Wednesday, 25 June 2014

South African Learning & Development Landscape in 2024: Ten years on – am I seeing into the future or am I seeing things?

I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about skills development or what some may call learning and development in South Africa. The reason is very simple: I believe I was born to contribute to skilling the unskilled. I was part of many meetings in the mid 2000s where we discussed the “skills revolution” but that conversation is no more. In 2006 the government established a short-term skills intervention called the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills (JIPSA), which was led by then Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka that was going to spearhead the “skills revolution”. A lot has happened since. The Honourable Membathi Mdladlana who was Minister of Labour led skills Development then. I met the honourable Mdladlana a few times particularly when I participated in the National Skills Summits. He has been shipped to Canada now as SA ambassador to that country.

In President Zuma’s administration, Skills Development was moved to the Ministry of Higher Education & Training led by Minister Blade Nzimande and has culminated in the formation of the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa (HRDCSA) which was chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and I assume will be taken over by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. The HRDCSA has already developed and launched the National Integrated HRD Plan. Ok, enough with the background. I think I can see into the future and I want to suggest seven ways I think the Skills Development/ Learning & Development/ HR Development landscape will look like in 2024.

1.     Many South Africans will finally regard being an Artisan as “cool” though not enough: I don’t know if you know, 2014 to 2024 has been declared “the decade of the Artisan” by the Ministry of Higher Education and Training. By the way, it was in May 2007 when Minister Mdladlana said the following: “Artisan development remains a vital program if the government’s skills revolution in the form of ASGISA were to be accomplished” he continued to say ““As part of our response to the JIPSA’s call to increase the numbers of artisans to 12 500 per annum in order to meet the 50 000 target by 2010, we have embarked on a number of interventions”. Minister Mdladlana singled out SEIFSA and the MERSETA (companies where I worked) for praise, saying the duo had heeded the call and took leadership in this regard. Artisan Development has eluded us so far but I have a sense that Minister Nzimande has taken this as his main project and he cannot afford for it to fail. I’m certainly going to join him in spreading the word, everywhere I speak, that it is cool to be an Artisan because we desperately need Artisans as a country.
2.     SETAs are not going anywhere: Sector Education & Training Authorities are not going anywhere. There are some who think that SETAs will be scrapped soon but this is absolutely not going to happen. If you read the chapter that deals with Skills Development in the National Development you will immediately see that SETAs are not going anywhere. I do feel though that some are now trying to change SETAs into government departments, which was not the intention.
3.     Training Budgets will be smaller after adjusting for inflation: The SA economy is not doing very well. Unless we meet the economic growth target of 5% by 2019 as the President said, companies will be struggling and consequently our training budgets.
4.     Mobile Learning will be on steroids: Watch the space; in 2024, almost 50% of learning will be done in a mobile or table phone.
5.     Learning & Development will still report to HR: There are some in our profession who think that L&D will soon report directly to the CEO or the Managing Director of a business. Well, this is not going to happen. Get over it!
6.     Accreditation will be less of an issue: You must understand why people insist that every program must be accredited now. There are two reasons. The first is the current grant system means employers are pushing for accreditation. The second reason is that due to the fact many people in this country didn’t have an opportunity to get qualifications; accredited programs offer them this chance. This would have changed in 2024. Accreditation is very important but it will be less important in 2024 where most employers will be training people for the skill and less about catching up on qualifications.
7.     The Learning & Development Industry will have an ‘African” feel: For many years L&D in South Africa was modeled through the international, but mostly American, L&D Industry. A few months ago, the L&D community decided to take a new direction and rename ASTD South Africa, the African Society for Training & Development and to quote our current office bearers “Although still a strategic partner of ASTD International (American Society for Training and Development), our focus will be more on adding value longer term in influencing Senior Leadership in LEARNING and DEVELOPMENT in Africa. This ensures that with the new image we have more flexibility to centre our efforts on actual local challenges in Training and Development. Although it is still early days, many of us will work hard to see how this journey will evolve and by 2024, the industry will have a different feel. Oh by the way ASTD International, at the recent 2014 convention, have also changed their name to Association for Talent Development.

