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Hiring & Managing Staff

Is it really critical to have an HR department in a small business?

HR can play a crucial role in your business’s ability to compete. It shapes the business structure through talent attraction, retention and development.

Anja Hartman



People are at the top of the agenda in many a company with the war for talent intensifying in many business sectors. It is therefore crucial for the Human Resources (HR) department to recognise the value that it brings in terms of helping the business to compete in finding the right talent.

The future of HR however depends on its business presence. You need to have the mindset of a business role-player first and then an HR professional to understand the contribution that HR can make to the bigger picture.  It boils down to how well you really know your business and who your clients are, employees, line managers, Exco members, external clients or even investors.

Ask yourself the following questions, to establish whether you understand your business:

  1. What are the top three priorities and concerns of your business leaders?
  2. Who is your biggest client and why do they use your service or product?
  3. Which product/service is the most profitable, and why?
  4. What emerging technology trends can influence your business?
  5. What socio-economic or political trends might be disruptive to your industry?
  6. What is the company’s operating margin?
  7. What was the revenue and profit for the previous financial year?

If you are familiar with the needs of the business, your HR practices will reflect that knowledge. The answers to the above questions can help the HR practitioner to achieve business objectives through informed HR decisions.

There are many ways in which HR practices can support business performance. The principles and philosophies that you implement as an HR professional affect the workplace, the value chain, the company’s value proposition as well as the technology that the company uses.  The people represent the company’s image and its ability to adequately deliver its service or product and it is ultimately your responsibility to shape that image and to align it with the business needs.

The broader HR mandate far exceeds the mere administration of HR technology and policies alone. The focus has shifted towards the management of talent which includes recruitment, training and development, performance management, talent assessment and succession planning. As far as the organisation is concerned, HR practices will shape the business structure, rewards, internal communication and process design.

HR Goals

It is crucial that the organisation’s HR strategy underscores that of the business. HR goals need to be consistent with that of the company’s and need to be designed to make the business strategy happen. Likewise, HR also needs buy-in from management to mobilise its strategy.

It is therefore necessary to focus on building relationships of trust. To make an impact in the business the HR professional needs to be confident, have a commercial point of view, be able to speak candidly and influence others. A positive investment in their own personal growth will help any HR professional in this regard.

The key elements to focus on are to create a business presence, to learn the language of your business and to continue with an HR mindset. The ultimate goal is to empower your people and to focus on business results as these are lifelines that keep your business alive.

Hiring & Managing Staff

How do I best present an offer of employment?

You need to consider these aspects before offering a job position to future employees.

Juliette Attwell



Many business owners think that presenting an offer of employment is quite a simple, cut and dried task. You present the offer and the candidate can “take it or leave it!”. Until you actually really want that exceptional talent in your business and they’ve declined your offer for something as simple as; not enough leave days or a proposed start date that they may not be able to adhere to.

Related: Can staff training increase my turnover?

These are all minor problems that if given the opportunity to be voiced could be ironed out quite easily without either party feeling like they’ve sold their soul. Unfortunately however in many instances this opportunity is not given and businesses end up losing talent to their competitors. So how do you best present a letter of offer?

1. Know the persons expectations before presenting

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that both parties know expectations and priorities.

  • What is more attractive to the candidate?
  • Is it a higher salary or more days leave?
  • Is it a company car or rather flexible working hours?

In an interview situation a candidate may not be too forthcoming with information on what salary they are looking for as they may feel intimidated or embarrassed.

In this case it’s a good idea to find out this information from their recruitment agent or ask them to email you after the interview with a range of salaries they would be happy to move for. You can then assess how this would fit into your budget.

2. Present the offer letter in person

Says Lisa Knowles; Head of Global Recruitment at Recruitgroup: “If you are using the services of a recruitment agent they will do this for you, they have built that relationship and trust with the candidate and will be able to offer an objective opinion. If not however it is best to meet in person and iron out any questions they or you may have.”

3. Implement an expiry date

A deadline of about 24 hours to a maximum of 2 days should be in writing on the letter of offer.

If the person is serious about the role they will not need more than this to think about and discuss their decision with their significant other.

Of course this is within reason and if longer is needed with justifiable cause then this can be negotiated.

Related: What personality traits and qualifications do head hunters look for?

4. Be flexible

Before presenting a letter of offer decide on how much room you have to manoeuvre. Presenting an offer is much like doing a dance, in the beginning you’re not quite sure of your partner’s style, you try to work together moving a few steps forward and a few steps backwards and standing on toes every now and then.

