Unconscious incompetence – too much regulation

Unconscious incompetence – too much regulation


Editor’s Note: While this article may be difficult for some to swallow, we see too many cases in practice for this fundamental concept to be ignored. Compliance with all the legislation in South Africa is hard even for large companies with all the resources. Too often companies follow the “ostrich syndrome” hoping it will go away… It won’t. Our advice: use specialists where you can and manage this risk so you can focus on your core business.

In the South African context, running a business is hugely challenging due to the various Acts that govern how, when, where and what you need to do to be compliant. BBBEE, EE, SDL, PAYE, COIDA, UI-19, BCEA, LRA, ETI are a few of the acronyms thrown around – each with material consequences for business owners for non-compliance, ranging from financial penalties to actual jail time.

It is exceptionally difficult in South Africa for a business owner; HR Manager; Payroll Manager; Operations Manager to keep on top of all the various updates, legislation and changes that affect the employment of their staff.

It is with this in mind that I begin to question why many people do not turn to specialists or experts in this field.

Running a business is no longer about your core business taking up the majority of your time and compliance being a side note. Compliance is now a full time job and yet people continue to try to manage as if it was a “side note”. When we look at other specialist fields such as medical and legal, people are quite happy to admit that they need specialist advice. You do not see business owners fighting their own legal battles or people going to a paramedic for advice on the pros and cons of having open heart surgery. But in the arena of Tax, Payroll and HR, why do business owners not follow the same logic?

I am of the opinion that this relates directly to the fact that South African legislation has changed so drastically in the last two decades and those responsible in business for managing the HR/Payroll compliance have unfortunately struggled to keep up and often have not realised that these have become specialist fields.

When we look at the four stages of competence 1) Unconscious incompetence; 2) Conscious incompetence; 3) Conscious competence and the final stage 4) Unconscious competence, there is clearly a need to move businesses away from the Unconscious Incompetence arena to the Conscious Competence and then importantly into the Conscious Competence space for compliance to once again be a manageable part of the business allowing the focus to be on the operations once again.