Moving skills to the next level

From humble beginnings in Durban in 1902, Barloworld has grown to become a global player, taking market leader status in virtually every sphere in which it operates.

Through four divisions—Barloworld Automotive, Barloworld Equipment, Barloworld Handling and Barloworld Logistics—the company currently has operations in 26 countries around the world with approximately half of its 19 000-strong staff based in South Africa.

“Like people, companies that live for a century have something special within them.
In our case, it is encapsulated in a single word: durability. We are a company that endures. We endure because we are able to adapt and change to meet the challenges of our changing environment. We know we face an increasingly turbulent and uncertain world. We stand ready to meet every challenge that confronts us. We are ready and proud to make our contribution to shaping a better future,” the group says.

The company says it has recognised that the achievement of its vision and sustainable value creation objectives rests on the ability of its people. According to Barloworld, attracting, developing and retaining talented and globally competitive employees is central to ensuring competence and intellectual capital within the group. This objective is achieved through focused talent identification, recruitment, individual employee development plans, career pathing, training and development programmes, competitive reward systems and careful succession planning.

The skills scare
Nevertheless, a shortfall in strategic employee skills has been identified as a high ranking risk in the organisation given the ambitions reflected in its vision and strategic focus areas, particularly in terms of the group’s financial returns and growth aspirations.

The company’s 2009 Top Risks report included strategic employee skills amongst its 10 primary threats. This document acknowledges that Barloworld’s key asset is the intellectual capacity and skills of its employees. Ongoing management of the challenges regarding recruitment, succession planning, skills retention and development is required within the group, the report states.

Accordingly, the group has implemented several initiatives to mitigate its skills risk, including a comprehensive employee approach and related set of initiatives to align employees with the strategy of the organisation. These identify and align all employee elements of the organisation to ensure sustainable intellectual capacity and value creation competence.

With the use of performance management systems, an employee’s purpose, role, function and accountabilities are defined. Employees are regularly reviewed using competency-based assessments, to ensure the appropriate skill sets are available to enable performance at optimum levels. Extensive training resources and facilities are in place to assist and encourage employees to enhance their levels of competence and performance.

An appropriate suite of reward and incentive schemes ensures recognition, value creation for employees and retention of high-performing employees. These focused initiatives and arrangements have minimised the negative effects of diffi cult economic conditions on employees and the company’s skill base, Barloworld says. They also ensure the required skills are in place to optimise any opportunities presented by improved economic circumstances.

Down to the numbers
Like many businesses, Barloworld was compelled to reduce its workforce during 2010 due to difficult economic conditions. However, the group remained mindful of its skills requirements once economic conditions improved and relevant interventions were conducted accordingly. Overall investment in training and development also required a cutback falling from R121.9-million in 2009 to R80.5-million in the 2010 fi nancial year.

As a result the group focused its initiatives, continuing to invest in the skills required for its identifi ed growth objectives. This meant a proportional increase in investment in the skilled and middle management categories. The group conducts an Intellectual Capital Review on an annual basis, considering employees’ careers. As part of this process, group CEO Clive Thomson reviews the positions and performance of the most senior employees in the organisation, including those in critical positions, to ensure succession in critical roles, appropriate careers and development of key individuals.

Similar processes are conducted at each of the company’s four divisions to eff ectively manage and develop senior managers by identifying high-potential employees with leadership ability. With the use of benchmarking, future training and development interventions are evaluated and developed for these individuals.

Delivering the goods
Barloworld’s portfolio of training programmes include apprenticeships, learnerships, management and leadership development programmes, technical skills and sales skills, all of which develop lifelong skills and ensure the ongoing employability of employees. The group also conducts appropriate career-end programmes. These include retirement planning,
financial planning and life-skills.

Developed in conjunction with leading universities, Barloworld’s leadership and executive development programmes are usually run on an annual basis. These programmes provide considerable opportunities to develop and groom identified talent, future leaders, senior managers and executives required by the group to fulfi l its value creation objectives. Delegates are exposed to the strategic framework and aspirations of the group, global best practice and required leadership characteristics and behaviour.

A key aspect of these programmes is the Action Learning Projects. Teams of delegates are tasked with evaluating issues which have been identifi ed as being strategically important for the group. Formal feedback is given to group executives, including the group and divisional CEOs. In many instances these projects are incorporated into the strategic plans and operations of the relevant division.

To date 96 employees have completed the Executive Development Programme and 414 the Leadership Development Programme. Both programmes are scheduled to run in 2011. These programmes have an important role in addressing the group’s diversity commitments and promoting synergies and commonality between employees and business units, the company says.

The 2010 Leadership Development Programme was attended by delegates from all divisions and comprised 31 males, 14 females and even representation between black and white South Africans. Other development programmes within the group include the motor retail and Avis Rent a Car’s Management Development Programmes.

These courses are aimed at developing a diverse set of managers and future leaders and cover a broad framework of topics from vehicle preparation, emotional intelligence, finance, customer satisfaction and strategy. The Barloworld Global Leaders Conferences also have a significant role to play in developing the sustainable competence and intellectual capital that the group requires to achieve its vision.

Getting technical
Given the nature of the group, technical skills development remains a high priority despite the diffi cult economic conditions. Significant learnerships and apprentice programmes were maintained during 2010 to ensure the required skills are available to support present and future opportunities.

Barloworld Automotive currently trains over 330 apprentices, of which 83% are black and 6% female. These constitute more than 15% of the black and 21% of the female apprentices in the South African industry. Barloworld Equipment Southern Africa has 434 learnerships. In total there are 1 086 learnerships and apprentices in the group. The Barloworld Equipment Technical Academy and accommodation block have hosted and trained in excess of 2 500 learners from Barloworld’s southern African territories.

The academy not only focuses on learnerships but is utilised for technical training courses for artisans and technical graduates and diplomates. A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Ekurhuleni West College to provide a four-week bridging course in powertrain and hydraulics for National Qualification Framework 3 learners at the College to improve their practical readiness for employment.

Barloworld Equipment’s training staff will work with educators from Ekurhuleni West College to improve the syllabus so that learners can be provided with skills more relevant to today’s industry needs. In total, Barloworld has 3 400 artisans and technicians as well as 2 200 graduates and diplomates. It is also supporting 202 employees who are studying towards degrees or diplomas.

Says Barloworld chairman Dumisa Ntsebeza: “Companies stand or fall by the calibre of their people. There are many reasons why people want to join certain companies. It may be because they have proud histories or impeccable reputations, they are innovative, have a culture of diversity, develop skills, or offer a wealth of opportunity. I believe Barloworld does all these things. That is why we attract and retain special people.”

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