Siphiwe Moyo is a Skills Development/Learning & Development Maniac.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Customers are a major inconvenience

This morning I decided to pass by my local retail shop to buy something I needed to use in the office. The shop I visited is a large supermarket and not a small grocery shop in the corner. As I was busy shopping an announcement was made that the system is down and therefore customers can only be assisted if they pay cash. Fortunately I had enough cash for what I needed so I proceeded to pay at the till. The cashier then decided to make some small talk with me and decided to say, “the card machines are down so at least we are going to have some breathing space”. This was because some clients who didn’t have cash left the store, probably to withdraw cash but more likely to buy somewhere else.

I was ready to give her a lecture about not understanding that when clients leave the shop, they might not make the target and that she might then only be allocated fewer shifts or worse, loose her job but I didn’t. The reason I didn't is that about 14 years ago, I was also a Cashier in a major retailer and we also hated it when the shop was busy. It was a major inconvenience, it meant we couldn’t chat the way we wanted to and it also meant we would spend about an hour or two after the shop closes to “fix” the mess created by these inconsiderate customers. For some strange reason we didn’t really care whether the company made target or not at the end of the day. Our biggest concern at the end of the day was whether the cash at our tills balanced or not. I left the store after working there for three years while studying for my degree and a few years later, the store was closed because it was not making enough money and my former colleagues were distraught.

Any employee that starts in a new company is trained. The three areas that are never compromised by Learning & Development departments when training new employees are products, processes and systems. The reason is quite obvious because without these an employee cannot be productive. I’m suggesting here that we must focus more on training employees about the business they have just joined. What is our business? How do we make money? What happens if we don’t make money? How is my job contributing to this business? Unless we as Learning & Development departments focus on this when employees are still new, we will find employees who think that clients are a major inconvenience.

Learning & Development Activist

Monday, 20 January 2014

Seven things you should know about being an employee

I have been working in Human Resources, People Development and Personal Development for about 12 years and there are a few things that I believe every employee should know about the world of work, particularly in relation to one’s boss. Let me get straight to the point:

1.     Your boss does have favourites – they are called good performers. You want to be your manager’s favourite? Be an exceptional performer. Of course there a few strange managers who just seem to prefer someone based on something other than performance but in the majority of cases, the so-called “blue-eyed boys/girls” are superior performers. Try it; you will thank me later.
2.     Your boss should take credit for your work; that’s how it works. Many people don’t get this; they often come to us and complain that their manager is taking credit for their work. They would whisper “you know I actually created that strategy and all she did was to present it”. Well in case you didn’t know the job of a manager is to get results through other people. You should instead be very happy if your manager presents your work as it is because it shows the confidence they have in you.
3.     Contrary to popular belief, your boss actually wants yes-men and yes-women in her team. I think many people lie to themselves by saying “My boss does not want a yes-man/woman; he wants us to challenge him”. Really? Let me be straight on this one: every boss wants team members who say yes more than they say no. Nobody wants a “Lindiwe Mazibuko” in his team. For those who don’t know, Lindiwe Mazibuko is the parliamentary leader of the official opposition in South Africa. People must understand that a person like Lindiwe is actually paid to oppose; you are not. I’m not suggesting you say yes all the time but I promise you, you must say yes more that you say no.
4.     You must actually earn the right to differ with your boss. If you are not performing fully in your role, you must keep quiet and do what you are told to do. Sometimes you get these people who are not even fully performing who think they can just challenge their boss. Do your job first, and then you will have your boss’s ear regarding a different way of doing something.
5.     Don’t be high maintenance. There is no manager who wants to have a high maintenance employee. This is a person who is way too needy. You are actually employed to make your manager’s life easier not more difficult. Some people are always taking leave for this and that and they have all kinds of favours to ask for. For those who have never worked in HR, please allow me to tell you a secret; if you are abusing sick leave, your manager knows.
6.     The “open door policy” does not mean the door is open all the time. Many organisations have open plan offices now and some employees don’t understand this simple thing: The fact that your manager is at her desk does not mean she is available for you. Having an employee who constantly comes to your desk unannounced is disturbing and irritating. Learn to schedule 30-minute “one-on-one” meetings with your manager where you can discuss work and only go to his desk when necessary.
7.     Nobody should ever care about your development more than you. Managers do care a bit about your development but they care more about performance. If you really want to advance in the organisation get this now: your development is your own baby. Always initiate discussions with your manager about your development. Schedule a few minutes meeting with your organisation’s Head of Learning & Development for advice; volunteer to do other projects to learn. Your development is in your hands.

Bye for now.