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.
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.
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.
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
Take Responsibility For Your Company’s Culture To Boost Productivity
A healthy culture isn’t a nice-to-have but a must-have.
Whether you’re running an early-stage startup or a fast-growing company, every organisation has a culture. And it can determine whether your business succeeds or fails.
Your company’s culture comprises the actual work environment for your team and the standards everyone is held to. It also dictates how colleagues interact and communicate and the values and beliefs of your team. In fact, one survey shows that 86 percent of employees believe their company’s culture influences how productive they are.
No wonder Arianna Huffington has described corporate culture as “a company’s immune system.”
“Ultimately,” she says, “your health depends on your immune system.” Here are four ways a healthy company culture boosts morale and productivity.
It makes employees happy
A study conducted by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12 percent spike in productivity, while unhappy workers were 10 percent less productive. As the research team states, “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”
If you have employees who dread coming into work and are spending more time looking at the clock than working, how productive do you really think they are? What’s more, happier employees tend to work better with others, solve problems instead of complain about them and make fewer mistakes. They also have more energy and motivation, which helps them learn faster and make better decisions.
It promotes collaboration and stronger relationships
A healthy and positive company culture encourages your teammates to get to know one another. That friendly chatter eventually leads people to feel comfortable enough to share advice, opinions and ideas.
When there’s a large project looming, your team members will be able to work together faster and more efficiently because they know how to communicate. More importantly, this leads to your team building friendships – which has been found to increase productivity and engagement.
“People are more creative and productive when they experience more positive inner work life, including more positive emotions, stronger motivation toward the work itself and more positive perceptions of the organisation,” says Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile, who co-authored “The Progress Principle.”
It inspires creativity
Let’s say that an employee or colleague comes to you with a suggestion. If you immediately dismiss her idea, do you think she’ll come to you the next time she has an “aha” moment?
Healthy company cultures encourage people to be creative through brainstorming sessions and new responsibilities. This not only gives them a chance to be heard, but it also helps them look for unique ways to solve problems.
It influences individual mindsets
Company culture also affects how each team member views his or her individual performance. It shouldn’t comes as a surprise, then, that healthy cultures foster more high-performing team members. Aaron Schmookler, leadership coach and co-founder of TheYesWorks, a training and team-building organization, calls this positive peer pressure.
“Why do aspiring Olympians train with other aspiring Olympians?” he asks. “In part, they want the high-performance drive to rub off on them if they don’t have as much of it as they wish.”
According to Schmookler, even when someone already has a high-performance mindset, she’ll want to keep it and deepen it so she can keep pushing forward. Being surrounded by others pushing for greatness makes the hard work feel easy.
Schmookler also says the opposite is true.
“We’ve all heard of workplaces where a new person comes into a low-performance culture and people tell them, ‘slow down.’ ‘You’re making us look bad.’ High-performance cultures have people who instead say, ‘Pick it up. You can do it.’”
How to avoid toxicity
There’s a strong correlation between morale and productivity. If you want your team to be more productive, you’re going to have to foster a healthy and positive work culture. Emma Seppala, Ph.D., and Kim Cameron, Ph.D., suggest in Harvard Business Review that you can achieve this by fostering social connections.
Encourage your teammates to get to know each other by hosting social events or having them eat lunch together. You must also get away from your desk and have face-to-face interactions with your team. Go out of your way to help as well.
Leaders who are fair and self-sacrificing inspire employees to become more loyal and committed. If your team is swamped, step in to help. Encourage people to talk to you – don’t brush someone off when he has a problem. It gets the problem off his mind, which means he can focus on work.
A healthy culture isn’t a nice-to-have but a must-have. Culture exists, whether we actively cultivate it or let it develop on its own. To get the most productivity you can, make sure to build an environment where people feel respected and inspired. It will not only make your employees happier, but it will also fuel high-quality work.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Why You Should Gamify Your Business
Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.
