​Top marks for Africa’s finest employers!

David Plink, chief executive of the Top Employers Institute, speaks at the Certification Dinner in Sandton

David Plink, chief executive of the Top Employers Institute, speaks at the Certification Dinner in Sandton

The Top Employers Certification Dinner took place at the Sandton Convention Centre on Thursday October 12 2017, in the heart of South Africa’s economic development hub. The black tie event served as one of the largest certification dinners in the world — over 1 000 delegates from across the continent converged for the prestigious affair. The evening centred on announcing Africa’s Top Employers in various categories and was hosted by seasoned comedian Jason Goliath, who kept the crowd abuzz throughout the night.

David Plink, chief executive of the Top Employers Institute, noted: “Tonight we hosted the largest group of certified employers ever in Africa and worldwide. We haven’t had that many companies together in one evening, so that is a special achievement for us. We celebrated the certification of 200 companies across the continent that have proven over the last year and in some cases [for] up to 11 years that they offer the best conditions possible for their people.” 

Billy Elliott, Top Employers Institute country manager for Africa, shared the same sentiment: “For me, this was the pinnacle of the programme. This has been eight months of hard work for all of our participants and as an organisation. It was an amazing evening. We lifted the embargo, and publicly announce Africa’s certified Top Employers for 2018. The evening was a great celebration recognising these leading HR organisations.”

Companies were awarded throughout the night based on various categories and achievements. Old Mutual earned South Africa’s top spot for 2018, followed closely by EY and software giant SAP.

“Everyone who was certified tonight has achieved the certification and met the standard to be certified. There’s a couple of companies that stand above that in terms of their scores. What you see is the consistency in the policies they put in place for their people to develop. Not just in leadership and development, but across the board in their full HR company strategy, they put people first and the development of people first. If you do that consistently over all HR disciplines, over time, that’s when you stand out,” said Plink.

The Top Employers Institute is a global company, headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The global certification company recognises excellence in the conditions that employers create for their people, with over 25 years of experience. In-depth assessments are done to discover Top Employers worldwide.

“I think it is a recognition for the work HR does with the organisation. HR is often a little more in the background and in essence HR is the engine of the company in facilitating the growth. Every company says it: the people are the most important asset, and HR makes sure they are treated as such. So that’s the first step here, to show that HR has a profound impact in the organisations they represent. There’s another component. These are companies that take good care of their people and that’s something we would like to put in the spotlight and it’s something they can use in internal and external communication,” said Plink.

Elliott emphatically stated the need to understand HR’s core function, which goes beyond the traditional administrative role. “From an HR perspective if I look at it generally, my concern is organisations who view HR as an administrative function. I don’t think those organisations are as successful as the companies that position HR as number one.”

The Top Employers Institute recognises Top Employers based on a global six stage Certification Programme governed by a strict standardised process. Participation in the Certification Programme helps an organisation’s to strengthen its employer brand, gain valuable HR insights and be recognised for their HR efforts as a Top Employer.

Holding such a Certification Dinner helps to elevate the status of HR, according to Elliott. “It positions HR as a key strategic driver of the organisation. I’m of the opinion that more people-centric businesses will become more successful and more profitable, and the organisations in the room are evidence of that. The organisations that we have certified tonight are some of the world’s best companies from an HR perspective. The common theme that comes from them is that they are people-centric and they have best in class development practices.”

The landscapes of companies are changing and so, too, will the role of HR. Companies have become a lot more open than they used to be in their approach to recruiting people. According Plink: “The world is changing. One of the things you see is the definition of employees, the people who are employed by companies. So many people are not [formally] employed by a company, but do work for a company as contract workers, temporary workers, contingent workers, etcetera. What will be a challenge for companies is to ensure these people get similar development conditions as full-time employees.”

As the world adjusts to the digital migration, many companies are forced to adapt. “Digitisation is a huge factor, because you ultimately want to retain that human element and retain human skills to fulfil these roles. I don’t think we should be afraid of technology, because it is the future. It should rather be recognised as a platform to empower our employees.”

The Top Employers Institute has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 25 years. Elliott notes that the African program is one of the fastest-growing programs worldwide, with an average growth rate of 20%-25%. Last year, 164 organisations were certified; 2017 saw it rise to 200, aiming ultimately to increase their footprint across the continent.

“If you look at growth, you can measure it in various ways. Look at the number of companies we certify. You can look at the revenue that we have, all kinds of metrics that we have that are standard business metrics. Personally, I think the metric we should be measured against is how many lives we touch. Right now, the Top Employers we have certified employ about five million people, and it is my ambition to bring it to 50 million in the next few years. We are in it for the long haul. We are focused on touching the lives of as many people as possible, ensuring they have the best conditions to develop personally and professionally,” said Plink.

Top Employers have performed well in all of the survey’s nine topics, offering their employees the best career development opportunities holistically. The next phase is all up to the Top Employers for 2018 as they seek to attract, retain and engage the very best talent that the continent has to offer.