Blue Sky Thinking

One of my favourite things is strolling along the Hermanus cliffs during the summer holidays and doing some Blue Sky Thinking. Some of my best ideas have been conceived on those paths- including my business, PeopleWise. I thought it might be useful to give you some ideas to include in your Blue Sky Thinking this holiday, from an HR perspective….

1. Vision and Mission

It amazes me how many organisations don’t have a formalised vision and mission- I always wonder how management, and perhaps more importantly their employees, know where they’re heading and what they should be personally doing to help get the organisation there. As the old saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

So ask yourself… what vision do you have for your organisation; what do you want your company to become and achieve nationally or internationally? Where is your organisation currently placed in the industry, do you wish to change that and if so to what and how? What specifically do you want to achieve over the next 1, 3 and five years- changing your current focus, penetrating a new sector, developing a new department??

How are you going to get there- do you need to take on a new partner, find new staff, develop existing staff?

Set a maximum of five achievable goals for each timeframe- 1, 3 and 5 years. Ensure that these goals are measurable and decide how they are going to be measured and when. Look at who is going to help you achieve these goals and what you need to do to help these individuals give their best effort- communication is a good place to start.

The important thing is to WRITE THESE THOUGHTS DOWN at the end of your walk/ fishing/ diving or whatever it is you’re doing; and when you get back in the new year talk them over with your partners and managers, formalise them into Company documents and most important- communicate them to your staff asking for their ideas, thoughts and how they think they could contribute to achieving the objectives.

2. Succession Planning

If you or one of your top achievers/ account managers was hit by a bus this holiday- would your business be able to continue, or would it die too? Not something one likes to think about but really vital for those left behind. There are 2 ways to look at this-

a. firstly from a financial perspective if you were to die, your partners would need to pay your beneficiaries the value of your share of the business- this could be hundreds of thousands of rands and could potentially bankrupt an organisation. So make sure you have a very good Buy and Sell Agreement in place- in essence partners take out life insurance on each other so if one passes away the others have the funds to pay out the beneficiaries. Another good thing to have in place is Key Man Insurance- here you take out life insurance on an important manager or contributor to the organisation- if this person were to die the organisation would be significantly impacted in terms of potential lost accounts/sales/ product development etc and it would take time and money to find and or train a new person to fill the position. Key Man Insurance will pay out a lump sum to finance the procedure.

b. from a people perspective: ideally if a key employee, manager or partner were to die or leave your organisation suddenly, another member of your existing staff should be able to step in and take over the position fairly easily. What this means is that you need to identify these key positions and ensure that other staff members understand exactly what the position entails and how to carry out the key tasks. The best starting point for this is to develop comprehensive job descriptions and use these to identify key performance areas. Then you look at what training you will need to send appropriate staff members on so you can develop a cross skilled pool- this will also come in very handy when employees go on annual, sick or maternity leave.

3. Your staff and skills planning

One of the best books I ever read was ‘The E-Myth Revisited’- I’m sure a lot of you have read it, if not get your hands on a copy- its great for SMME’s and potential entrepeneurs. One of the messages that come out of the book is that you have to develop your business to work independently of you and the only way you can do this is if your staff can run your business just as well, if not better than you can. So look at your staff- are they being utilised in the most effective manner? Have you asked them where they would like to see themselves in the organisation? Consider sending staff on psychometric testing to ensure that you are utilising their specific skills in the most effective manner. Are there areas of weakness or potential that training would result in happier and more effective staff members? Just remember that you can claim significant grants from your SETA to help you finance this training. Plus if you’re upskilling people of colour the cost of this training will count on your BEE Scorecard as an additional benefit.

I hope this has given you a few seeds for thought and that you have a wonderful holiday. Happy Blue Sky Thinking- just watch your feet!

Warm wishes,

Claire Stewart

Tel: (031) 266 8194
Fax: 086 610 8131
Mobile: 082 857 9396