Eventually though you find out what works for both of you and you fall into step. If you need to change certain points of the offer then do so if you feel the candidate is worth it.

Communication and flexibility are key. Your business needs to move forward with top talent that are engaged, focused and happy. This can only be achieved they feel valued and satisfied right from the start. An offer letter is by no means purely about salary.

There are so many other factors that come into consideration when candidates choose to accept or decline an offer. It’s whether you’re willing to find out and listen to these that will help you either snap up or lose top talent.

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Hiring & Managing Staff

Can staff training increase my turnover?

Can I afford to train my staff and maintain a profitable business?

Kirsty Chadwick




At last year’s Consumer Goods Council, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu stated, “Almost 80% of SMMEs fail in the first year and only 50% of those last more than five business years”. It is hard enough keeping your business on track, and having to train staff can be costly.

Related: (Infographic) Outsourced vs Online Training: What Actually Works?

With legislation now in place that makes this training obligatory, the pressure is immense.

How can I comply with the Employment Equity Act to train my staff?

The Employment Equity Act requires business owners to conduct staff training in the fields of HIV/AIDS, sexual harassment and cultural sensitivity. If these requirements are not met, an inspector from the Department of Labour may issue a fine of R500 000. These inspections can happen unannounced at any time.

How can one balance complying with this Act with the extra expenditure on staff training?

E-learning materials are customisable and can be edited for a targeted demographic of learners. Information can be adjusted if it changes, which in turn cuts costs of having to purchase new textbooks or print materials.

Using video, animation, text and audio inputs, many industries have discovered the value of making training interactive.

For employees with low literacy capabilities, compiling video material allows for a dramatic reduction in reading for learners.

Animation can be used to demonstrate complex problems and solutions. Able to provide lessons in its social context, it assists learners to retain large quantities of information.

Virtual Classrooms
A virtual classroom allows online interaction between students, teachers and peers. The major benefit of using this method is that it eliminates the need to travel to lessons.

Instructional Design
If your training needs are specific to your business, a customised e-learning solution can be designed and developed from start to finish to best suit your needs.

Related: Maximum Growth Through Top Teams

Blended Learning
Not everyone has adapted to using technology. Some learners still need human interaction to grasp a topic. If this is the case taking the route of blended learning, which combines digital with face-to-face, would be most appropriate.

There is e-learning material currently available on HIV/AIDS, sexual harassment and cultural sensitivity. The beauty of e-learning material is its adaptability to meet the needs of your workforce.

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Hiring & Managing Staff

What personality traits and qualifications do head hunters look for?

The age cut-off depends on the skills set the executive has to offer.

Auguste Coetzer



What personality traits and qualifications do head hunters look for when trying to fill a top executive position for a firm?

First and most important is displaying that you are able to walk in a fellow executives ‘moccasins’ (empathy not sympathy). Long-winded executives that cannot make a point will never make it to the ‘real’ top. Communication skills, whether verbal or written, are critical.

Integrity and honesty are well received. Even well seasoned executives sometimes cannot answer this question “what is the biggest mistake you have made in your life and how did you rectify it?” Executives must also be aware of their development areas.

Related: How important is internal communication in my business?

When it comes to qualifications, it very much depends on the industry. It is highly unlikely that the group CEO of a mining house would not hold a relevant mining degree from a reputable university coupled with an MBA. On a lighter note I cannot imagine the CEO of a well known wine, beer and spirits company not having a keen interest in wine tasting and not knowing the difference between a good or mediocre wine.

A solid basic university degree or a good B Tech degree from a technikon is only an entry point not a guarantee to success, similarly a prestigious MBA might raise your profile, but at the end of the day if it cannot be applied optimally in the work place then that prestigious qualification is only good on paper.

Work history and a proven track record are very important when considering candidates. Good executives are not ‘job hoppers’. Executives that have steadily climbed the ladder with the same employer is a positive. To change jobs just for better remuneration is a no go. Hard core competencies are non-negotiable.

It is not the number of years that is important, but the knowledge you have gained during those years you worked and what change or turnaround record you have to offer to a prospective employer. One can have ten years experience, but in fact only have one year repetitive experience.

Officially age should not matter, but it would very much depend on the retirement age policy of the organisation at the older age spectrum. The pendulum is returning to where companies would consider a 55 year old for executive level employment.

At the younger end of the scale it would depend on the position requirements. The determining factors being qualifications, competencies and most importantly emotional intelligence.

Related: Do I need to invest heavily in expensive technology in order to let my staff work flexible hours?

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