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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

5 Ways To Be More Productive In 2019 Without Driving Your Team Insane

Here’s how to get your business running faster and better.

Andrew Medal

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When talking about their biggest challenges for 2019, many of the entrepreneurs I speak with say they’re overwhelmed with the rapid pace at which business operates today. Today’s consumers have come to expect instant gratification, and they’re putting pressure on companies to make sure that they get what they want right now.

Technology’s partly to blame for these questionably reasonable expectations. We’ve got virtually countless hours of on-demand video streaming content at our fingertips. We’re on the cusp of mass product delivery by drone. We get frustrated when customer service departments fail to respond to our queries within minutes.

Just a couple of decades ago, looking up information meant going to the library to check out references. Today, we don’t even type out our Google searches. We just holler at Siri or Alexa to get the answers, products and media we want.

In a survey by PwC, nearly four out of five surveyed customers customers say that they want experiences that are speedy, convenient and helpful. For businesses, reliably offering these experiences has become a constant challenge.

With 2019 already underway, why not make speed improvement one of your key objectives for the year ahead? Here are five strategies you can apply to speed up your processes as we get ready to zoom through another year.

1. Maximise your real-time social media opportunities

Knowing what delights customers most is a huge component of business leadership. Data from the 2018 Sprout Social Index suggests that there’s a widening disconnect between what brands’ social media profiles are posting about (61 percent of the 2,000 social marketers surveyed favoured teaching, while 58 percent favoured telling stories) and what customers want (73 percent of the 1,200 surveyed prefer deals, while 60 percent prefer posts showcasing new products and services).

So, how can you improve your organisation’s ability to discern what the market really wants right now? Conducting your own market surveys can help, but it’s a resource-heavy solution that yields dubious insights. Social listening, on the other hand, allows marketers to follow what people are saying about your industry, products, and competitors.

I’ve used solutions like SentiOne that can track such mentions across social platforms and online communities in real-time. Armed with this information, you’d be able to act on customer issues in a timely manner and even launch targeted campaigns that speak directly to customers’ interests with precision. It’s also a useful way to know what new features or products to roll-out or at least give you the starting point to start your market research.

Related: Want More Productive Employees? It’s Time To Get Physical, Together

2. Shorten time to delivery

Customers don’t like waiting for their online orders to arrive at their doorsteps. Last year, the maximum time that e-commerce buyers found acceptable for orders with free shipping was just 4.5 days, as reported by Emarketing. If they’re paying for shipping, they expect to receive their packages even sooner.

Having the ability to expedite delivery can be a major differentiator, but it’s a tall order if you’re a smaller enterprise. Thankfully, as the independent e-commerce economy has grown, so has the ecosystem of logistics services empowering the industry.

Using a third-party, fully white label-ready fulfillment partner gives you the capability to offer two-day shipping, without being dependent on Amazon.

Industry leader ShipBob, for one, can store your inventory in a network of shared warehouses around the country, so that products are ready to ship, with maximum proximity, as soon as your customers check out. Better fulfillment partners integrate directly with leading shopping cart systems like Shopify and WooCommerce and can save you and customers massive amounts of wait time.

3. Maintain a bird’s eye view of your business

With competition seemingly getting tougher every year, in 2019 your ability to make quick but informed decisions has become mission-critical. However, getting hold of the necessary information may require pulling data from dozens of sources, each with its own interface, before you are able to generate reports that are comprehensive enough to act upon.

A consolidated business data resource can provide you with an integrated dashboard that pools together information from all the platforms you use for social media, sales, project management, finance and marketing.

Even if you use separate services like HubSpot, MailChimp and Twitter, Rivery.io’s platform, for example, can aggregate real-time information from your accounts and even push metrics to the data repository of your choice.

You can’t afford to get stuck in the nitty-gritty anymore. Keep an eye on the trends that matter, so you can make smarter strategic decisions on the fly. I also like to use tools like Kipfolio, for interactive business dashboards that give me a pulse on everything from sales to accounting to marketing spend.

4. Accompany your customers on their journeys

As reported by Strategy and PwC, three out of four surveyed buyers in the U.S. say that customer experience is a major factor in their shopping decisions, citing speed and ease as their most valued factors. Yet, despite the efforts of developers and designers to create intuitive interfaces, some customers, especially those who lack tech savvy, have been known to hit roadblocks on their paths to purchase.

