Performance Management in South Africa

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Performance Management in South Africa

Performance Management and its importance for the South African public Sector.

Let me start by asking why is performance management important in South Africa?

As I am writing this blog I have 2 notifications on my EskomSePush app (An app which notifies you when electricity will be cut in your area).  It is letting me know that there is going to be load-shedding in my area from 20:00hrs to 00:30hrs. So, I basically have 3 hours 29 mins left before the government cuts off my electricity for 4 and half hours: For those who are reading this from the developed world, no I haven’t missed a payment, no there hasn’t been a natural disaster. It just means that someone or some people did not perform well in their job and now we are facing the repercussions.

South Africa is the biggest economy in Africa by GDP (changes with Nigeria & Egypt every now and then). That means most multinational corporations who want to launch into Africa; land in South Africa first mainly because of its world class infrastructure, state of the art banking system and a great constitution which protects property rights (this blog is not about land… we will discuss that another day).


So why is performance management such a difficult discipline to implement in SA?

Well, let’s dive in.

  1. South Africa is heavily unionized – The unions in South Africa played an important historical role because of the system of apartheid where black people we exploited and discriminated against. They played a huge political role because they had the numbers in terms of South African blacks mostly employed in the mines (so they had/have huge negotiating power). The challenge is that unions gained their power from their numbers and therefore negotiate blanketly for all their members (including their non-performing members). This means most of performance-based incentives like bonuses and salaries are negotiated on behalf of members by unions. This has resulted in organisations in South Africa not putting in place any performance management processes for union members.
  2. South African Labour Laws – South African labour laws when compared to other countries (even African countries) are quite stringent. The process that you need to go in order to fire non-performing employees includes but is not limited to;
  • Did you give the employee a probation period of at least 3 months?
  • Did you have a performance contract in place?
  • Was it signed?
  • What steps did you take e.g. training (spending more money) to rectify the performance problem?
  • Did you give the employee a warning letter?
  • Could you not re-assign the employee to another position or role?
  • Arrggh…this is such a process to fire someone for non-performance…Well you get the jist of it…

Ok…ok… enough with the challenges. So how can you implement performance management in your organisation (be it public, NPO or private sector)? Well we have a few suggestions for you.


How to improve:

  1. Crowdsource ideas on performance management within your organisation & with key stakeholders. i.e. engage employees, unions and the labour court on how they would all benefit from your organisation implementing a performance management system)
  2. Define a performance management policy which looks at performance holistically; try and look at the impact of performance on all stakeholders (shareholders, employees, unions, labour court, community and SARS J) this will help you get buy in. Even though I doubt you will get SARS, Unions and Community’s attention if you don’t have the numbers, but engage them as a matter of principal.
  3. Run the performance management system ruthlessly. Dot all the I’s and cross all the t’s and if employees don’t perform take them through the process and fire them if needs be.
  4. Approach performance management from an employee developmental perspective. In other words look at training, coaching etc. which can help improve the capability of your people.
  5. Ensure that your performance management model is aligned to the organisation’s objectives.
  6. Lastly, gamify the whole performance management process. Make it fun and not to formal, make it an ongoing practice instead of a once a year thing.


Learn about how to push the potential of Performance Management even further by linking your remuneration to Performance Management by clicking here.

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