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The following is an adapted transcript of the exchange between Mackie Makitla, Director and Founder of Phelekeza and Sylvain Rochon, CMO at CykoMetrix as host.

Sylvain Rochon: Welcome to the CykoMetrix spotlight. My name is Sylvain Rochon, I'm the chief marketing officer at CykoMetrix, a leading-edge combinatorial, psychometric, and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements and team based reporting features that simplify inform decision-making around recruiting, training, managing today's modern workplace. 

Today, I have with me Mackie Makitla, he's the director, founder and CEO of Phelekeza. He has extensive experience in the HR solution space with a main focus on Psychometrics Competency Assessments and Talent Development. He has built over the years an expansive knowledge and overview of the current state of assessment application in corporate, State Owned Entities and government sectors. Mackie founded Phelekeza 6 years ago as an HR consultancy focusing on people development that he runs with a competent team of young professionals. I have met some of those professionals. They are indeed young, excited, motivated and they are amazing. Thank you for being with us today, Mackie. 

Mackie Makitla: Thank you very much. Thank you, Sylvain. I'm excited to be here with your audience and I look forward to what we are going to share. 


Sylvain: I'm excited because we don't have a lot of news about anything happening in Asia, and in Africa up here. It's always excited to get perspectives and success stories from other places just to see, is it different? What's happening? Is there knowledge that we can use here that is being developed there? It's always good to get outside perspectives and expertise. Thank you for being here. What we wanted to talk about is about how psychometric data can guide continuous development and improvements in the workplace. Can you tell me about the Phelekeza- specific approach? 


Mackie: Yes. Thank you very much. I think that's the first thing. I'm sorry to really disappoint some of your audiences because they would have expected lions and hyenas in the background, but here we are. It's a small world. We connect quite easily as it were. I'm connecting to you in some of the remote places in Africa. I'm really glad to be here. Phelekeza was really founded 6 years ago, as you said, and our focus was really to do a lot of assessment data on the ground. A whole lot of requests were mainly based on recruitment assessments, and we then gathered/collected quite a lot of data. 

That practice is not only remote to us, it's generally in the market, that people really focus more on that discriminatory decision to saying, "This one is better than that one or that one but that one can't go on". From there on, there isn't any other use for that data. And through this experience we felt that there's quite a lot of information that falls flat on the ground which can be used really for further candidate development. Why don't we take a different approach in saying, as soon as you appoint or really looking at people who are already in roles. Because our focus in terms of competency is to highlight gaps as it were, through psychometric assessments, because we will get the job and see what the requirements are there and what does the individual possess. 

Often enough, in feedback would be providing to our clients for recruitment purposes, when you highlight the gaps, they would say, "What do you want us to do?" That's where we created our model at Phelekeza. It really suits that question and say, "What should we do after here?". Our main product focus is really to assess after the collection of the data to saying, "Where are the gaps?" After identifying those gaps, we then say these are the possible development programs that could really cover the gaps. That is not just thumb sucked. It is data focused, it's really taking the data on the ground and saying, scientifically, we will assess and measure the individual and these are the possible programs that will cover/address or remedy that gap. We take a candidate, through a learning journey in really trying to develop them. 

That is our approach in saying that there's so much we can really derive from the current data that is there, not even New data, because already in most cases in organizations, they would’ve  assessed people until they are blue in the face. After that, even the people who got assessed, wont  even get feedback in saying, "You know what, what are the development areas for myself for self-reflection?” The Phelekeza approach is more focused on the end-to-end overall benefit for both the candidate, as well as the organization. Because when one is really aware of their blind spots, they're enabled to engage the environment accordingly, and vice versa. 

It starts with an individual, then teams, then organization as a whole. Our program model is purely focused on organizational behavior development. We don't really model technical programs because there's quite a lot of it That's already available in organizations. Each organization, they've got their own specific technical competencies that they need to address which would then be robotic in terms of how they model their programs. Our solution approach is to saying, “let's measure the softer issues that are becoming hard issues now. Let’s see how is it that we could enable people to be effective in this changing environment which is really going to be taking over by robotics in terms of replacing human interaction.” See what I mean? 

That which is soft is becoming more critical and more valuable in how we're moving into the 4th Industrial Revolution in approach. I'm speaking from Africa here. From your perspective, you may think that we are a little bit behind, but we  have moved  in bounds. To conceive that, we hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup not long ago, having the entire world on our shores. With us, mesmerizing the world with our cultures and all the colors of Africa, it's really where we are heading. 

