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Transformation in SA companies back on the agenda

BEE appointments up by 10% – Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO – Jack Hammer.

SIKI MGABADELI:  Transformation of the top leadership teams in South African companies appears to be back on the agenda with BEE appointments up by 10% from the year before. That’s according to Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, who is CEO of Jack Hammer, which is rated one of the top three executive search firms in the country. She says after very static placement statistics between 2012 and 2015, there’s been a notable upward trend in 2016.

Debbie joins us now. Debbie, thanks for your time this evening. What do you think has led to this upward trend?

DEBBIE GOODMAN-BHYAT:  Look, I think that there are a couple of factors. The first is I think the ongoing procurement pressure – that if you want to do business with government or big corporates, there actually has to be non-negotiable transformation in their executive team as an organisation. And so that has been not on the agenda, but I think it’s been so loud and so adamant from all areas that organisations have recognised they have been losing out – it boils down to rands and cents. And so it’s no longer just about doing good for the country, which it always has been. It’s a real commercial imperative.

And so companies are making those key executive appointments, those new additions to their executive teams. They are making them non-negotiable, whereas I think in the past it’s been okay, let’s see what we can go and find, and let’s be serious. Highly qualified, top black executives are in such high demand that the availability of people is always going to exceed the supply at this point.

And so in the past (a) the pool hasn’t been that big and (b) where companies have not made it an absolute imperative they’ve made other decisions. I think it’s now becoming non-negotiable and that’s the one issue.

And then on the other hand, there is a pool of talent that’s taken time to rise – through great university degrees into junior management, into middle management, and now is finally knocking on the door of senior management at executive levels. So when we go to market and we have an executive search to conduct, there is a pool of great people out there.

SIKI MGABADELI:  That you are able to tap into. I’m concerned that gender diversity is not on the same trajectory.

DEBBIE GOODMAN-BHYAT:  Oh, tell me about it. This is not just a South African story. This is a global story, where for almost any role – other than marketing and HR – you’ll see a ratio split of approximately 70% male, 30% female in almost all other functional areas at senior executive level. And so last year our numbers were tracking just in the 30% and this year those are just above 30%. I’m not going to pat ourselves on the back for that at all, but I think if we start to see year-on-year increasing growth, even if it’s incremental, I’ll agree that we are onto a trajectory that’s moving in the right direction. but I’m definitely not throwing a party around that yet.

SIKI MGABADELI: Thanks, Debbie. Debbie Goodman-Bhyat is CEO of executive search firm Jack Hammer.

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