To avoid alienating these customers, you can ease access to your interface with an interactive walkthrough solution. Offering onsite chat, either automated or human-driven, can help maximise a sense of accessibility and trust, shortening the time to convert prospects into customers.

This type of “digital adoption” hand-holding can be a major game changer, especially if your sales prospects are less comfortable experimenting in digital environments. There are all types of new chatbot software tools that can be used for streamlining these conversations and navigating customers. We’ve used Drift across my various companies and found it works well.

Related: 8 Steps To Having Wildly Productive Mornings

5. Minimise slowdowns caused by absenteeism

Team productivity gets compromised due to staff taking unexpected time off can derail your entire operation. If you can’t find someone else to quickly step in and pick up the slack, it can be hard to fulfill orders and maintain pace on projects.

Using workforce management platforms can help you sort out staffing and scheduling issues, largely on autopilot.

Deputy, for instance, has functionalities that can help line up shift replacements when someone suddenly needs time off. Using the employee-facing app, team members can inform HR with just a few taps that they’ll be out, and the scheduling system automatically dispatches push notifications to others who have similar skills, asking for substitutions that can often be lined up before you even know they were needed.

Absenteeism was a big issue for one of the nonprofits I’m involved with and tools like Deputy have helped us to make necessary adjustments on the fly. Don’t let people interfere with your systems. Manage the systems that manage the people.

Be quick and nimble

Today’s business landscape moves at breakneck speed. But, things always go wrong. For your startups and scaling businesses to keep pace in the coming year, you need to be prepared, with systems in place to expedite processes and minimise the impact of bumps in the road. I wish you a prosperous 2019!

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

The Power Of Non-monetary Staff Incentives

Aim to align business and individual goals through a balance of monetary and non-monetary rewards, and you’ll soon see a massive impact on the bottom line and staff morale. There can be no greater incentive than that.

Greg Morris

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, one of the best-known theories of motivation, suggests that humans are motivated to fulfil basic needs – like food, shelter, and safety – before striving to satisfy more complex needs: health, companionship, self-esteem, and self-actualisation.

So, we get jobs to satisfy our basic needs. Then, with food in our stomachs and decent rest, we start to crave fulfilment in things money can’t buy: appreciation and respect, making a valuable contribution to the world, and – the Holy Grail of motivation – using our talents and abilities to achieve our full potential.

It’s no coincidence that the best companies to work for have and share a clear direction, offer challenging work, and entrench appealing cultures. Their employees feel valued and are empowered through opportunities for advancement and expressions of gratitude.

This is why we can’t assume that giving people more money will make them work harder.

Money means little if staff are overworked and don’t have the time or energy to enjoy the financial rewards they receive. People also respond better to incentives that address their psychological need for acceptance, appreciation, and accomplishment. Let’s look briefly at the ways in which organisations can show appreciation for a job well done.

Show me the money?

Part of what makes us individuals is the fact that we’re motivated by different things. A graduate will appreciate a cash bonus. A new mother might also appreciate more money – but money can’t buy her more time with her baby. Flexible working hours can.

In fact, studies suggest that the effects of monetary rewards are short-lived because people don’t differentiate cash bonuses from their normal pay. Extra money is quickly sucked up by household expenses and debt – i.e. by working to fulfil our basic needs.

Now, that’s not to say that we should discount monetary rewards. I believe there’s a time and place for both – and your business and culture are two of the biggest deciding factors.

Related: Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Win-win

The industry you’re in and the type of work an employee does dictates the incentives you should offer. Some roles – like commission work – require a more financially motivated incentive system to ensure the smooth running of the business and to achieve personal targets. Salespeople bring in business, profit grows, salespeople are rewarded financially.

But admin and marketing staff, for example, receive set salaries and not commissions, so they can be acknowledged for excellent customer service or for improving an inefficient administration process. For them, training courses, movie tickets, vouchers, or even time off to pursue a personal passion project might offer a bigger thrill than money.

Any incentive programme must align with your company’s goals to ensure that the group works towards the same outcome. Employees are more likely to take ownership of their roles and responsibilities when their contribution to the bigger picture is acknowledged and rewarded. And, in pursuit of their own excellence, the business’s interests naturally benefit.

Sweet spot

Successful reward programmes balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (when we do something because it aligns with our values and because we want the reward).