Sylvain: I think that's an excellent approach because like you said, it's more about you taking the candidates and looking at them as whole persons; at the hard skills, but also the soft skills. As you say, in the 4th Industrial Revolution, soft skills are becoming hard skills in many ways, even though we don't call them that. That's one piece. The other piece that you mentioned is Phelekeza is focused on what happens after the assessment. You can assess the whole person, but then it's "What now?". You do the training, so the application. That's where the real magic happens.  That's where the change happens. It's not just a measurement, but also something that is applicable for development, right? 


Mackie: Absolutely. 


Sylvain: Tell me, in South Africa, I don't know the landscape of HR and assessments. Can you tell us what is the history of that practice in South Africa? Where do you position yourself in that history? 


Mackie: My career really spans quite long time. It's over 25 year, yes, in South Africa, just observing and really being around the practice as a whole. There's been a whole lot of growth and achievements in relation to what we are benefiting from assessments at this point, generally. Not just in person, but from a corporate point of view, the State-Owned Entities’ point of view. The government is very smart in how they approach assessments. Although it’s a dilemma, as I mentioned, for everyone else. You can imagine government is also a bit complex. It's what we do with data. 

They're sitting with a whole lot of data from assessing, but it's not really engaged for saying what are  the development indicators that we can look at from an individual point of view, or from a governmental point of view and teams, so on and so forth. We can segment it and then see what types of skills are in the most performing entities. But we don't use that. We just file it and just walk away. We are saying, give it here. We've got appetite for it, because we are able to make it usable and make sense to how you engage people. For a lack of a better word, lubricate the change that we are going through, not just as individual, but as a unison of humanity because of the implications of where we come from, and recently with covid-19. Things are not the same as you can see. We are really connected from a long distance, and you wouldn't have thought that is possible. Fax machines wouldn't cope with this. 

On a South African scale, quite a lot of impressive developments and refined practice because you must remember we come from a different diverse backgrounds in relation to the practice of psychometry. After post-party, a whole lot of psychometric assessments were flooded into South Africa because of the appetite that has been  growing on the ground. We have positions and we're growing, but people are not competent on how we do the job, so on and so on. There was an increased need. But now, there were mitigating factors to saying all these assessments come from Canada and everywhere else. Is it going to be applicable to the population on this side of the world? 

Implications of culture fairness, validity studies and diversity, all of that really was meant to be considered and taking care of and mitigated. Hence, we have proper government entities that regulate the practice overall, to protect not only the practitioners, but also the candidates. Your rights are as follows, as well as this is what you can expect out of the content. You can insist on feedback, etc. Those parameters, as well as set parameters to say these are the guidelines of saying assessments are applicable in our space because they've gone through this many tests. All of those are controlled under the auspices of the HPCSA which is Health Professions Council of South Africa. When you have any tool that you want to apply here, it's got to go through that process of saying, "Does it do what it says it does and does it really output what you say it does?" Their own process is to look at that and as soon as it's over, then you can practice. There's a whole lot of different assessments that are internationally practiced and used and our approach is not to use one particular assessment. We look at what is the need, what competencies we are looking at to measure. From there, the assessments, do they really abide, or rather are they within the parameters of the Health Professions Council? 

We're very strict about that in saying the applicability should be in line because there are implications of that. Going back to saying, “where are we now as a country, in terms of assessment?” I think we are very, very far in comparison to where we are [in the country]. Corporate studies practice that very smartly. I think the area where we still need a lot of attention is really in what we do now. The practice is really quite interesting. For me, to have really seen the growth, as well as what we are able to achieve now as practitioners of this and in our own different corners, it's quite amazing in comparison to before and how we also advise on the content to Line Management and Human Resources. 

There's quite a lot of depth in what we have. I'm excited about that because then when you talk, from a Phelekeza point of view, which is really not from a segmental approach. It's really approaching the learning journey in totality. Up until the end, let's look at the gaps first in relation to what we expect of the individual. After we measured that gap, if you don't measure up, we can decide or take another bus or we can say, "It's okay, we can live with this, we've lived with this, everyone was like this". It gives you quite a lot of content and indicators, information from the word "Go". We don't follow through on that, in terms of the next steps, and the next steps, and the next steps. 

That's where our spotlight is at, in relation to our holistic offering. The next steps, they need not be segmental, they need to be a continuation of a journey. The data that would have collected  in the beginning of recruitment or for development purposes, it needs to talk to the entire journey. Has there been any move? We measure all of that through the entire end-to-end focus. That's the difference that we really hope to bring into the space. I look forward to what's going to unfold, in terms of a growth in South Africa and how we practice this, making the difference in people's lives. We need not underestimate our practice. Yeah? 

