Morag Phillips from 21st Century gives practical steps…

We’re building a home…a place where our employees experience their every-day … what shall we order from the building supply company?

Most important is that we need a solid foundation.  We don’t want to have to rebuild this home every year because the floor gets shaky when storms arrive. So what are the key components of a solid people-centric foundation?

Step 1: Do you have a vision of your future home?

A tangible and intentional strategy – do you have a dream home in your imagination?  Are you working purposefully and intentionally as part of a strategy to create that dream home? As they say, “a goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery).

Step 2: Does the design of your home make sense and is it future-ready?

A solid but agile operating model – do you know how many rooms you need in your house, which room should lead into the other to create the right flow, the right atmosphere, make things efficient in your home?  Perhaps you envisage having a family and may thus have an empty room, in the short-term, to be filled in future.  Imagine building the kitchen furthest away from your dining area, with a walk through a bedroom to get there!  In the same way, do you have a clear picture of your macro and micro-structures, your processes, the skills you need now and, in the future, and the number of roles required?  These structures are all part of your conversation with your architect, articulating your vision of what your home is meant to achieve.

Step 3: Have your architecture framework in place – plans for your builder to follow

A defined human capital and reward strategy and policy – this is like the architect who looks at the size of our land, determines the direction of the sun and positions the house perfectly, planning where the entrances are, how many rooms, where the plumbing and electricity supply lines fall, how big the windows are, what the unique features are.  Without this, we could start just by building a cottage and realise after much expense that it is in completely the wrong position and can’t be used as part of the grand house plan.  Similarly, without a reward strategy that defines what your organisation is intending to achieve through various reward and HR components, you may (as an example) make a mistake of building a total reward model that is heavily weighted to fixed pay and is then difficult to shuffle when you want to bring more performance related pay into the mix as a variable portion at a later stage.  Likewise with your HR strategy.

Step 4: Can you describe your house and its functionality? Who will be living in it?

Well written job profiles – Do you know what each room is meant to be for, it’s key purpose?  Ordinarily, a room with a stove in it implies that this is the kitchen!  Less obvious is 2 bedrooms – they may look the same but have a different purpose.  Similarly, a job profile captures the key responsibilities of the role and defines its purpose, it’s influences on the rest of the “house”, the flow to other parts. A profile forms part of the foundation because it captures all the components of the room, and highlights what the room offers in terms of facilities and function, with the broader view of where it fits in the home as a whole structure. It provides a clear map of what you are dealing with. It takes no account of whether the walls are painted pink or white but is more about what the key function of the room is. In the same way, job profiling describes what the ROLE looks like, not the person in the role.

People with skills fit for purpose – A house is not a home until it has people who share common values and appreciate each other’s roles in sustaining the beautiful home. Using the analogy in people management terms, effective alignment of skills to strategy and the organisational capability model for today and the future is essential - ensuring that your Talent Management strategy contributes positively to your unique employee value proposition.

Step 5: Create an overview of the size of each room relative to the others – an aerial view of your house (aka an organogram!)

Accurate job grades – having understood the function of the room, you can determine its size.  A room size is not about its importance – a small bathroom may be small but is essential in the home!  The size of the rooms is comparable relative to each other.  Talking organisation language, this step is about grading the jobs – creating an internal relativity and identifying where complexity lies.

Step 6: Let’s decorate!

Once you know the size of your rooms, you can furnish them with what is appropriate to the function of the room (the role) and the size (the grade).  There is no prescribed choice of only one type of couch for a lounge – the options are endless!  Similarly, you can access salary benchmark information that is applicable to the roles and the grade of the roles, but you will have freedom within a market range and within your “home’s” architecture (reward strategy) and budget.

Step 7: Let’s chill!

Now we have an amazing space to live, play and work in, and this is when the people create the “feel”.  We now have a home where everyone feels that they belong, and where guests entering the front door immediately sense a culture and attitude in our home.  In employee speak, this is the Employee Value Proposition (EVP), the experience of the organisation / house, the culture of the everyday experience.  Just the same as a family may have a set of values and “house rules”, an organisation typically prescribes a set of values that ultimately translate into behaviour.  Make sure that yours is a happy house!

Now that we have done the hard work and reached the big achievement of a home to live in, we can do the fun and creative stuff… like making the garden beautiful, painting a mural on the outside wall, making garden furniture, create paintings for the empty walls.  These are the things that create purpose, make us unique and create a sense of spirit and motivation to be in the space. In reward and broader HR terms, these are the unique elements such as a customised short-term or long-term incentive scheme, a talent strategy that influences the culture and “feel” … in short, what defines you.

Of course it’s lovely to imagine the excitement of a new home being built, but sometimes we already have a home.  It may need a little maintenance, more of a face-lift or even a slight re-design given changes in the family.  With the right tools and good change management, it is still possible to rebuild, initiate some renovations or extend the house.  Sometimes a small change creates all the magic you need!

In closing, just as you would take care in choosing the right building supply store, take care to choose a trusted advisor / partner that understands what you are trying to build, allows you to do some D-I-Y and works within your budget.  Remember that this is your home, but you may need some help in certain areas of expertise… not all of us love plumbing!

Our team at 21st Century would love to chat to you about your home – whether you are renovating or doing a new build, we’d love to help and we have a range of technical experts.  We have a reputation for quality solutions that are affordable and customised.  Visit us at


Written by: Morag Phillips, Executive Director at 21st Century


About 21st Century:

21st Century is one of the largest Remuneration and HR consultancies in Africa, with a team of more than 60 skilled specialists, servicing over 1700 clients – including non-profit organisations, unlisted companies, government, parastatals and over two thirds of the companies listed on the JSE. 21st Century offers effective business planning with KPA and strategic planning reviews, creative reward practise modelling, operating modelling, change, stakeholder and culture management, training courses and comprehensive organisational development plans. 21st Century continues to offer solutions via virtual channels during the lockdown period. 

In this volatile and uncertain environment, the way of working is changing dramatically. There are new – and often unprecedented – challenges that require businesses to plan rapidly and take decisive and immediate action. 21st Century offers a Resilience Audit assessing businesses during COVID-19 for their sustainability, offering these businesses tailor made solutions and developing new remuneration structures and performance measurement systems, as well as helping with managing organisational changes within the business.