The Department of Labour in South Africa employs more than ten thousand staff members, with over 126 regional centres around the country. Couple this with the cumbersome paper-based processes that plague the public sector, and stipulations set forth by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). Suddenly, managing the human resource and accounting processes for such a large and decentralised department can become challenging at best.
This was the case according to Chief Financial Officer Bheki Maduna, particularly when it came to human resource functionality, including performance management, across the department.
“There is a performance agreement that each employee needs to sign, which is accompanied by the work plan for each unit, which could be up to ten pages,” he says. “This is paper-based, and it becomes a big exercise in terms of management.”
Using paper-based processes presents several risks, not least of which is losing important documents, a lack of traceability and ensuring accountability across performance management. What was particularly pertinent to the Labour Department is that performance management is often linked to financial incentives and promotions. “The DPSA prescribes how you can move up the ladder within government, and we do pay in terms of that,” says Mr Maduna, “But you can only move up that ladder if you perform in your role.”
“Our paper-based process was subject to manipulation,” he adds. “We found that employees were completing their performance assessments in such a way as to target the financial rewards…because of the sheer number of employees, we couldn’t ensure quality checks for every performance submitted.”
Standardising means digitising
The solution to this challenge was creating a standardised digital system, managed by an algorithm, which would prevent any manipulation of performance on behalf of employees or managers.
Having worked with Boxfusion previously on rolling out eLeave processes, it was logical that the Labour Department should approach the software developers for a module that could manage employee performance.
“Boxfusion modules simplify the process,” highlights Mr Maduna, making their Performance Management and Development module (PMDS) an obvious choice for resolving these challenges. “We’ve worked with Boxfusion from day one, and they’ve been very helpful in terms of implementing their system and adding some modifications we requested,” he adds.
While the PMDS module has only been in the department for a short time, they are already seeing improvements. Not only has it allowed the Labour Department to standardise Key Performance Areas (KPAs) but it has also improved how employee performance is measured and simplified the reporting process.
The case for clear reporting
“We’ve seen better reporting coming out of the system. We don’t have to manually go through each performance agreement one by one now, because the system is designed to give you consolidated results, whereas previously reporting was a mammoth task,” says Mr Maduna.
Accurate data and reporting are crucial when it comes to departmental auditing, but legacy systems have often hindered the Labour Department’s ability to pull timeous and precise reports. This is due to the fact that pulling required reports through systems like BAS or PERSAL takes time, as it is centrally controlled through Treasury. Secondly, functionality for a particular report might not have been built into legacy systems at the outset.
“This is where Boxfusion comes in,” says Maduna. “This system gives you the opportunity to ensure that you can pull the reports you will need at the design phase. It gives you the power to get the reports that you need when you need them.”
“There’s a greater demand for better reporting, so you have to improve…in my case, I’ve found that this saves money, and not just the savings forced by greater accountability,” he adds.
The Department of Labour has already successfully implemented eLeave across its offices, and now has PMDS up and running, but the digitisation process doesn’t stop there.
“After PMDS, we are implementing Subsistence and Travel Claims,” says Mr Maduna. Considering the distribution of Labour Department offices around the country, there are often officers and inspectors travelling far and wide.
Previously, claiming expenses for these business trips was arduous, because these officers would have to physically be back at their place of work in order to do so, while still submitting within seven days of the trip. Now, with the latest Boxfusion module, says Maduna, they can put in a claim from wherever they are in the country, as soon as they need to.
Not only does this solution reduce the turnaround time for claim submissions, but it also reduces the risk associated with paper-based documentation and increases financial accountability and traceability throughout the travel claims process.
Digitising departments leads to effective team management
With government departments employing a large number of staff, it’s clear that digitised processes are the key to effectively managing those workers. Whether that’s by enabling reporting for the timeous reimbursement of travel claims, or accurately tracking Key Performance Areas for performance evaluations, the less physical paperwork involved in day-to-day operations, the better for all.
As the Labour Department experienced, minimising the amount of paperwork within government processes reduces abuse within the system, actively combats corruption, and improves service delivery by giving staff the tools they need to work effectively.
It assists those in management, too, by facilitating the visibility necessary to ensure processes and procedures are properly followed, and taxpayer money is deployed where it’s needed most.