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BizTrends 2018

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Key areas to focus on for sustainability in the construction industry

In today's socioeconomic environment, with high unemployment rates and a massive skills shortage afflicting South Africa and other Southern African countries, companies in the construction industry who do not adequately focus on succession planning could find themselves without the required skills to take their companies forward.
Tommy Strydom, CEO, Inyatsi Construction Group Holdings
The considerable skills shortage – which is plaguing the industry at every level – means that it’s vital for companies to have skills training and skills transfer strategies to ensure their employees have the expertise to take on new challenges higher up in the organisation, with people ready to step into their shoes to carry on with tasks at the lower level.

Succession planning has always been a key focus at Inyatsi. We recently found ourselves in an interesting situation that has necessitated accelerating the implementation of our succession plan.

Meeting growth demands

While the Inyatsi Group has grown steadily over the past 12 years, increasing revenues from R100m in 2004 to R1.3bn in 2016, we now find ourselves in a situation where our business is growing exponentially – we expect our turnover to over double within the next three years. This has necessitated a close look at the skills set in our company to ensure we have the resources and expertise in place to meet the demands of this growth head-on.

Our succession planning strategy has always been to promote from within. In the past few months we’ve advanced several young managers, who’ve shown incredible business acumen, to the group’s management committee to prepare for our expansion. Where we’ve identified gaps in our skills set, we have brought in outside resources to ensure we are ready to take on any challenges that may come our way.

Culture of succession

We have instilled a culture of succession planning at every level of our organisation. If an employee wants to get promoted and move up the ranks, they must train someone else to fill their position. We believe this is one way companies can remain sustainable and contribute to skills development in the industry.

In Africa, succession planning in the construction industry must go hand in hand with transformation. Serious transformation is needed in the construction sector. We therefore welcomed the October 2016 announcement that six of the large construction companies in South Africa had agreed to contribute R1.25bn to a transformation fund.

We believe the transformation fund is a step in the right direction. It will accelerate opportunities for black-owned construction companies, small businesses and young entrepreneurs who have struggled to gain access.

Opening up opportunities

Transformation is not only about opening up opportunities for black people to lead and contribute to the growth of the construction industry and the economy, but also about socio-economic development and the uplifting of communities around which construction projects take place.

For too long, construction companies with large projects in Africa have imported the expertise they need to complete these projects, and then departed, leaving nothing behind to improve the socio-economic conditions of the communities that they have impacted – sometimes negatively.

At Inyatsi, we have always done things differently. It is our fundamental objective to identify, employ, develop and train local sub-contractors, engineers and local people in the Southern African countries where most of our projects are located.
We have learnt through working in new markets in Africa that to succeed and have long-term sustainability in those markets, we need to grow the local skills base. In that way, when expats leave, we have created a sustainable industry where locals can run our operations and have the skills, training and know-how to get involved in infrastructure projects that build their country and improve their socioeconomic conditions.

Training and skills development

Training and skills development are the keys to a successful future for the construction industry. It is no good identifying up-and-coming local contractors and fast-tracking them without giving them the proper training. You are setting them up to fail. It’s also imperative to find ways to attract youngsters to the industry to address the skills shortage. We’d like to see more women coming into the industry. Those who have joined the industry have had highly successful careers.

Employee diversity at all levels in a company is imperative for its success and should be top of mind when planning for succession. It is particularly beneficial to companies operating in different African markets. Each country presents its own challenges and having people in one’s organisation that understand the nuances of the local culture and business etiquette helps enormously to gain access and succeed.

About the author

Tommy Strydom is CEO of Inyatsi Construction Group Holdings.