Sylvain: No, absolutely. Like you mentioned, I have projects and interest in Africa, so I know some parts of Africa. It's a big continent, not every country there is the same. In South Africa, in my case, if you guys have some projects, it’s definitely not the same environment [as I’m used to].  I figure, there are very advanced ideas, lots of innovation, lots of exciting things happening there. You, in particular, alluded to it. You are taking a specific approach that is whole with Phelekeza. I know you're engaged with State Owned Entities as you call them, and also private practice with your business. 

To achieve your goal. you've also partnered with interesting companies that allow you to broaden the tools. Still, they'll follow the regulations that you're taking from the HPCSA, the Health Professional Council of South Africa. For example, I've met the good people at Passion 4 Performance, which is an interesting partnership that allows you to do certain things that Phelekeza on its own cannot. We are also discussing on how we're going to be added to your tool belt, so to speak, the psychometric tool. Can you tell me about how your strategy of partnering with these companies, and possibly others, bring a more solutions and does a good job to achieve your goals? 

Mackie: That's a very interesting question, Sylvain, because the solution that is playing out as Phelekeza is really answering that question in my view, in relation to how we're modeling our services forward. I'll explain why and how. Because in the five years after we started as an organization, we focused purely as I moved, maybe coined as the 1st phase of our evolution,  which was to let us perfect our strength for our muscle of psychometry and so on and so forth, process wise. I think we are sound there and we've gathered the whole lot of data from our clients that is sitting with us to play around with to say, "How can we?". In the 1st phase, it always pained me to see that we were continually doing the same and the same. Because if you think about the effort that goes into collecting data from an assessment point of view it should involve, for instance, a simulation and exercise. You can sit there for the whole day in some cases. 

That's a lot of input. The output of the end, it's just two hours of consolidating this information. It's like, "Okay, this is the finding". It pains me, I can't wait for so long. I'm just keeping so little information that gives you a conclusion and then you say, "Okay, bye". 

I reached out to a colleague who was a client of mine at that time. She was running a training company. I was fascinated about what it is that she trained on, and she was fascinated about some of the tools that I was flashing in her face to say, this can help my program in housing, but you can have my client. Often enough, I don't know what to say to them about what the findings are here in relation to modeling a perfect program that can then help them. That's where the relationship started and here we are today, we've got an additional entity that really focuses on the extension of the five years that we started, it was the 1st phase. 

The 2nd phase is now to onboard a Training and Development Process/ Entity, to align some of the gaps that we identify to SETA Accredited development  programs. We have another entity here which is quite critical in the training industry that you need to be accredited with. We then created the programs to be able to be in line with that. That is the 2nd phase of our evolution. We are busy installing at a fast-paced programs and processes to flourish and start our 1st programs with one of our clients. We started this year at the beginning. 

Given that part now, we've been with the end-to-end, as I said. We don't want to offer a segmental approach. The end-to-end, we needed to be smart in how we convert the current data into something that talks to programs or training or development, instead of manually working it out using sticks and fax machines, etc. We thought we would rather work smarter and see how we can do mass assessments as well as not just have the data floating somewhere, but let it become a journey in terms of how we capture it. 

CykoMetrix was quite an appealing partner for us, looking at collaborating in that instance. But over and above that, there's also Passion 4 Performance. I suspect you had them on your spotlight here a while ago. P4P are essentially making sure that the journey sticks together, if you know what I mean. In relation to where we capture and make sure that the information is kept at step 1, talk to step 2, 3 and 4, up until the end, until we say, "Mr. Client, we're done and then this is the outcome of how this individual is sent. Are you happy or not happy? Yes, right?". 

That is really the collaboration that is essentially what we see as a model of doing a holistic approach in the space here. My wish is to make a difference in working smarter and making sure that we don't get overtaken by robotics because that's going to just work. In working, it means we've got to catch up. How do we catch up with the speed that Artificial Intelligence is going to really bring into our show. We've got to tune ourselves differently to be able to be in front all the time. 

Otherwise, we'll be burnt out. It is my wish that we could fix, through our programs and through how we modeled ourselves in the unique, integrated and collaborative approach. We can make a difference, not just in our small shores of South Africa, but flooding into Africa, as well as throughout. I look forward to the collaboration, or rather the elements that we are going to bring as individuals, in relation to our own special and specific skill sets in making a difference. 

Sylvain: It sounds exciting to me. These days, with the technology we have, every company in any country is automatically international. It doesn't really matter where they are. Phelekeza is an international company headquartered in South Africa. I think there's a lot of potential. 


