment where people want to know and then give them access to being able to find what they want to know. People in the future will need to be responsible for knowing and not for being told. If you don’t know, then what are you doing about it? You can’t blame anyone if you haven’t bothered to ask.

It is an exciting time to be living in provided we can see the challenge and embrace it. The question managers and people need to resolve is, do we want to be constantly reacting to change or do we want to be part of creating the change? Creating it means that you have a say in how it is managed. Reacting means that you are always on the wrong foot trying to cope.

To do this, managers and their people need to be outward focused and not inward focused. Those that manage to recognise this and work together to develop the future will find that the world is exciting and rewarding.

ImagePaul Bridle is a Leadership Methodologist and studies effective organisations around the world. He is a Faculty Member of the Institute of Management Studies and an international speaker and author on Leadership. For more information, visit www.paulbridle.com

ImageMuch has been written about the concept of HR Business Partnering since Dave Ulrich first proposed the idea in his “Human Resource Champions” published in 1997. In this article, Vincent Owen asks whether this transition was inevitable for the HR function to survive.

The 10 years that have elapsed since Ulrich first proposed the concept of Human Resources as business partner has seen significant change in the Human Resources (HR) arena, both in terms of the way in which the HR function is structured and in the overall strategic impact it has achieved as a result.

In essence, particularly in larger companies, HR has moved on from the traditional and largely reactive administrative support approach to a significantly more strategic and value-added proactive way of doing business. It has achieved this largely by identifying its customers, establishing their wants and needs and restructuring itself.

Many companies today operate on a Shared Services Centre model – management by HR, but empowering employees to manage their own records on-line via the company’s intranet, and also to look after the basics of resourcing, payroll, leave arrangements etc. In addition, there are likely to be Centres of Excellence with highly experienced specialist people concentrating on the company’s strategic direction in reward, learning and development, organisational design, employee engagement and identifying and managing talent. The third arm of this model is that of Strategic Partners or HR Business Partners who will work closely with executives right up to the highest level in the company, advising on Human Capital strategy to ensure that the company makes the best possible use of its people..

Our Most Valuable Asset

Significantly, if an analysis of roles at Board level 20 years ago were carried out, it would reveal that very few companies had a Human Resources Director (or, more likely for those days, a Personnel Director). The person in charge of HR would probably have reported to someone on the Board, rather than to sit on the Board. Ironically, a review of Chairmen’s statements in annual reports invariably describes staff as “our most valuable asset”.  However, for the most part, companies did not “put their money where their mouth was” and endorse the statement by having HR represented at the Board level where the strategic direction of a company is often determined.

Interestingly, if we look at the Finance function in a similar way, going back in time there were relatively few Finance Directors. Rather, the Finance function did the number crunching, almost as a statutory requirement under the leadership of a Chief Accountant, but added little in the way of strategic direction to the company as a whole. Nowadays, we see Finance Directors on every Board and Finance is seen as a key strategic player, essential to the development of any successful company. So how did the finance function achieve this change?

In its simplest form, a company needs relatively little to be successful – it needs people, money, products or services, premises (though with the rise of the internet, this is not always necessary) and, most important of all, CUSTOMERS. The concept of managing your customer, forging strong relationships with them and retaining them for future sales opportunities is fundamental. It is a sine qua non that without a strong and loyal customer base, the business will be on the rocky road to disaster. After all, at the end of the day, the customers pay the wages!

Adding Value

Any element of a company that is not perceived to add value deserves to suffer cutbacks or to be outsourced. The primary area of any company that directly generates revenue is the areas responsible for the sale of the company’s products or services. The other areas of the company, be they Finance, HR, Production, Marketing, Strategy or IT, are essentially only there as enablers for the sales function to keep the revenues flowing. This is not, however, to suggest in any way that they are second-class citizens. Far from it, and indeed they all have a critical role to play. No finance department – operating strategically and in tune with the overall direction of the company – means no budgets can be allocated towards product development…no production department means no new products for sales to sell…no HR department means no people, no salaries paid, and so on.. 

So was it the realisation of the need to add more value that transformed the Finance function from purely managing numbers to playing a strategic role at Board level?  Through a process of self-examination, did the finance function take a hard look at itself and say, “Who are our customers?” “What services do we offer them?” “Do we actually provide what they need?” “Are we in danger of being outsourced if we do not change our approach?” Irrespective of what drove the change, the fact remains that the Finance function today is a significantly different animal to what it was in the 70s.

