Emerging HR Practices

The Role of Human Resource Management in South Africa

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Human resources management in South Africa role is gradually changing in today’s organizations and this requires professionals to get well equipped with the challenging role in a complex environment. The complex environment is characterized with uncertainty in the world markets, as organizations today are affected with globalization. The HR role in the past was administrative, but today in South Africa organizations have realized that in order a company to gain a competitive advantage, an employee’s uniqueness should be considered, with reference to what the company intends to achieve.

The past decade has also seen dramatic increases in the understanding of the relationship of Human Resources Management practices and firm performance. Consequently, Human Resource Management in South Africa is now seen as a major competitive advantage that cannot be copied readily by one’s competition. To win competitive advantage, companies invest in HR activities hoping to get better results from the overall performance of the business. In his way, companies would have to find ways to measure the contribution of Human Resources.

Senior executives once considered HR a “soft,” unavoidable cost of doing business, responsible for compensation, employee transactions, company functions, workforce problems, and legal issues. Three factors changed this perception: the significant impact of high-performance Human resources management, the implications of poorly performing HR, and soaring HR operating expenses. These factors have led to an increased demand and focus on HR metrics.

Urich (1997) asserts that the role of the Human Resource Practitioners has shifted to that of a strategic partner, a change agent and an employee champion.

The strategic role of Hr

The professionals have to work closely with the line managers when carrying out plans for the organization. This calls for the human resource management role to be strategic, which means that their role should formulate and implement plans which are long run success and which enable the organization to gain competitive advantage in the global market. Some Organizations have realized the importance of aligning their business processes with the vision, goals and the purpose of the organization, hence they have implemented the balanced score card.

A balanced score card is a management tool which focuses not only on financial outcomes but also on the operational, marketing and developmental inputs to these, the Balanced Scorecard helps provide a more comprehensive view of a business, which in turn helps organizations act in their best long-term interests. Financial measures are useful but they tend to measure the past and they tend to measure the easily measurable. They are thus unbalanced measures taking a particular view of a situation. They also often tell us what has happened but fail to explain why it has happened. They may suggest where things are going wrong, but again often fail to highlight where things are going well.Hence both financial and non-financial aspects of the organization should be put in to account in trying to bring out the balanced view of the organization.

Strategy which is at the heart of the process is derived from an organisation’s vision and mission. The strategy determines what is to be measured, and measures are often referred to as key performance indicators (KPIs), which will be used to determine progress towards achieving the strategic aims

The mission of water Utilities Corporation is to provide a quality water service that is, providing both quality and the service that accompanies its delivery to the customer. The vision is to become a reliable, innovative and customer focused organization, where the customer interest is deeply entrenched in its vision statement and that customer service delivery plays a pivotal role in the success of the corporation.

The Balanced scorecard is tool that organizations today have adopted to implement their strategy. The original concept was developed by Kaplan & Norton and it’s premised on the notion that for an organization to do well, it has to have a comprehensive view of a business which does not only focus on financial outcomes but is also focused on its customers, processes and people. For this reason, the Balanced Scorecard is used to manage performance based on four perspectives namely:

• Financial perspective
• Customer & Market perspective
• Internal Business Process perspective
• Learning and Growth perspective

When using the Balanced Scorecard to manage performance, strategic objectives have to be developed under each perspective at a corporate level. This is then referred to as the corporate scorecard. Thereafter Departments/Business units would then develop their scorecards and these have to be used to develop individual scorecards. In this manner we would they ensure alignment of an organization strategy with human resource management.


  1. hi
    im a student and im researching about the challangies in South African Human Resources for both public and private sector
    If u cn please forward me Links of the above mentioned Statement.
    Yours Sincerlly

  2. It seems to be a universal theme, the need for HR are to build the capability for the organisation to succeed in to-day’s fast changing, unpredictable world. Does South Africa have a particular perspective on this and on the future of HR? Are there lessons from Africa to inform the global debate? Who should I talk to to gain a perspective – is it possible to generalise or see trends?

    Many thanks, John Herbert, Executive Director, the European HR Forum

    • Admin Reply

      Hi John, thanks for your comment. I think that South Africa is starting to realise the importance that people can give to the success of an organisation. Therefore the future of HR is of extreme importance to the sustainability of this country. There are a lot of skills lacking in the country, and I think it is up to HR to align the goals of the organisation to what skills, training and other solutions that are required. Gone are the days where HR people should be thought about sitting in a back office doing nothing all day (only putting out fires when necessary). The future should see HR getting involved in all aspects of the business and actually being proactive in their response to the problems that exist in organisations today.

  3. hi, i can’t say much but that i am g man gumede and i love 2 be an HR but the problem i don’t know much about the job. I would love to know more cause i going to university and i got to make sure i am picking the right job for me. i would be highly greatful if you could advice me on what i must do. thank you

  4. Mokwena MV Reply

    hi,first of all you need to know what kind of job you want to be in.As am saying these to you i was like you,but now am at varsity doing HR and i love it.All i can say is that follow your heart,never give up find more information then you will be fine if not you can change the career asap.

  5. I believe that HR Professionals are still in many industries facing the reality that HR is still only seen as an administrative function; dealing with employee complaints.
    Those organizations should realize that they are refusing interest in a function that should be seen as one of the greatest assets the company has. In my opinion it starts
    with Top Management that needs to change their view in becoming more familiar with what HR is all about, make a study of its various functions and realize how it can add value to the organization.
    Surely one needs to understand a Department and its value before creating such a department. Although administration and employee issues are a big part of HR, other areas have extremely
    important value. These include conceptualizing the recruitment process in finding the right people with the right skills, experience and qualifications and employing them in line with the organizations
    future goals combined with providing a healthy induction session. Taking your workforce and analyzing performance of individual staff members that should be measured against specific requirements, identifying individual
    needs and attending to those needs, providing training both internally and externally and focus on having mentors in departments that will provide guidance. It entails allowing staff to receive feedback on performance
    and to provide rewards for great achievers, brining key staff in line with business decisions to create a sense of belonging and to allow for creativity to flow with suggestions, concerns and ideas. The functions should focus
    on benchmarking to ensure that market related salaries are paid and that benefits are available to all, as this provides job security and satisfaction, which in return increases performance levels. It focuses on career advancement
    and therefore succession planning which in return help employees to grow into more responsible positions that will expand the skills and knowledge of the workforce to better service the business and what it ultimately focuses
    on achieving. The function has a lot more value than what has been mentioned; and I would personally like organizations to start investing in HR by understanding the function and its ultimate value.

  6. Mondli Mzulwini Reply

    well am a student at Durban university of technology (D.U.T).WELL according the statutory guidelines that are placed for the public administrator in south African should be flying high in terms of service delivery and the attitude of the public servants. well i say it with sadness that we are not even half way to attaining what all these act are trying to drive us to…..

  7. Macharia Stephen Reply

    the topic is quite important especially to other African Countries. The role of HR must come out right if the any country is to fully develop

  8. HR management comes with understanding how to use some of the more common applicant tracking solutions and processes for managing candidates who apply for positions. With this comes keeping on top of the new tech that is emerging on an almost weekly basis.

  9. I am bafana I want to start hr company I want to know how to convince of the impantance of hr I want that wow moment that could make business owners say I realy need that

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