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Increasing Productivity

Working with Employees for Sustainable Businesses

Government’s proposed labour law adjustments and an out-of-touch attitude towards the realities of day-to-day business are a matter of concern to local companies.

Nadine Todd

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While employees are the most valuable assets business owners have at their disposal, severe Governmental legislation and red tape can often do more harm than good – for employers and employees alike.

According to Advocate Saleem

Seedat, convenor of the Certificate in Practical Labour Relations at Wits Plus, many entrepreneurs and business owners view labour relations as a diabolical instrument that should be shoved into the footnotes of a business plan. “Employers harbour a pathological fear of any issues that even suggest some kind of disciplinary measure,” he explains. “In South Africa, labour relations should be part of the arsenal of any entrepreneur. It is not something to fear, and should be an area entrepreneurs make a point of understanding. Your labour force can be one of your greatest assets. Understand their rights – and educate them on yours. Together you can create a sustainable business.”

Seedat points out that just as employers shy away from labour relations, employees have an attitude of entitlement. “Employees forget that fairness applies equally to employers. For a business owner to create a successful labour relations policy it is vital that the lines of communication are opened between employer and employee and that everyone understands the others’ rights and expectations.”

Proposed labour laws

Unfortunately, many of Government’s proposed plans are more likely to make business owners skittish than open channels of communication with their staff. For example, local business has recently criticised Government for its proposed labour law adjustments. Is this fear talking or are there real reasons for business to be worried?

It appears the fear is in fact justified. Business owners face the prospect of being weighed down by more red tape than ever before when they hire staff, if the proposals to overhaul the labour laws are enacted. These proposals include the effective banning of labour brokers, the outlawing of temporary work and the fining of employers who don’t report firm vacancies to the Department of Labour (DoL). The period for submitting public comments came to an end in February.

A regulatory impact assessment (Ria) by local policy analysts concluded that if the proposals were made law in their present form, employers would steer away from taking on new employees or retaining existing temporary staff, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

If the proposals are made law, employers that rely on contract workers to fulfil projects will have to argue their case to the DoL for hiring temporary employees, as, by default, all employees will have to be made permanent. In addition, business owners running more sizeable operations will risk fines if they fail to carry out employment equity quotas.

Vacancy fines

The proposals also include the setting up of a state employment services portal (under the Employment Services Bill) which will act as a massive job placement database.

The bill proposes to make it compulsory for employers to report any vacancies in their firms to the department within 14 days. Employers that fail to do so can be fined up to R10 000.

The department believes that employers will use the portal to fill vacancies in their firms and justifies this by singling out a similar portal in Sweden where employers are fined when they fail to report vacancies.

The bill aims to “improve labour market inefficiencies” with the aim of combating unemployment. The problem is that it comes off as ‘big brother’ recruiting employees on behalf of employers. Will businesses be forced to hire employees they do not necessarily need simply because the post was filled before? One of the few benefits of the recession has been business tightening its belt, becoming leaner and more efficient and doing away with redundant and inefficient employees and positions.

Another worrying point about this particular proposal is that it hasn’t actually worked in Sweden. The DoL’s head of employment services, Zodwa Mabaso, has publically conceded that a Swedish official has advised her department against levying fines, pointing out that in Sweden fines had only succeeded in clogging up the Nordic country’s courts as resolute employers sought to challenge the fines.

Out of touch

The proposals reveal how out of touch Government appears to be when it comes to creating and enabling business environments. During the economic development portfolio committee’s public hearings on SME Finance late last year, some MPs asked business owners whether they had considered turning their businesses into cooperatives. These are entrepreneurs who have taken it upon themselves to start a business and put their families and homes at risk to finance their start-ups. Now they are being asked whether workers shouldn’t be given an equal share in their business.

Government does have a point: Employees who have a stake in the business’s success are more likely to perform and will benefit economically. Everyone wins. But the suggestion does raise the spectre of government seizing ownership of private assets a la Zimbabwe. Are these fears justified? And even if they aren’t, is it fair to ask entrepreneurs to simply give away shares in their hard-earned companies? Is this in any way supportive of an entrepreneurial spirit in South Africa? The issue of finance is no better. In the last five years Khula has been running a 42% default rate on its guarantee scheme, while a similar scheme in India had a default rate of just 2,5% over the same period. An ANC MP excuses the record with the oft-repeated mantra: “But we live in a developmental state.” It seems to suggest that business owners shouldn’t worry about paying back state loans because it’s Government’s job to bail you out. A DA MP’s point is just as worrying. He seems more concerned that increasing Khula lending through the banks might place the local banking system at risk, than that Khula has never lent out more than 800 guarantees a year in its over 14-year existence.

