Key Elements of an Effective Internal Communication System

Key Elements of an Effective Internal Communication System


Your business is a body and communication is the blood that carries oxygen through the system making it survive and thrive. There are two types of blood: good clean haemoglobin that allows oxygen to move quickly, and dirty toxic blood that causes illness, disease and eventually death. 

Successful people and companies understand just how important effective communication is to the effectiveness of them and their enterprise. They can see where there is poor communication and they remove all the obstacles allowing the clear flow once again. Before we can correct poor communication, we must be capable of recognising and identifying poor communication.

Encourage sharing, input and dialogue

Successful companies all encourage two-way communication. We have two ears and one mouth. Successful communicators listen twice as much. This allows them to fully understand before commenting. Communication flows both ways from a sender to a receiver and back. If it is only going one way, it is not communication – it is instructing. Below is what happens when we instruct without listening properly:

Steven Covey gives the example of an arrogant naval commander, trumped up by his rank, who fails to listen:

Two battleships were at sea on manoeuvres in heavy weather. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. 

The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”

“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.

The lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then communicated with the ship: “we are on a collision course; advise you change course 20 degrees.”

Back came a signal, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.”

The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”

“I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply. “You had better change course 20 degrees.”

By now time, the captain was furious. He spat out, “I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.”

Back came the flashing light, “Suggest you change course, I’m a lighthouse.”

We changed course.”

Four Communication Rules

During my career, I developed four communication principles that serve me well:


  1. The “no surprise” rule. Staff have to bring sensitive and in particular negative news to me as quickly as possible so we could deal with it. I didn’t want a matter to fester and worsen simply because staff were concerned about brining me “bad” news. A mini-crisis is easier to deal with than a full-blown catastrophe.
  2. The “don’t kill the messenger” rule. When a staff member brought negative feedback or even personal criticism to my attention, I thanked them. I always believe that knowledge is strength irrespective of whether it is good or bad. If you kill the messenger who brings bad news, you will eventually have a company full of staff who know what’s going on whilst you do not. You become the Emperor with no clothes and you encourage “group-think”, a dangerous condition where everyone agrees to avoid conflict. Being out of touch is never a good position for a manager. And I believe criticism is an opportunity to grow and improve. Positive feedback reinforces the fact that we are progressing according to our goals. Negative feedback is a chance to develop character and skills.
  3. The “are you part of the problem or part of the solution” rule. If a staff member approached me with a problem, they needed to have given it some thought and come to an informed opinion as to how it might be resolved. In this way we empower staff to become active problem solvers. Staff learn to resolve problems at the first opportunity and lowest possible level, rather than simply escalating everything up me. Succesful organisations build excellence into their DNA by recognising it and sorting out deviances form it. Excellence can’t only reside in the corner office.
  4. The “facts are more important than opinions” rule. Give me the facts no matter how miserable. We can work with the truth; we cannot work with opinions. Know the difference between a fact and an opinion: a fact is “the game of rugby originated at Rugby College in England”, an opinion is, “I prefer rugby to soccer”.

Jim Collins explains the Stockdale Paradox the need to balance realism with optimism. Stockdale commented, “you must address the harsh brutal reality without giving up hope.

Business consultant Paarl
Set Those New Years Resolution Now

Set Those New Years Resolution Now

New Year, New Me, yes, no, maybe, WTF?

At a time when we most need encouragement, support, goals, dreams, visions, hope and the certainty that goes with routine, a plethora of self-help books have encouraged us not to make new year resolutions. The reason? We might break them. If like me the logic appears a little lacking, then take my hand and read on.

The beginning of each year is as literal as it is figurative. It is simply the next day or it is a symbolic day. It is another 24 hours or it is imbued with the magic of promise, of new beginnings and fresh opportunities. I choose the latter.

Whether you are a business or an individual you need purpose and direction in order to be engaged and fulfilled. The start of the year is the ideal time to do so.

