Human resources management (HRM) has its own set of challenges in each different environment; even in other countries, a sense of organizational justice is often missing. The nation of South Africa is no exception; in order to understand the impact that organizational justice would have in HRM settings in South Africa, it is necessary to learn the politics of the practice as it pertains to South African municipalities. A number of political factors come into play that impact, for good or ill, the effectiveness of HRM to create a safe and productive work environment for municipalities.
Service delivery is one of the primary means by which a municipality takes care of its people. According to the Constitution of South Africa (Act 106 of 1996), municipalities "are responsible for delivery of services such as water, sanitation, electricity, refuse removal and sometimes housing municipal roads, storm water, primary health care, child care facilities, local tourism, municipal planning, and municipal by-laws" (Dzansi & Dzansi 2010:995). HRM is a vital component of this service delivery, since proper application of those services guarantees excellence in service delivery. According to the White Paper on Human Resource Management in the Public Service:
“Human resource management in the Public Service will result in a diverse competent and well-managed workforce capable of and committed to delivering high quality services to the people of South Africaand human resource management in the Public Service should become a model of excellence, in which service to society stems from individual commitment instead of compulsion" (Dzansi & Dzansi 2010:995).
Despite the importance of HRM as a practice in drawing skilled workers to these municipalities, South Africa currently has a politically charged atmosphere that is interfering in a negative way with HRM practices. There is a significant amount of political polarization that occurs within municipalities that can have a negative justice perception of municipalities and the people who work for them. This results in lowered morale and loyalty to the municipality, which then equates to diminished service delivery (Dzansi & Dzansi, 2010).
Quality service delivery is very much dependent on the effectiveness of the HRM, which is also hindered by its organizational setting. The political polarization that occurs within municipalities has a negative effect on HRM. This polarization includes deeply divisive issues that set citizen against government due to perceived slights against them, leading to poor productivity and a negative effect on service delivery. For instance, there are reports of promotions and appointments being given to the friends and relatives of officials, instead of those who apply for jobs and are qualified for them. This phenomenon of favoritism breeds cynicism and bitterness in the existing workforce, who then translate that bitterness into diminished quality of work (Dzansi & Dzansi, 2010).
Ever since the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the country has experienced many social and political changes; South Africans have proven themselves to carry a strong desire for social justice. These concepts are thought to start merging over into the workplace; organizational justice is starting to be demanded by African employees of their managers. As a result, it may be wise for managers to start anticipating these trends and come up with their own fair organizational practices in order to meet the demands of the people (Beugre, 2002). .
Already in a human resources management context, there is a lot to be desired in the organizations of South Africa. Studies have shown that HRM practices in these organizations are notoriously lacking in "giving advice to expatriates, neglect of theory while focusing on the needs of international firms, particularly American firms, and an apparent preference for cultural explanations at the expense of institutional, strategic, political and economic ones" (Kamoche, 2002:993). The growing xenophobia that has occurred as a result of the high unemployment is often leading to a lack of HR representation and help for expatriates and international firms, which is hurting service delivery in municipalities and the overall economic environment.
As with all citizens and organizations in South Africa, HRM is subject to the same rules and regulations found in the Constitution and all subsequent government regulation regarding the handling of organizations. Regulations such as the Public Service Act of 1994 and the Public Service Regulation Act, among others, offer HRM of public service organizations (such as those running municipalities) guidelines for fair treatment of their workers (Magau, 1995). HRM personnel are all expected to abide by these rules in order to provide effective (and legal) performance management and human resources management.
With that being said, the regulatory environment of South Africa is said to be "cumbersome" and lacking in the specificity and elegance needed to facilitate economic growth (Erasmus et al., 2003). The Labour Relations Act is one of the primary pieces of legislation that permits the formation of trade and labour unions, providing the basis by which many HRM personnel will deal with workers in a public or private context (Erasmus et al., 2003).
In South African municipalities in particular, HRM is an important factor in making these areas "employers of choice" - workplaces that skilled and qualified workers will want to gravitate toward and choose (McKenzie, n.d.:32). Municipal HRM in South Africa currently refuses to advance to a level beyond bureaucratic blunders and virtually nonexistent change management. This has the effect of dramatically lowering job satisfaction and making working for South African municipalities an unappealing prospect. Without effective HRM, South African municipalities simply will not attract skilled workers to improve service delivery; these workers need that safety net to make the municipalities "employers of choice" once more; otherwise, the quality of life and work in South African municipalities will continue to deteriorate (McKenzie, n.d.).
The state of service delivery in South African municipalities is currently very poor; inadequate HRM practices, in addition to a polarized political atmosphere that favors nepotism over hiring quality workers, has left worker confidence and loyalty at all-time lows. With this lack of faith in the system, work quality has also declined sharply, with service delivery slumping dramatically. As a result, the quality of life in South Africa itself is experiencing a similar decline.
In order to accomplish this goal, the regulatory framework that informs HRM practices and rights must be understood. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, in addition to legislation such as the Labour Relations Act, The Basic Condition of Employment Act, and others, leaves a highly regulated system of rights and freedoms given to South African citizens, along with the privilege of collective bargaining. At the same time, it has been noted that irresponsible HRM practices have left the system without a true sense of organizational justice.
The political context of HRM in South African municipalities must also be understood to find out how best to allocate the energies of true change. The post-apartheid world has seen a politically charged South Africa arise, which now runs on nepotism and graft. There is rampant corruption present within municipalities and its HRM practices that interferes directly with service delivery. Missteps such as favoritism must be remedied if the South African workforce is going to feel adequately represented in order to facilitate the delivery of services to municipalities.
Some flaws in HRM personnel include the many different ways in which performance evaluations can be biased or skewed depending on different independent factors, including personal bias and leniency theory. HRM personnel require unique skills in interpersonal communication in order to conduct informative, cordial interviews and evaluations with employees. The regulatory environment of HRM in South Africa is not completely conducive to fair and considerate treatment of its workers, due to its 'cumbersome' nature and lack of enforcement due to nepotism and graft. HRM plays a vital role in the running of municipalities and the efficiency of service delivery - as a result, HRM's capabilities and success rate must be improved dramatically.
Organizational justice is a potential means to improve HRM in South American municipalities. It is a subjective means by which fairness is determined and facilitated in the workplace, and it takes many forms. Distributive justice involves the feeling that a worker is getting his fair share of compensation and a fair outcome for his work with the company. Procedural justice involves a feeling that the procedures and channels a worker goes through are fair and equitable to all parties involved. Interactional justice involves the perceived fairness of the interpersonal treatment between the employee and the manager (or other coworkers). All of these aspects of organizational justice can be accomplished through the careful use of HRM techniques and practices, which can then facilitate better service delivery for South African municipalities.
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