Nelson Mandela International Day

Today, 18 July 2023 is Nelson Mandela International Day. The day is a call to action for individuals, communities, and organisations to take 67 minutes to reflect on Mandela’s values and principles, and to make a positive impact in their communities. HR Unplugged put their hands to good use by joining forces with Janet’s Junction (a community organisation), the Rotary Club of Blouberg, and other volunteers to prepare a few thousand sandwiches which were distributed to those in need in the Joe Slovo, Phoenix and Milnerton communities.

HR Unplugged is paying it forward

On 12 June 2021 HR Unplugged volunteered to assist Mawande Molosi with upliftment work in the Kayamandi community, situated on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. We jumped at the opportunity to help.

HR Unplugged donated face masks and santisers due to South Africa having recently entered the third wave of the COVID epidemic. We conducted a life skills workshop that focussed on the message of hope in times of despair as there is high unemployment in the community, and the negative impacts of the COVID pandemic are being experienced by all. Other topics included, the rights of employees, rights of employers, tips for job hunting , tips on being a model employee, and getting the most out of your job. Donuts and cooldrinks, donated by friends of HR Unplugged, were shared with all participants.

We look forward to the next workshop, and to making another small difference in the lives of fellow South Africans.





12 Tips for setting performance goals

The Cheshire cat summed it up by saying to Alice in Wonderland that, if she did not know where she ought to go, then any road would take her there. The same principle applies in business, and hence the importance of setting performance goals for employees.

Tips include:

  1. Providing training to employees on the performance management cycle i.e., goal setting, performance appraisals, reward and recognition, development, and explaining the implications of not meeting the goals.
  2. Setting the date and preparing the employee for the goal-setting meeting.
  3. Jointly reviewing past goals, progress, challenges and the development plans.
  4. Jointly identifying future goals related to tasks, behaviours, skills, and development. Focus on the desired outputs, and drill down to departmental, team and to the employee’s goals.
  5. Including parameters for working remotely such as time and attendance, online and work from home “etiquette”.
  6. Ensuring that the SMART principles are used for goal setting i.e., goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and have timelines.
  7. Agreeing on the employee’s development areas and the action plan to address these.
  8. Addressing any obstacles that the employee raises, which may prevent them from achieving their goals.
  9. Eliciting ideas from the employee on ways to improve engagement and productivity whilst working remotely.
  10. Ensuring that there is agreement and commitment to the goals. This ensures alignment and focus on the right priorities.
  11. Agreeing the next steps, setting regular interim review dates, and setting a date for the year-end performance appraisal. Regular reviews increases the company’s agility.
  12. Ensuring that the employee receives a copy of the final document.


Tips for managing under performance

I often get asked by clients how can they terminate the services of an employee who is not performing.

Managing day to day performance effectively has many benefits for both the employee and organisation. Managing an under-performing employee takes time, patience, objectivity, and discipline in following the correct process to avoid costly mistakes. The objective of the poor performance counselling session is to improve the performance of the employee, and does not always have to end in termination of the employee’s services. By adopting this approach, it is possible to turn the situation around. However, if there is no improvement over time, then management can terminate the employee’s services after due process has been followed.

  1. Schedule a meeting with the employee and state the expectation of the employee relative to the employment contract and job description. Be specific about the job requirements. Prior to this meeting, issue a letter to the employee so that they can prepare in advance.
  2. At the meeting provide positive feedback to the employee and state the gap between the expectation and the current performance level. The standard or expectation should be clearly defined. Provide examples as evidence of technical issues and behaviour that are poor performance areas. Be specific. Explain the impact of the poor performance on the business, client and the rest of the team.
  3. Ask the employee to explain the reasons for their underperformance (Is it a training issue, personal problems or lack of experience?). Listen to the reasons and take them into consideration during the counselling sessions. Management need to demonstrate (evidence) that they provided support, coaching, objectivity, fairness, and training to the employee to resolve the problem.
  4. Ask the employee how they propose to remedy the performance issues raised. They need to take ownership for their poor performance, development and the action plan.
  5. Ask the employee what support or coaching they still require from management to meet the performance expectations. Management needs to commit to this support.
  6. Jointly agree what improvements will be required, be specific and use SMART principles see previous blog. Agree to an action plan and timelines for the improvement required.
  7. Agree a date for the next counselling session. 3-12 weeks should be sufficient time, depending on the position, seniority of employee and tasks to be completed.
  8. Ensure all meetings are documented (evidence) and that it reflects the above points. The record should also reflect the response from the employee (Audi alteram partum rule). This demonstrates fairness in the process.
  9. Stick to the agenda and try not to get side-tracked by other issues that are raised during the meeting by the employee.
  10. Inform the employee of the POSSIBLE consequences of not improving viz possible termination of employment. First prize would always be to improve their performance.
  11. Ensure that the employee signs the document and acknowledges that they have read and understood the contents thereof. Give a copy to the employee and keep a copy on the personnel file.
  12. If there is no improvement in performance, conduct a second counselling and third counselling session. If there is still no improvement, then a poor performance enquiry needs to be held which could possibly lead to the termination of the employee’s services, pending the outcome.
  13. If their performance has improved, give the employee recognition for the improvement and close the process. Inform the employee that the process has closed.

