As the South African economy struggles to get back on its feet, battered by slow growth and high unemployment, and compounded by the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, one area in particular remains of concern to potential foreign investors: compliance in the regulatory environment.
One recent study, funded by the European Union, found that while South Africa offers many attractive assets for foreign investors, they remain concerned about the lack of clarity concerning policy and structural reforms.
“Compliance is key to statutory requirements, as the concerns associated with lack of governance in South Africa are being highlighted by most international investors,” comments Muhammad Ali, MD of WWISE, an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) training, consulting and implementation specialist.
The ISO’s standards are designed to ensure checks and balances in an increasingly globalised marketplace in which consistency, quality and integrity from one country or industry to another can slide.
Ali clarifies: “Concerns about being able to comply with anti-bribery policies linked to ISO 37001 are common, while ISO 45001 health and safety, ISO 14001 environmental management and ISO 27001 information security are what give investors a level of confidence to consider South African-based companies.”
Other statutory requirements include compliance with basic conditions of employment, the Tax Act, the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act. What’s more, “banks are now asking for business continuity plans aligned to ISO 22301, which aims to safeguard an organisation from a wide range of potential threats and disruptions.”
For companies, what lies behind all these letters, numbers and titles is a continuous and ever-growing need for training – in order for a firm to be confident in its compliance with regulatory policies, staff at all levels, from the factory floor to top management, need to know exactly what’s needed, why and when. But how is this to be accomplished in a new world where not only does every cent count more than ever, but a second wave of Covid-19 infections is making it ever riskier to send staff out into group training scenarios?
Enter e-learning, and the ability for anyone with an internet connection and an appropriate device to access revelant, up-to-date training materials from anywhere at any time.
Mike Hanly, MD of learning software and solutions company New Leaf Technologies, says: “Compliance-related content must be enhanced to suit specific organisational needs. It’s pointless to expect standardised, government-authorised compliance training to elevate employee performance, as it’s mostly out of date. Impactful training happens when you empower learners, which is the exact outcome New Leaf sets out to achieve. Our learning management system, or LMS, supports greater knowledge acquisition and retention, and facilitates uniquely personalised learning paths.”
New Leaf Technologies focusses on improved employee retention, converting old, outdated and often boring classroom-based presentations and standard-operating-procedure documents into employee-centric and memorable digital learning experiences. Hanly, who notes that “training content is not and should not be static”, says: “Developing bespoke or deploying ready-made content directly on our platform assists and saves time on any content maintenance and updates, while our solutions ensure that now and in the future, learning-and-development teams are able to deploy meaningful, highly contextual training interventions at the moment of need.”
Hanly also points out that when statutory- and compliance-related training interventions required, it can be an intense administrative burden for companies. “Our job is to diminish the admin, remove the ‘tick box’ mindset, and deliver relevant and contextual training that empowers employees. New Leaf achieves immense training efficacy on the thresholds, competencies and objectives that need to be met within the organisations with which we work, and any solution our team designs aims to support the achievement of business goals by promoting human capital advantage.”
In the businesses with which WWISE works, Ali has seen rise in demand for courses on Covid-19 regulations, implementing controls and managing risks. In addition, “we at WWISE have seen a spike in training when it comes to health and safety and POPI, while training in and awareness of security has also seen a spike, with cyberattacks on Zoom, VPN and phishing being the top three ways of infecting computers.”