Growth is also about people
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 .
0 33 !" # ! &# ! ! #& ! # ! & & # " / "& # ! , , ! & ! ! " +