Not only is it an opportunity to pause and reflect at what you’ve learned and who you’ve become but it allows you to build on those strengths and create the future you desire.

This is not complicated and it is necessary. I follow this process and I encourage all my mentees and companies to do the same.

"Whether you are a business or an individual you need purpose and direction in order to be engaged and fulfilled."

Firstly, call it what you will; ambitions, wishes, aspirations, dreams, hopes, ideals, intentions, designs, targets, goals, strategies, visions, choices, aims, objectives, purpose – choose one, anyone it doesn’t matter.

Secondly, define in your own terms what your resolutions mean for you. To me, they are simply a set of choices as to how I wish to spend my time over the next twelve months; what I want to do and as importantly what I do not want to waste my time doing.

Then keep it simple, no more than one page. But to get to the one page requires some thought. This is how I do it. 

Discovery – what is my reflected best self, what are my recent achievements that I am most proud of? 

Dream – what is my desired best future self? 

Design – what do I need to do in order to make my dream come true?

Let’s go, start by answering the following;

  1. Discovery
    • What do I love? [what activities cause me to lose track of time? What did I love doing as a child?]
    • What does the world need from me? [what three skills do I have that are in high demand? What can I teach others?]
    • What am I good at? [what parts of my current job come easily to me? What do people approach me for help with?]
    • What can I be paid for? [can I make a living doing this for a sustainable period? What do my competitors look like> is there a niche for me?]
    • What are my core values? [my soul]
    • What is my purpose? [my why, my heart, my Southern Cross]
    • What are my strengths?
    • What is my one line mission statement?
    • Finally, complete your own annual SWOT;
    • What are my current strengths?
    • What are my current weaknesses?
    • What are my current opportunities?
    • What are my current threats?
  1. Dream
    • List the following objectives I want to achieve in the following areas of my life:
    • Personal;
    • Professional;
    • Pastoral;
    • Psychological;
    • Physical
  1. Design

Use the SMART method:

    • Specific; make sure they are simple, unambiguous clear calls to action.
    • Measurable; use simple clearly defined metrics [qualitative or quantitative] to measure your progress.
    • Achievable; set yourself realistic goals including quick wins that allows you to experience success and thus reinforce your progress.
    • Relevant; this is not a wish list, it is a set of objectives you want to achieve in order to have a successful, fulfilled year.
    • Timebound; all successful plans have a clear timeframe that forces us to commit to a deadline.

Now that you have a list of objectives, list a comprehensive set of key results you need to do in order to achieve them.

I call them Objectives [underpinned by] Key results.

  1. Destiny

It is one thing to have a set of objectives but now you need to incorporate them into your personal DNA.

 I do this by considering the following:

    • I always accentuate the positive. Rather than entering into a scarcity spiral of “I’m giving up carbohydrates”, I approach it from a spiral of positive abundance by simply saying, “I’m looking forward to increasing my protein and fat intake to build lean muscle”.
    • Once I week a view the activities and relationships that give me energy. I increase those and ones like those creating more frequent peaks.
    • I look at the areas where I’m draining energy, I stop doing them.
    • In this way I increase my levels of positive energy frequently.
    • I journal daily
    • Every Friday afternoon I check in with myself and review my One Page Personal Plan. I reflect, celebrate, or add more resources to areas requiring it.
    • Success breeds success.



Now get up, dress up, and show up – the world is waiting for you to live your dreams with purpose.

The Renaissance is all around. Are you ready?

The Renaissance is all around. Are you ready?

Today is the Spring Equinox.

Around the world the hours of daylight and night are equal. It is a clear indication that the sun is moving south and summer with it. It is a time of change, optimism, growth and renewal. It is also time to move to Level One.

The Corona virus, whilst not yet over, is not the first nor is it the most devastating virus in history. On the 13thSeptember 2020 the World Health Organisation recorded 917 417 deaths caused by the Corona virus. The Black Death raged over four years from 1347-1350. It killed an estimated 200 million people. 

