Growth is also about peo­ple

Sunday World - - Opin­ion -

What does it take to make it in the cor­po­rate world when you’re young, am­bi­tious and black? Hard work, in­tel­li­gence, dis­ci­pline, good aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions?

The an­swer is all of the above, but where you are could turn out to be just as im­por­tant as what you are and what you bring to an or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Work at a trans­formed South African com­pany will al­most cer­tainly be more ben­e­fi­cial to the pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­ual than a job at a com­pany that re­sists change or en­gages in to­kenism.

Af­ter a decade of BEE, you would think that a ca­reer at a trans­formed com­pany would be the norm for young black pro­fes­sion­als.

Re­gret­tably, this is far from the case.

There is short­age of skilled pro­fes­sion­als in the coun­try, espe­cially black pro­fes­sion­als. Yet many still strug­gle to climb the cor­po­rate lad­der. Could the is­sue be the pro­fes­sional’s choice of an or­gan­i­sa­tion, or is it some­thing else?

Many mid-ca­reer black ex­ec­u­tives know what it’s like to make progress lit­tle by lit­tle with­out sup­port sys­tems; with­out struc­tured, hands-on men­tor­ship; with no ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what it took just to get a halfway de­cent ed­u­ca­tion and a foot in the cor­po­rate door; with lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of your home cir­cum­stances and scant as­sur­ance that suc­cess­ful de­liv­ery will lead to recog­ni­tion and pro­mo­tion, or even ro­ta­tion into more ful­fill­ing work.

Mak­ing it on your own with­out a hand up has its own sat­is­fac­tion, of course. But even as you progress, a lit­tle voice at the back of your head whis­pers: There has to be a bet­ter way. There is. This bet­ter way is the goal of re­cent changes to BEE leg­is­la­tion and more in­tense fo­cus on the per­sonal de­vel­op­ment of black peo­ple with the po­ten­tial to reach po­si­tions of real ex­ec­u­tive power.

Amended leg­is­la­tion now fo­cuses on mid­dle to se­nior man­age­ment to en­sure an or­gan­i­sa­tion not only trans­forms at board level, but also nur­tures in­di­vid­u­als who will be able to run the com­pany one day.

The ur­gent need to be more sys­tem­atic about black ad­vance­ment is the sub­text of the new broad-based BEE codes re­lat­ing to train­ing and de­vel­op­ment.

Com­pa­nies are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to at­tract and re­tain black tal­ent be­cause the cul­ture of their or­gan­i­sa­tions is not con­ducive to ca­reer growth by black pro­fes­sion­als.

Such or­gan­i­sa­tions can be toxic in their ap­proach to the de­vel­op­ment of these in­di­vid­u­als.

The pres­ence of a de­vel­op­ment plan is not suf­fi­cient.

An em­bed­ded sup­port sys­tem is needed to mo­ti­vate these pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­u­als and en­sure that their hard work and ded­i­ca­tion are no­ticed and re­warded.

Some com­pa­nies have made sig­nif­i­cant strides on the trans­for­ma­tion jour­ney and have sys­tems to ac­cel­er­ate the progress of black pro­fes­sion­als.

These busi­nesses are the place to be for black man­agers with am­bi­tion, a strong work ethic and a sense of mis­sion.

It is hardly news that many suc­cess­ful black pro­fes­sion­als have had their busi­ness ca­reers boosted by or­gan­i­sa­tions that of­fered em­bed­ded sup­port.

Younger pro­fes­sion­als tend to grav­i­tate to­wards busi­nesses that show tan­gi­ble in­ter­est in their ad­vance­ment and have a strong cadre of black ex­ec­u­tives in place.

These com­pa­nies not only of­fer ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause their cul­ture sup­ports the pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­ual; they of­fer chances to grow be­cause they are com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful.

They are big and get­ting big­ger. These are the or­gan­i­sa­tions of the fu­ture.

The chances are they al­ready out- per­form the BEE lag­gards, and not sim­ply be­cause of em­pow­er­ment points and the re­sul­tant ac­qui­si­tion of new busi­ness.

They have an in­spir­ing vi­sion of the fu­ture. They in­vest in their peo­ple, and em­pow­ered peo­ple tend to per­form bet­ter than those who sim­ply go through the mo­tions.

These or­gan­i­sa­tions not only at­tract the best tal­ent, they prob­a­bly at­tract new in­vest­ment, too.

Po­ten­tial new part­ners with sig­nif­i­cant re­sources look for busi­nesses with a fu­ture, not ones locked in the past.

It’s clear that money and tal­ent are at­tracted by the same thing: growth po­ten­tial.

The fact is that trans­for­ma­tion has the best long-term ca­pac­ity to de­liver such growth.

This is why the re­vised em­power- ment codes are not sim­ply a com­pli­ance is­sue. Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the codes is tan­ta­mount to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of sus­tain­able growth.

Pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­u­als tend to fo­cus on per­sonal growth while in­vestors and boards of direc­tors think in terms of profit growth.

Of course, BEE pol­i­cy­mak­ers are more in­tent on na­tional growth, not only now, but for decades to come.

Growth, in all in­stances, can only be se­cured by sin­cere trans­for­ma­tion of our econ­omy.

That s an em­pow­er­ing mes­sage and de­serves much greater promi­nence than the un­help­ful fo­cus on the sup­pos­edly puni­tive as­pects of new BEE re­quire­ments.

Kabi is se­nior in­vest­ment man­ager at the Minework­ers In­vest­ment Com­pany .

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