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Your Fast-Paced Workforce

How mobile does your workforce really need to be?

Garth Hayward

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The value proposition of a more mobile workforce is an enticing one: improved workforce efficiency, greater productivity, enhanced collaboration, and a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) of devices are just some of the touted benefits for SMEs

However, concerns remain for many SME owners. Security, compliance, the challenges of managing a highly mobile workforce, the complexity of rolling-out mobile solutions, integrating and managing devices on the company network, the cost implications of writing off investments in legacy systems, and the hardware costs are all pertinent concerns.

Stuck in the dark ages

The truth is, in such a challenging economic climate SMEs should be focusing on the fundamentals of business, not wasting time and money implementing and managing new forms of technology. Sadly, business prosperity and technology are no longer mutually exclusive. The two now go hand-in-hand and SMEs that refuse to embrace new technologies like workforce mobility will lose competitive advantage and, subsequently, sustainability.

The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with customers, suppliers and employees is an integral part of every SME’s success, which is precisely what mobility enables. A more mobile workforce means that staff can be on site with clients while remaining connected, in real-time, to the office.

This allows them to place orders, access vital customer information, check emails, schedule meetings, communicate with office-bound team members for rapid issue resolution, or even action items themselves while on the go. This speeds up the business process, reducing lead times and increasing responsiveness to enhance customer service and delivery.

Mission critical

Enabling mobility within SMEs has become mission-critical. Stifling mobility is akin to stifling business growth. Thankfully the concerns that the small business owner has, while justified, are easily addressed.

For instance, with the increased speed and capacity of mobile and fixed-line broadband in South Africa, with an accompanying reduction in cost, workers now have access to high speed Internet access from the office or while on the move.

This makes the adoption of key technologies like cloud computing, possible. Cloud computing gives SMEs access to enterprise-grade applications and systems that are hosted in a centralised data centre. These services are available on a pay-per-use, scalable model and the entire environment is managed and maintained by managed service providers.

This has significantly lowered the TCO of technology for SMEs as there is no longer a need for large capital outlays to implement new technology and the burden of IT management is now outsourced to industry experts.

As software, data and information is hosted in a data centre it can also be accessed from any Internet-enabled device, as long as there is suitable connectivity. This is the key enabler of mobility within the SME as there is no complicated integration or new hardware required.

Accessing other new technologies that can further enhance business performance and efficiency, like unified communications and collaboration tools for instance, are also more accessible when SMEs move their network into the cloud.

Advancements in consumer electronics have also played an important role in making mobility a viable option for SMEs. The mobile devices consumers buy and use daily for personal use are becoming increasingly more sophisticated.

Employees are also bringing these smartphones, tablets and phablets (phone-tablets) into the business environment and using them to access the company network.

Mobility on demand

This trend, termed Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), gives employees access to technologies like voice calling, Internet access, e-mail, instant messaging, video conferencing and access to hosted applications and databases, all from a single device.

This means that SMEs can often enable mobility without the need to invest in new hardware and the cloud computing model negates any concerns around integration as everything is now web-based and accessible through a portal.

The headache normally associated with the management of the rapidly growing number of mobile devices entering the network is also less of a concern thanks to automation and mobile device management (MDM) solutions.

These solutions manage mobile devices from the same platform as desktops, laptops and servers, ensuring business continuity, and provide secure access to the network without exponentially increasing the demands and workload placed on internal IT staff.

Automation can also provide a variety of other benefits, including savings on bandwidth as it manages software updates, automates security updates and automatically applies configurations and settings to new devices.

With all of these services and capabilities now available to SMEs as part of cost efficient, fully managed offerings there should be no hesitation from SMEs to embrace mobility and benefit from the strategic and competitive advantages it offers.

Garth Hayward, Kaseya’s regional manager for Africa, entered the IT world in 1985. He’s spent close to 30 years focusing predominantly on IT services and service optimisation from a business perspective. In 2008, Hayward established an African presence for Kaseya, a leading global provider of automated IT systems management software, which provides enterprise-level software to organisations of all sizes.

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What Would Twitter Do? Lessons On Culture From 5 Top Start-ups

How Airbnb, Twitter, Skillshare, Buffer and Squarespace create and maintain great company cultures.

Sujan Patel

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What do the world’s top start-ups all have in common? They’ve mastered the art of company culture.

Brands from all over have attempted to mimic “start-up culture” – the collaborative, fun and enriching atmosphere that makes employees want to come to work each day. But fostering a start-up culture is not as easy as it sounds, especially as your company grows.

Having a strong culture, however, is the key to success and cannot be neglected. In fact, research from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick showed that happy employees are 12 percent more productive than the average worker. So it truly pays to have a strong company culture.