The plague destroyed Italian society and then transformed it. For the better. Florence’s recovery led to fundamental social, economic, cultural, political and religious transformation heralding the emergence of the Renaissance. 

Is it possible that in the aftermath of such destruction we may be on the cusp of a renaissance?


Yes. If we are awake and receptive to it.

I consult to a number of companies who are essential services. When Level 5 was announced, these companies had an option. Shut down or crack on. They chose, amidst the anxiety of the unknown, to crack on. 

On day one they implemented Covid-19 regulations. They found themselves dealing in ambiguity, uncertainty and with high levels of staff anxiety. 

They are pioneers and did what was needed to keep fragile wheels of what was left of the economy turning. 

Two of them are in agriculture and logistics. They needed to function and function efficiently keeping supply chains running. It is not overtly dramatic to say they fed us and kept us alive. Imagine if they were dysfunctional and failed us? Day after day they got up, dressed up, and showed up – yup in the very eye of a global pandemic. 

What interests me was what makes these companies different? What makes them resilient? What makes them Succesful? What makes them sustainable. And what is the nature of culture that drives them?

Firstly, they are owned and run by optimists. Leaders who trade in hope on a daily basis. They see every challenge as a blessing, as an opportunity they revel in solving, and in solving improving themselves and their business.


They have what I call the mindset of Abundant Possibility.

They share the following traits. They believe in the abundance of opportunity. They believe opportunities are everywhere. They are attuned to and awake to these possibilities. They are appreciative of who they are and what they have. They appreciate the value of themselves, others and their business. This appreciation leads to creativity in the broadest sense. A creativity that looks at the possibilities in the universe and how they can benefit from them. Their businesses constantly look to solve a problem for others by providing a product or service that is of use. This is how they make and create more – a cycle of abundance that is infinite. And they deliver. They deliver to themselves, their staff, their clients and their communities. They are a source of abundance. 

It’s the difference between saying, “what can I do for myself?” or “what can the government, my company, my family, my spouse, or anybody else do for me?” 

They are continually in a growth mindset using their strengths not only to perform but to transform. They are not victims, they are victors. They see themselves as succeeding, even against the odds. They do not blame others; not the competition, not the state, not the government – even when it is attractive to do so. They take full responsibility for their actions saying, “if you remove all the excuses in your life, you can achieve your full potential”. And they do. 

Finally, they constantly scan the horizon looking forward and upward. They live now not in the past. As a wise woman once said, “you must give up all hope of a better past”. Serial entrepreneur Vusi Thembekwayo put it just as eloquently when he urged us that, “whilst the past may not be our fault, the future is our responsibility”. It is, we cannot abdicate it to anyone else. 

After the devastation the lockdown wreaked on our personal state of mind, the nations psyche –  and the economy what happens if we don’t have a mindset of abundant possibilities?

We become victims. 


Our lives are dependent on the mercy of others.

We believe life to be a constant battle over scarce and limited resources. If you have something I want, it means I can’t have it because resources are finite. I become a helpless. I become envious. Envy leads to jealousy – Shakespeare’s all-consuming green-eyed monster that gnaws away at our insides. Jealousy leads to a downward spiral of anger, resentment, despair, and depression. I am no longer a victor in control of my life. I am a victim living at the mercy of those I envy.  

A North Indian grandfather told his grandson that, “there are two wolves, good and evil, at war within us”.
The boy enquires, “which one wins grandfather?” “the one you feed came the reply”


Which one are you feeding? 

If you want to control your future, you must invent it. You must create it. You must choose abundance over scarcity. You must deal in hope. 

LaunchLab in Stellenbosch is an example of how we can be catalysts of hope, creators of abundance. If you had any doubt that the renaissance is starting under our noses, go to their website and listen to an interview with CEO Josh Romisher and one of the world’s great entrepreneurs Steve Blank. The next renaissance is right HERE, NOW. 