How can small business owners learn from Murphy’s Law?

Murphy’s Law is a well- known idiom that is difficult to pinpoint who first coined it. There are many interpretations dating back to the early 19th century, but it was popularised when Edward Murphy (1918-1990), an engineer working on a project at the US Edwards Air Force Base, found a technical error made by one of the junior technicians and said: “If there’s any way to do it wrong, he will find it”.  Dr John Paul Stapp, who was involved with the project, made a note of the universality of errors and fabricated a law, which he titled “Murphy’s Law,” if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong”.  To read more about Murphy’s Law see

Murphy’s Law taps into our tendency as humans to dwell on the negative, and to overlook the positive. It uses the rules of probability that in life there is always a risk that something will malfunction. Instead of using this as a reason to quit, the situation can rather be used to excel and to turn it into a positive.

Some tips to prevent things going wrong in your business:

  1. Apply continuous improvement principles by learning from past mistakes and adapting the strategy or processes.
  2. Be proactive and compile a comprehensive plan with SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely).
  3. Identify possible risks and possible scenarios to mitigate the risks.
  4. Listen, engage and delight your customer.
  5. Pay attention to detail, and “keep your eye on the ball”.
  6. Reduce costs and prioritise what needs to be paid.
  7. Manage cashflow.
  8. Do not be over-confident, and ensure that there is always a back-up plan in the event of a crisis.
  9. Ensure that you have the right resources to execute the job i.e. time, people, finances and equipment.
  10. Recruit right. See previous blog
  11. Develop your Leadership skills. Great Leaders help people grow, which translates into greater benefits for the organisation.
  12. Identify and address under performance or misconduct issues immediately. Ignoring these issues will only cause additional problems. Be sure to follow due process.
  13. If budget is available, consider engaging the services of a business coach or identify a mentor.
  14. Lastly, communicate effectively and frequently to all relevant parties.



Creating a harassment-free workplace

Companies are by law, responsible for providing a harassment-free work environment even if employees are working remotely. Harassment can take many forms such as sexual, physical, verbal, or non-verbal (via video conferencing, social media, email, SMS, WhatsApp). Every employee has the right to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace, and employees do not have to tolerate harassment from anyone.

Harassment constitutes unfair discrimination (Employment Equity Act), and it is a serious offence. It is possible for the harassed employee, or non-employee (customer, vendor) to lodge a grievance, and to obtain a protection order against the employer or the colleague. They may also simultaneously press criminal or civil charges. Productivity within the workplace may also be negatively impacted, and it is for this reason that employers need to address the situation with urgency.

Some tips for creating a harassment-free workplace include:

  1. Establish and publish a policy. Create a climate of zero tolerance.
  2. Ensure that all employees and managers are trained and understand the policy, and the procedures to follow in the event of a complaint being lodged.
  3. Ensure that all employees understand the severe consequences if found guilty of such an offence.
  4. Investigate the claims immediately.
  5. Conduct a disciplinary enquiry.
  6. Ensure confidentiality and fairness throughout the process.
  7. Ensure that the right sanction has been issued for the transgression.
  8. Ensure consistency in the application of the policy, procedures, and practice.
  9. Provide emotional support to the complainant.

How to hire the right person for the job

Think back to the time you recruited someone for your business. Were you absolutely confident at the time that you had selected the right person for the job? And has the person turned out to be what you expected? Hiring for your business is a big responsibility, and it is also time consuming, so getting it right is critical.

