Home Articles LEAD: Career suite

LEAD: Career suite

  • Career Suite
  • Employee engagement: Delivers bottom-line results
  • Human capital Training and Brand Value
  • Join the E-Learning Revolution
  • Performance And Variable Pay
  • Transitioning from CA(SA) to CFO
  • What are the Sought-after Accounting Attributes Right Now?






Career Suite

Whether you’re thinking about furthering your career or finding the perfect candidate … Career Suite knows exactly what you have in mind.

Chartered Accountants South Africa [CAs(SA)] and other finance professionals are the drivers of sound financial reporting and the guardians of financial performance in many organisations. As such, they are indispensable to the economic stability of South Africa.

In the light of the current skills shortage in South Africa, the provision of appropriately skilled human resources to the organisations that require skilled accounting and financial people as well as the development of relevant competencies by individuals to meet such organisation’s needs, is a business imperative and also a career development opportunity.

In order to address these circumstances, SAICA has launched Career Suite, an online portal that provides skills development tools and self-assessments to accounting, auditing, tax and finance professionals, which allows them to post and update their CVs, and places them in contact with potential employers and service providers to manage their careers.

Career Suite has two aims: to provide professional-improvement and self-management career development tools to all financial services professionals continuously throughout their careers; and to provide access to that pool of talent to
recruiters, employers and industry service providers.

SAICA’s CEO Matsobane Matlwa said, “SAICA recognises the need to be innovative in order to remain relevant to members and society, stating that the move was in line with the Institute’s focus to consolidate and expand the CA(SA) influence within
South Africa and globally.

“In today’s economic circumstances, finding work and/or managing a career can prove to be a challenge for many people. We have committed ourselves to ensuring that the Institute adapts to the changing needs of society. This platform allows SAICA to be innovative and relevant primarily to its members and also to be a responsible corporate citizen for future members such as CA(SA) trainees and other
stakeholders with other accountancy designations. In so doing, we wish to fulfil the demand for responsible leaders which South Africa so desperately needs,” he said.

Labour economist at Adcorp Loane Sharp who outlined the state of the labour market in South Africa said: “We have two major problems in the South African labour market. On the one hand we have massive unemployment and on the other we have a chronic shortage of skills. Service delivery and our national development both depend on the resolution of these issues. Career Suite helps to bring qualified
job seekers and businesses who seek skills together.

It will improve the efficiency of the accounting and financial services labour market. And that’s good for the country.”

How does Career Suite work?
SAICA’s Chief Information Officer, Rakesh Beekum, explained that subscription to Career Suite is free, and open to all accounting, audit, tax and finance professionals participating in all levels of finance and business, whether they are SAICA members or not. “Once registered with a Career Suite profile, SAICA members and other subscribers will have access to a range of career development tools, articles
and videos. These include assistance in career management and planning, self-assessment tools to identify opportunities for improvement or suitable career fields, professional CV presentation and access to online job postings from member corporates and recruiting companies.

Career Suite also provides subscribers access to career coaches and mentors, and
facilitates the career development of its members,” narrates Beekum.

The portal allows recruiters to conduct talent searches, thus identifying appropriate candidates for positions using specific criteria. Employers can advertise vacant posts, and service providers can promote their professional career development services, at highly competitive rates.

Backed by SAICA
Career Suite is a purpose-built portal financed and maintained by SAICA, to the highest professional and ethical standards, which is available to all finance professionals. By bringing professional development tools, career management systems and recruitment opportunities together on one platform, Career Suite
aims to be the premier commercial career networking portal in the South African financial industry.

For more information, go to www.careersuite.co.za.
Employee engagement: Delivers bottom-line results

An engaged workforce is far more critical to profitability than many businesses realise.
Big Company Limited has been around for 105 years. In 2013, Big Company was feeling rather small in the market. For the sixth consecutive quarter, the executive team was struggling to turn the business around. On the back of another negative
trading update, investors bailed out and the share price dropped by 40%. The company braced itself for a weaker rand and looming strike action. The winter
of discontent had arrived.