Taking action

As Barrie Terblanche, author of Starting Your Own Business in South Africa, puts it, Government seems to think that all businesses, even small, are solid entities. You can tax them, make them sell a cut in a BEE transaction or turn them into cooperatives and they won’t close shop. The reality is of course quite different – and often the cause of business owners resenting Government, its laws and fearing the murky waters of labour relations.

Business owners need to take action. First, take a close look at your business and see where you can improve labour relations. The proposed laws might come into effect or they might change, but use this as an opportunity to scrutinise the way you do business. Labour relations are nothing to fear, as long as you know your rights as an employer, and what you should be offering your employees. Alternatively, if, as a business owner, you want to take action, the best thing you can do is write to the DoL outlining how many jobs you would have to cut should the labour law amendments be enacted, or for that matter, if any other anti-business proposal threatens to make it more expensive or difficult to run your own business. Entrepreneurs are the life blood of the gross domestic product and their businesses should be encouraged to thrive. This should not be achieved at the detriment of the local labour force, but threatening the livelihood of business is no solution either.

Proactive Solutions

Amidst the doom and gloom there are some things business owners can do to improve their labour relations. Saleem Seedat outlines a few steps you can implement today:

  • Understand that Government’s proposed bills are just that – proposals. There is a swell of opposition and they are unlikely to be implemented in their present form. Do not have a knee-jerk reaction to something that hasn’t happened yet.
  • Try instead to view your relationship with your employees as a partnership. If you are antagonistic towards them they will be antagonistic back. Remember that without your labour force you have no business and try to be accommodating instead. Once your employees buy in to the fact that a sustainable business means job security and growth for them, you can build a trusting relationship.
  • Be open and honest with your employees. Explain how your business works and your objectives. Allow them to believe you also have their best interests at heart.
  • Unfortunately unions can be militant. They need to be seen as vocal and aggressive by their members. This stems back to the 80s when they were at the forefront of the struggle, and certain tendencies have not yet changed. This militant behaviour means that they push for extremes but do not always educate their members. Many employees do not know their rights. They also do not understand the rights of their employers, and carry a sense of entitlement that is not always accurate.
  • If your employees feel they can trust you, talk to you and that you have their best interests at heart, you will immediately have a better relationship with them. Build this relationship now and the new proposals need not have an adverse effect on your business.
  • One way to improve productivity is also to offer performance bonuses. These can be based on quality, outputs, whatever suits your business model. Even if you pay minimum wage this is a way to give your employees a reason to work hard and feel connected to the business’s success. Help them understand that better productivity equals a better business and more money for everyone.

In a nutshell

What the future might hold

The DoL’s labour law proposals, which were released late last year and closed for public comment in February, include:

  • Regulating contract work by putting a stop to the practice of repeated contracting for short-term periods. The onus will be on employers to justify the use of short-term or fixed-term contracts (Labour Relations Amendment Bill).
  • Temporary employees or those on fixed-term contracts will be expected to qualify for the same benefits as permanent employees (Labour Relations Amendment Bill).
  • Labour brokers will only be able to perform recruitment services on behalf of clients and will be prohibited from paying benefits and wages on behalf of the client.
  • Designated employers (defined by annual turnover with for example Community, Social and Personal Services being R5 million) that don’t prepare and implement an employment equity plan can be taken to the Labour Court and fined between 2% and 10% of their turnover.
  • Designated employers with less than 150 employees must submit an employment equity plan to the department once a year, instead of the present once every two years.
  • Employers must register all vacancies in the workplace to the department within 14 days or face fines of up to R10 000 (Employment Services Bill).

– Stephen Timm

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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Increasing Productivity

Use Talent As Your Key Competitive Advantage In 2019

What separates top performing companies from their more mediocre counterparts?

Nadine Todd

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2019

Ever since Jim Collins wrote about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus in his best-seller Good to Great, there has been an ever-increasing focus on the role that talent plays in the success of an organisation.

But, If you thought that great companies are successful because they attract, hire and can afford more talented employees, you’d be dead wrong. While conducting research for their book, Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag & Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power, Bain & Company experts Michael Mankins and Eric Garton evaluated the relative productivity of 308 companies worldwide, and found that on average, all roles, across organisations, are made up of 14% A-level talent. This statistic holds true for the best-performing companies as well as poor performers.

