Up-skilling, an essential ingredient to Competitive Advantage

11 April 2014 - Progression recently hosted an interactive and informative breakfast workshop which focused on adding 'colour' to the Skills Development Element of the revised B-BBEE scorecard. The main purpose of the workshop was to have an intimate and debated discussion on the effects on business brought about by the revised codes and the best route to maximise points on the Skills Development element of the triple-BEE scorecard. The workshop also explored the multiple forces affecting business practise today and how using the codes as a guideline towards transformation can drastically improve an organisation's sustainable competitive advantage.

Tarryn Mason, General Manger at Progression and Julia Wilkinson, the company's Organisational Development Manager were able to shed some light on the revised codes, but more importantly highlighted the necessity for the 'bigger picture' of Skills Development.

Tarryn began begun by introducing the new codes and some of the changes that have occurred regarding the points allocation of Skills Development expenditure. With this she went on to explain in more detail the effects on business in meeting the subminimum of 40% to achieve the 10 points. She highlighted that where, previously Skills Development expenditure was required to be spent on black employees, the revised codes now refer to black people for spending on the Learning Programme Matrix. This opens up the door to expenditure on up-skilling people who are not necessarily employed by the company, which may previously have been classified as Social Economic Empowerment as per the codes, and can now have points attributed to the Skills Development element (however, this does not allow for double pointing). Another aspect as one of the main advantages of the new codes is the fact that racial sub group targets need not be applied for people with disabilities, furthermore companies will receive an extra point for their spend on black employees with disabilities moving forward. There was much debate at the workshop over the interpretation of the codes, testament to the fact that there is a lot of ambiguity relating to the new codes and how best to implement them.
However the conclusion drawn, was that B-BBEE acts as a guideline for transformation. As Tarryn states, "Organisations need to remain focused on the 'spirit' and intention of the B-BBEE codes rather than how best to interpret the codes." Julia, supports this by reminding everyone that implementing a 'best practise' model in the workplace is a critical step toward effectively managing B-BBEE

Julia introduced to the workshop the multi-platform stage which businesses find themselves performing on in the 21st century and the need to implement a total Skills Development solution. There are numerous dynamics which have an impact on organisations which are listed below.
The emergence and necessity for knowledge workers along with a multicultural and diverse workforce. "It is no longer common for people to graduate, get a job and work in the same job for 20 years, companies require employees to have multiple skills, and workers are motivated by career growth and development opportunities" states Julia, highlighting the need for new and versatile skills. Empowering people has brought about a culture of lifelong learning and a commitment to empowerment in business practise. The cross-pollination of skills of employees has also become a trend in business. Job roles require a more diverse display of skills and therefore more flexible organisational structures.
She also brought to everyone's attention the existence of five generation types in the workplace (according to the Strauss-Howe generational theory which describes the silent generation, baby boomers, generation X, generation Y and the Millennial generation). Organisations, therefore, need to be able to engage and interact with workers on various interactive levels according to their individual values, work style and learning style.

Julia pointed out that all of these trends are reflected in the increased focus on Skills Development in the B-BBEE scorecard and are necessary for companies to consider in their quest for transformation and a sustainable competitive advantage.

The Progression 3-step cyclic model, which was introduced at the workshop, proposes a holistic approach to Skills Development, whilst considering the bigger picture of the organisation. Although each and every organisation is unique in its makeup and therefore its needs, a general outline of the model's main intentions are described below.

1. Understanding Existing Human Capital
As with all strategic management and planning, before companies can start thinking about what they want to do or where they want to go they need to understand where they are at. As Julia pointed out, "often companies are already meeting certain requirements according to the codes without them realising so", and it would therefore be wiser for those businesses to build smarter strategies in order to maximise points. "It is only when you understand in its entirety where you are, that you can offer direction and guidance to where you need to go." The practical implications of phase one involves conducting skills audits and employment equity reporting, so that companies can understand both their demographic make-up as well as the skills pool available.

2. Implementation of accredited Skills Development Initiatives
The main purpose of this is to develop further, the skills and talents of the organisation's human capital, as per the Learning Programme Matrix supplied by the codes. However this is often the most challenging and resource consuming aspect of the process, and where the interpretation of the codes can be difficult. It is here where Progression specialises in project managing and facilitating Skills Development initiatives with the overall effect of removing much of the tedious 'admin' work involved. Julia reminds companies in this step to consult and build relationships with their rating agencies to ensure the initiatives that they are implementing will obtain the necessary 'points' and recognition required by the business, as each rating agency may have a different interpretation of the codes.

3. Support and Value add solutions
The last and most important, yet sometimes the most overlooked phase. It is often here that organisations lose sight of the bigger picture in terms of transformation, and it is at this stage that the true sustainability of the Skills Development strategy is facilitated. "Companies need to start retaining their employees and encourage employee embeddedness" Julia states, followed by "How do we create happy employees? How do we convince employees that we, as an organisation are training for development rather than training just for-B-BBEE". Tarryn and Julia both pointed out the necessity for creating career paths for employees in order to ensure staff retention. Julia also made a point that many organisations already implement many types of non-accredited support and value adds, which they need to more effectively plan and track to ensure that they can gain 'points' for the on-the-job training and mentoring taking place.

As with all things at Progression the workshop ended with an interactive Skills Development game, which was used to further unpack and shed light on the particular aspects relating to the Learning Programme Matrix and the interpretation of the revised codes. The game was facilitated by Progression's four Business Development Consultants; Imogen Rossam, Candice Abrahams, Christia Lerm and Evile Poswa. The game offered a great opportunity for everyone present to get a better understanding of the practical aspects of Skills Development in relation to the codes, as well as an opportunity to share their ideas and opinions.

The model proposed by Progression can be adapted to any business, and often incorporates already existing aspects of Skills Development initiatives within the company. In order to allow businesses the opportunity to maximise the use of this strategy, Progression will be offering on going Skills Development workshops which will be tailor made to suite individual business requirements. For further information or to book a workshop for your company please email julia@progression.co.za or call 0860 754 557 (SKILLS).

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