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Props for People Managers

Choosing your skills development partners.

Deidre Elphick-Moore



Human Resources Management Team

In my article Scoring a Hat Trick, I explored the top three things that employees, managers and business leaders can do to help facilitate the effective transfer of learning from the classroom to the workplace.

In this article, I want to suggest some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for you skills development partners: those people who are responsible for delivering people-development programmes in your organisation. They may be employed by you or this service may be outsourced. In either case, these questions should be applied to measure the quality and impact of your skills development partners.

1: Understands organisational goals

Demonstrates a clear understanding of your organisational goals and is able to map skills development programmes to these. This insight is needed to check the validity of tabled training programmes. It is vital that your investment in people development directly supports your organisational goals.

If not, your money will be wasted. In South Africa, smart employers use skills development to achieve two distinct objectives (a) to meet their statutory obligations regarding equity (B-BBEE) and skills development (Skills Development Act) and (b) to improve organisational performance.

Your skills development partner needs to understand your goals in each of these areas and should be able to advise how best to achieve these goals.

2: Knows the changes they need to see

Is able to articulate the desired behavioural changes. These behaviours should be clearly outlined in relation to each level of employee in your organisation. For example, to state that a delegate should “effectively manage time” is not enough, more detail is required. For example:


Understands the factors that make up your organisational culture. These include the behaviours, values and attitudes of staff at all levels, as well as the expectations and demands of the operational environment.

3: Organisational culture unpacked

These elements are relevant to the content of training material and the delivery platform. For example, they will dictate whether classroom-based learning or a more practical methodology is appropriate.

4: Understands the learners

Is able to deliver content that is relevant to the particular learner group. Most training providers offer ‘off the shelf’ or generic material that they work through, regardless of the client. Often, it is largely theoretical. In today’s age of information technology, access to theory, to information is easier than ever.

Content of skills development programmes needs to bring this theory to life, to make it interesting and applicable to the real-life circumstances of the learners.

5: Holds learners accountable

Creates a framework whereby participants are held accountable to use what they have learned. Employee engagement and motivation are central to the successful transfer of skills to the workplace.

If participants understand before they attend skills development programmes that they will be held accountable as outlined above and they understand how this will be measured, they will be more inclined to focus on, participate in and apply learning.

6: Can demonstrate ROI

Is able to measure return on investment and includes this in the procurement process. All too often, the choice of training partner simply comes down to the lowest, per-delegate quote. People are still the greatest asset in most businesses and the impact of their performance on the bottom line must be considered.

This is especially relevant when choosing who will deliver training programmes. They should also be considered on the probability that their deliverables will result in, for example, labour savings, productivity increases or new income generated.

7: Understands effective business training

Shows continued development and improvement of skills development programmes. International trends should be considered, as well as the changing landscape of your particular business sector.

Innovative ways of facilitating learning should be demonstrated; the days of traditional, classroom-based, lecture-style learning interventions are numbered. They are simply not effective enough.

Deirdre Elphick-Moore, has an Honours Degree in Psychology and over ten years of international experience in human capital management at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Co-founding The Office Coach in 2009, she now focuses on personal and workplace effectiveness training and development. Her relaxed, engaging style encourages people to learn more, remember more and apply more in their workplaces, as well as inspiring to consistently better themselves in the work place.

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Why Skype When You Can Video Conference?

Why purchase a video conferencing system to expand my empire when I can get Skype for free?





Vital Stats

If you’re looking to put an end to time-consuming, expensive and exhausting business travel or just considering the next step to boost your business’ productivity, you’re likely to be faced with the ‘Skype vs video conferencing’ dilemma. Why purchase a video conferencing system to expand my empire when I can get Skype for free?

While Skype provides a great solution to staying in touch with friends and family abroad at no cost, certain drawbacks, such as limited resolution, high bandwidth usage and the fact that the service is only available to Skype users, make this a less-than-ideal solution in the professional environment.

Until recently, professional video conferencing has been inaccessible to most businesses in SA due to its high cost of ownership but Yealink has changed this by providing professional video conferencing solutions designed for SMEs, offering a perfect balance between high quality, ease-of-use and affordability.

Related: (Video) Video Conference Etiquette for Dummies

Here are some of the key reasons to choose one of Yealink’s video conferencing solutions over a free video conferencing service.

1. Increased reliability

Free video conferencing services do not offer a performance guarantee. You run the risk of poor call quality or dropped calls due to network issues. While this may be a free service, it could cost you your business’s reputation.

Corporate video conferencing solutions (VCS) only require one megabit of bandwidth – half of what is needed for Skype – allowing high-quality video, even under fluctuating network conditions.

2. Improved visual and audio quality

While Skype allows for multi-participant calls, there are limitations in terms of visual and audio quality.

