Welcome to our blog (7)

We at The Human Resource Practice are crazy about Mindset and Behaviour - here we share what's on our minds about those 2 topics and what we are up to.

Value of measuring Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement has gone from being a novel idea and concept to something that organisations now regularly measure as part of their organisational health and wellbeing indicators. Even though there are some variations in how employee engagement is defined and what is measured, one thing is certain, the results not only give some analysis of the organisation’s health, and wellbeing, but also suggestions can be given on how to improve and what actions to take. Good Employee Engagement surveys measure more than employee benefits or rewards and consider all aspects of creating engagement at work.

The Human Resource Practice has been conducting employee engagement surveys since 2009 when we designed our own tool which we have been improving and using ever since incorporating elements of our climate and culture measures. In our experience, measuring and interpreting the results is the easy part, it’s what our clients do with the results and recommendations that make a difference in the organisation. 

We have noticed the following key considerations for the leadership team (and not just HR):

  • Conduct the survey – give everybody a chance to respond and really make everybody feel that their responses are wanted. Communication is key and even some small encouragement is welcome to motivate people. Confidentiality of responses is another important consideration, which is why internal surveys might not produce a high response rate. 
  • Feed back the results to everybody – this can be done with varying levels of detail depending on the responsibility level, but it is imperative that everybody should be given feedback on what came out of the survey and if possible given an opportunity to comment. Feedback is important, particularly if this measurement is planned to be a regular occurrence. People will remember that they never received feedback about the previous survey and are less inclined to participate again or give serious responses when completing the survey.
  • Take results and recommendations SERIOUSLY and make people aware that their voice has been heard and communicate what and how will be addressed. People first want to feel that they are listened to and then they want to know, what you are going to do about their grievance or concern etc. Not all “pain points” or recommendations can be addressed all at once and that’s ok, as long as at least something will be addressed this time and there is a plan to address the rest. Do make sure that you have some quick wins regarding the follow up regarding the survey.
  • After some time repeat the process again and again and again. It should be a regular measure as with everything around us, things change, people change and therefore also employee engagement levels and people’s concerns change.

Sometimes it seems that management teams agree to conduct these measurements because that’s a requirement or something that is done. Also they tend to expect the results to be better (even if they fear worse); somehow they expect the results to make them look and feel good. We have had numerous occasions where the management team rather pushes back than try to understand and embrace some of the results. They fail to understand that not everybody thinks like them, or has the same information as them and experiences the workplace like they do. For us that’s the biggest obstacle for a successful and meaningful diagnostic exercise. Many a time it comes down to leaders’ ability to empathise and be willing to take on the feedback, even if they don’t agree with the results.

We have particularly avoided making employee engagement a responsibility of HR, as it isn’t (sure they can facilitate certain things and they can have their fair share of feedback). Employee Engagement is the whole organisation’s matter and every leader’s concern.

Manager's influence on employees' engagement levels

Numerous studies of employee engagement have identified the impact of the supervisor, manager or leader as one of the drivers of employee engagement (Baumruk, 2004, 2006; Kahn, 1990; Menguc et al., 2013; Strom et al., 2014; Tims et al., 2011; Tuckey, Bakker, & Dollard, 2012; Vincent-Höper et al., 2012; Xu et al., 2011); however, there are elements within a person’s work that can make them engaged and other aspects that can make them disengaged, hence creating fluctuations in their engagement levels.

We wanted to explore this theory in practice and in her recent masters’ research, Caryn Conidaris studied five cases of managers and their teams in terms of the coaching behaviours the managers used and engagement levels. One of the findings was around fluctuations in engagement and manager’s influence on that. Fluctuations in engagement occurred in all five of the cases studied and these fluctuations were caused by different factors, but most importantly including manager’s coaching behaviours or lack thereof.

In one case, the challenging context and budget cuts influenced engagement and raised stress levels for all the study respondents. People lost energy when value was not placed on their work and were energised when the manager coached them by explaining the big picture, creating new perspectives on delivering, used a sense of humour, and, utilised a deep reflective coaching practice.  In another case, the manager created an engaging environment through idea generation, brainstorming, coaching and feedback with the whole team and also made them laugh, which relieved stress of their otherwise time pressured environment. Work was swopped when someone was out of flow which provided relief.  In another case, the workload and stress of being under-resourced did not allow time for coaching by the manager which resulted in varying engagement levels.

Workplaces are complicated and it’s only natural that employees’ engagement levels fluctuate depending on what’s going on their lives, in the organisation, in their daily work. However, if managers want to increase their teams’ engagement levels, they need to be cognisant of not becoming the cause of lower engagement levels themselves or how their coaching behaviours can mitigate drop in engagement levels caused by other influences. Well-developed managerial coaching abilities have the potential to positively influence fluctuations in engagement levels no matter what causes them.

