Business & Economy

Monday, 20 July 2009 10:23

Training starts spiking upwards as companies use it to improve staff efficiencies and beat bad debt

{pp}After a five year heyday in skills training South African companies which started cutting back severely on training budgets in the first half of this year are now trying to use training to improve staff efficiencies and beat bad debt.
Increasing numbers of companies are putting staff through training courses about the National Credit Act to use it’s mechanisms as an aid to reduce recessionary pressures especially encouraging staff to become more financially astute in the workplace and at home.

“We are seeing a dramatic rise in companies sending staff onto courses especially to learn financial management skills and to learn the ins and outs of the National Credit Act – which economists agree has cushioned South Africa against some financial blows, but too, companies are tightening up financial management and are showing heightened interest in ensuring mangers, executives and administrators hold a tighter rein on cash flow and have the skills to improve financial assets,” Liza van Wyk, CEO of BizTech a top Johannesburg-based training company said.

“South African staff have poor financial literacy according to numerous surveys and as bad debt rockets, retrenchments rise and companies collapse leading to a predicted R60bn shortfall in tax collection we are seeing business realise that South Africa will not be a special case that will avoid a very serious recession. After a glorious five years of upward growth most companies have found the first six months of 2009 exceptionally painful. At first they followed tried and failed remedies of cutting back on staff and skills but now we are seeing more sending executives, managers and administration staff on skills and executive training courses to improve financial skills in particular,” Van Wyk said.

“It is difficult to say precisely what is driving this but it is probably a number of factors, there are so-called greenshoots breaking through the financial devastation Europe and the United States of America has experienced, but too there is a realisation here that endless staff cutting starts impeding the ability of companies to recover and grow. What is needed is highly skilled, motivated staff to steer a company through troubled waters.” Van Wyk said that there was particular interest in their course on the National Credit Act. “The National Credit Act since inception in 2006, has stopped many consumers from getting into the vicious cycle of debt. Initially companies complained that the Act was eroding their capacity to give loans and get new clients and now many are relieved that it has actually cut their bad debt and so they are seeking new ways of using the Act to ensure their staff know how to use it most appropriately to prevent client bad debt, but to also promote financial wellness in the workplace. The BizTech course ensures that delegates attending leave with an understanding of the Act, its purpose, how companies comply with the Act and how to apply the Act in their everyday life. There are too many cases of people signing away their cars or waiting too long before they seek help.”

Van Wyk gave the case of Stella Coetzee, a debt counsellor for debt counselling organisation ConsumerAssist in Cape Town. “She tells of a recent case of a single parent, a 35-year-old nursing sister from Wynberg Hospital who was too embarrassed to discuss her financial problems and was not aware that a debt counsellor could help her. The result is that her car was repossessed,” Van Wyk said, “People do not know that their assets are protected due to the National Credit Act if they seek assistance from a debt counsellor. If that woman had gone for debt counselling she would have still had a car.

The negative impact of people being hounded by creditors or losing their vehicles or homes is that productivity in the workplace collapses and so many companies send key staff onto the National Credit Act course to help inform other staff members on measures to protect them. Major companies like Woolworths, BMW, Absa and others have significant programmes to assist staff and clients avoid the negative consequences of bad debts.”

The National Consumer Forum recently held their 2009 conference in Midrand and they made the following statement: “After years of promoting and profiting from excessive consumer borrowing and buying on credit, all players in the financial services sector... must ensure that those now trapped in a debt cycle are not simply abandoned."
“BizTech stands by The National Consumer Forum’s plea for all parties concerned, including government, to channel more resources into educating consumers on financial matters,” said Van Wyk. “The National Credit Act is there to protect companies and consumers and ultimately economic growth.” She alluded to a recent speech by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan who noted:” Our financial institutions have not had to endure the same kind of corrective process that banks in the other countries have had to undertake. The combination of prudential regulations, banking regulations and the introduction of the National Credit Act served to moderate the desire to indulge in risky business practices.”

Van Wyk said she was encouraged by more companies, “paying closer attention to well-drafted legislation and using it to begin their own economic turn-around which ultimately will have a positive impact on the economy. Nothing will advance growth more than a stronger skills base and more productive staff.”

The next BizTech National Credit Act course will be held in Johannesburg from 17 to 18 August 2009. All delegates attending will receive a training manual, CD and one month telephonic support relating to the course content.

Contact information:
011 582 3211
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011 646 7637

Charlene Smith Communications (Pty)Ltd
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Tel: 021 762 2656

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