Management was running out of ideas. They sold off non-performing assets at a loss. After several bouts of restructuring, any mention of the words “flat and lean” was likely to send employees into cardiac arrest. They doubled their marketing efforts and aggressively pushed sales. The numbers remained weak. Having
invested a fortune in A-grade systems, management was at a loss to explain why the cost savings had not materialised. In the absence of drastic action, the
business was likely to post a substantial operating loss by the end of the year.

The finance director had attended a business conference and dropped a bombshell in the boardroom: “Why don’t we look at increasing employee engagement?” The HR director quietly smiled. He had been talking about employee engagement for years, and at last, somebody noticed.

When you get to the bottom of why Big Company Limited and hundreds of similar companies are floundering, you will find a recurring issue being played out. The company is stubbornly using the same Industrial Age toolbox to solve Information Age challenges.

There is hope. These days it is not unusual to find a CA(SA) responsible for the softer side of the business. They are likely to be leading and managing a team, joining the interview panel and conducting performance appraisals. Mentoring new recruits, training employees and drafting career development plans are part of the job.

However, the really big shift for Big Company Limited is for their CAs(SA) to update their toolboxes. While employee engagement has been around for the past decade, it is still relatively new in the boardrooms of South African companies.

By nature, finance professionals are hung up on definitions. Try searching for a definition of employee engagement and you will be forgiven for walking away disengaged. I came across a study by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke in the UK, going back to 2009 called “Engaging for success: enhancing performance through
employee engagement”. If you are in the market for definitions, their study found fifty different definitions of employee engagement. In the end, you are probably
better off scanning the definitions and creating one to fit your organisation.

Why does engagement matter?
The reason employee engagement matters, ironically, has less to do with HR and more to do with financial considerations. The success of any business change is
disproportionately influenced by the employees behind it. A lean business sounds great until you count the costs of disengaged employees. When one employee
is doing the work of four people, the hidden costs of higher absenteeism and customer complaints are hardly worth it. Try running A-grade systems with
Z-level engaged employees and the latter always win.

Remember that operating loss I mentioned in the case of Big Company Limited? Well, management ought to take a page out of the 2012 Towers Watson Global Workforce study. In their analysis of 50 global companies, they found that companies with high sustainable engagement had an operating margin of 27.4%, just over three times higher than companies with low traditional engagement. ❐

Author: Yusuf Mahomedy CA(SA), AdvTax, is the founder of Worksucks – Make Work, Work and the Social HR Lab.


Human capital Training and Brand Value

Enterprise learning through a well-managed human capital management system enhances brand value.

By the time you read this your organisation has most probably just completed its annual HR reporting period and submitted EEA2 reports, workplace skills plans and skills levy claims, to name but a few of the plethora of modern-day statutory compliance reports. These activities probably placed significant additional pressure on your human resource practitioners, and again raised the question of whether the cost of compliance is covered by an increase in your organisation’s human capital value.

By optimising human capital management software solutions that are integrated and able to cover the total sphere of HR solutions, significant value can be created. However, a general concern is that sending staff on courses is not enough. If organisational learning is not structured and linked to the strategy of the organisation, the learning process can become expensive and generally ineffective.

What do winning organisations do to ensure that training and development activities increase their brand value? Human capital value and organisational learning are major components of brand value.

In the autumn of 2010 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published the first standard on monetary brand valuation in ISO 10668:2010.
This standard strongly emphasises internal HR measurements. Apart from behaviour analysis and financial metrics, the additional component of the standard under legal analysis is ‘goodwill’ or ‘customer value’.

Since there is a growing consensus that customer loyalty and staff loyalty are largely aligned, the standard concludes that brand value is mainly determined by internal metrics and staff responsiveness, i.e. human capital.

At the turn of the century great emphasis was placed on the concept of a learning organisation. The value of learning is not disputed, but modern-day organisations demand that organisational learning, staff training and staff development must be aligned with the organisation’s strategic imperatives. An increasing concern is that organisations in South Africa that are incentivised to claim back a portion of their skills levies, are spending money on training for the wrong reasons.

To enhance the organisation’s brand value it is important that staff are empowered
with an electronic personal development plan (PDP) that is accessible anytime and anywhere via the internet. Additionally, training only enhances an organisation’s human capital value if it addresses the staff member’s skills gap and organisational skills gap.