But what exactly does a strong culture look like? And more importantly, how can you build one? Follow these five tips from successful start-ups:

1. Keep employees engaged

At Airbnb, employees are kept in the loop on major company happenings and big decisions. This gives them a sense of ownership and purpose in the company, which in turn fosters engagement. According to a Gallup survey, 51 percent of the American workforce is not engaged. But having engaged employees is highly beneficial.

As Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote on Twitter, “A company’s culture is the foundation for future innovation. An entrepreneur’s job is to build the foundation.”

Engaged employees create a more positive work atmosphere. And, with happier employees, as well as increased productivity, your company will have happier customers and boost sales.

Related: To Change Your Company Culture, Change Your Conversations

2. Focus on the company’s purpose

Employees want to feel that the work that they do matters. That’s why Twitter’s purpose-driven environment works so well. Its focus is on creating a collaborative, team-oriented space that helps employees come together and see the value of what they do.

In an article on Medium, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote, “Start-ups have a unique ability to create a culture of compassion that helps us improve; and in so doing, we are more likely to make a difference in the lives of others.”

In 2014, Twitter’s employees were named by Glassdoor as the happiest in the country. Much of that happiness can be attributed to the company’s culture, where employees feel that their voices matter.

3. Be proactive

Culture doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s something that needs to be nurtured and tended. Without culture, your company will have no legs to stand on.

On his blog, Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne wrote, “There’s no right or wrong with culture, it is simply a combination of [the] natural personality of the founding team, in addition to proactive work, to push the culture in a desired direction and to maintain certain values.”

Since the beginning, Buffer has made culture a priority. At each stage of its business, it’s assessed its company culture and made changes based on the company’s growth. As your company grows, you must also scale your culture. And that will almost certainly mean that the culture for a three-person team will look very different from the culture for a 20-person team.

Related: Strong Company Culture Fattens The Bottom Line

4. Stick to your values

In essence, your culture is your people. Without great people, you can’t have a great culture. That means you need to define what you want your culture to be like from the beginning – starting with whom you hire.

In an article on Medium, Skillshare CEO Michael Karnjanaprakorn wrote, “Because the best cultures derive from actions people take, it’s imperative to define expectations around optimal behaviors, which set a foundation for a value system.”

To ensure all new employees fit in with their culture, Skillshare developed specific hiring guidelines based on its core values. This allowed the company to build a team focused on common goals so people would be able to work together successfully.

5. Show appreciation

Not every employee needs to have fancy benefits like free lunches, yoga classes and snacks – but perks like those don’t hurt, either. Squarespace offers some exciting benefits for its employees, including flexible vacations, catered meals, relaxation spaces and occasional guest lecturers. The company was even named one of the best places to work in New York City in 2013 by Crain’s New York Business.

Employees appreciate being taken care of, but that’snot the sole reason they want to work for a company. Squarespace also boasts a flat organisational structure, which means there is no hierarchy or levels of management. This creates an open space for employees to collaborate and make their voices heard as well as gain access to the company’s leadership.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How The Digital World Has Impacted HR

Here are a few ways in which HR has changed.

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Almost every conversation that happens within a business environment is around growth and how technology is changing the way we do business. With few industries left untouched, the digital world has radically changed the way individuals work, creating an even bigger demand for real-time experiences.

The HR department deals with an influx of messages and emails on a daily basis, so in order to make things easier, digital has introduced a variety of different online tools that have certainly helped set the tone for the future of organisational management. With employee cultures, engagement and productivity being a few of the most important topics circulated internally, HR has a fundamental part to play in getting existing employees to adopt a digital mindset that supports this new-age culture.

The quicker businesses take advantage of technology to manage performance, make the hiring process easier and give people access to their own personal information, the quicker it will separate traditional workplace thinking from today’s thinking.

Here are a few ways in which HR has changed:

Cloud computing and online apps

With previous admin and other HR tasks being done by hand, cloud computing has now made everything faster and simpler. Professionals now have access to the latest online tools that will help streamline processes and allow individuals instant access to their own personal information without having to ask for it. This also speeds up the process and takes a lot of extra, unnecessary work off HRs shoulders.

Related: Is Leveraging Your Resources Getting The Job Done Properly?

In the upcoming years, companies can expect cloud-based HR systems to become more automated and mobile friendly. This means that HR and management will be able to access employee payrolls, CV applications and more, with just the click of a button.

People analytics

One of the many benefits that digital has created for HR is the availability of employee data. More companies have started using online applications to monitor employee performance and company productivity. HR departments have started tracking employee behaviour and patterns through their selected app, making employee feedback easier and more efficient. If any employees have complaints, questions or queries, logging these requests online will make it easier for HR to deal with, considering the amount of content they receive, every day. This will also help them to make more effective decisions.