So, scan the horizons and be awake to the endless abundance and opportunities that exist. They are literally all around. If it is to be, its up to me – cumaan Mzanzi lets roll up those sleeves and build a better future for us all. 

If Florence was the tide that floated Italy and the rest of the world, then what’s to stop us starting right here inside within ourselves. Think abundantly, make that call, get that meeting in the diary, hustle and make it happen. And smile. Find your strengths, your values, your passion, your purpose, dream, designing the future and create your destiny.

The Saige Business Consulting executive and leadership development program offers personalised mentoring to help you become the best possible version of yourself.

Retrenchments – all you need to know

Retrenchments – all you need to know


by Brian Robertson

Embarking on a restructuring program necessitating the retrenchment of staff is one of the most harrowing, complex exercises an organisation can go through. It requires compassion, consultation, empathy and a clear understanding of what your legal obligations are.

I recently wrote a post on the psychological and compassionate aspect of retrenchments. This article addresses the legal requirements of S189.

Once an organisation has made the decision to retrench, the culture of the organisation will alter significantly – forever. Leadership will assume a higher than usual profile. be judged and be held accountable. Leaders will be expected to act in a manner that is transparent and fair maintaining the trust of the employees who remain. Rebuilding organisational culture is possible but it requires sensitive insight and understanding.

Let’s begin by defining retrenchment. Retrenchment is termed a “no-fault dismissal” as it is a form of dismissal due to no fault of the employee – it is not performance nor conduct related.

Restructuring starts with the employer reviewing the organisation to determine whether it is fit for purpose. If not, this could lead to restructuring and possibly reducing the number of employees.

In doing so, the employer must:

  • Give fair reasons for retrenching (substantive fairness) and
  • Follow a fair procedure (procedural fairness).

Once an employer has made the decision to retrench, the process to be followed is referred to as retrenchment based on “operational requirements”.

Operational requirements mean requirements based on the economic, technological, structural, or financial needs of the organisation.

An example of economic needs would include:

  • A drop in sales or services of the employer leading to reduced income;
    • The closure of business;
    • An example of technological needs would include new technology developed that can replace some employees;
    • An example of structural needs would include restructuring a portion of the business no longer profitable;
    • An extraordinary event such as Covid-19 and the economic impact of lockdown.

Once the employer has decided to follow Section 189 Operational Requirements procedure, they must ensure they follow the procedure outlined in Section 189(2)

  • The employer must consult with the employees who are likely to be affected by the retrenchment, or their workplace forum, registered trade union or elected representatives, or any person elected in terms of a collective agreement.
  • The employer must issue a written notice inviting the consulting employees to consult and disclosing all the necessary information for such consultation. The content to be discussed is advised in Section 189(3)
  • This notice must be in writing and contain the necessary information for the consulting employees to make representations at the consultation.
  • The necessary information includes, but is not limited to:
    • the reasons for the proposed retrenchment;
    • options considered by the employer to avoid the proposed retrenchment and the reasons for rejecting these options;
    • the number of employees likely to be affected and their positions;
    • the proposed selection criteria for selecting employees for retrenchment;
    • the time when the retrenchment is likely to take effect;
    • the proposed severance pay*;
    • any assistance that the employer proposes to offer the employees who are retrenched;
    • the possibility of future employment of the employees who may be retrenched;
    • the number of employees of the employer; and/or
    • the number of employees that have been retrenched for the last 12 months.

*  Employees are entitled to receive severance pay only if they are retrenched for operational requirements. The requirements regarding severance pay are set out in section 41 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (“BCEA”). Section 41 of the BCEA provides that an employer must pay an employee who has been dismissed for operational requirements “severance pay equal to at least one week’s remuneration for each completed year of service with that employer”. However, if an employee refuses alternative employment with the employer or other employer s/he will not be entitled to severance pay.

Leave – an amount of money equal to the annual leave, or time off, that has not yet been taken by the employee must be paid out.

