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Region’s HR sector must catch up, says South African expert

The Middle East must develop its human resources if it’s to compete on the world stage, or face irrelevance according to one of South Africa’s leading human resource consultants.
“The Middle East, like South Africa, is a developing economy that has good infrastructure and enough resources to solve many of its problems,” said Ian Mann, Managing Director of South Africa’s Gateway Business Consultants and a best-selling author.

“However, this region must catch up to the rest of the world in terms of HR management.”

“There is no reason why underdeveloped countries cannot compete with developed ones economically in specific areas. The key is to find certain areas and become the best in the world at them.”

Mann, who is to speak at the Human Resources International 2003 conference (HRI 2003), which will be held at the Jumeirah Beach Convention Center in Dubai from 1-3 March, believes the Middle East can greatly benefit from the South African experience.

“South Africa bears a greater resemblance to the Middle East than any other area I know. There is little that can be learned from the great economies of the world and even less from the undeveloped. South Africa has had some remarkable successes that are transferable to this region.”

According to Mann, the way the Middle East utilizes its people will impact upon its level of success making HR a key element. He says the way to leverage the most from this sector is to ensure HR strategy and aligned to an organization’s overall business goals.

“Strategy is relevant in every part of business. HR professionals need to be very clear as to what value they can add to business. Then they need to ensure their activities are aligned to that strategic intent so as to maximize the impact they have on the company. HR should contribute to the bottom line and not become a cost center. Strategic alignment offers the key,” he said.

He went on to say the importance of HR is often overlooked. “We talk about how people are our greatest assets and then we either treat them shabbily or ignore them. HR should maximize the return on the investment a company has made in its people, by getting people more committed, skilled and productive. It is not merely important to an organization, it is mission critical.”

Mann says strategic alignment brings focus to an organization’s HR initiatives. “HR strategy should allow an organization to focus on those areas which deliver a company the most value and, by doing that, make a meaningful impact.”

According to Mann, HR strategy is not only for multi-national corporations, but for smaller businesses.

“It is something that many of the ‘big boys’ do but it is more critical to SMBs only because, unlike the larger firms, they cannot afford to have under performing staff. Five under performers out of a staff of 500 is an irritation, out of a staff of 15 or 50 it is a catastrophe.”

Mann went on to warn of the common mistake many organizations make. “In my experience, the most overlooked issue is the difference between strategy and operations.

People are so busy running about and filling in the forms and organizing the training and hiring and firing, that they don’t have time to think strategically.

“And then those who understand the difference, strategize badly—wasting time on the tired old ‘mission vision and values,’ stuff that no one does anything with, let alone lives by, it is just a waste of time and energy.

“The right way is not to reinvent the wheel, but to use a tried and proven methodology that is focused, fast and efficient and gets the job of clarifying the way forward done effectively. People need ‘time out’ to think, and that is what this conference will offer.”

The HRI 2003, which is being organized by Fairs & Exhibitions (F&E), will outline how to plan, execute and maintain comprehensive HR strategies and tactics.

Designed specifically to address issues in a multi-cultural society, the program will draw upon regional and international case studies, highlighting the traps and pitfalls that have befallen others as well as the successes.

HRI 2003 will also feature an exhibition devoted to the best global HR practices. “The show will be a hitherto unparalleled regional showcase of the technology and skill sets now being utilized to address the strategic implications of meeting new era management challenges,” said Clive Richardson, CEO, F&E. “Keen interest in the event has emerged from throughout the USA, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.”

Amman,01 20 2003
The Star
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