Currently, South Africa finds itself firmly embedded in a labour misery due to, amongst other reasons, the reactive management of labour relations, despite the existence of the consensus-seeking NEDLAC and its pursuit of a non-adversarial employment relationship. The symptoms, to claim that the system has failed, are available in surplus. Signs are mostly found in the caseload of the CCMA and Bargaining Councils and the terrifying Global Competitiveness Indicators (GCI) of the South African Labour Market. The Global Competitiveness Indicator continuously downgrades the hiring and firing practices (129th/141) and the cooperation in labour- employer relations (139th/141) of South Africa. The consequences of these devastating figures are further evident in the record-high 30.1% unemployment rate, the inability to create job opportunities, poverty and inequality, labour productivity (- 2.1%) and labour units costs (160.50 points). These results are despite the World Economic Forum having hailed the South African Labour Legislation Framework as one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation in the world. Ironically, however, this seems where the blunder originated.
General complaints received, with regards to the South African Labour Laws, are that they are counterproductive to small business development or are merely there to protect the employee. As a result of this overly pessimistic interpretation of the Labour Law, a division between them and we developed which turned into a business opportunity for employee and employer representatives. What seems to gone have to array and completely misinterpreted is the fact that the South African Labour Laws are seeking to develop social corporatism through employee participation.
Employee participation is defined as a process of interaction whereby employees, directly or indirectly, can influence decision-making. Thus, their power, status, remuneration and working conditions are affected. Employee participation embodies four key objectives:
- The enhancement of human dignity
- Promote productivity at the workplace
- Extend democracy to the workplace
- Promote economic development on a regional or national level
Given these objectives, it seems that employee participation appears to provide the answer to all the distressing news shared earlier. Yet, none of it seems to be in place. Therefore, the question to ask is whether the current disaster comes down to a simple non–compliance on behalf of an employer. But, without putting the cart before the horse, let us try to reach consensus on the matter.
In essences, these objectives address the indispensable need for creating a womb of psychological safety in the workplace. Although a much easier goal to obtain in smaller businesses, Richard Branson, Simon Sinek and others have repeatedly addressed the importance of forming (reasonable) psychological safety at work. Psychological safety is mostly achieved through strategies such as transparent communication, servant leadership and trust development. Simon Sinek, however, takes into consideration that it is much easier to accomplish in smaller business communities ( i.e. SMMEs). Regardless, these strategies can result in harmonious relationships and a family-type atmosphere. The size of the general SMEs makes it possible to create flexible and tailor-made procedures, which are essential for the success of SMEs. Thus, SMEs have little reason against the establishment of relational contracts with their employees and to encourage clear communication. Employees, on the other hand, have little right not to reciprocate by meeting the specific hope of their employer.
The beginning of creating such psychological safety, to encourage innovation and problem solving organisational cultures, is found in the understanding of the typology of needs in a business. Each business has three different types of needs; corporate, employee and management need. Each of these needs wants to be responded to, understood and met. The reality is, however, that the category of needs mostly considered and met are those of the organisation. The organisation needs money to survive. Thus the drive for profit has to take preference even at the disadvantage of other needs. But again, the reality is, that some, and at the moment most, SMMEs are no longer profitable. Thus, several businesses are rendered non-profitable and are most likely to close down, leaving an increasing number of employees unemployed. The effects of unemployment on the economy and the well-being of the greater South African society are currently extemley obvious.
Especially in the time of a global pandemic, we will want to ensure our survival. The drive for survival is not an opinion, but embedded in science. When threatened, we do anything possible to ensure our survival, which can manifest in stealing, strikes, killings and many more kinds of social unrest. Tackling such events is a challenge for anyone involved. It is a challenge that is beyond the fixing of any SMME. It is, however, within the power of businesses to ensure the peace and prosperity within their direct business community. We merely need to start understanding and respecting each other’s needs, which, of course, can be a challenge. Especially, when we find ourselves surrounded by colleagues and employees who do not share our purpose and cause in life.
Finding those that share your life’s purpose is ensures that your road is aligned with the streets of another. We are social beings and cannot survive on our own. Therefore, ensuring internal alignment between your business strategy and employee relation strategies are the first step in ensuring that your business community are prospering. What is more, someone who shares your purpose and cause is likely to share in the sacrifices required to make the common goal and reason happen. Imagine a company whose objective is to provide nutritious yet affordable food packages. The same company engages its business community to join a cause and as a result, impacting the life of the friends and families of their employees. Imagine, the same company was hit hard by Covid-19 and had to consider lay-offs to ensure their community services can continue.
Now, imagine the willingness of this business community to continue the pursuit of staying true to their cause. Such a commitment might be presented in terms of accepting short- time, reduced salary packages, reduced businesses expenses and others. Individuals with the same purpose are more likely to do anything to ensure the business, and its broader community impact, to survive.
Beginning with, why does more than merely finding the reasons why people come together to work towards something more significant. It ensures commitment, loyalty and, most importantly, survival. A common purpose and cause, however, requires constant upkeep, either through correct recruitment, development and performance management or leadership strategies. Like so many other aspects of life, the best results in life do not happen overnight. They also do not stay forever unless proactively encouraged to remain. In other words, no pursuit for purpose or cause, in an attempt to understand the typology of needs, is worth the effort and work if the reason behind it is not a genuine concern for the individuals impacted by a given business venture.