/ 8 November 2013

Inspiring the new revolution

IPM Annual Convention 2013 delegates in session.
IPM Annual Convention 2013 delegates in session. (supplied)

Change is happening at a revolutionary pace — in South Africa and across the globe — and the theme of the 57th annual Institute of People Management (IPM) conference aimed to bring this to the attention of the business community in South Africa and across the continent.

“HR — Inspiring the New Revolution” was the powerful concept that allowed the attendees to examine how important it is that human resources (HR) steps up its game to become a credible agent of this revolutionary change.

“This theme was chosen due to the belief that human capital in South Africa requires a revolution to shift it away from engineering technologies that surround transactional processes to an HR evolution that is capable of ensuring coherence in the strategic integration of leadership and vision, people issues, strategy and line leadership capability,” says Humaira Moeketsi-Choonara, executive manager for HR at Transnet and a member of the convention committee.

“This is about the world that we are living in, the challenges that people are facing and what coping mechanisms they need to survive,” says IPM president, Raj Seepersad.

“Our world is certainly characterised by uncertainty, a changing environment and complexities, and HR has a role to play in ensuring that human capital is able to deal with these challenges. HR is the custodian and the driver of change.”

The theme was designed to challenge HR to think about its role, both today and in the future, and how this will fit in with the quest to position itself as a strategic partner to businesses.

A primary element within this theme is the idea that asks how HR is measuring and benchmarking itself.

Who is HR comparing itself with inside and outside of the business in terms of knowing whether they are leaders and strategically positioned?

If HR wants to be considered within these parameters, then its measurements need to be aligned and the conference theme was constructed in such a way as to inspire analysis and debate around these issues.

Throughout the event HR practitioners, experts and thought leaders took on the mantle of revolution and examined the industry as a whole, looking to uncover how it is perceived today and what value it adds to business.

The HR value proposition is as important as that of any company and many of those who attended the event felt that the topics and sub-themes incorporated into the structure of the conference were ideally suited to exploring these challenges and concerns.

“I have more than 20 years of experience in HR and 15 of those years were in leadership roles, and I have experience and knowledge that has been successfully implemented in large organisations that employ more than 20 000 employees,” says Moeketsi-Choonara.

“I chose this convention because I found it to be an impetus for change in Africa and it also provides a platform to exchange best practices and share knowledge.”

The first sub-theme of the conference was “Building High Performance Organisations” and within this remit speakers and attendees examined how HR could remain globally competitive and increase market share.

The modern organisation is required to be innovative, agile and ahead of the pack when it comes to product development and bringing solutions to the business community as a whole and this complex and challenging market asks that HR stand beside the corporate to provide support and guidance.

“The world we live in, with its uncertainty and volatility, such as violence against women and children, makes it important that people managers work towards creating an enabling environment that supports everyone living in harmony, free of violence and suffering,” says Seepersad.

“As part of the Brics community, South Africa faces a number of serious challenges, especially from the Asian Tigers and cheap imports coming into the country.

“People managers have to deal with these issues because they have an impact on human capital,” he continues.

“Other challenges that we face include the post-Marikana issues and the transformation in our country through B-BBEE changes, skill shortages and corruption, among other things. “This conference has helped people to understand these challenges within the people management field and how to overcome them.”

The second sub-theme outlined during the course of the conference was “Changing the Business Landscape”.

Within this remit, attendees were given the opportunity to examine how the business landscape has been impacted by the change of the 21st century and it highlighted that taylorism, fordism and the industrial revolution systems and processes are not up to the task of leading organisations into the future.

During this age of social media, global connectivity and the co-creation of knowledge, it is important that leadership and management styles keep abreast of developments and reflect the qualities that will engender trust and inspire performance.

The conference allowed for the examination of these qualities and asked how HR could support the development of managers and leaders in a Vuca (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world and how to invest in its own development so as to be able to deal with the problems that Vuca brings to the door.

“The convention is about thought leadership and people driven growth,” says Seepersad.

“It is the flagship of IPM and the HR profession and we are recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority as a professional body representing this profession, which gives even further recognition to our discipline.

“People are assets and must be treated as such. They can make or break a business and organisations must take HR seriously as a business partner and give HR its rightful place at the board, just like other disciplines,” he continues.

“Businesses can no longer treat HR as a junior partner and see it as a liability and HR professionals must get to know the business better in order for this to happen, and to be taken seriously.”

The third sub-theme was “Sustainable Transformation”, a neat step towards a holistic view that encapsulates the overarching goal of the conference.

Over the three days of the conference, delegates examined whether or not HR was prepared to become a change agent, what the derailers of change were and how to manage adeptly within a continuously chan-ging environment.

The IPM focuses heavily on knowledge sharing, networking and best practice and at this event, these qualities were of utmost importance.

“This conference is a critical part of the HR community agenda because it provides an opportunity to learn from the best, from both local and global speakers,” says Gill Hofmeyr, chairperson of the IPM awards committee and director of human capital at Deloitte Consulting.

“The conference combines thought leadership and practical case studies — it really delivers a huge range of learning opportunities.

“It is worth remembering that great people leaders create great places to work and this, in turn, enhances the productivity of South African enterprises and the economy as a whole. This event has allowed for many to meet with these people and take home ideas and plans for positive change within their own communities.”

The attendees met with thought leaders and discussed the issues that faced HR within the sub-theme of sustainable transformation.

They looked to the leaders in this arena and those companies or individuals in South African who had already established best practice or implemented innovative solutions, and used them to gain deep insight and understanding.

This level of learning by example has inspired HR practitioners to give more thought to solutions that would allow for sustainable growth, adaptability and flexibility. The convention was a critical success and, for many of those who attended, an experience they plan to repeat in 2014.

The insights they gleaned and the networking they achieved made the trek to Sun City well worth their while.

“The IPM Annual Convention has become recognised as the premier HR and Business Leadership conference in Africa where each year benchmarks are set,” says Elijah Litheko, chief executive of IPM.

“Each delegate left the convention inspired and motivated to take their organisations and their careers to the next level after having listened to highly reputable speakers, both local and international.

“It is for this reason it has attracted over 800 attendees year after year and will continue to grow from strength to strength.”

This article forms part of a supplement paid for by the Institute of People Management. Contents and photographs were supplied and signed off by the institute