In fact, the top-performer in their focus group was 40% more productive than the rest, but did not have significantly more A-level talent. This means that they had achieved what their peers had by 10am on a Thursday — and then continued to produce for the next two days.

As you head into a new year, consider what you could have achieved with an additional 90 to 100 days over the course of the past year? Where would your company be now?

Unlocking your potential

If talent is not the deciding factor, then what is? According to Mankins and Garton, it’s how that talent is deployed. They found that most companies have one A-level talent per team, spreading talent evenly across the organisation.

The problem is that this doesn’t take critical roles into account. Organisations that take the time to map critical positions within the company that directly impact key business objectives tend to be more productive. Why? Because their A-players are in the right positions and not wasted on non-critical roles that could just as easily be filled by B-players.

As an entrepreneur or team leader, your role is to grow your business or department. Your people are key to achieving this, so consider the talent you have to work with:

  • Are your top players in mission-critical roles?
  • Can they directly impact revenue growth?
  • Are they filling roles that a B-player can just as easily do, and which won’t impact revenue if the same level of productivity or efficiency is not achieved?

Related: Competitor Analysis Example

Efficiency versus productivity

While you evaluate your workforce, consider how Mankins describes efficiency versus productivity.

Efficiency is when the same amount is produced with less. To become more efficient, businesses need to find wastage and eliminate it.

Productivity on the other hand is when we produce more with the same. This is achieved when you increase output per unit of input and remove any obstacles to productivity.

Lean organisations are very good at finding efficiencies. Growth organisations are highly productive. If you want to achieve both in 2019, start by ensuring your A-level talent are in the right positions. Then look at all the areas in your business that are costing you money and consider how you can strip those costs away without affecting your productivity. You do not want to hinder growth. You want to run a smarter, leaner business.

Finally, you don’t need to do it alone. Too many entrepreneurs work independently of their teams. You’ve hired great people — use them. What are their suggestions on improving productivity and efficiencies across the business? Ask the right questions and you may just discover talent you didn’t know you had.

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Increasing Productivity

Working Remotely? Why You Need A Car

The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.

Amy Galbraith

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Remote work can be an amazing experience. You do not have to wake up at 5 am to beat the morning traffic and you can work from the comfort of your own home office (or bedroom). Working remotely can become lonely and you might have to visit the office for certain projects. This means that you will need to have a car.

If you are in search of an affordable but reliable car, vehicle auctions in Gauteng could provide the perfect car to meet your needs. Not sure why you need a car if you are working from home? Below are just some of the reasons why it is a necessity.

You might need to go into the office

While some remote work does not require you to be in the office, there are some instances that you might be required to go into the office. This can prove difficult if you do not have a car and have to rely on public transport.

Public transport can be unreliable, which means that you might not arrive on time for meetings or project conferences. Being on time for meetings and group chats is important, and being late can add to your stress levels. Having a car will help to make this journey easier. The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.

Related: Is Remote Work Taking A Psychological Toll On Your External Workers? Researchers Say Yes

You will need to perform daily errands

Whether you work from home, from a coffee store or in an office, the truth of daily life is that there are always errands to run. And without a car, you might not be able to perform these errands easily.

Grocery shopping can become heavy to carry home if you walk, and an appointment in a suburb far from your own might have to be cancelled. While these might not be as important as your work, you will soon find it frustrating having to call for a lift from a service such as Uber whenever you need to leave home. Not only will this become costly, but you will find it ineffective if you are in a rush or need to be somewhere at a certain time.

You might get lonely

Remote work does allow you a lot more freedom, but you have to put in the same hours as an office job. And these hours can become lonely if you are cooped up inside all day, alone. Having a car will allow you to meet up with friends in the afternoon or weekends.

Auctions will provide you with a diverse array of cars to choose from, including 4×4 options for those who enjoy longer journeys and adventures. Becoming lonely can be distracting and cause you to run behind on your work. If you are looking at working remotely but know that you could fall victim to this feeling, be sure to socialise with friends and family whenever possible. Having your own car will make this possible.

There will be client meetings

Remote work will mostly mean that you work from home or from your favourite coffee store. But it can also involve meeting clients to discuss a brief, which can be tricky if you have to rely on public transport. Not only will being late cause you to stress, but it will be a bad representation of your company for the client.