Getting this balance right is critical to retaining talent. Being passionate about work is one thing, but passion doesn’t pay the bills. Just as dangerous is having a workforce that’s only motivated by money but produces mediocre work. The magic happens when we reward employees for the outcomes of their passion: Happier customers and a healthier bottom line.

The sweet spot lies in incentivising positive behaviours as much as goal achievement. The behaviour might not be directly linked to the financial performance of the company but there may be other obvious benefits, like improved morale or an attractive company culture.

The power of gratitude

Positive behaviours needn’t be rewarded with money or redeemable points. A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. One study noted a 50% increase in the amount of additional help being offered as a result of appreciation, suggesting that motivation extends past material things. And a boost in self-esteem ticks all the right boxes in Maslow’s fourth level of needs.

Although basic, recognition and appreciation are often overlooked motivators. The same study found that only 15% of us consistently say ‘thank you’ at work. According to another study, 79% of employees quit their jobs because they didn’t feel appreciated.

Positive behaviours can be subtly reinforced using tactics like leader boards, employee-of-the-month posters, floating trophies, free lunch, or time off. It’s the little things that count.

Related: Is Cash King? The Psychology of Incentives

Shifting motivators

As individuals get older and enter different phases of our lives, there’s an evolution in the things that motivate them. As leaders, we need to build meaningful relationships with our staff, to better understand what motivates an individual today, not what motivated them five years ago. This depends on constant communication and open engagement and feedback.

Bottom line? We need to think differently about motivation and to apply creativity and innovation to company incentive programmes. Aim to align business and individual goals through a balance of monetary and non-monetary rewards, and you’ll soon see a massive impact on the bottom line and staff morale. There can be no greater incentive than that.

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Increasing Productivity

Listen To Lead – Giving Staff Space To Speak Can Pay Dividends

Are you listening or hearing your staff?

Richard Mukheibir

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Excitement, vision and determination are all great qualities for an entrepreneur, particularly when you are setting up your business. But when you move into the consolidation and then growth phases, they could backfire.

It may come as a surprise to you that such positive qualities could ever cause any negatives. But once you have driven every last muscle to get your business up and running, you need to transition yourself into managing it. For that, you need to work as hard on your people skills as you did on your start-up.

It is true that decisiveness is a key attribute of a successful manager but your decisions must be based on solid evidence and intelligence you have gathered. Try as you might, you cannot be everywhere in the business at once and so you need to soak up and sort out the observations related to you by your staff.

Make a point of being seen regularly on your shop or factory floor and chatting in a relaxed, non-judgemental way with your staff and any customers who may be around. Stalking around saying nothing is just as intimidating to your staff as the habit that some bosses have of appearing very infrequently simply to bawl people out.

People skills are so critical because it is people who buy your product and people who work for you. Whichever way you look at it, your business is people-driven.

Related: Look After Your Employees And They Will Look After Your Reputation

So to win the loyalty of your shareholders, customers or surveyors, you need to show that you treat all people with the respect each one deserves and can mix positively with each and every one. Getting to know your staff in this way will develop in you the subtleties of emotional intelligence, a skill that is vital to your ultimate success.

With emotional intelligence, you will be able to adapt your management style to achieve the best results from each individual. You will know instinctively when a staff member needs a few words of encouragement or comfort, or when and how much to push to get the best out of them – perhaps even more than they knew that they had to give.

At Cash Converters SA, all our managers are expected to polish their people skills to achieve the best for themselves and the staff reporting to them. Even our top management team is not exempt and makes a point of putting a day or two aside each month to visit a different franchisee round the country.

That way we can help mentor and coach them to deal with any management problems that they may be encountering. From a corporate and strategic point of view, we can also check that the corporate branding is on track and listen to feedback on whether any new lines are working well or not and to suggestions for new brand extensions or even new and complementary income streams.

Related: Understanding Your Responsibility As An Employer

In that way, an apparently soft skill can make your business even more competitive. By insisting on strong people skills among your staff, you will build a more harmonious working place. To complement this, incorporate relevant feedback into your planning. This will have a positive impact on the bottom line, which is exactly what leaders want to achieve.

So keep quiet and listen as much as you can. Make a point of not anxiously filling nervous silences with hasty instructions or long technical lectures. Then you will benefit the business by hearing what your staff need to get the job done and who is blossoming into a promising talent.

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