Skype does not have zoom-in and focus camera functionality, allowing only the host of the call to be seen in the corner of the screen during a multi-participant call. Poor audio quality and echoing is also often the result of Skype’s microphone being built into the camera.

Yealink’s VCS support full-HD dual systems to display people and content at one time and, thanks to integrated packet loss, you can be sure of a high quality viewing experience. The system’s Full-HD PTZ, 12x optical zoom PTZ camera allows you zoom in, out and around the room with a clear picture at all times.

The Yealink VCS phone has several built-in microphone arrays and supports 360-degree voice pickup, so you won’t have to shout across the room.

There’s also no need for squishing up to hear other attendees. With an optimal expansion microphone KIT, the voice pick-up range can be extended up to 5 metres and video phones are available for desktop video if you don’t fancy joining the rest of your team in the boardroom.


3. Ease of use

Concerned about complicated VCS equipment setups? Don’t be. Yealink VCS plug-and-play simplicity makes installation quick and fuss-free. And thanks to VCS unique industry-intelligent firewall, there isn’t even a need for firewall configuration. Bonus!

While Skype appears simple to use, its multi-party settings are not as intuitive as those of its one-to-one call functionality.

Related: While Tech Investing Slows These 3 Growing Industries Are Getting Hot

4. Management and support

Unlike Skype, Yealink’s video conferencing solutions offer the peace of mind of top-quality, 24/7 support. Yealink provides scheduling, software updates and reporting over a controlled secure network infrastructure.

5. Unlimited access

While four people can participate in a multi-party Skype call, quality is unreliable whereas Yealink’s VCS allow for eight participants, bridging a client site which allows for a more secure, controlled and reliable VC experience.

Finally, while Skype is limited to 100 hours per month for multi-party calling, you are able to use Yealink’s VCS as many times as you want per month.

Related: From Simple Idea To Sideline Business: How Nkosenhle Hlophe Spotted An Opportunity

Want to learn more or book a VCS demo? Click here to get in touch and we’ll show you why it’s worth investing in one of Yealink’s premium video conferencing solutions.

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Setting Up Systems

3 Ways To Avoid Catastrophic Failure By Streamlining Day-to-Day Processes

Type up “small business failure” on a search engine and you get tons of overwhelmingly depressing results showing various statistics demonstrating that there’s a realistically slim chance that any business will survive past the 15-year mark.

Harald Merckel




Type up “small business failure” on a search engine and you get tons of overwhelmingly depressing results showing various statistics demonstrating that there’s a realistically slim chance that any business will survive past the 15-year mark.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the chances a business founded in 1994 will have survived to this day dips down to 20 percent. There is, of course, the issue of context whenever you’re looking at a cold statistic that does little to paint a picture of how businesses reach such a high failure rate. In addition to that, failure rates vary depending on other circumstances such as industry and political climate.

You will find a vast ocean of pundits attempting to provide their own two cents on why businesses have a high failure rate, and they will tell cite anything from poor management to the lack of a presence online.

After looking through the various reasons, there’s one thing that many have in common and it’s in your control:

Businesses will often lose the momentum they first had because they do not manage to keep up with the demands of running their everyday operations.

They can’t talk to their customers effectively online, their service quality doesn’t match the expectations of a fast-paced fickle market, their inventory is disorganised or the business itself doesn’t differentiate itself enough to make a mark on visitors.

Related: 3 Ways You Can Use Mobile Apps To Improve Your Customer Experience

Businesses that don’t have all of their ducks in a row cannot hope to address these issues. It is only logical that the first thing everyone needs to do before going any further is to face the elephant in the room by streamlining daily business activities in such a way that they are (at the very least) manageable.

Organise the backroom environment

Behind every jar of honey you buy is an army of bees that have traveled thousands of miles to make each spoonful. We know honey is made this way, yet we seldom ever ponder the journey each bee took to making that entire jar that’s now sitting in your cupboard.

Businesses work in much the same way; there are backroom processes that keep the ship afloat each and every day. Although few customers will ever see these mechanisms, their impact on the forward-facing side of a company is on full display.

Having the right software to run your back office will come a long way in helping you to avoid experiencing trouble in these departments. Applications like ProWorkflow do an excellent job of streamlining task management, invoicing, and many other functions that are often overlooked when hunting for inefficiencies that need addressing.

Get social with your online base


One of the things making large corporate entities stand out online right now is their ingenious use of social media. While there are many who see this as a carte blanche to spread a dizzying array of bland boilerplate marketing content in a desperate attempt to be relevant with the “cool” crowd, there are stellar examples of companies like Starbucks, Etsy, Calvin Klein, and McDonald’s using platforms like Twitter to embrace trends and engage directly with customers.