Here are a few considerations to help business owners with the selection process:

  1. Ensure that the job description is an accurate reflection of the requirements.
  2. Visualise and create a profile of the ideal person. Consider personality, functional skills, experience, qualifications, communication skills, motivation, special attributes, and Employment Equity targets if applicable etc.
  3. Compile a Competency based interview guide. If you do not know how to do this, engage the services of a HR Consultant, or alternatively design a questionnaire to obtain high quality information about the candidate.
  4. Use probing questions and ask for examples of behavior when designing the questionnaire.
  5. Begin the search. Identify what social media platforms your ideal candidate might be registered with e.g. LinkedIn. Use existing networks to spread the word. Offer a referral fee to current employees, or use a recruitment agency.
  6. Screen and shortlist candidates. Depending on the position, conduct assessments or Psychometric testing, reference, education, criminal and credit checks.
  7. Conduct first round of interviews (in person, telephonically or via video conferencing)
  8. Conduct second round of interviews of short-listed candidates. Consider using panel interviews to ensure objectivity.
  9. Review all the data, rate the candidate, and make a decision
  10. Make the offer and ensure that the person is granted a superb onboarding experience into your company.
  11. Ensure that every candidate that applies for the job is treated as a special guest of the company. Ensure all candidates have a positive experience, as this will impact on the companies reputation and Brand.

Tips for employers when retrenching and exiting employees from the company

Unfortunately, with the event of COVID many businesses have not survived or are struggling to survive, and for this reason retrenchments are becoming the “new normal”. Before retrenching employees maybe consider reading my previous blog about “alternatives to retrenching”. Once the retrenchment process is concluded (in line with the regulatory requirements) one needs to exit the employee from the company.

These 18 tips will ensure regulatory compliance, and ensure that an employee is successfully exited from the company.

  1. Provide support. Have you ever been retrenched? If not, count yourself fortunate. It is an extremely stressful event in one’s life and therefore as a manager, one needs to give the process careful thought. Provide counselling and assist with the compilation of the employee’s CV or contacts details for to your networks to assist with job hunting. If the business can afford it, provide an outplacement service that specialises in providing the support people need.
  2. Provide a checklist/guide or conduct an educational workshop to assist the employee with the process of exiting the company. There is a mountain of forms that need to be completed, and this can be very confusing and stressful for the employee.
  3. Keep copies of all signed and personal documentation in a safe place for 5 years (SARS requirement) e.g. Notice of Termination letter and/or Retrenchment Agreement, Section 189 notice, payslips etc. Do not share this information with anyone without the employee’s consent (POPI Act).
  4. Keep copies of minutes from the consultations.
  5. Check severance package calculations and ensure that the correct deductions have been made. It may help to issue two payslips in the last month. One for the normal salary and associated deductions such as UIF, PAYE etc, and the second payslip for the retrenchment package. Arrange for the terms of re-payment of loans by the employee. If you receive the UIF TERS payment after the employee has left the company, ensure that you pay this to the employee.
  6. If applicable, the payroll person should submit a request for a Tax Directive from SARS and then issue this to the employee.
  7. Ensure that the employee supplies his/her personal email address for future IRP5 Certificates, future correspondence or payments from TERS.
  8. Notify any benefit providers (medical aid or provident fund) of the termination if applicable.
  9. Encourage the employee to seek tax or financial advice from a professional to capitalise on possible tax efficient options, and also for guidance about the best way to invest their severance package.
  10. Ensure all leave, allowances, UIF, TERS, overtime claims etc are paid to the employee.
  11. Complete the UIF form UI19 and supply the last 6 payslips to the employee in the final month if they do not have copies.
  12. Issue a Certificate of Service to the employee (mandatory) as part of termination documentation. Ensure that it states the reason for termination and the dates of employment. This will help with job hunting.
  13. Ensure that a letter of recommendation/ work reference is issued to employee. This is not mandatory, but it does help with finding new employment.
  14. Conduct education sessions about the completion of the UIF forms and the process to follow. Many claims are rejected by the Department of Labour due to incomplete forms being submitted. This causes additional stress to the employee.
  15. Ensure all company equipment and access cards are returned. If the company is closing, consider allowing employees to keep or buy the company equipment once “scrubbed” e.g. laptop, company phone.
  16. Ensure that the employee activates the out of office/ autoreply on email or redirects the phone to another colleague
  17. Ensure all passwords, company documents and folders are accessible to Management. Also, ensure that a
    thorough handover is concluded with the employee.
  18. Bid farewell and acknowledge the employee’s contribution to your company. Be compassionate, consider how you would like to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot. An ex-employee could be your next client, customer, Independent Consultant or someone who refers others to your business.

Retrenchment checklist for employees

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many businesses are struggling to survive and are retrenching employees. Often employees do not know what they need to do before exiting the organisation. Here is a 17 point checklist to make sure that when you leave the organisation that all goes smoothly, and with minimal stress.