Now accredited to offer Generic Management Qualification on NQF Level 5

Expanding our portfolio!

We have always believed in skills development and empowering South African workforce. As seen in the media, there are limitations on people attending tertiary education full time, nevertheless, there are other ways to attain formal qualifications. 

One way is combining study and work, so that both will be prioritised, supporting each other and benefiting the learner as well as the company. This can be done through formal learnerships. 

We are glad to announce that The Human Resource Practice is now accredited training provider for National Certificate: Generic Management Registered Qualification 59201 on NQF level 5. Also able to offer elements of this qualification as standalone skills courses.

We have used our tried and tested learning methodologies and designed a practical adult learning experience that will entwine the workplace and learning needs. 

Training is dead; long live the Chief Learning Officer

The old way of training is becoming obsolete and so very 20th Century. Organisations need a Chief Learning Officer sitting in the C suite that will stimulate real organisational learning in order to, not just survive, but to thrive. The Chief Learning Officer will embrace a metalearning approach which will enable people to talk within and outside the organisation, learn, problem solve, innovate and collaborate. These skills may be learnt in a classroom but real learning happens outside in the workplace (Cross, 2009).

Metalearning is learning about the way that you learn. Metalearning improves the chances of surviving in hard economic times and to be top of your game in great times (Cross, 2009).  Mastery of the skills of collaborating and connecting creates innovation to deal with new and challenging situations. Innovation is created in collaboration of motivated and supported people, whilst repetitive tasks are being automated. People need to make quick decisions which means “knowing how to learn” and “learning on demand”. There will not be the luxury of time to work matters out. Workers need to be resourceful.

Think about these questions in relation to your workplace (Cross, 2009);

  • Are your people working, talking, gossiping, bragging, coaching, bargaining, learning, competing and playing? 
  • Are colleagues, employees, customers, stakeholders, partners, prospects, and total strangers talking, learning, problem solving, collaborating and innovating together?
  • Are people sharing or keeping information to themselves?
  • Is learning a separate activity to work or part of work?
  • Do people treat each other with respect and integrity or is there huge political playing?
  • Are people very busy or is there time for reflection?
  • Do rules drive the business or can people take risks?
  • Do people work on their own only or do they collaborate?

Controlling management is also dead as all stakeholders believe that “we’re all in this together“ (Cross, 2009). Silos and boundaries diminish as values of the network, transparency, peer power, togetherness, authenticity and risk taking creates a participative corporate culture. Learning is shifted from events to processes, to quick learning and an ongoing fascination with learning. The organisation accepts mistakes and learns from them.  The mantra is ‘Let’s not lose the lesson of the mistake’. A clear vision and inspirational leadership, along with multiple accesses to networks, will ensure agility and speed and in turn, enduring success.   

The Chief Learning Officer needs to enable all of this.


“It’s OK to lose, if you don’t lose the lesson”

(Cross, 2019, p. 51)


Freelance trainers, coaches and consultants needed

Johannesburg, Gauteng


We are always looking for good, experienced people to join our freelancers’ pool and currently are looking for the following roles in particular:

  • Performance coaches/facilitators/trainers who are vibrant, intelligent and fun.
  • Business executive coaches who are tertiary qualified, experienced and good value.
  • Senior consultants with system design and implementation experience in enterprise wide software with particular people focus, e.g. SAP, Oracle.
  • Job description writers, competency specialists, organisational design specialists, senior data analysts.

If you are interested in any of the above, contact us.


What can we learn from skin colour?

Humans have been adapting to different environments and changing conditions   since the beginning and this is a never stopping process. We are pretty good at that as species, but tend to forget it in our daily dealings and when faced with changes in our lives – both personal and work. 

Could our journey as human species inspire us to be more nimble and change resilient? One of the most visible evolutionary adaptions that humans have is skin colour.  

Different skin colours are a consequence of evolutionary adaptations which occur in different environments and how these adaptations prevail through natural selection.

Natural selection is an interaction between environment and organism. The organism has certain traits that are either beneficial or neutral or negative and work for or against the success of that organism in that environment.  

The basis of natural selection is that organisms undergo genetic changes.  The environment selects whether an existing or new trait will be beneficial in the new environment. Those organisms that have beneficial adaptations thrive in the new environment, whilst those that have destructive adaptations, cease to exist.  

Humans, just like other organisms go through adaptations, sometimes over millennia, which are neutral, beneficial or destructive.   

An example of the evolutionary adaptions in humans is skin colour. This adaption is driven by latitude or by where your ancestors came from in the world in terms of being further north or south of the equator.  The further from the equator you are, the more beneficial it is to have a lighter skin colour and vice versa. 