Sweat pouring down his forehead, staring intently at the chessboard, an anxious Bobby Fischer faces imminent defeat. A few uncharacteristic blunders at the beginning of the game has the audience on pins and needles. It’s the height of the cold war and a stalemate between Boris Spassky has an unnatural weight for a chess match. The cameras cramp the space, distracting Fischer and causing him to throw the game. Then another.
Anxiety is higher than ever. Finally, Fischer demands that cameras stop piercing the so-called “Match of the Century.” Then, suddenly, he began to win. He won again and again until finally, he was unstoppable. Final score: Fischer, 12 and one half, Spassky, 8 and one half. Fischer was now the undisputed world champion and the world couldn’t stop talking about it.
Why games motivate us so deeply
How could a game, a game that later wasn’t even televised, capture the world’s attention? How could a simple chess match capture the imagination of an entire generation?
Games are powerful things. Unlike real life, games have clear goals, constant coaching, and immediate feedback. There are points, winners, losers, upsets, dark horses, and reigning champions. Everything is organised in a refreshingly understandable, trackable way. Experiences are tallied into points, matches are organised into tournaments with the promise of prizes, advancement, and adulation.
Gamification, in this sense, is actually quite old. It has been practiced for generations. For time immemorial, games have taught us important skills, both technical and social. Now, however, a few game changers are using gamification to create outstanding products and drive business goals.
How gamifying a business task works
In business practices, you can use gamification to help motivate employees and to understand the motivations of your customers, clients, and business partners. When put into practice, this can mean major surges in productivity and profitability. Think about it: We often have friendly competitions among team members to help motivate them to perform to the best of their ability. This is a simple gamification strategy that can be implemented in any business to a wonderful result.
Gamification, according to Yu-kai Chou, author of Actionable Gamification and pioneer within the gamification industry, is a mixture of game design, gaming dynamics, motivational psychology, user experience design, neurobiology, technology platforms, and behavioural economics. This may sound like a loose classification of complex and disparate fields, but it’s actually an adept definition of an all-encompassing philosophy on life and what motivates us to do what we do in our daily lives.
The drives that motivate us
What about gamification makes the philosophy so effective? There are eight core principles that are considered what is called the “octalysis,” a conceptualisation created by Yu-kai Chou. Basically, Chou posits that eight core drives motivate us in every facet of our lives. Not only can we use these drives in our personal lives, we can also use them in our work and business lives.
A mixture of drives can give us varying degrees of interest, dedication, and motivation. These core drives are as follows according to the octalysis: meaning, accomplishment, empowerment, ownership, social influence, unpredictability, scarcity, and avoidance.
The last three mentioned on the list can be used in negative ways to achieve participation. For example, using avoidance, or the feeling that you must act in order not to lose something can cause people to feel manipulated in the long-term. However, avoidance can be built into your motivation matrix if used properly and sparingly.
Truly, each drive has to be used with context, in the same way employing avoidance has to be monitored and managed. All these motivations can be employed to help better your organisation by finding those key intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that help you accomplish your business goals.
Gamification is the simple practice of identifying motivating factors and qualifying them through a myriad of ways.
In some cases, gamification boils down to simply analysing our motivations accurately so that we can either change them or manipulate them to better serve us. There is no better arena for this time of analysis and planning than business.
Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.
Wise Words From wiGroup On Building A “Wow” Company Culture
wiGroup has three underlying visions that form the basis of the business’s culture. Bevan Ducasse calls them the 3Ps.
1. Passionate people
I loved the idea of starting a business and coming to work each day with passionate people who love what they do. Working in corporate there were too many people who just wanted to get to the weekend, and I found that really sad. You go through your whole life not enjoying what you do. One of the main books I read that got me there was Richard Branson’s Screw it, Let’s do it. His whole philosophy is about fun and loving what you do.