When you look at these brands extending their presence, it’s tempting to think that they have teams of people entirely dedicated to browse social sites and start conversations.

The truth is that much of their social media engagement efforts come from the use of applications that help automate this in an intelligent way, letting them concentrate solely on the parts of social branding that help build engagement and retain it.

Tools like Narrow provide an enormous boost by taking a no-nonsense approach to Twitter interaction, showing you who’s talking about subjects that are relevant to your goals. Other applications like Hootsuite help you schedule posts ahead of time so that you do not have to spend every living moment on social networks.

This will effectively reduce the amount of time you spend on this activity to a couple of hours a week, freeing you from the headache of having yet another front to fight on.

Related: Using An Online Meeting To Talk With Your Subscribers

Keep your inventory in check

The reason that retail giants have no problem opening a gazillion locations is because they were able to keep their ducks in a row when it came to tracking everything they sell and acquire.

Having a systematic approach to inventory simplifies operations to the point that reproducing the model is a simple game of “plug and play”. They do this like every other successful and long-living enterprise still alive in the 21st century does. They use the magic of software.

Without this ingredient, you’ll be spending more time tracking where things are going and who’s paying for what than taking care of any of the other 18 million different things you have to do to keep the lights on.

It’s a not-so-well-guarded secret that there are solutions that even smaller contenders can use to keep themselves in good competition with their much larger counterparts, and one of those solutions is inventory management.

Software like Vend, for example, contains a variety of smaller applications that come together to form one of the most powerful point-of-sale and inventory management suites, even allowing for things like layaways, parked sales, and gift cards.

Related: How To Promote Your Blog By Following Your Passion

Technology may have advanced to a point where it perhaps has a stronger grasp on our daily lives than we’d like, but the game of retaining customers still operates on the same rules it did back when the first street markets began appearing thousands of years ago.

You have to make sure that they don’t find greener pastures elsewhere and one of the main ways you can do that is by showing them that you provide a fluid environment and a dedication to serve.

The difference is that today there are pieces of software that make these things a lot simpler. Take advantage of this and you’ll have a very strong chance of living to see another decade (or ten).

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Setting Up Systems

Speed Up Production Using Communication Structures

Find a structure that maximises the production line.

Neli Moqabolane




Usually communication flows with the hierarchy structure of the company, e.g. from CEO to director to deputy director to manager to assistant manager, etc. Is this necessarily how communication should flow? With an understanding that communication needs to be orderly structured.

The type of communication structure in place has an influence on the production speed. Closing or opening lines of communication will determine the pace of production.

One structure can be ideal for a company, a division or just project. You need to know which structure will suit your conditions.

A communications structure can be seen as a pattern that directs who talks to who in the company. In the 1950’s Bavelas and Leavitt, sociologists researched communication structures.

Related: 6 Thought Provoking Leadership Quotes That You Should Actually Follow

The aim was to find the impact a structures has on problem-solving and production. These five communication structures are still relevant to today’s communication.

1. Chain/line Structure


Communicators are positioned in a line or chain. Person 1 communicates with person 2, 2 with 3, 3 with 4 and 4 with 5. The communicators are only linked to the person next to them.

Communication is organised, however information may be misinterpreted, late or not reach the destination. I would recommend this structure for relaxed companies/situation where there is no deadline. To avoid glitches, use electronic channels as backed up.

2. Y Structure


It resembles the letter Y, person 1 and 2 on top can communicate with person 3. Person 3 is able to communicate with 4 who has connections with 5. Person 1 and 2 are not linked. The two will only know what 3 communicates. 3 has the advantage of most information since he can communicate with 4 who has information from 5.

In companies where communication is a priority this structure will not work. Time is wasted, and some might not receive the information. It however will function well where confidentiality is a priority.

3. Star Structure


Person 1 is at the centre, he can communicate with person 2, 3, 4, and 5 who have a direct link to him. This structure will be ideal for managers who give instructions to individual subordinates. For groups work this doesn’t work since person 2, 3, 4 and 5 are not linked.

Related: 5 Steps To Building Thought Leadership Through Social Media

4. Circle Structure


There is no figure of authority, unfortunately things can go wrong. It is however ideal for peer and micromanagement communication. Each person is linked to two people on their sides. Person 1 is linked to 2 and 5, 2 is linked to 1 and 3, 3 communicates with 2 and 4, while 4 interacts with 3 and 5. This will work well combined with another structure, e.g. the star.

5. All-Channel Structure


This structure will do well during crisis situations where all are clear of their role. The lines are open to all, there is no limitations. This quickens the flow of communication. What is negative is that there is no authority figure.

Read next: 5 Things Businesses Can Learn From Rugby

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