Evolution or Revolution?

As previously noted, the HR function has gone through massive change in the past few years.

My question – hypothetical though it is – is whether, in fact, if Dave Ulrich had not proposed the revolutionary concept of the HR Business Partner; the HR function would not in any case have evolved in this way. We cannot rewrite history but, as happened with the Finance function, would the HR function not have gone through the process of self-examination and identified ways in which it could serve its customers better and more strategically?

Vincent Owen is a Senior Consultant with Interims for Development (www.interimsfd.com)

Stress has become a buzzword of the 21st Century. Ask anyone if they are stressed and they will undoubtedly answer ‘yes’. Fortunately, this is unlikely to be strictly true.

While most people think they know what stress is, the truth is that the concept is actually poorly understood, with many people confusing stress with normal, everyday pressures and worries. The result of this, says Health Psychologist Dr Rosemary Anderson, is that both individuals and organisations are taking the matter less seriously than they should.

True stress

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), stress is “an adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon them.”


Here, pressure is seen as positive and we all actually need a certain amount of pressure to perform well, - ask any athlete, actor or actress. A problem only arises when sources of pressure become too great. We then reach a peak in our performance, beyond which we start to show adverse reactions. At first, we may just be irritable, snappy, make silly mistakes and be unable think clearly. However, if the pressure continues this becomes worse and we can start to exhibit a variety of physical symptoms which can eventually lead to physical illness. We can also show mental symptoms such as anxiety and eventually depression

Causes of Stress

While stress may be the result of one major event such as bereavement, it may be an accumulation of many smaller hassles one after the other without enabling time to recover. It may of course be a combination of the two. More often than not, we also cause our own stress by our thoughts or by our perceptions of a situation.

Why Too Much Pressure turn to Stress

To answer this question it is necessary to understand the stress response. This is an adaptive response which evolved to help our ancestors cope with physical threats such as being chased by a woolly mammoth. This response, often termed the fight or flight response, comprises physiological changes in our body that results in both mental and physical alertness. As such, we are able to run and fight more effectively and hence chances of survival are increased. The stress response is mainly caused by the release of adrenalin and noradrenalin which alongside many other changes result in the common symptoms of dry mouth, sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, butterflies in the tummy. The major changes during the stress response are outlined in the table below.

Major effects of adrenaline and noradrenaline on the body

  • Increase in sensitivity of nervous system – increases speed which we may react to a threat.
  • Muscles tense ready for action
  • Breathing rate increases- to take in more oxygen into the lungs. This is then carried by the blood to the muscles where it combines with glucose to make energy.
  • More glucose is released from the liver and in to the blood stream - used for increased energy
  • Heart rate and blood pressure increase – Blood carrying oxygen and sugar is pumped to the muscles to make energy.
  • Sweating increases – to cool body down during running or fighting
  • - Digestive system slows down. – If fighting for survival you don’t need to be digesting food, energy is therefore conserved.
  • Reproductive system slows down – not necessary if you are fighting for survival!!!! So energy is also conserved here.
  • Cortisol is released.

One of the main functions of cortisol is to regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. During stress, it enables the body to produce more glucose to keep it going longer. A by-product of this is the production of fatty acids which can result in increased production of cholesterol. Cortisol also dampens down the immune system so over time we become more susceptible to infections.

While the stress response is still useful for moderns day physical threats, e.g. being chased by an attacker, most of our modern day pressures are not physical and therefore do not merit a physical response. Many are also generated from work. For example the difficult boss, too much work, e-mails, angry customers. We cannot respond to these by running away or fighting so we sit and bottle it up. We therefore do not do what the stress response is gearing us up to do. Added to this is the fact that one pressure comes immediately after another. We therefore do not even get time to get the physiological changes out of our system before the next pressure comes along. We even cause our own stress by our thoughts and fears. We are afraid of not being good enough or looking stupid. Fear of job security is now also very common. Pressures like these never really go away, but are constantly generating the response. Instead of being helpful, the changes taking place in our body start to work against us and we start to suffer from stress symptoms.

Reducing the Effects of Stress

  • Identify causes -only then can you tackle the issues.
  • Analyse your behaviour to see how this can cause you stress. Make necessary changes e.g. avoid unnecessary conflict, learn to be more assertive, don’t procrastinate, and learn to manage your time better. If the stress is work related, raise the issue with your manager.
  • Change your perceptions - look at how your thoughts cause you stress and try to find different ways to see things. For example, you do not always have to be perfect.
  • Talk things over with a friend or colleague this will often help you change your perceptions and behaviours
  • Make sure you take regular breaks- allow your body time to recover between pressures.
  • Learn to relax - Relaxation helps reduce the stress response and hence the detrimental effect.
  • Exercise - This helps you reduce the effects of stress as you are doing what the stress response was meant to enable you to do.

