After Apartheid, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) underwent a significant transformation in becoming a more inclusive, transparent and efficient organization. Largely behind this effort was the Human Resources management team under the leadership of Judy Parfitt. The human resources challenges upon her arrival were significant, as the existing procedures were largely outdated and inappropriate. However, thanks to the fact that SARS had administrative autonomy, the HR department was able to change everything from the grading system to the performance management system to the remuneration system. This case study details the challenges involved and the remedies they underwent to ensure a sustainable and well-received transformation. Throughout the interview, Ms. Parfitt stresses how the organization underwent a shift in formal procedures but also a shift in the organizational culture as an emphasis was placed on competency and performance rather than previous loyalties. There was a significant need for good black talent and in the search for these individuals to fill new positions, the HR team looked for specific job knowledge but also generic competencies that would foster a positive and collaborative working style. Additionally, the interview stresses the importance of working with the unions through the Siyakha protocol where a shared strategy was devised and discussed in detail in order to take into account the structural changes on personnel. These collective agreements were essential to organizational reform, and despite significant disagreements between management and the two major unions, there was a general commitment to creating a better life for all.
At the time of this interview, Judy Parfitt was General Manager of Human Resources (HR) at the South African Revenue Services (SARS). She began her career in journalism. But, in the wake of state censorship exercised in South Africa during the state of emergency declared in the late 1980s, Parfitt returned to school and obtained a Master’s in International Relations in Warrick, United Kingdom (U.K.). She then worked for Volkswagen South Africa, and later helped set up the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in South Africa, specifically the Eastern Cape region. In 1998, Parfitt was recruited by SARS.