Notice pay instead of working the employee’s notice period –

  • if the employee was employed for less than 6 months, s/he must be paid 1 weeks’ notice pay;
  • if the employee was employed for more than 6 months but less than 1 year, s/he must be paid 2 weeks’ notice pay;
  • if the employee was employed for more than 1 year, s/he must be paid 4 weeks’ notice pay.

Other pay – depending on the employment contract this would be any pro-rata payment of a bonus, pension and so on.

Once an employee is retrenched, s/he is entitled to claim unemployment benefits (“UIF”).

  • The employer and consulting employees must now engage in a consensus-seeking process on certain matters contained in the notice.
  • The employer must allow the consulting employees to make representations about the matters contained in the notice and other matters relating to the proposed retrenchment.
  • The employer must respond to the consulting employees’ representations. If the employer disagrees with the consulting employees, it must state the reasons for disagreeing with them.
  • The employer must select the employees to be dismissed based on a selection criterion agreed with the consulting employees or a selection criterion that is fair and objective. Recommendations regarding selection criteria can be found in Section 189(7)
  • After the consultation process has been exhausted, the employer may make its decision to retrench, and then issue a notice of retrenchment to the affected employees.

The law provides for additional procedures that the employer, employing more than 50 employees, must follow when making a decision to retrench. This falls under Section 189A

For more information and a free consultation, contact

Why Today’s Leaders Need to Understand the Importance of Ambiguity

Why Today’s Leaders Need to Understand the Importance of Ambiguity

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is I know nothing”


OK so here we are. All of us. In it together yet miles apart. A global village self-isolated in our living-rooms. The wings that pulsed the globe’s veins – grounded. Confusion persistently swirling our senses:

“Get back to work – work from home if you can. Lockdown saves lives – lockdown kills the economy. Sell alcohol the state is losing revenue – selling alcohol will overwhelm the trauma units needed for Covid-19 patients. Lockdowns work – Sweden’s open approach worked. You can jog – you can’t jog. You can buy cigarettes – you can’t buy cigarettes.”

We are constantly bombarded with conflicting information, scenarios and realities. This ambiguity, coupled with the intense uncertainty surrounding the future, is the defining characteristic of the current era. An era characterised by an uncertainty of meaning in which several interpretations of the same event are plausible. Leading in these times of ambiguity requires a stoic embrace of the concept and a need to create certainty amongst the crippling uncertainty.

The uncertainty initially alarms all of us. We look at a situation and immediately try to interpret it. We try to make sense of the present. Our interpretation is always right. We then present our interpretation as a fact. There can only be one set of facts, one “truth” – our truth. Invariably our truth then finds its way into the public domain, usually via social media platforms. We impose it on others, even those who do not want such imposition. As a result, news evolves at a blistering pace. Including fake news. Consequently, we are continuously presented with other people’s interpretations of the truth, their opinions. We are rarely confronted with the facts.

This leads to ambiguity.

For instance, one person’s interpretation of the success of the lockdown is different to another’s. This interpretation is invariably based on personal circumstances, their experience and association (we tend to align our thoughts with likeminded persons – especially on social media).

As leaders we need to get used to living with such ambiguity. We need to understand that every person is being confronted with ambiguity, with several interpretations of the same fact. This confrontation occurs every single morning, when social media platforms are checked. Leaders thus need to be comfortable balancing any number of conflicting thoughts, equally. They need to evaluate the ambiguity for themselves and to thrive, they need to come to terms with the belief that it is possible that any subject may have several plausible interpretations.

That is the trick. There is often no ‘correct’ or ‘best’ interpretation. This is not the rule of law, where an interpretation needs to prevail for a judgment to be produced. This is life, everyday living. We are not Judges. But we can be wise, like Socrates, and admit that we know nothing. With just a little knowledge in dialectics we can equip ourselves to deal with ambiguity and lead with greater confidence.