Employee checklist for retrenchment (less than 50 employees) YES NO
1.  Have I received my Notice of Termination letter and/or Retrenchment Agreement with my retrenchment calculation?
2.  Have I submitted the signed Retrenchment Agreement to Management?
3.  Do I need to raise any concerns or questions with management?
4.  Have I approached a tax professional for advice on my package?
5.  Have I received the copy of the Tax Directive from payroll?
6.  Have I updated my personal email address with payroll and management for the next IRP5 to be sent to me?
7. Do I need to ask payroll for copies of previous salary slips (often needed by banks or new employers)?
8. Have I received the UI19 UIF form from payroll so that I can claim UIF?
9. Have I received a Certificate of Service (will help future employers to do reference checks on you, confirms employment with previous company)? This is a regulatory requirement and is mandatory.
10. Do I need a letter of recommendation from management (work reference for job hunting)?
11. Do I need the company to sign forms if I decide to use an Independent UIF agent or have I registered on the Dept of Labour website for UIF?
12. Have I cleaned out my desk and handed in company equipment or access cards?
13. Have I done a thorough handover to management or appointed person?
14. Have I supplied all passwords to management or appointed person?
15. Have I put the “out of office” autoreply and forwarded my phone to someone else?
16. Use family and friends for support as it is a traumatic event in one’s life.
17. You need to find another job as quickly as possible, so remember to leave on a high note even though you are mad with your ex-employer for retrenching you. Remember work references will be taken from your ex-employer by a prospective new employer. Rather focus your energy on finding a new job and taking good care of yourself.



HR Unplugged - Retrenchment during Covid Pandemic

Some considerations before retrenching during the COVID pandemic

We are all fatigued by the pandemic; and the impact will be felt for many months and years to come. There is no crystal ball to tell us when the economy will recover.  I have been asked the question: how do we retrench some of our employees?

Before considering retrenchment, we need to look at the potential impacts and think through some of the alternatives;

  • You could potentially lose really good people.
  • There would be significant damage to the trust between yourself and the rest of the team and a negative impact on morale.
  • To sustain productivity, your remaining employees would need to continue being motivated and passionate about the business.
  • As a business owner you need to survive while being mindful of the responsibility you have to your employees.
  • Treating your employees with respect and fairness is critical.
  • Retrenchment should be the absolute last resort.

First and foremost, consider the following:

  • Review all employee and payroll costs e.g. parking, canteen allowances, any non-essential bells and whistles. Every bit helps. Be creative. Be inclusive and allow staff to come up with creative suggestions and ideas.
  • Working from home options could reduce office / operational costs e.g. rent, electricity, consumables.
  • Working from home would reduce travelling time and transport costs for employees. As a trade- off, employees should be willing to consider taking a pay cut to offset the travelling costs to work. While this is a challenging concept for many to accept, if handled with transparency and sensitivity, it can be achieved.
  • Review your product or service offering and consider how you can pivot / redesign / strategise to capitalise on new opportunities and adapt to the new way of doing business.
  • Use technology where you can and review sourcing, production, and distribution costs.
  • Apply for temporary relief funds for SMME’s.
  • Implement a Short time strategy: Work a 3-day versus a 5-day week.
  • Consider Job sharing: Sharing one salary and hours between two employees.
  • Temporary layoffs: A temporary layoff results in a no work no pay scenario where the employment contract is suspended and not terminated.
  • Salary reductions result in a pay cut but the employees continue to work full time.
  • Suspend the issuing of bonuses or increases.
  • Grant unpaid or paid leave
  • Offer voluntary severance. A short-term cost for a longer-term gain.

It is important to note that changing terms and conditions of employment will require consultation and consent from the employees. Consultations can be done prior to a Section 189 retrenchment process commencing, or during the retrenchment process, as an alternative to retrenchment. Either way a consultation needs to take place and an agreement reached. If agreement is not reached, then the following needs to be considered when retrenching employees:

  • There must be a valid reason for the retrenchment i.e. economic reasons, and not because employees refused to agree on changing the terms and conditions of employment.
  • Be careful of using the COVID pandemic as an excuse to retrench employees.
  • Ensure that you follow the retrenchment procedure carefully.
  • Ensure that the separation is managed with empathy and emotional support is provided as it can be a very traumatic process for an employee, especially during this time.
  • Ensure that you do not discriminate against anyone, especially vulnerable or ill employees who are unable to work from the office or from home.

As the economy slowly opens, businesses need to consider all the options available to them to stay in operation and protect their reputation and brand. This requires businesses to, not only, be compliant with the Labour, Health and Safety and other relevant directives and legislation, but to implement the changes in a fair and compassionate manner.