It’s no secret that a company’s most valuable asset is their people, and when looking to motivate employees, track employee training and individual performance or set up a training programme, then online is the way to go. By having a more holistic understanding of your people and how they’re performing, HR can better support a culture of feedback, engagement and motivation. This kind of approach will also enable employees to better align their personal goals to bigger business objectives.

Real-time feedback

Because the digital age has created the impression that things can get done quickly, in real-time, employees feel the need to give and receive feedback with an instant response. Real-time evaluation is much more effective for something that needs to change than an annual or quarterly review would be.

If new procedures, policies, meetings or activities get announced, employees can immediately give their feedback on a specific topic or outcome. This will also help you know when to make changes both within the organisation and with employees. For example, employees who don’t measure up to their KPI standards can be subjected to additional training or can be let go in favour of someone else who can come in and do the job better than they do.

Related: What Happened To The Workplace? How To Make It More Human

AI, VR and AR

Gone are the days where robots, VR and AR were simply jargon used among tech geeks. These terms have officially made it to everyday conversations, between business owners, employees and HR leaders. Virtual Reality (VR) which can be identified as a recreation of reality, is now being harnessed by companies in their training activities, as well as Augmented Reality (AR) which enhances technology. These elements are starting to become far more integrated into internal activities, helping employers engage better with employees, making activities more interactive and fun.

While many advancements have been made to the HR department and even HR management courses at colleges, there are countless others to look forward to. New tech innovations are introduced every day, creating even greater opportunities for businesses to align their goals with HR.

Professionals will need to keep up to date with the latest trends and develop their own strategies to stay within the path of progress. Much like all things digital, we all have mixed emotions when it comes to new trends but in order for companies to stay relevant, they will need to adapt their company goals to meet these challenges. Technology is only going to keep moving forward.

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A Culture Of Discipline Critical For SMMEs To Thrive

Employees are the heart and soul of every organisation, especially for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs).

Thabang Rapuleng

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Employees are the heart and soul of every organisation, especially for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs). As a result, the implementation, as well as enforcement of clear workplace policies and practices is critical to the success of these companies.

With South African Labour Law as strict as it is, we are still finding a significant number of SMMEs that do not have any formal policies and procedures, which increases the risk of these companies not complying with labour laws.

This is often as a result of SMMEs not having the necessary manpower or finances to have fully-fledged human resources (HR) departments. It can therefore be a common occurrence to find SMME owners at the helm of HR divisions.

An owner-run HR department will also not necessarily be overly familiar with labour laws. The company will often do something that is “good for business” but not advisable in terms of the law. This could lead to poor decisions being made and could be detrimental to the future of the company.

Related: 3 Steps To Find And Keep Top Talent In Your Business

Poor communication of policies and procedures is another area of concern for many SMMEs, resulting in employees often being unaware of HR policies and making them likely to infringe on these policies. New employees may also find it difficult to adapt to the business and employees could end up losing what could have been a valuable asset to a growing business.

A culture of discipline is essential

Discipline with regards to the enforcement of policies must be considered as a day-to-day management function, rather than a once-off or ad hoc event. This approach will ensure an issue is resolved before it spirals out of control.

For example, if an employee takes an extended lunch break, and the employer allows it to happen, it will send a message to other employees that this is perfectly acceptable. Employers will soon find other employees adopting a similar approach, possibly resulting in a large-scale disciplinary process. If the employer took the time and initiated a disciplinary discussion with the one employee, it would have communicated to other staff that this type of behaviour is not tolerated, avoiding a potentially bigger issue.

This is not just an issue in SMMEs. CDH often finds large corporates also struggling to maintain discipline on a day-to-day basis. In some cases, corporates tend to wait until an employee has made a significant mistake or serious act of negligence before intervening.

Record-keeping is your ally

Keeping a record of all disciplinary matters is an essential part of creating a culture of discipline in the workplace. It is critical that all verbal and written warnings are recorded and kept in the employee’s file.

Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?

Under South African Labour Law, an employee must always be allowed to state his/her case in all disciplinary matters, irrespective of the seriousness of the infringement.

Before the employer issues a verbal or written warning, the employer must notify the employee of his/her infringement. The employees must then be given the opportunity to state their case and if the employer is not satisfied with their explanation, the employer may then legally issue the warning.

For more serious matters, which verbal or written warnings will not solve, you must follow more formal steps, such as disciplinary hearings. However, if you maintain a culture of discipline on a daily basis, you will rarely have issues escalating to such a degree.

Correcting an overall workplace culture is far more difficult than rectifying a small incident. When an employer has to correct an entire culture that is deeply entrenched in their business, the process can be more expensive and take much longer.

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