The word dialectic is a derivative of the Greek word for dialogue. Dialectic is essentially a discussion between two people holding different points of view about a subject BUT – here’s the kicker – both wish to seek the truth through reasoned discussion. It is a collaborative process with the distinct absence of emotion and pejorative. Sadly, pejorative language has inserted itself in our current discourse overshadowing proper reasoned dialectic.

To be pejorative means one constantly expresses a negative opinion or low regard of someone. The intention is not to collaborate but to disparage and belittle, as well as to express criticism, hostility and disregard. Destructive, negative behaviour seen daily on social media and in world politics.

The standard is that when two people differ, they belittle one another with the intention of winning the argument by intimidating the other. By killing the messenger there is a misguided belief that I’ve discovered the truth, or at least reinforced my opinion as the only truth. The antithesis of Archbishop Emeritus Tutu who said, “don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”.

Hegel introduced to the notion that opposites were compatible and that we should take comfort in this. He used dialectic as a deliberate contradiction which he saw as a three-stage process: thesis (an idea), anti-thesis (a contrary idea), and new synthesis (where both parties discovered a new truth.

This process was compatible with his notion of absolute idealism which acknowledges dualism and overcomes opposites without sublation. You can have contradictory forces without eliminating or reducing them.

Like Heraclitus of Ephesus some 2000 years before him who discovered the most remarkable of all psychological laws, namely the existence and stability of opposite tensions.

As leaders we need to take all the ambiguity, the various interpretations, the opinions and seek the truth where the truth may be found, formulating it all in a manner which is positive, optimistic and hopeful. This is critical for the survival of your business as well as the productivity of your workforce. People are scared. They are uncertain. They have created binary interpretations. They have aligned those interpretations by association. Those interpretations have become their truths.

  • You need to create opportunities
  • You need to invent the truth about your future. The future of your business.

Ask yourself the following question: What will success look like on all levels for my business: people, profit, [work]place, planet?

Leaders look for the good, the common ground and build consensus and understanding. They embrace ambiguity, simply seeing it as a multitude of opportunities rather than contradictions. They plan, but do not let plans become their master. They are the fox not the hedgehog. They are open to and grasp opportunities in whatever form they present.

In order to grasp such opportunities, they need to be aware of them. Being aware of them evolves from embracing the ambiguity. Once you understand that there are several interpretations of a fact out there. Once you have endeavoured to find the truth. Once you have formulated the facts (or even your own truth from the myriad of interpretations). Then, and only then, can you identify the opportunities and grasp them. Truly wise men surround themselves with great minds fomenting discussion with the intention of discovering new truths.

In so doing, leaders need to take those opportunities, and formulate them in a hopeful manner. They need to present them in a way that generates hope for a better future. They need to be clear in presenting them, in an age where clarity is minimised. They need to convince themselves, and others, that this is the best way forward, forward to a better future. None of us have all the answers. But accepting that we do not have all the answer shows good leadership. It reveals our vulnerabilities and shows our humanity.

Take the ambiguity, take the vulnerability, and present a new future for your business. Present a future based on hope, provide certainty amongst the uncertainty and grasp the opportunities that present themselves. Do not become binary, do not impose your immediate interpretations on others, seek the truth, and present it in a manner which is beneficial for all.

Now is our time. Let us lead.

For further information contact us: e-mail:; tel: 087 550 3374 or

If you need to restructure do it properly

We only realise the importance of being able to work when we no longer have a job. Work is important. Never forget that.

Work provides us with far more than just financial security. It gives us purpose and meaning. If done well it gives us a sense of achievement and a sense pride. When we reflect on our achievements, we gain confidence. If this cycle is repeated often enough, it leads to successful careers and confident individuals.

We acquire skills, knowledge and experience. Combined these become our most saleable asset in the labour market. Economic mobility, social mobility and success are linked to how strong our skills are. Never stop learning, never stop improving, work hard and you will be your best protection against unemployment.

