A catalyst for change in the African workplace

Innovative Shared Services (ISS) are experts in the facilitation of workplace evolution.


Innovative Shared Services (ISS) are experts in the facilitation of workplace evolution. Morné van der Merwe, the CEO, emphasises the importance of employee development and empowerment and discusses their core service offerings as well as the role of innovation and technology

Could you please tell us a bit more about your role at ISS?

I have the privilege as ISS CEO to lead the most amazing team of forward-thinking people. My responsibilities can be summarised as creating an exceptional workplace, making information available to all employees to enable us to grow the business, meeting with our directors to review critical success factors and ensuring we have enough coffee beans to keep the creative momentum going. In addition, I have a keen interest in our continual development of progressive systems and structures that we implement in our business and for our clients. This is generally done in a creative space with our software developers. Interestingly, we are not a software development company at all, but we feel that no business can function effectively without these skills, whether they are provided in-house or outsourced.

How long have you been with ISS and what are your short- and long-term goals for the organisation?

ISS was a New Venture Creation project that I started 10 years ago, so I have been part of the business since its inception.

Clearly communicated business goals and objectives are reviewed on an ongoing basis. This ensures we always achieve short-term goals that we agree upon as a team. More to the point though, our short-term goals are to ensure we are in touch with our people, products, clients and systems. My long-term goals are to gain market share and ensure we stay true to our core values. ISS is a truly African company, embracing continuous improvement and learning. We want to be the “catalyst for change in the African workplace”. We achieve this through investing in developing human potential, creating systems that allow growth and a leadership style that is participative yet decisive. Our success comes from a sense of urgency, agility, transparency and an aggressive but fair approach to securing the best for our clients.

What is the dream for the company? Where will ISS clients see the business in the near future?

Our team passion and competency is a multiplier. The dream is to keep adding value and to multiply our growth. By applying this simple method, we will continue to work towards becoming the trusted service provider, through all our business divisions, to large corporates, the government and SMEs alike.

What are the core services you offer to your clients?

ISS has five very well-defined business divisions, delivered to our clients face to face and/or via our digital platforms.

Business Advancement

It is not uncommon for bad business practices to emerge—even in good business conditions—or even proliferate if left unchecked. We believe business leaders can prevent this by embracing evolution and continually striving to achieve workplace advancement. It has become crucial not only to constantly measure and clarify the potential of your current business, but also to map its way forward to a stronger, more resilient future. Our Business Advancement division conducts an in-depth analysis and provides our clients with a “blueprint” to advance their organisations.

Risk Management

ISS assists clients in understanding and quantifying risk within their business structures in a proactive way. Risk management should form part of any business’ critical success factors. Our clinical approach with custom data-centric software will help you to assess and mitigate risk in the following areas: OHS, legal audits, insurance and underwriting and BCP. This is executed by subject matter experts, through world-class software we have developed.

Training and Development

We offer in the region of 600 accredited training programmes to our clients represented in all economic sectors. Our training includes some of the following interventions: learnership programmes, legal compliance training, management development and ABET and information technology. Our accreditation extends to many SETAs, QCTO, DHET and various other governing and regulatory bodies.

Skills Development Strategies

Our Skills Development Strategies division is very focused on ensuring that our clients understand the South African skills frameworks. These areas of expertise are led by a dedicated team of SDFs and cover the following areas:

The identification of scarce and critical skills for clients considering the local economies they operate in.

  • SETA, SAQA, QCTO funding and funding applications through the completion of meaningful WSPs
  • BBBEE codes of good practice with an emphasis on the skills development section
  • Employment Equity
  • SARS/ Tax elements embedded in all of the above

Accreditations and Compliance Audits

In a fast-evolving, globalised world, product consistency and standardisation are absolutely critical. Our Compliance Audits that are clinically performed, help to ensure this consistency.

ISS has extensive expertise in helping clients to obtain accreditations relevant to their respective industries, with the view of continual improvement that will lead to a competitive advantage. We focus on three specific areas of accreditation and certification: ISO quality management systems, food safety accreditations and legislations applicable to specialised businesses.

All our divisions are delivered face to face and via our digital platforms, further emphasising our understanding and progressive approach. I encourage you to read more about these divisions on our website.

How would you describe the ISS company culture?

Creative, passionate, mad, fun, caring… these are all the immediate emotions that come to mind. Culture and fit are absolutely crucial for us. We deliberately have a very flat and direct reporting structure to encourage agility, open communication and the ability to make factual decisions quickly. It is well-documented that you spend so much of your life at work and it is, therefore, critical that job satisfaction should be a key factor for consideration when joining a company. With our business enjoying such positive growth and with the headcount increasing monthly, we are mindful of the pitfalls that a larger structure brings.

How many countries does ISS operate in? Is ISS a business with an international footprint?

We are a proudly South African company. We have done work in many countries, but we only have offices in South Africa. We do travel extensively to seek learning opportunities from other countries, but it is always with the view of improving what is available in South Africa. It has to be said that as South Africans, we have the ability to teach the many lessons we have learnt to other countries.

We are firm believers that “Disruption causes Innovation”. The interpretation of this, as far as our global position is concerned, is emphasising the opportunity that stems from our resilience as a nation to learn and adapt. Our response to disruption has been incredible.

There is a big focus within ISS on employee development and empowerment, why do you find this to be important and how has it benefited ISS thus far?

Employee development is one of our core service offerings and it is a critical success factor for our clients. Therefore, it is natural that we focus investment in this area of our business. We can see the direct benefits in our own business, which makes the partnership with our clients so much easier when they trust us with their employees’ education.

This question reminds me of a quote I heard a while ago and serves as part of my answer: “Company shareholders were complaining! ‘We need to cut the spend of training our people, it’s too expensive...by training them we run the risk that they will leave us to move to our opposition.’ The CEO responded by saying: ‘Imagine the impact on our business if we do not train our people and they stay here forever!’.” Employee development must remain a top priority for companies.

Please tell us about ISS Empowerment and the value that it will bring to the group?

It is unquestionable that the next global business icon and success story will come out of South Africa. ISS Empowerment (NPC) has been set up to assist in finding these contenders. The sole purpose of our Empowerment (NPC) is to find deserving candidates whom we can transform through dedicated mentorship and world-class education—a focused incubator programme. ISS Empowerment is a fully black-owned company that owns 26% of ISS. In addition, ISS Empowerment has become an expert in the recruiting and selecting of unemployed persons with disabilities (PWDs). Once selected, delegates are enrolled into 12-month learnerships and development programmes with employment as the outcome.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us, how important is innovation and technology to ISS, and how do you feel it is changing the landscape within your industry? Was ISS Online a result of this change?

We employ two software developers. This, for a company that does not sell software, speaks volumes about how we feel about innovation and technology. All of our business divisions are very dependent on the advancement of systems and structures to make us more competitive as well as to give our clients more options. The majority of our employees are classified as youth (18 to 35), so we depend on them to guide our transition into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Over the past two years, we have made all of our services available on digital platforms through ISS Online with great success. ISS Online was certainly a response to the markets’ need for technology within our sector. We aim to generate 50% of all our revenue via our digital platforms by 2021. Although ambitious, we believe that with deliberate focus, this will be achieved. We are mindful that we have the responsibility to build a resilient business, focused on people and organisational development for tomorrow’s leaders who will be a beacon of hope for future generations to follow. 

Website address: www.iss.co.za

Telephone number: 0861 11 11 85
Email address: info@iss.co.za

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