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Increasing Productivity

Shared Responsibility, Shared Reward

True ubuntu at work leads to increased productivity and higher levels of commitment and profitability for a local healthcare company.

Monique Verduyn

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Can a business profit by putting the happiness of its employees at the heart of everything it does? The John Lewis business model, developed in the UK in the early 1900s, proves that this is indeed possible.

It gives each employee part-ownership of a company, a share of its annual profits, and a say in how it’s run. In theory, it makes employees more invested in their work, and so heightens productivity and profits.

It’s a model that Amanda Wilde applied when she acquired a healthcare business in 2008 which distributed Convatec products in South Africa. It had a R26 million turnover and zero profitability.

“It’s an excellent model to apply here, given that BEE legislation is not succeeding in changing business ownership as effectively as government would like it to,” says Wilde.

Employee happiness

According to the model, 100% of capital value and ownership of the business goes into a trust for the benefit of its employees, and there are no external shareholders. At the centre is the happiness of employees, achieved through worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business.

Wilde has run Umsinsi according to the John Lewis model from day one. In the first year, it achieved a 15% profit margin which, she explains, was still low because the business was upping its staff numbers. In 2012, turnover hit R54 million.

Wilde remains the sole shareholder at present, but refers to herself as a guardian, rather than an owner, her goal being to complete a full trust transfer within the next two years.

“We’re focused on getting people’s heads in the right place and ready to take responsibility,” she says.“To employ the right staff, we spend a lot of time watching people in the industry. In four years, we’re profitable and we are predominantly young, black and female.

“We’re now aiming to grow from 28 to around 40, which will give Umsinsi a solid number of likeminded employees who are willing to do their part to ensure success.”

Related: Shiny, Happy People

The nuts and bolts

Critical mass is important in this model as it ensures that one or two bad apples can’t spoil it for everyone else.

“The point is that it’s possible for everyone to profit from a great business. This is not communism or socialism because the business has to be profitable for the model to work.”

As the MD of the business, Wilde points out that she holds the reins, along with her management team. “We don’t hand over decision-making to the employees.

“Rather, it’s about cultivating a sense of personal satisfaction on their part because they are members of a co-owned enterprise in which they have worthwhile, secure and fulfilling employment.

“To do that, our strategy is to make enough profit to sustain our commercial vitality and distinctive character, allow for continued growth and distribute a share of profits each year, consistent with the ‘partners’ expectations (which have to be reasonable).

“We have their commitment because they have a vested interest.”

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 Related: Great People Are the Foundation of Great Businesses

 How do you usually try and increase staff productivity?

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Increasing Productivity

The 3 Nasty Little Secrets About Teams

Internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink can derail your group quickly.

Beth Miller

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In today’s world of business, we all understand the value of teams. Well-functioning teams can collaborate and drive innovation, which is a competitive advantage. Without innovation, many companies wither and die.

Iconic brands like Borders and Blockbuster are examples of companies that were unable to adapt quickly enough to the changing competitive landscape. Now you can bet that these companies understood the importance of innovation and had teams focused on the future, but what went wrong? From my experience, three things derail teams – internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink.

1Internal competition

When companies have processes and structures that create competition for limited internal resources, things can get ugly quickly. Strong team identity can be a huge benefit to productivity and engagement but only if all of your departments have a single goal that requires co-operation, not competition, amongst the departments. So how do you create the “big goal?”

Related: 10 Traits Of Managers Whose Teams Are Happy To Come To Work

Ideally the big goal is a concept and more abstract. It should speak to your company’s purpose. For example, one PEO company’s big goal was to provide unique human resource solutions to their customers’ problems by listening to customer needs and leveraging unique technology solutions.

Once the company “why” was clear, the CEO facilitated a discussion with each department about what the goal meant for them. They explored the answers to questions like: What are the principles and programs that each department could create and embrace that would assist them in providing unique solutions to customer problems?

For the PEO, listening to customers was determined to be a core principal. The CEO met with his executive team to determine what program could be developed for each department that would enhance listening to their customers. In this case, all the executives agreed there were three departments – sales, customer service and accounting – that interfaced with customers on an ongoing basis. And, that without the three departments cooperating, they could not deliver unique custom human resource solutions to their customers.

Armed with this knowledge, each of the three department leaders were in charge with communicating the big goal and assisting in determining what department goals would drive and support the big goal while requiring the cooperation of the other departments.

2Incentive systems

With incentive systems, remember that what you incent and reward others for will drive their behavior and results. The classic example is sales commissions. When the metric for sales commission is revenue, you will have your sales team looking for any sales opportunity. But, if you compensate your sales team by gross margin dollars, your sales team will bring you only profitable sales.

Compensating sales by gross margin dollars may increase profits but it doesn’t help solve the problem of internal competition amongst sales and other departments. What behaviors do you need to increase your sales and profits while focusing on collaboration and innovation?