Some modern cloud-based human capital management software solutions are highly effective in determining staff member skills gaps through on-line questionnaires and linking skills gaps to a library of training courses.

Recommendations can be automated, and access to these courses can be facilitated through well-developed workflows. Determining skills gaps in turn requires detailed
job descriptions, and if job descriptions are not current and aligned to the organisation’s strategy, the organisation runs the risk of under-valuing its brand. ISO 10668 emphasises the responsiveness of staff members to market demands. As a result, organisations of greater value are those that have effective learning systems in place, enabling them to seamlessly link people, processes and strategy.

In today’s fast changing and demanding workplace, organisational learning is imperative for the long-term survival of an organisation. Don’t equate complex and manual compliance activities with effective learning. If, on the other hand, organisational learning is aligned to the organisation’s strategy through on-line job
descriptions and performance agreements, then you are on the right track, especially if the assessments automatically update the organisational skills grid.

If your organisation has the ability to automatically recommend courses and training events via an easy-to-use technological platform, then an increase in brand value, and a subsequent increase in shareholder value, should be expected. ❐

Author: Chris Luyt is a director of Petros Business Solutions that develops and implements the SCubed human capital management software.
Join the E-Learning Revolution

E-learning, with its numerous advantages over traditional learning methods, is becoming the de facto way to train.

We live in a world of relentless change, where technological capabilities are frequently being refined and continued professional development is essential in any business that hopes to succeed. Continuous training leads to increased employee performance, which directly impacts productivity and profitability. The need for time efficient and cost-effective training has never been more apparent.

According to the National Research Business Institute, 23% of employees leave their jobs because there are no opportunities for development or training within the company. Did you know that 40% of every dollar spent on training is actually spent on travel?

The more geographically spread apart learners are, the greater the amount of money that needs to be spent on travel, accommodation, meals, stationery, etc. E-learning completely eliminates geographical challenges, while minimising time spent away from the job at hand, not to mention reducing the carbon footprint.

Since 2000, the global e-learning market has grown by 900%, and recent studies have projected that by 2019, 50% of all classes taught will be delivered on-line.

On-line learning eliminates problems associated with different instructors teaching variant material on the same subject. For company-based training, consistency is critical. Classroom training confronts students with the risk of having to entertain themselves while they wait for other learners to catch up. E-learning solves this problem by allowing the learner to study at his/her own pace, with access to the material whenever he/she needs it.

There is also the opportunity to go back if something is unclear. An immense advantage of self-paced study is that learners have a learning environment which is
considerably more comfortable, thus promoting the absorption of information. Additionally, e-learning is portable and can take up to 60% less time to complete
than traditional classroom training. It is designed to be simple, engaging and easy to understand. It is completely customisable and makes the process of acquiring and retaining new knowledge as fast, effective and enjoyable as possible.

According to a survey conducted in 2011, 72% of the 600 companies surveyed said that learning technologies such as e-learning and mobile learning helped their businesses adapt to change more quickly. They also believe that e-learning is providing them with a competitive ‘edge’ by continuing to keep them on top of market changes due to timeous training.

Corporate training is a $200 billion industry, with e-learning representing $56.2 billion of this amount and likely to double in size before 2015. Last year, The Training Room Online produced a number of webinars for The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), which uses e-learning as a means of continuing professional development (CPD).

These webinars form part of its Click2Start range which gives members the opportunity to listen to business leaders and industry experts such as Raymond Ackerman and the Public Protector – experiences they wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

SAICA also offers Harvard Business School and technical e-learning courses to their members, keeping them abreast of the latest advancements in business. E-learning has the incredible ability to overcome an array of challenges that learners face on a daily basis by using a combination of visual and auditory components, rather than just written words on a page, to deliver the message. It changes the way in which we learn, teach, develop and manage. ❐


Performance And Variable Pay

Variable pay should depend on current performance, rather than as an indicator of future competence.

Should employers take any cognisance of talent potential as well as performance when structuring variable pay schemes?

Let’s first answer the question, “What is variable pay?” The concept of variable pay stems from a ‘pay-for-performance’ philosophy. Thus, variable pay is linked to performance – it is ‘variable’ because ‘performance’ is variable.

