Great expectations: how to make them match

 Accsys (Pty) Ltd

Winner of the Da Vinci Award for Excellence in the Management of People

Category for medium enterprises

Great expectations: how to make them match

One of the greatest causes of friction in human relationships is mismatched expectations. At work, Person A is convinced he has performed brilliantly and deserves a raise. Person B is adamant that Person A has fallen short. Things could become uncomfortable at the annual performance review.

This scenario would probably not play out at Accsys, a software company within the Telkom Business Connexion group that specialises in payroll and other people management solutions. The reason is that it’s constantly checking on the expectations of employees to see if they match its own.

“In their first month, people feel very uncertain and we do everything we can to try and make their lives easier, as well as our own,” says Teryl Schroenn, chief executive officer.

So, in every new employee’s first week, a one-on-one discussion is held to share expectations. A second such discussion follows at the end of the first month, then at the end of the second and third months, and then twice a year for the rest of the person’s career with Accsys.

“We talk about their career, future and what they think of their salary, and try to align expectations,” Schroenn says. “They also get to rate the company on our core values, such as standing up for what we believe in, and how we perform against their expectations. Retention has improved since we introduced this model.”

Keeping young people interested

Effective retention strategies are crucial in business today, not least because young, highly skilled people plan their careers more carefully than older generations did. “They have an agenda. What we might see as job hopping, they might see as career planning,” says Schroenn.

While Accsys can’t always compete with the salaries and benefits that major corporates are prepared to pay to attract and keep talent, it has other drawcards, including a culture that genuinely encourages staff to question, participate, contribute and learn.

“We talk about things like covert racism and sexual harassment, and try to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing and don’t have a negative impact on their colleagues,” says Cathie Webb, chief operating officer. “There isn’t a lot of negative energy in the company. Of course we do have some – people have so many stresses in their lives – but the entropy level is one of the lowest in the group, as measured in the Business Connexion survey.”

Everyone in the company (it employs about 100 people) attends the monthly staff meeting and every staff member has breakfast with Schroenn, as the CEO, at least once a year.

Training and skills development opportunities abound. Two training sessions are held each month, one for senior management and one for middle management, and these are now also being rolled out to the full staff complement, covering topics such as leadership, business ethics, social media and budgeting for home and work.

Payroll is like Cinderella

Not content with developing its own employees, the company is also helping to educate new generations of payroll-savvy South Africans. In fact, it is one of the few providers of payroll qualifications in the country.

“Payroll seems to be the Cinderella of business, which is a great pity,” says Webb. “Payroll departments have a lot of intelligence that can feed into running the business more efficiently. On the other hand, payroll can be a big risk if there are errors and a poor understanding of the statutory rules.”

To help fill the qualifications vacuum, Accsys has for the past eight years been running a payroll internship programme, annually recruiting eight to 10 school-leavers to spend two years learning the ins and outs of payroll. Many of the learners come from two Johannesburg high schools, Wendywood High and Alexander High, and after their learnerships either stay on at Accsys or find jobs with its clients.

Accsys also offers a diploma in payroll, and in March 2016 began partnering with The Da Vinci Institute in offering an online BCom degree in payroll administration. As far as Webb and Schroenn can ascertain, this degree is the only one of its kind.

Cinderella may yet take her rightful place at the business table.