Martin Luther King encouraged us to see the importance of work as far more than a job description or a title, it is and must be a sense of pride:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

 There is nothing more depressing than seeing the ghosts seated behind a desk in state departments shuffling paper, void of energy, passion and hope. As leaders it is our responsibility to see every function as important and every person fulfilling it as worthy. This is the way we build great organisations; we start with ourselves, then those around us, there is no other way.

As leaders, when we need to restructure, we must continue to see the person as worthy. Before we can truly lead others, we must seek to understand the complex relationship they have with work. In helping them to deal with their sense of loss, their sense of exclusion, the sense that they are no longer wanted, and to hold their hand as they tentatively embrace an uncertain future – then we truly become great leaders. I have never met a great leader who did not care and who was not kind.

“Your staff don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

It is not so much the process to be followed, (Section 189 is relatively simple), but the empathy and emotional intelligence with which one manages the process. You can manage an awful situation with sensitivity and by keeping the affected individual at the centre of the process or you can treat them as a payroll number you simply delete on your keyboard.

Marikana is perhaps the most extreme example of where a company’s HR Department can lose touch with the sentiments of their staff.  Know your staff and sense the mood of the organisation.

In my experience, and there are many examples, businesses begin the slow decline to acrimonious staff relations and ultimately business rescue when they fail to care for their staff. Staff who are present become disenchanted and demotivated. They withhold vital effort and skills. This you will never measure or monitor.

The way you treat staff is the way they respond. Treat them badly and those that can leave, usually your most talented as they are able to find alternative employment. Those that remain, do so for the wrong reasons; they simply can’t find alternative employment, they simply go through the motions. In no time you have a sub-optimal performing organisation.

I have seen an organisation shed talent, institutional knowledge and when forced into selling the new owners had no continuity and no intellectual property to work with. It began with the CEO buying a brand-new Mercedes and parking it in front of the staff canteen while a large retrenchment process was underway.

One of the most disconcerting memories I have of restructuring was of a father of four who lost his job. After being retrenched, he came to see me every morning for seven months in the hope there was a vacancy. He would wake-up every morning, make breakfast for his wife and children, see them off to work and school respectively.

To see him slowly lose his self-respect, lose his financial independence, lose his self-esteem in a patriarchal society now that mom as the sole provider was to watch a slow steady erosion of a human. To get out of bed in the morning and have nowhere to go day after day after day. To have no money to spend on anything let alone transport meant he walked nine kilometres to see me to spend. To have no work to exercise your skills. To see the sunken eyes and the drooped shoulders meant I had to do something, not to help him, but to save him.

I approached the factory manager who created a post as a cleaner in the stores. When I informed him, he sobbed, hanging on my shoulders until he gathered himself. His recovery was as swift as it was remarkable. After a few months was striking with the unions for better coffee in the canteen.

His neighbour who had also worked for us was retrenched at the same time. He sat on the side of the road every morning in all-weather for months on end waiting for a day job as a casual labourer. After a few months, he simply gave up, losing all hope. He slipped slowly and unwillingly into a life of drugs and delinquency. Petty crime and regular jail time became his tragic routine. After less than a year he died of TB. Work matters. Never take your job or your career for granted. Never.

Many of my clients are battling with what I call the Rs;

  • repurposing
  • restructuring
  • reengineering
  • redeploying
  • retrenching
  • redundancy

If this is the case, you need to have a very clear process of how to go about this.

The process we follow is to review your business to ensure it remains fit for purpose. The purpose must have a commercial rationale. Then follow the four Ds; Discover – find out whether your reason for being still exists, Dream – create a vision of future success, Design – put in place the steps to achieve your dream, Destiny – review and reinforce so it becomes part of the organisation’s DNA.

Only once you have a clear plan should you consider redundancies and retrenchments. We offer an outsourced HR service. For further information regarding this contact us at or call us on +27 (0)87 550 3374.