If you are able to drive yourself to meetings in your own car, there is a higher chance of a successful meeting. An Uber driver might get lost and a bus might break down, but your own car is reliable and affordable. If you have to meet a client urgently about a project, having to rely on public transport can be disastrous.

It is vital to take the fact of client meetings into account when you decide to work remotely and ensure you are able to represent your company the best way possible.

Related: How Much Does Your Remote Team Actually Need to Know?

There will be company get-togethers

A company that consists mostly of remote workers is guaranteed to have regular get-togethers so that all the team members can meet each other and get to know one another. Sometimes, these get-togethers might be far away, and you will need an easy and effective mode of transport.

If you are in search of a car to get you from home to the next work gathering, the auction cars in Gauteng will certainly fit your needs. Not attending company get-togethers and events will reflect poorly on your ability to work in a team, regardless of if your team works together in an office or not. You will be able to learn more about your team and the company as a whole at these events.

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Increasing Productivity

5 Traits Of Highly-Effective Scrum Teams

Here are the top 5 traits of highly-effective scrum teams.

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Scrum teams can make quick work of complex projects. But accomplishing your company goals by utilising a sprint team is difficult because effective scrum teams are so exceedingly rare.

If you’re thinking of assembling a scrum team, you have to be sure that you’re working with talented individuals who can tolerate the stress hyper-ambitious project management frameworks invite.

Agile teams are ones open to change, to communication, and to improving processes as they define them. Scrum teams have all these same qualities but are unique from agile teams in a few key ways.

You must search for key attributes that define great scrum teams before you begin your company’s next project. Here are the top 5 traits of highly-effective scrum teams:

1. Adaptive

Scrum is one of the leading frameworks implementing agile. Agile is an iterative process whereby teams are self-organised and self-motivated, delivering working products in cycles and measuring the progress of their project through these deliverables.

Scrum team members do not hesitate to change requirements, expand or minimise scope, or add or remove a planned feature from an end product.

Changing roles, revisiting processes, or scrapping failed plans is not unheard of for scrum teams. In fact, even changes late in the development process are encouraged.

2. Ambitious

Scrum defines the length of the iterative processes. The time spent on each cycle is defined as a sprint. With each sprint, which is usually only two weeks long, a small fragment of the project is completed.

Upon the completion of the sprint, the scrum master (or project manager) leads a retrospective, using past evidence and performance evaluations to determine how they will go about completing the next sprint. The sprint structure demands ambition.

Successful scrum teams are passionate and ambitious. With each new sprint, they concentrate their goal of continually improving and expanding what their team can accomplish.

3. Open to criticism

One of the foundational principles of scrum is continual improvement. The sprints and the project retrospectives between them serve to help the team better identify problems. In order for this to work, every team member must be open to constructive criticism.

In addition, they must understand how to apply this constructive criticism to make processes better. The team, therefore, must communicate clearly and concisely.

The team as a whole must be on the same page about improving processes. The team must be cohesive, open to mentorship, and gentle but honest communication.

4. Experienced

An experienced team is much more likely to lead your company to success than an inexperienced one. It seems like an obvious bit of wisdom but it is nonetheless true. While you may be attracted to hiring a young team of passionate and promising project managers and developers, it’s a better idea to bet on an experienced bunch.

Scrum is an incredible project management framework. Still, there is no substitute for experience. No matter how strong a framework may be, it cannot buttress your project against unexpected challenges – only experienced project managers can do that.

5. Co-operative

Scrum team leaders have to underscore the importance of constant communication on a regular basis. Ideally, scrum team members are cooperative, communicative, and transparent. The best scrum teams can achieve a high level of cooperation with little to no contentious feelings.

Additionally, scrum teams are cooperative with the organisation as a whole. Often, scrum teams want to communicate and cooperate with other departments within a company. Instead of working in the dark, scrum teams prefer to engage business people, product owners, and marketers with their development process.

Conclusion

Scrum is one of the most popular project management methodologies based on the agile approach. Scrum is everything agile is but with a bit more of a backbone.

Scrum teams embrace fast-paced environments that use an iterative process to handle complexity. As such, successful scrum teams are adaptive, ambitious, and co-operative. They are open to constructive criticism and can leverage retrospectives to better the project.

No matter how hard your team tries, they are sure to encounter challenges. Experienced scrum teams can handle this pressure with cool, calm, and collected demeanour.

Expert scrum teams are rare, but it is possible to assemble one with the proper attention to the traits that comprise the most effective scrum teams.

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