Davies Ndumiso Sibanda
MANY companies and organisations fail to meet their performance targets because they do not value their people, they see them as a problem and do not value them as assets.
After Marikana incident in South Africa many organisations woke up to the need to invest in people management and various planned maintenance programmes were put in place to maintain human capital better in order to get better returns.
Smart organisations even in times of economic challenges do not cut their expenditure on people management interventions but increase involvement in the training of the whole workforce in human relations and work management.
Not long ago I met a chief executive officer (CEO) who said despite using threats of dismissal and retrenching some managers, his heads of department are not managing to get workers to perform but there is an upsurge of labour litigation, wildcat strikes, go slows, absenteeism, pant breakdown, poor time keeping and many other undesirables.
When we did an investigation of the problem, we established that the senior management team had no people management skills and their knowledge of labour relations and labour law was thin and they were failing to thread labour relations into the total business plan.
The CEO had never sat in the Works Council and as such he had not taken the labour relations temperature himself.
He boasted that he read all the Works Council minutes and trusted them as the Workers Committee are using the Works Council as a begging forum.
When we spoke to the workers’ leaders they alleged that management victimises them and do not take them seriously thus they now rely on the union to take their employer head on if they have issues.
The workers said whenever they need lawyers they privately contribute for legal fees for the lawyers to drag their employer to court where in most cases the employer sobers up when he loses a case or settles before the matter is heard.
Such approach creates an unstable labour relations environment where parties rely on litigation when such is ordinarily an option of last resort in labour dispute resolution and in most cases even after a judgment in favour of one of the parties, the problem does not go away.
On looking at the history of disciplinary cases we discovered that the employer used untrained managers to preside over disciplinary cases and most of the times factual errors and legal errors occurred.
This resulted in workers losing confidence in the internal discipline process and saw internal hearings as a “bus stop” on the way to the Labour Court where workers were winning most cases leaving the employer with a huge labour litigation related bill.
This has led some managers to fear discipline handling, which workers had noted and had taken advantage of to engage in misconduct.
Workers have taken advantage of the ineffective Works Council to escalate even minor issues to the National Employment Council (NEC) for the industry thus leaving a lot of operational decisions in the hands of the NEC designated agents thus compromising the employer’s control of decision making and productivity. Such an environment does not arise if the organisation’s selection process focuses on both work and people management skills.
Senior management and the technical skills are less important to people management skills. Further, organisations have to invest in skills development across the board so that all in supervisory positions are adequately equipped.
Members of the Workers Committee and Works Council should be adequately trained so as to be able to execute their duties properly.
Gone are the days when people would sit in the Works Council without proper training.
All councillors must understand the law governing the running of a Works Council as the nerve centre for people management and as a labour law making body at the workplace and as such for it to add value to the organisation it must be properly managed.
Many CEOs who are successful, one of their main pillars of success is the use of the Works Council to create enabling environment for doing business.
In conclusion, where problems mentioned earlier occur in the majority of cases it points to the quality of leadership in the organisation and how effectively they utilise available people management tools.
Workers generally come to work and not cause problems, however where there are obstacles whether real or perceived, workers are likely to create an unstable work environment where performance targets cannot be met, the image of the organisation gets tarnished and the organisation loses focus on its main business.
Davies Ndumiso Sibanda can be contacted on: email: [email protected] or cell No: 0772 375 235