What is the talent grid trying to achieve?
1. On the vertical axis, it identifies the future potential of talent.
2. On the horizontal axis, it identifies the current performance of talent.

So, given that variable pay is awarded for performance, is it only the horizontal axis (current performance) that applies to variable pay schemes? If the vertical axis was brought into the equation and impacted upon variable pay, it would be a bit like
an insurance company paying out a claim when the claim event has not yet occurred!

Paying variable pay for performance
A ‘pay-for-performance’ philosophy appears to be sound practice, but at what level of performance should variable pay kick in? This is ultimately determined by the employer’s performance culture.

In a high-performance organisation, variable pay would only be paid further along the performance curve compared to other organisations.

A practice to guard against is awarding variable pay for performance that does not at least “meet requirements”. The reasons for this include:
• From a behavioural point of view, this can only serve to upset the high-performers. Why should they work hard to achieve great results when those who under-achieve are also rewarded? This can easily lead to a “passenger” culture creeping into the organisation, where all performance gravitates towards mediocrity
• From a legal perspective, an employer could find itself in the labour court if it has dismissed an employee for under-performance, and the employee argues that they received a performance incentive, tacitly implying that they have performed.

So, if an organisation avoids this trap and only awards variable pay for performance that at least meets requirements, what’s wrong with that?

The answer is simple – the more towards the left of the performance curve that variable pay is awarded, the less is left over to award at the right hand side. The latter represents those who have performed particularly well, compared to the former who have merely met requirements. Isn’t that the role of guaranteed pay – the quid pro quo for performing a specified job?

There is no right or wrong answer, or a one-size fits-all solution. There is only what is appropriate for a particular organisation.

Consider the range of what may be appropriate as follows:
A. Typical of a very high-performance culture the pot is reserved for those who performed exceedingly well:

B. Typical of a lesser high-performance culture:

C. The “middle-of-the-road”:


In summary:
• Variable pay can only be linked to current actual performance, not the promise of future/potential performance.
• Choose the performance level at which variable pay is awarded in line with the organisation’s performance culture. ❐

Author: Craig France CA(SA), Executive Consultant and Chris Blair (B.Sc. Eng. (Chem)), CEO at 21st Century Pay Solutions Group (Pty) Ltd).

Transitioning from CA(SA) to CFO

Chartered accountants are the feedstock for corporate leadership, so get ready for the journey.

For a CA(SA) to climb the ladder to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) level and be successful, it is important to understand the journey and know what will be expected of you. In addition to competency, other skills such as interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and business intelligence are critical success indicators.

In my experience as an Executive Coach, it is equally important to realise that the different roles have different expectations. People tend to speak only about some expectations and you are often left to feel your way through the maze. So what is the difference between the role of a CA(SA) and that of a CFO?

Role of a CA(SA) and a CFO
Chartered accountants are qualified professionals who are contracted by organisations, businesses or private clients to audit accounts, provide financial advice and undertake account administration.

The CFO provides both operational and strategic support to the organisation. The CFO supervises the financial department and is the chief financial representative for the business or organisation. The CFO works together with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on the strategic vision of the business and directly assists the Chief Operating Officer (COO) on all strategic matters regarding budget management,
cost benefit analysis, forecasting needs, compliance with all contracts, as well as developing policies and procedures to guard against internal and external
fraudulent activities.

The difference between the roles
The role of a CA(SA) within business is functional and operational. The role of a CFO is more strategic in nature. For this reason, CFOs need to have good interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and business acumen. These skills are crucial for the
success of the business, as the CFO connects with stakeholders, the executive team, project leaders and other staff members. The CFO acts as a trusted advisor to the executive leadership team, working as a sounding board when key decisions are to be made.

Career development
On the journey towards becoming a CA(SA) or a CFO it is important to identify a mentor who can show you the ropes. Although it is never too late to be mentored, the earlier you start, the quicker your career can advance.

Coaching can also help you along this journey. A coach is someone who can encourage and support you as you achieve your goal. There are many companies
these days that provide internal coaching. The value of having an external coach, someone who is outside of the business or system, is to help you to stay objective.

