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Issue Date: November 2007

Employee rights, employer requirements: how to balance on the corporate tightrope

15 November 2007
Teryl Schroenn, MD at Accsys

The corporate world is a lot like nature - there is a constant struggle to gain the upper hand, competition for resources and results is fierce, and parties rarely relinquish any advantage without a fight. In companies the employer and employee are often at loggerheads as to what takes priority. Achieving balance in this respect can make a huge difference to all concerned.
Considering the high level of labour conflict in South Africa of late, quite clearly there is mass dissatisfaction from within specific market segments and across a number of industries.
Workers have literally downed tools to demonstrate this dissatisfaction as employers battle with union representatives to come up with amicable solutions to disputes. These have ranged from wages through to conditions of employment.
It is inevitable that issues will plague the development and influence of the human resource in business. The truth, put simply, is that employers have the right to run a profitable, sustainable business and employees have specific rights in accordance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, as well as other labour-related legislation.
Balance occurs the moment there is renewed understanding between both parties. This strengthens the HR component of the business and increases its maturity status.
How does one place the company on the path to HR maturity? The first step is to clarify exactly what is meant by the term 'HR maturity'.
Whilst this would differ from company to company, the general consensus is that 'mature' HR is ascribed to an organisation that has in place a comprehensive, stable HR function/system that is able to produce measurable results aligned with the company's operational and strategic requirements.
An important part of the journey towards HR maturity is the attempt to identify which aspects of the existing HR function work and which do not. It is fundamentally important that human resource management is synchronised with the business management.
The reasons are really self-explanatory but are based chiefly on the loss of momentum, confusion, loss in productivity, poor motivation or drop in service ethic, as a result of a void between HR and the company it represents.
Employees are hired and positioned within a business based on their skills, experience and expertise. This is the basic framework according to which HR managers work. But it is necessary for management to regulate and direct personal growth of people and adapt the working environment accordingly.
For example, a prospective call centre agent is brought into a company and has an impressive CV. After two weeks it becomes obvious that the agent is lacking in communication skills. Technically they are proficient but fall short in their ability to socially interact. It would be negligent on the part of the company to keep the individual in that position and additional training or a move to another area of the business where their existing skill set may be used, is essential.
A solid, well-executed and regularly monitored HR management strategy will do much to secure the foundation of a company and its reputation.

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