We’ve had a great start to the year at CRS, finding our groove and settling into our normal steady pace. We’ve already had new business enquiries and I am seeing the market being a little more bullish, so CRS is surging forth on an upward trajectory that is fresh, positive and our 2017 momentum has comfortably carried us into this first leg of the new year. Taking a wider view, the change of guard in the ruling party promises renewal after years of low economic growth and low confidence, and the political will to rectify past mistakes has started to reassure the corporates. I hope we really will see big infrastructural spends from the private sector picking up again now the political changes are being bedded down. Against this backdrop, the Budget was a mixed bag of ‘rebuild and restore’ with a few stings that will be felt by almost all South Africans but designed to fend off what feels like an ever present threat of ratings downgrades. The VAT increase will certainly impact those already on or near the poverty line but I guess time will tell if it does comfort the ratings agencies, which we are assured it will. Another interesting year ahead both politically and economically, that’s for sure!

What’s ahead in HR? Well, in 2018, the sector is predicting some interesting trends, most of them underpinned by technology in some form. The persistent debate about people versus platforms is, in my opinion, no debate at all because when you look at it in an HR value chain, a platform is nothing without people. The true skill is in being able to successfully merge the two in a holistic environment that a) drives operational efficiencies and b) gets the balance right between disruption and displacement. HR managers still tend to tremble at the mention of automation but it is not about taking jobs away, rather it is about making HR jobs easier. As our systems become more intuitive and scalable, and I include CRS systems in this, so HR departments will have more data than ever before at their fingertips. This is going to prove mission critical in so many areas, from using the data to improve employee engagement and also to future-proof your employees, to facilitating a more flexible workforce that can work remotely if needed, to real-time data that can drive decisions at Board level and reinforce the fact that HR is not just a cost centre but one with a real impact on revenue, to further streamlining monthly tasks like payroll and compliance, to processes for onboarding and managing millennials (who seem to have their own set of rules, but that’s ok!). In short, it is going to be a big year for HR technology but rest assured, we’re already ahead of the curve and busy with a few improvements to some of the CRS software components which we hope to unveil in the next month or two. As you know, if it is relevant and makes your life easier, we’ll build it!

Technology aside, another growing trend will be the need for employees to feel that their wellbeing in the workplace is important and they will openly favour employers who are pro-actively trying to reduce stress levels during working hours This may sound a bit ‘touchyfeely’ and new-age to some of the more seasoned HR professionals (like myself!), but move with the times we must and this is certainly something to be aware of when looking at your workplace culture this year. And don’t confuse employee experience with employee engagement. An easy way to understand it is to see employee engagement as a top-down view of the organisation and employee experience as a view from the bottom up. And both views are equally important. From a service point of view, I’d like to thank all our clients who have already noted the effects of our consolidation in 2017 and how it has benefitted delivery. However, I am a firm believer in agility as the client’s needs change so this is an area constantly under review. Please feel free to drop me a line at any time if you feel there are any gaps or if you feel we have room to improve. If I were to summarise where I think 2018 will take us as a sector, I believe that HR models in SA really have to become more evidencedriven. With CRS more than capable of providing that evidence using a number of different methodologies, we can play an integral part in optimising your HR department against the backdrop of new technologies and trends as well as the changing economic, political and regulatory environment in South Africa. All in all, it is already shaping up to be an interesting year so come with us, buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Have a great month
Ian McAlister