By donleffler, 17 July, 2010



Reveling in the successful delivery of the World Cup and basking in the glow of Mandela Day, South Africa now has the opportunity to confidently build on its strengths to grow its economy and address the real socio-economic needs of its people.

We need to grow our economy to create employment and own business opportunities. We owe this to our children and their children to come.

Much has been said, and written, on how we should be doing this, but what real action is being taken? If we harness the attitude and commitment we all showed to support South Africa’s World Cup efforts “we can do it”!!!

We need to commit ourselves to excellence and to lead by example.

Service excellence is more than a friendly smile or the waving of a flag. It is about building on the positive attitude that is illustrated by the warm smiles and greetings. We need some depth to the display – we need skills!!

Service excellence is a value – it is an ethic, and we should ensure that this becomes a fundamental aspect of South Africa’s culture. This requires an effective investment into education and skills development. Action is required and we must stop merely paying lip service to our so-called commitment to “lifelong learning”. It is time to face some home truths …… attitudes towards training must change. Training is not a “nice to have” but a “have to have”. Training is an investment and we must demand proper returns on investments in training.

We have many examples in South Africa on how to do it right. I personally like the example of the Eastern Cape Tourism Board (ECTB) which adopts a holistic approach to management of its human resources. ECTB has aligned its HR strategy to its business strategy and has communicated these well to all its stakeholders. The essence of the HR strategy is to “attract, retain and develop” the best people who fit into and build its culture. People are considered an important asset and service excellence is a non-negotiable Value in the organization. ECTB is aware of its strengths and its challenges. Instead of merely running a “quick fix” one-day training course to address an apparent skills need, ECTB took a strategic approach to its requirements. It conducted a skills audit and identified skills needs after having first addressed the competency requirements to satisfy its business objectives. The skills needs were linked to the competencies required to perform effectively and at a standard of excellence. ECTB‘s performance management system is an integral part of its HR action plan and is used positively to identify and address skills needs and unacceptable performance. These are addressed in a positive manner and within budget constraints. Such an approach has led to careful planning around identifying Training priorities. Hence a sound business approach has been adopted which views Training as an investment for which a proper return is important.

The ECTB model is not unusual – it is basic common sense – AND it works!!! Through careful planning effective skills development initiatives may be implemented. It must be a requirement that these are sustainable. Hence the need for monitoring, coaching or mentoring and re-enforcement.

What are the constraints – usually budgets and time! However, these can be addressed if the culture of the organization creates an enabling learning environment. This requires leadership and sound management. In the right environment and within the right culture, individual employees will make sacrifices to grow their skills and strive for excellence.

It is, however, a given that in order to achieve excellence we all need hard skills and the soft skills. We need to have knowledge and understanding of what is required from our jobs. If you are a call centre operator, you need to know and understand the product. You also need to have good communication skills. This mix of knowledge and behaviours are often referenced as competencies, i.e. a total package of skills. A recipe is only as good as the ingredients plus the actions plus a conducive environment. If any aspect is missing the recipe will fail. So too with the recipe for service excellence………….

It is interesting to look at countries such as China, Unit Arab Emirates and Australia. These countries have identified excellent education as fundamental. Because of the importance of English in the international community, huge investments are made in teaching English at all levels. A similar focus is also given to the use of technology. South Africa must implement its stated commitment to similar ideals. However, we often fail because we do not plan properly and do not re-enforce our endeavours.

It is time to put South Africa’s spirit and new found confidence, following a successful World Cup, into practice.

Strive for excellence always!!!!
Invest in people development initiatives!!!!
Wave our flag to show our spirit, attitude and unity!!!!

The School of Business (THSBS) is committed to making a difference. The THSBS Team comprises professionals with specialist skills to meet individual and collective requirements. View our various Training and Project Management offerings at and at and at Email [email protected].



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