Mackie: I thought I would just add to that international comment. I want to go back to the segmental versus the whole approach because we are in a small part of the world. We do service, by the way. Just to gloat a little bit, some of the international organizations who are gallivanting in our shores. In supporting them, it is often enough in certain cases that there isn't a holistic approach in how they develop or rather there's not a synchronized way of seeing what you are doing, what am I doing? What makes sense and so on and so forth. You'd have regional delivery and then it ends there. But yes, we do have international companies that we service. 


Sylvain: No, it's ok. Please, gloat as much as you'd like about your successes because you're doing amazing things, partnerships, collaboration... We know from statistics that collaborative attitudes allow companies to succeed more than competitive attitudes. That's also something from the data. We both love data, and we use it. That's part of using the knowledge, understanding how to generate the success for other companies, but also for ourselves. I'd like to give you the opportunity. Companies, business development individuals, HR individuals are watching this or reading this in a blog format. I'd like to know how do we engage with Phelekeza? Can you explain how people can contact you and get an engagement and figure out how to work with you? 


Mackie: Yes. If they could reach us through our website on  Through the website, I'm sure you would be routed to our social media, some of us are on LinkedIn, and quite active there. We are on Facebook also, as Phelekeza. We have a YouTube channel. You're welcome to go and check us out there. Instagram, we're also prevalent there. Although we are in Africa, in the jungle, I think we can mingle ourselves with the rest, in terms of how the world is moving, in engaging and we are available there. You are more than welcome to really go there and check us out. We're open for discussion also to anyone who would like to really get in touch with us and hear what we're doing. The journey is still ahead of us. 


Sylvain: There's a lot of growth ahead of you. Lots of benefits to provide to the world. The world and your voice is there as an expression, an odd one, but still it's an expression. Thank you so much, Mackie, for being in the Spotlight and describing the approach for Phelekeza in South Africa, in the environment and how the regulations, a unique piece so far, function in South Africa. That is something particular that could give comfort. In other countries, probably there are no such controls, so it may be a benefit to actually work with a South African company someday in that respect. Thank you so much for being in the Spotlight, Mackie. Good success. 


Mackie: Thank you very much. There's quite a lot that you said in your finishing lines, maybe two steps backwards and really putting a spotlight on the collaborative approach. It's quite much deeper to saying that that's where the world is going. We've got to return back to our natural way of working together and not working against each other. I guess this is a classic example of an extension but not just regionally. If you look at how many borders we've had to clearly cross to be able to have this discussion in the depth collaboration that it is beyond our control to imagine that it is possible. I look forward to what that is going to bring in the change that is going to bring in the practice in South Africa and around. Thank you very much for your time.  I look forward to more fruitful discussions in the future. I will also wait for the invitation to Canada for some ski or something like that. 


Sylvain: Absolutely. Yeah, for ski. We have good mountains here, for sure, with plenty of snow. Thank you so much Mackie for contributing to the discussion. Again, good success to us all in collaborative attitudes. 


Mackie: Thank you very much. Have a good weekend. 


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by Mackie Makitla, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Phelekeza

There’s a lot of demand for solutions and interventions to narrow the talent gap in order to advance human capital. Since inception, Phelekeza has positioned itself to offer Competency and Psychometric services; and seeks to continue assisting clients to narrow these gaps.

The SETA’s have made it possible and easier for all organisations, including smaller ones to access high quality development programmes that get offered through accredited training companies.

Phelekeza seeks to offer a holistic approach to Talent development, instead of the ‘one-size-fits-all” approach that HR Practitioners are sometimes conditioned to apply. In as much as the technical competencies are vital to the running of the corporates, awareness needs to be raised for these organisations to include the development of soft skills at all levels of employment. Unfortunately, the focus is sometimes placed solely on EE targets, disregarding the candidates’ holistic competence. Both the employer and the employee need to know that any of them is free to raise a red flag should a need to develop their capacity present itself. Part of Phelekeza’s function is to raise this awareness but also to educate organisations on the importance of Talent Development.

Using our various assessments, surveys, analyses and organisational tools, my team and I are equipped to enable HR Professionals to improve their understanding of human capital. In refining our talent development solutions, we will soon be implementing new ways of closing the Talent Development gaps at our current clients. In partnership with her company Quintessential Growth Consultant, Jennifer Quinn and I are excited to share these new plans as we step into 2022.

Let us continue in unison in capacitating our HUMAN Capital.

