Odgers Berndtson South Africa, a leading executive search firm in South Africa has expressed deep concern about the impending Employment Equity Act, which, if it becomes promulgated will set racial targets for top and senior managers in the country. This Act could have a detrimental effect on SA’s attraction to top global talent.

Clause 3 of the new Draft Employment Equity Regulations states that companies with more than 150 employees must use national demographics as a guide in setting racial targets for top and senior managers, along with professionally qualified employees.

Odgers Berndtson SA CEO, Jamie Robertson says, should this Act be passed into law, there could be a further scramble by top business leaders as regional bias will further exasperate the already dire need for top BEE executives.

He further added that skills are not colour based. Odgers Berndtson SA’s track record of appointing top executives has highlighted that business leaders develop a track record by leading change in organisations, developing creative and innovative cultures and building strong teams as an excellent decision maker. Racial bias leaves less room for businesses to grow leaders to a global standard.

“It will be extremely difficult for businesses to comply, particularly if the company has international operations as well, as the executives and board will have to be internationally diverse too. Another side effect is exaggerated executive pay of Black Africans.”

Robertson further added that SA probably does not have enough top executive skills to comply with the new legislation, particularly at board level given that many senior candidates will retire and those that remain are limited due to conflicts and capacity.

Robertson concluded that tougher employment regulations are being implemented in many developing countries, therefore senior executives should plan ahead before legislation is passed.

“Ensure your employer brand is the best it can be, your performance management strategies are watertight and that you do everything to motivate and retain your best employees, whether at senior or middle management level. Bear in mind that the highest performing leaders are self-aware (interested, listen, seek feedback and are able to change behavior), have mastered emotional and social intelligence (have a developed sense of empathy and compassion) and has a great ability to focus on what is important. These leaders are truly inspirational.

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