The transition to CFO
Coaching and mentoring can be invaluable in helping you transition into the role of a CFO, even though you may be highly competent in your area of expertise. As expectations of the finance function continue to evolve, many CFOs are finding that they are being called to assume greater leadership and responsibility to secure financial stability and influence over business strategy, especially in these times of
economic and global challenge. There is an increasing trend in the number of CEO positions being filled by former CFOs. Opportunities abound for CAs(SA) to become CFOs and eventually CEOs.

Become clear about where you are and where you want to be. Give thought, consideration and time to preparing yourself for the transition from CA to CFO,
as a stepping stone to CEO. Grasp every opportunity to venture out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to situations and challenges that will prepare you for a corporate leadership role. ❐

Author: Nickolette Assy, M.Phil. (Coaching) (USB), i-Coach, MDX, is an Executive Coach.

What are the Sought-after Accounting Attributes Right Now?

Modern accountants must be more than just ‘number crunchers’ – business needs
financial strategists who can lead.

At a recent conference, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said that the role of accountants has become more important to general society in the current economic times. Finance is evolving from a focus on the transactional and cost efficiency areas
to that of financial strategy, which is making an increasingly large impact on business.

Growing numbers of finance professionals spend the bulk of their time as internal consultants or business analysts within their companies.

Technological advances have liberated finance professionals from the mechanical aspects of business. They spend less time preparing standardised reports and more time analysing and interpreting information. Many have moved from the isolation of accounting departments to being physically positioned in the operating departments with which they work.

These changes in the business environment and practices, along with the impact of technology, have resulted in a trend whereby finance professionals are emerging as important role players in the strategic management of businesses throughout South Africa. Working in a changing economic environment with evolving legislation,
while considering the client’s needs, is a constant challenge, and one requiring a different set of skills compared to 30 years ago.

In March 2013, CFO.com conducted a survey of 422 public and private chief financial officers (CFOs) in the USA. Among the respondents were controllers, chief accountants and other senior finance executives. The results show that today’s accounting and finance staff have more than enough data skills. However, according
to respondents, they often lack the ability to wade through the numbers and successfully convey their analyses to senior management.

Companies are in need of finance and accounting professionals who are able to look at the numbers and ask ‘why’, as opposed to simply calculating results and putting them on spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations. The base accounting and finance technical skills are a given these days, though recruiters do ensure that applicants have these core skills. But it’s those people who can “step back and understand the big picture” who are ever more important and being sought out by companies.

Some of the additional skills that hiring managers are focusing on are:

IT/System knowledge skills
Never before has it been more crucial for information to be available in real time, accurate and precise. This need for real time access drives the demand for finance professionals who understand how to make use of technology effectively to successfully communicate complex issues that will assist management in decision-making.

Interpersonal skills
The demands on finance professionals are different today, as they are tasked with working with a variety of managers, suppliers and clients. While technical skills are essential, it is well-developed interpersonal skills that will enhance relationships with clients and staff. The ability to work together with different role players is key to success.

Analytical /Interpretive skills
In the fast-paced business world, finance professionals have become information providers. It’s no longer just about being a wizard at spreadsheets and data manipulation – they need to be able to figure out whether the data is reasonable and realistic. Predicting profits isn’t enough, as presenting information that helps assess the future is required. South Africa has a shortage of over 5 000 chartered accountants, with the public sector hampered by a vacancy rate of over 40% in its financial posts. According to a study by SAICA, there were already more than 22 000 vacancies in the fields of financial services and accounting as far back as 2008.

Almost 6 000 post graduate and masters level accountants are immediately required. Both the public and private sectors face an uphill battle in retaining qualified accounting staff. In light of this, it is no great surprise that as the industry changes, the way in which companies identify talent and recruit the best people demands a different approach. To find the best talent, organisations need specialised recruitment agencies that know the market, understand the skill requirements, are able to interpret the market conditions and can identify the best possible candidates from the limited talent pool.

The better that recruitment agencies understand your job description, company culture and what is important to your position, the quicker they will be able to find the right match. There are numerous skilled financial professionals with the experience and flexibility to adapt to changing economic environments and demands.

The companies seeking skills must, however, ensure that they are sought-after employers, that they have the right talent acquisition strategies, and that they are collaborating with the right recruitment agencies to ensure they can tap into this talent pool. ❐

This article was provided by Communicate Personnel.