The skin has two elements that are critical in skin colour adaption process; Folic Acid and Melanin.  Melanin is a chemical which causes our skin to look darker or lighter - the more Melanin, the darker the skin. Melanin has also a more practical function, it blocks out Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays which can destroy Folic Acid in human cells.  Folic Acid, on the other hand is the fuel that drives cell replication, in other words, when cells die off and new cells are created, this means that a healthy level of Folic Acid is critical for a child bearing woman. This is why Folic Acid is often a supplement to pregnant women. 

People at the equator have lots of exposure to the sun, including Ultraviolet B rays, so having more Melanin in their skin helps to deal with the harmful effects of this exposure. In other words, the darker skin colour protects the Folic Acid in high UVB environments.  

Now UVB is not all bad for humans, it does stimulate the production of Vitamin D in the skin, which is essential for strong healthy bones.   If not enough UVB is absorbed, then Vitamin D is compromised. Since lighter skin absorbs UVB more easily the Vitamin D production is more efficient, whereas dark skin needs more UVB exposure in order to produce healthy levels of Vitamin D. So in areas with low UVB levels, lighter skinned people will be able to produce sufficient Vitamin D, but dark skinned people will suffer from Vitamin D deficiency.

That’s how skin colour has evolved in different Ultraviolet B environments where the balance between the production of Vitamin D and the protection of Folic Acid is perfect for the individual’s survival and reproduction. 

Today of course things have changed a bit from our forefathers. Nowadays people of different skin colours live in high and low UVB environments often with little effect on their health. This is because we have developed nutritional supplements and sun protection creams and lotions. We even find that we spend a lot more time indoors and have less exposure to the harmful UVB rays. So, again we have learned to adapt to survive in different environments, even if through external measures. 


What could this teach us in the world of work?

One way to look at it is that when environments change, we too need to change. Sometimes we make changes that precede new environments, and only once the new environment has arisen, do we see how beneficial the changes are. On other occasions it’s only once the environment has changed that we realise that we too need to change.  

Let’s take Uber for example; we all know that the Uber model has fundamentally shifted the way the taxi industry does business, in South Africa possibly more the metered taxi industry than the traditional mini-bus taxi industry. Uber’s adaptions to a way of operating, using technology as a basis, and has effectively changed the taxi environment. The traditional industry has been reactive or pushed back against these changes, to the extent that drivers/companies have resorted to violence to try and stop Uber operating in certain areas, but consumers have been embracing what Uber has brought to the market, so it would be very hard for taxi industry to just get rid of Uber and carry on business as usual. The status quo is no longer an option and the bottom line lesson for the traditional industry is - adapt or die! If the traditional metered taxi industry does not adapt the way it does business, it will go extinct. 

We need to be aware of our environments, aware of how we do things, and constantly assess whether adaptations are necessary, or essential. With the impact of technology on the world of work, you can almost be guaranteed your environment will change and the question then is: how able will you be to deal with that and adapt accordingly?

Would it surprise you to learn that we are already immersed in the 4th Industrial Revolution?

I should have been studying at the end of last year but instead I started collating and researching my family tree.  I read up on previous family members’ work and had fun doing internet search appreciating the issues of various ages and events of my ancestors.

What I learnt about my 1820 settler family who arrived in the now Eastern Cape,  is that they were based in England, and at that time, they were either peasants or craft people.  My one ancestor signed with a X on the documentation available on the internet.  The first (steam, water and mechanical production inventions) and second (division of labour, electricity and mass production) industrial revolution at that time displaced their skills and livelihood.  So they agreed to be part of an adventure for a new life in the colonies, where they were given a piece of land to farm, which sounded very attractive.  They had to pay to go, and if they could not, they were indentured to the more resourceful families on the ships that came out.  These ships were previously utilised in the Napoleonic wars and in a time of relative Franco-British peace, they needed new purpose:  taking displaced people to the ‘colonies’ made the ship owners happy for a while.    These 1820 settlers also provided a buffer to the Cape Colony with regards indigenous people who were forced to ‘share’ their land with these new people.

So why do I tell you this story of my ancestors?  Maybe our descendants will be telling similar stories in nearly 200 years’ time.   We are in the middle of the 4th Industrial revolution, where technology is having an impact in all aspects of our lives.  Some of us can remember the 3rd industrial revolution (electronics, IT, automated production) with the first computers and the use of the tele-fax machine.  Then the advent of the cell phone, e-mails and the internet.  Now our whole life is in that small smart phone in our hands.

The 4th industrial revolution is a number of continuous technologies that are implemented such as Nano technology, precision medicine, data-mining and analytics, and further automation of routine work previously done by people.  Computers are thinking for us.  This sounds like the futuristic movies of the past.

The big question is what does this mean for us, both as an individual and as an organisation?  

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