For one technology company, there was one value that all employees within every department lived by that helped drive company growth and profitability – listening to and solving customer problems. So company leaders proceeded to develop firm goals around listening to customers and driving innovative solutions. Then each department created specific objectives, which linked to the goals and were dependent on the other departments’ co-operation.

Related: Building A Hard-Working Team Starts With You

3Groupthink

Leaders often have strong opinions, which can lead to groupthink. Groupthink discourages perspectives from being challenged and narrows thinking, stifling innovation and organisational competitiveness. In order to manage and break groupthink, a leader needs to listen more than talk during meetings where strategy and innovation are the focus. He/she needs to have dissenter(s) on their teams and encourage and support the dissenters. While team members generally do not like dissenters, they are often the ones who care the most and have the courage to dissent.

As a leader of a team, is your team at risk of groupthink? You can do a quick assessment by asking for feedback from team members on your listening skills. How much time do you spend listening versus talking? When do team members get the opportunity to speak in meetings? What questions are you asking that will lead to exploring alternatives and processing information objectively? Who are the dissenters on your team? And how do you support and encourage their views and suggestions?

One technique I recommend to team leaders is Six Thinking Hats presented by Edward de Bono in his book by the same title. The method will transform your meetings so that all perspectives are taken into account.

Now that you know the derailers of teams, it is time to take action and define goals that drive collaboration across the company, reward teams for working collaboratively and encourage the dissenters on your team. What is your first step?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

7 Bad Workplace Habits Millennials Need To Stop Making

Walk away from the computer once in a while. Leave your tablet behind for meetings. And don’t check your smartphone during a conversation.

Jayson Demers

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The millennial generation has faced a great deal of criticism, and in some cases, scorn from older generations. We millennials – yes, I’m one of them – are seen as selfish, entitled and demanding, not to mention addicted to technology.

Are these stereotypes true? Certainly not for all millennials. But there are certain tendencies and habits that are associated with the millennial generation more than any other generation – and they run both positive and negative.

Here, let’s focus on the negatives, setting aside the fact that you can’t categorize an entire generation, and behavioral traits and stereotypes can’t be empirically proven to exist. Instead, let’s focus on the bad workplace habits that the older generations perceive millennials to have, and work on eliminating them.

Related: Lifestyle-Focused Work Environments Are Not Just For Millennials

Regardless of how much of a stereotypical millennial you believe yourself to be, you’ll make a better impression in your new work environment if you avoid these common bad habits:

1Making demands instead of requests

Millennials do have a habit of making demands, and setting more rigid requirements for their workplaces. On some level, this is good; too many modern workers are afraid to voice their opinions, and would rather keep their heads down than verbally address something wrong with the organisations.

However, when voicing your opinion, turn your demands into requests. Making a request of your employer shows more respect and subordination than making a demand, which is especially important if you’re new to the organisation.

The more experience you earn, the more demanding you can afford to be, but start out by making requests instead.

2Exhibiting overconfidence

Confidence is good, but overconfidence can ruin your reputation if it’s perceived as arrogance. Millennials tend to overestimate their abilities and knowledge in the workplace, which is especially irritating to people from the older generations who have spent far more years on the job.

Recognize that your superiors have been at this job longer than you have, and don’t be afraid to exhibit confidence – as long as you keep that confidence reasonably in check. It’s better to perform well with a sense of humility than to boast about your abilities and fail to meet expectations. Just as happens with demands, you can demonstrate more confidence over time as your accomplishments start to speak for themselves.

3Relying only on certain forms of communication

Most millennials prefer text-based forms of communication over voice-based forms. They’re more comfortable with mediums like SMS text and email because they’ve grown up with these formats, and recognise the fact that they give you more time to put your thoughts together (not to mention leaving a paper trail).

However, it’s important to recognise that not everyone prefers to communicate this way – and that there are advantages to making a phone call rather than emailing. Showcase a degree of flexibility in the way you communicate, and you can eliminate this bad habit altogether.

Related: What Millennials Want From 2017 – How To Stay Ahead Of The Trend Curve

4Talking more than listening

Talking more than listening

This is a bad habit for any generation, not just millennials; but for millennials, it’s far more damning. Because millennials are seen as self-centered and overconfident, talking too much can be seen as an exacerbation of these qualities (even if it’s just a result of this individual’s extroverted personality).

Instead, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more, especially when you’re in the company of someone more experienced or more authoritative than you are. You’ll end up making a better impression, and more importantly, you’ll learn more in the process.

5Assuming a certain behavior or action is okay

Office environments are becoming more relaxed. Work schedules are becoming more flexible, etiquette is becoming looser and dress codes are increasingly casual. These trends are facilitated by increasing technological sophistication and decreasing reliance on old-school business tropes. However, this isn’t a free license to show up at the office whenever you want, wearing whatever you want.