We even have a full-time coach that everyone can access. It’s up to you to book time with him, but everyone does, thanks to a culture of self-growth and personal development. His time is fully booked. I had to build a business case to justify the hire, but I worked out that If I increased the productivity of 100 people by 10%, you effectively have ten more people working in the business. It’s hard to put a tangible number on it, but what we’ve seen is that the productivity, attitude, leadership and personal growth equates to roughly 20% across the organisation of 150 people.
I believe that great organisations find people and make them come alive in what they’re brilliant at. There are things I don’t like or am not good at that other people love. If you’re not good at something, get the right person in. Focus on what you’re brilliant at to move the needle. But do the same for your employees. We all have aspects of the job we need to do that we don’t love, but the core of what we do should align with our passions.
2. Remarkable product
We’re passionate about building solutions that add value to people’s lives. How do we add value? We never build products for the sake of it — everything we do fulfils a purpose.
This speaks to the sustainability of the business, which ultimately comes down to balancing people, product and profit. Just chasing profit without a focus on product isn’t sustainable, and nor is looking after people and not profit. But you can never lose sight of your people either. If you’re running a company and focusing on your product IP, you’re missing the mark — this speaks to how fast things are changing. Your IP is your human capital. That is the one thing that will give you a competitive edge over five, ten or even fifteen years. The product you have now won’t give you the competitive advantage in ten years.
This vision is completely ingrained across our team: That’s what we’re about, seeing people come alive, building amazing products, and being sustainable in terms of the profits we generate.
1. There’s no such thing as an ‘aha’ moment
It’s not about one good decision I’ve made; it’s about the thousands of little decisions we make every single day as a team that make a business. For me it’s about the fundamentals that you buy into, and that’s people, products and profit. We’ve launched products that fail and others that are a huge success. To get through the failures it’s important to focus on a philosophy of how and what we want to be as a company.
2. Add value first
Our mindset is to add value. It’s the grit that pushes us through failure and keeps 150 people focused and doing great things. I am one of many people. I have a strong role, but I’m still one of many. When you’re looking outward at what you do for others, you stay motivated. A lot of what we do is helping a retailer understand how to unlock third party value. We will connect two brands who we believe could work well together, like a Discovery and a Kauai. Did you know that you could drive value to this retailer, and that retailer could add value to you? We all live in our own worlds and verticals, but knowledge is power. The greater your understanding of the landscape and synergies around you, the more value you can add.
3. Business is creativity
You need to be open and teachable and have a mindset that says ‘you’re never there, there’s always something more to learn.’ That’s how you foster creativity and innovation, by always asking what’s next, and how to make something better.
4. Never stop learning
You don’t have to read 50 books a year — two great books a year can give you incredible insights if you implement what you’ve learnt. There’s so much you can learn from the people around you too — ask questions, join networks and find a mentor.
5. Raise leaders, not followers
This is crucial. You need to find the right people, and then empower them to lead. I realised this a few years ago — if I really wanted to scale the business I needed to raise people who were leaders and wouldn’t just follow me. The top level of leadership is the ability to raise other leaders up, and that’s where we should all aspire to be.
This is a big one for me, and we learnt it the hard way. We were doing too much, we lacked focus and clarity. These are such powerful tools. If you can bring clarity to teams, you create a clear picture that everyone can follow. Delve into the details — what are you doing, why are you doing it, what does good and great look like, what are your timelines?
The clearer the picture, the exponentially higher the chances are of a team being successful. This includes targets. These shouldn’t be a shot in the dark — they should be unpacked, examined and clarified.
7. The best defense is a strong offence
Worrying about competitors serves no-one — it just keeps you up at night. Instead, you should be pushing yourself — how can we do this better? Keep looking for the next thing to do and improve, and then execute it properly. If someone disrupts us and I know we did the best we could and gave everything — I’ll sleep well at night. But if it’s because we became complacent and rested on our laurels? Well then, we deserved it.
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