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Debbie Goodman-Bhyat

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat

Debbie entered the field of recruitment in 1998 with a financial services headhunting firm, and within one year she was one of the top billers in executive search in SA. In 2000 she established her own executive search firm, diversified the industry focus, and then partnered with Fusion Consulting in 2001. As the founder and Managing Director of JACKHAMMER, she is an industry-leading headhunter, placing top executives in SA's leading corporates for more than eight years. Her unique style and vision may come from her somewhat unconventional background as an award-winning contemporary dance choreographer, director and dancer! Now, as an entrepreneur in the business world, she maintains her passion for work and relentless drive to get it right.

Website URL: http://www.jhammer.co.za

HR Executives being looked over for CEO roles

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 11:20 Published in Leadership
HR Executives being looked over for CEO roles

Pondering occupation of the firm’s highest office one day? Then it’s time to get commerce-savvy, if all you currently have in your arsenal is people expertise, a survey of SA’s top corporate employers has revealed.


In the latest Jack Hammer Corporate Survey, by leading executive search firm Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, entities polled represented the financial services, FMCG, retail and engineering industries. Asked whether their company would “ever consider appointing a candidate to an MD or CEO role, from an HR-focused background and with limited commercial experience”, the answer was a resounding “no” from 9 of the 10 respondents.


Only one organisation said that someone with Human Resources expertise and focus would be considered – but then only if they’d had responsibility for a P&L, and had displayed commercial talent.


Yet interestingly, when asked about the importance of skills, leadership and management (which implicitly require very strong people orientation) people expertise are always ranked at the top of the list.


“It is clear then that while a people focus is highly regarded, and a key requirement for someone who is going to be the head of an organization, without a demonstrable track record of having been accountable for commercial issues such as revenue generation, profitability, cost controls, etc, it is unlikely that even the most extraordinary human capital executive will make it to the corner office,” says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, MD of Jack Hammer.


“It is evident that the HR discipline is still regarded as a ‘soft skill’, even though organisations with great human capital strategies are clearly highly competitive in all respects. Nevertheless, without the above-mentioned experience, and some kind of commercial qualification or MBA, the HR exec’s route to the top job is most likely going to reach a cul-de-sac,” notes Goodman-Bhyat.


She says that internationally, it would not be unheard of for a philosophy major to land a major position, as employers were more accepting of diverse backgrounds, and able to absorb unusual thinkers bringing new dimensions to the workplace. However locally, a classic commercial education continues to be the non-negotiable.


“SA’s top corporates continue to seek the stellar numerical and analytical abilities essential to interpreting facts and figures, even if it may sometimes come at the cost of being better rounded in the workplace, with highly developed communication, creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills.


“That’s not to say that commercial savvy and financial acumen are not essential tools in a business leader’s kit – they certainly are. But South African corporates (and their boards who are answerable to shareholders) are extremely risk averse when making CEO appointments, and are unwilling to back strong leaders who don’t fit a ‘typical’ profile”.

Top SA Companies united in positive business outlook

Monday, 04 February 2013 14:37 Published in Economy
Top SA Companies united in positive business outlook

Ten of SA’s top companies have unanimously claimed to be positive about the country’s business outlook for 2013 in a recent anonymous survey. But their optimism was tempered by the familiar concerns dogging local businesses.

 People – The greatest asset or biggest headache?

A people problem triple whammy has hit some of South Africa’s blue-chip companies hard this year and one expert says this could worsen in 2013.

Finding the right executives and talented leaders to drive growth, deliver shareholder value and ensure commercial sustainability for top organisations, whilst balancing the on-going need to comply with employment equity and other governance and transformation imperatives has become an increasing headache for companies, according to top executive headhunters.


Companies need clear strategies to cope with staff problems and meet the challenges of 2013

A survey conducted by Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters of  companies in the banking, investment, insurance and FMCG sectors has revealed that the on-going struggle to attract the right people, retain good people and cut those who add overhead but don’t deliver, are causing knockout blows to business.

The majority of those polled said they were clear on key strategic initiatives for 2012, but their major challenges related to human resources and their inability to reconcile staffing needs with business priorities.


While companies can take steps to factor in slow economic growth, it is much more difficult to predict and rectify the impact of the big three – strikes, retrenchments and  employment equity compliance and it seems an on-going corporate struggle to attract the right people.


Despite our massive unemployment issues, there is still a lack of skilled people to fill specialist positions and some Cape-based companies have the added issue of struggling with transformation imperatives as Johannesburg remains the preferred base for EE candidates.


Resourcing has a knock-on effect when it comes to achieving business goals – when budgets are not met due to inadequate people or gaps in executive teams, this has an impact on business confidence and ultimately results in a lack of investor confidence, creating a vicious cycle for which there is no quick fix.


Participation in the survey guarantees anonymity. One participant in the insurance sector who cannot be named said: “We just don’t have the right people to do the sorts of thing that need to be done. Implementation of key initiatives for 2012 is behind schedule.”


A respondent from the investment banking sector said that they face “major challenges” when it comes to EE compliance, which in turn hampers their overall success. A Cape-based corporation commented that “the one major challenge that impedes long-term strategy is that the pool of EE talent is based in Joburg with no interest in working in Cape Town. We would have more luxury of choice if we were a Gauteng-based organisation.”


And it’s not only transformation issues that have presented significant challenges to growth. The banking sector was stymied by waves of retrenchments throughout the country – “when other businesses do badly, it has a negative effect on ours. There is room for improvement on our 2012 implementation.”

A major player in the FMCG industry agreed that labour upheavals, like 2012’s bitter strike season, had a significant impact on their business, saying, “When people are striking, they are not buying.”


The survey shows that many companies perceive people issues as the key variable holding business back, at a time and in an era when business sustainability is at its most vulnerable.


In business, people can be equated to money. HR and labour issues are placing an immense strain on our economy. Companies need clear strategies to cope with staff problems and meet the challenges of 2013. What we have learnt in 2012 is that it’s just not business as usual.

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