Most of all you must realise that stress is not a weakness. Given the right combination, stress can happen to anybody. If you experience stress, take action to reduce it before it gets too serious. Managing stress is about taking responsibility for yourself. Nobody else can do it for you.

Dr Rosemary Anderson is a chartered health psychologist and runs her own consultancy ApP which helps individuals and organisations reduce stress and improve health and well-being. She has just written an e learning package on this subject. The package is entitled “It can happen to anyone” and can be accessed directly form the ApP web site www.andersonpeakperformance.co.uk

ImageA forthcoming summit - ‘Building Strategic HR Partnerships’ – will bring together leading HR practitioners from West Africa and beyond. To be held in Ghana in August 2007, the Summit will define a way forward to ensure solid HR business partnerships are created within their organisations through a Roadmap to HR Strategic Excellence framework.

In this article, South African HR expert Janine Nieuwoudt explores how the HR function can build effective alliances.

One of the biggest challenges facing Human Resources managers is the dire need to re-position human resources’ services so that they represent a strategic alliance with the business.

Strategic Human Resources
ImageThe first challenge is to get HR practitioners to recognise what ‘strategic partner” means – for HR itself. The key word is “strategic”, which means inter alia planned, tactical, deliberate, premeditated and intentional. It denotes that the (HR) partnership that is forged must be well thought out and purposefully built on key business elements that will assist the business in achieving its objectives.
So what is holding HR back? In many cases, businesses fail to recognise the strategic role that HR can play within the organisation. HR practitioners, themselves, also have to take some accountability for the poor image of HR - for despite the understanding by some practitioners that HR desperately needs to change, few know how.

The HR paradigm needs to shift and what is needed now is a guideline that spells out the way forward for HR and that describes the core elements of a ‘strategic HR alliance’.

Guideline 1: HR needs to understand the business

It is simply not enough for HR to understand what the business does. It is knowing how and why the organisation does what it does, that enables HR to fully understand the nature of the business. The organisation’s mission, vision and values; the business strategy; the business plan as well as the core business drivers need to be fully understood by HR.

Guideline 2: HR needs to be involved

HR needs to be fully involved – in all aspects of business functioning. A true HR professional understands all elements of the business, rather than just HR, and needs to be able to make meaningful contribution by adding significant business value (as a strategic business partner) rather than an administrative service.

Guideline 3: HR needs to be proactive

HR needs to proactively define what each business partner needs – from an HR perspective. Proactively set about meeting with key stakeholders to discuss their needs, both current and future. To do that well, HR needs to be able to talk through business issues in a way that reflects a good understanding of not only the business but also the available HR solutions.

Guideline 4: HR needs to be empowered

If HR is to be a strategic business partner, it stands to reason that HR needs to be fully empowered. It is imperative that HR is given the empowerment it needs to develop into a strategic business partner that controls and guides the management of employees. In return, HR practitioners must be able to show business intent for their decision-making.

Guideline 5: HR needs to use business as a backdrop

HR needs to learn to talk the business talk. This implies that HR must understand how to interpret HR data so that it is meaningful to the business and, conversely, how to take business information and interpret it so that it makes HR sense.

Guideline 6: HR needs to be professional

In order for HR to be identified by the business as a strategic partner, there needs to be a clearly defined standard by which practitioners operate. Organisations must demand from HR practitioners a certain level of functioning that leads to the entitlement of credibility in a business sphere. The debate whether HR should be professionalised or not rages on, but certainly there is a dire need for HR standards.

It is clear that the ideal HR business partnership is still a way off for many organisations. The time is right for HR practitioners to take a long, hard look at the way HR is positioned within their organisations and use these guidelines to start the metamorphosis that will lead HR out of the back-office and into the Boardroom.

Janine Nieuwoudt is Managing Director of BMT Dimensions in South Africa. Janine is one of the presenters at the HR West Africa Summit, which is hosted by the Institute for International Research and will be held at the Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra, Ghana from 20 – 22 August 2007. janinen@bmtdimensions.com

Further details about the HR West Africa Summit can be obtained at (27) (11) 771 7122 or at www.hr-africa.com/westafrica.

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