I humbly invite you to follow the Phelekeza story here  and subscribe or follow our social media pages on Linkedin, Instagram and Facebook

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by Wanda Roos, Research Psychologist and Associate Consultant Member of the Phelekeza Team

Defining the concept of employee empowerment

At its core, employee empowerment is defined in the academic and business world as the process of giving employees in the organisation the power, authority, responsibility, resources and freedom to take decisions and solve work-related problems. In order to take such initiatives and decisions, they absolutely need adequate authority and resources. On a conversational level it means that employees are valued by their employers to the extent that they invest time and money in their growth and development, with the aim of enhancing the potential of the company to achieve its strategic and operational goals via the best contributions of a consistently competent and motivated workforce.

Most human beings desire recognition, power, status, authority, and responsibility, and drive towards utilising their full energy, abilities, and competencies to excel at what they do. Such people prepare their mindset to achieve, to perform, to win, and to succeed. Empowerment strategies and initiatives provide a facilitative mechanism that helps people to achieve individual goals, team goals and organisational goals.

Once appointed, there are empowerment expectations…

For the most part, once an appointment has been made, two sets of expectations become immediately relevant: those of the employer, and those of the employee. The employer expects to have personnel that are aligned to the strategic and operational direction of the enterprise, and who are capable of executing their duties and obligations in a consistently efficient and motivated way. The staff member expects to be given the required resources and support to do so, so that they are able to develop and apply their full potential in their role. It sounds so easy and obvious. Yet so often things go wrong in this space, because there are myriad impacting factors here, available funding being a key restraint in many instances. Also, there may not always be the necessary enthusiasm and commitment on either or both sides… Another major limiting factor to meaningful employee development is a lack of integrated human resource management and organisational development strategies on the part of the organisation, with the result that employee development initiatives often take the form of ad hoc tick-box exercises that are not conducive to focused, long-term growth of the personnel corps in tandem with the direction that the company is taking. The ultimate aim is meaningful employee empowerment.

Long-term benefits of meaningful employee empowerment

Since empowering the workforce in a meaningful fashion is a costly exercise that also requires time and attention from often a dedicated unit in the business, there has to be absolute clarity and commitment within management ranks around the intended benefits that are to be gained. Research shows repeatedly that companies that invest in meaningful employee empowerment reap the benefits in terms of long-term sustainability and profitability. There are some very clear and significant benefits in this regard:

Increased Productivity

Much time is saved when employees can take their own decisions and do not have to wait for approval from senior levels. Workflow is not disturbed due to unnecessary hassles, and delays are avoided. The increased sense of responsibility motivates employees to try out innovative methods of getting the work done. Furthermore, employees derive more satisfaction from their work as their contribution towards the organisational goals is increased. Higher job satisfaction coupled with saving of precious time results in higher productivity.

Reduced Costs

By taking their own decisions, employees save the time and efforts of top management. Since there is a high level of decentralisation in an organisation where employees are empowered, the need for middle-level managers is considerably lower. Properly trained employees are also less likely to waste resources or have an accident. All these benefits collectively reduce unnecessary expenditure of the company.

Improved Quality

Employee empowerment requires that the employees are properly trained in order to take effective managerial decisions. They are provided with adequate resources to enable them to tackle day-to- day affairs in an efficient manner. At the same time, the senior managers can delegate much of their work to other employees so that they can concentrate on more important tasks. Better efficiency in operations is achieved as a result of employee empowerment which leads to improved quality.


Competitive Edge

Maintaining a competitive edge over its competitors is crucial for an organisation’s sustainability and increasing market share in its industry. Competitive, motivated and loyal employees play a huge role here. Employee empowerment facilitates the utilisation of manpower in the best possible way. Employees get a chance to exercise their managerial and decision-making abilities while performing their job duties. In so doing, a dedicated, loyal and empowered workforce helps to place the company ahead of its competitors.

Better Job Satisfaction and Retention of Employees

Employee turnover is a big problem faced by many organisations in the modern world. By engaging in meaningful employee empowerment initiatives, an organisation is able to improve their job satisfaction and retain high performers and value-adding personnel. Employees get to perform a variety of jobs at different levels that require different skills and abilities. This creates a challenging and dynamic work environment where sought-after employees actually enjoy their jobs and remain in them.

Getting bang for your buck

Given the considerable resource and financial input required to run a meaningful employee empowerment strategy in the organisation, it makes sense to ensure equitable output for input. In this regard, ongoing diligent monitoring of employee and company needs, as well as of the performance of all members of the workforce – particularly after the implementation of training and development initiatives – is essential. Keep an open mind for special development desires from employees that may not fit a hundred percent into their current roles. They may be ready to be groomed for future value-add in the organisation….

At our core Phelekeza offers innovative and customisable human capital solutions, designed to get the most out of the people in your organisation.


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