In fact, doing so could mark you as both overconfident and disrespectful. Don’t just assume a certain action or behavior is okay. If you’re even slightly in doubt, ask someone.

6Multitasking

Millennials grew up with technology that provided instantaneous information on demand. They work fast and think fast, which makes them highly productive and ingenious. Unfortunately, this high pace also lures them into the multitasking trap, tempting them to try to accomplish many things simultaneously in a bid to work as fast as possible.

As more people are beginning to realise, multitasking is ineffective, and engaging in multitasking could weaken your performance in multiple areas.

Related: Why Millennials Are Becoming Franchisees

7Staying plugged in

Again, thanks to our natural history with technological devices, we millennials tend to be more reliant on them than our older-generation counterparts. There’s a perception that weare addicted to technology, so if you’re young and want to combat this stereotype and improve your reputation in the process, avoid staying “plugged in” for too long.

Walk away from the computer every once in a while. Leave your tablet behind for that important meeting. Above all, don’t check your smartphone when you’re having a conversation.

The truth is, there are some differences that set millennials apart from other generations. This doesn’t mean millennials are bad workers or good workers – it just means they work differently. Acknowledging those differences, and compensating for them when they create workplace dissonance, can help you better adjust to your job, and make a better impression with the people in charge.

Focus on eliminating these bad habits, and you’ll stand apart from the rest of your generation.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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End Of Year Slump? Now’s The Time To Pull Out The Right Rewards

It has been a long year with many economic turmoils. People are tired and many employees have just one goal in mind — to take a well-deserved rest.

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For sales people this should be the last thing on their minds. The festive season is especially the season to sell, sell, sell. What is the best way to solve this conundrum?

Motivational programmes that offer staff incentives have proven highly successful. They can generate a positive, productive atmosphere. November, through December into January is the time of year when annual targets will be achieved and contracts renewed, so what better time to drive activity and incentivise the workforce?

As an incentive solution company, Uwin Iwin has the necessary experience in achieving the optimum results.

Timing is everything

The tradition of pre-Christmas reward means employee recognition is delivered before the year is out. Although the extra money will come in handy for gifts and what-not, January is usually a lean month.

Related: Uwin Iwin Incentives Hits The United Kingdom Shores

The reward process could be split, for example, with half the reward given before Christmas and half in the New Year. A reward at the start of the year is the perfect way to perk up employees who may be suffering from the January blues, and focus them on activities for the months ahead. It also helps extend the feel-good factor of the festive season and ease the post-Christmas squeeze on spending.

Increasing normal rewards

For those who have to work during this time, motivation can ebb away. Instead of the normal incentive programme, introduce competitions and make it fun. Increase normal incentives by 50%, for example, to motivate sales channels to perform at the highest levels possible.

Considering that buying power increases through more disposable income, December offers the perfect opportunity to maximise sales figures.

A targeted approach

When it comes to deciding on targets, realistic goals need to be set. Goals must be achievable and fair, and the best way of deciding them is to ask staff to select their own. This means that their commitment to achieving the target is greater because they take ownership of it.

Businesses should not concentrate on rewarding top achievers in their workforce, but ensure the programme is designed to engage and improve performance across the whole of the team, especially during this time when employees might feel deprived of a festive season because they have to work.

Reward categories could include Performance of the Month, Biggest Improvement, Best Comeback, to name a few.

Related: Incentives to Promote Job Creation

Appropriate rewards

The challenge that many businesses face when planning their festive reward strategy is what type of reward to give. Cash is appreciated by most employees, but runs the risk of being an ‘invisible reward’ — forgotten once it hits the bank account and likely to be spent on day to day necessities.

Money being uploaded onto a gift card that can be used anywhere is much more rewarding. Uwin Iwin has the perfect solution in the Kudosh card that offers exactly that — cash on a branded card accepted by any vendor that accepts MasterCard.

Rewards beyond gift cards

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Out of the ordinary rewards can be a very good incentive. One option that works nicely is the earning of days off (increased leave) that can be used outside peak seasons. Sending out questionnaires to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to preferred rewards will give you great insight into possible solutions.

End-of-year rewards resonate strongly with employees as a way of acknowledging their contribution throughout the year. It is therefore also a good idea to use this opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of employees by presenting their rewards on a public forum.

This adds a personal element and provides public recognition for the member of staff in front of their peers and is fitting for an end-of-the-year festive celebration.

Communication is key

Communication over the festive season is especially pertinent. Regular emails, SMSes and even hard copy pamphlets outlining the increased rewards serve as a constant motivation.

The trick here is to make the communications so powerful that they overcome end-of-year fatigue.

Related: With the Right Incentives Loyal Customers Will Become Brand Advocates

Ask Uwin Iwin to help you to relook your incentive programme this festive season. And while it shouldn’t be the only incentive you provide for the year, it is good to make it a little more special for your valuable employees during the festive season.

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