By lvan lsraelstam, Chief Executive of Labour Law Management Consulting. He may be contacted on (011) 888-7944 or 0828522973 or on e-mail address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This article first appeared in the Star.

Training is both a national priority and an operational necessity for employers. However, especially those employers with limited funds find it difficult to decide what training to invest in and where to get the training.

The answer to this problem lies in the principle that the training should be provided by someone who is both a labour law expert and a training expert. This will ensure both that the content of training is right and that the necessary learning is fully passed on to those that need it. In this way the employer gets maximum value for money.

For example, if an employer is about to invest in labour law/industrial relations training for management it shouldn’t automatically assign its HR Officer to do the training even if this will be the ‘cheapest’ option, unless the HR Officer is in fact the best expert in labour law and in training that the employer can find.

In our experience HR Officers are not always the best choice for

providing labour law training for the following reasons:

  • HR generalists are not necessarily training experts. While they themselves may understand the material and develop IR skills they do not always have the expertise to put these across to line management. In such cases corporate IR practitioners sometimes feel embarrassed to call in outside training professionals to carry out the training. While this is understandable it should not be allowed to stand in the way of organisational skill development, particularly in an area as vital as industrial relations.
  • Those HR/IR practitioners who do have some training skills often implement the training in an academic or theoretical way. The training is often omits relevant practical exercises and employer specific role plays and case studies. And very seldom is the training ongoing. The result is that the line mangers undergoing this “training” gets stuck at the theoretical knowledge stage and does not develop the skill necessary to apply the knowledge effectively on the shop floor and in the disciplinary hearing room.
  • lt should be kept in mind that, firstly, should the in-house HRIR practitioner conduct the training badly he/she will get the blame for it. Secondly, where an expert external trainer is used then the internal HRIR practitioner will still get the credit for high quality training provided that he/she ensures that the initial training is properly followed up. Train the trainer courses are also available.
  • Senior and line managers at whom the training is targeted often have the attitude of, “let the expert handle daily disciplinary problems, I’ll just mess it up”. But the implementation of discipline is an integral part of line management’s function and no manager can turn down the opportunity to add to his/her skills. It is therefore important that the training is offered in such a way that the line managers see it as a tool towards success, and that it is presented in a fresh and stimulating way geared towards facilitating the manager’s effectiveness and status.
  • Management is under “too much pressure to waste time on training”. The typical South African line manager and supervisor is much more a doer than a manager. Too many managers get caught in the vicious circle of being too busy “doing” and therefore having no time to manage and to develop management skills, and this itself is a problem which may have to be addressed via management training.
  • When line managers do attend IR or labour law training they forget what they learned after a week. The training programme therefore needs to be designed professionally in order to ensure long term retention and effective carry over on to the job.
  • Some line managers believe that unless their employees receive the same training as they do the exercise will be a waste of time. These managers are perfectly correct because, where employees are not trained on the LRA (for example) or get their input from union meetings they will look at labour relations from a very different perspective to that of the manager.
  • Insufficient funds are budgeted for such training. lt is a never ending source of wonderment to us that employers are not prepared to spend a few hundred rand on training a manager but do not mind taking the risk of having to spend tens of thousands of rands on going to the Labour Courts. We have represented countless employers taken to court because a manager mishandled a shop floor grievance or disciplinary matter and the employee was unfairly dismissed. ln some cases, because the line manager mishandled the matter, the line manager gets fired for incurring unnecessary legal costs! The company then faces another unfair dismissal case! Employers often lose potentially good managers this way at great cost, whereas proper training could have avoided the whole mess.

It is crucially important to get the training right first time. A badly trained manager is worse than one who has no training at all. Therefore, the cost of not using the right trainer far outweighs the need to save pennies by taking second best.

For enquiries re our Johannesburg seminar, WALKING THE NEW LABOUR LAW TIGHTROPE scheduled for 22 August 2014 please contact Ronni on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 0845217492.