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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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Managing Staff

An Excellence Approach To Nurture Star Performers

Talent management is the commitment to continuously nurture and align individual attitude and performance, job requirements and organisational culture through excellent performance management.

Adri Dörnbrack

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1. An excellent view of Talent Management

Any sports team needs to measure the vital statistics and performance of each member. “Metrics” like cadence, heart rate, output ratios etc. are important, for the whole to eventually be greater than the sum of its parts.

Similarly, leaders need to measure (without micro managing) employee performance to get a better understanding of what makes the individual stand out. Leaders need to understand how to adapt environments so that everyone can be exceptional.

Not creating a culture of unhealthy competition, but one where every individual’s contribution is understood and valued, and individual work experience is adjusted to accommodate uniqueness, will keep individuals performing at their peak, while enjoying what they do and understanding the purpose of their work.

2. Nurturing star performers

Employees should be given the best possible opportunity to serve in a work context that is optimal for their skillset and temperament. Talent management is based on the organisation’s commitment to surround all employees with people, practices and processes that will grow them to their full potential.

From a deep understanding of the talent pool a business can distinguish between top, great, good and poor performers. Having a suitable and fair measurement tool in place is critical in this regard. This allows management to clearly understand why people are in different performance categories, and provides insights on what pro-active actions can be taken to develop people into their full capacity.

People are highly influenced by work-related relational contexts and environments. Poor performers can become top performers when there are leadership changes or job changes that simply fit better, but also vice versa. Top performers can become poor performers due to illness or other job related changes. There have also been cases where top industry performers join a different organisation and then struggle to perform due to the individual not aligning with the new organisational culture.

Related: These 4 Types Of ‘Nightmare Managers’ Are Scaring Employees Away

Excellent talent management considers all of these factors:

  • Understand who the star performers are, and why they are viewed as top performers. (Know and acknowledge what they contribute in terms of both job deliverables and attitude).
  • Understand the relationship between the top performer and their leader.
  • Understand the culture of the department and why this fit works for this individual.
  • Then, for the future of work: Consider adapting working conditions or terms of employment in order to keep the star performers (Eg. Flexible working hours, virtual offices, or shorter terms of employment to ensure growth opportunities.)

The biggest contributing factor to ensure excellent talent management is to continuously understand and communicate what is expected from an individual, to have measures in place to know if the individual achieves this, to know what value this adds to the business – and then making sure that they are compensated accordingly.

3. What star performers desire from corporate culture

People don’t want to work merely for personal gain. They want to connect and contribute to a business that shares their values and contributes towards the development of a healthy world and better society.

Spiritual intelligence is becoming increasingly important. This trumps mere personal self-actualisation, and entails feeling connected to a business that has a bigger shared purpose than just making a profit.

People want to connect with businesses that have integrity, moral leaders, and feel part of a network that are responsible stewards, who will value their total personal contribution and help them grow as star top performers within a star team.

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Managing Staff

Are Our Workplaces Gen Z And Gen Alpha Proof?

Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to generation proof their workplaces before Gen Z and Gen Alpha enter the workforce, only to retreat into their technology bubbles. The question is, how do companies get the balance right?

Ilona Fookes

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Preparing for a new generation to enter the workplace is a lot like baby proofing your house. You spend a lot of time and money making sure this vulnerable creature, with very specific needs, has everything they need to play, grow and thrive in their new environment, without too many run ins with sharp objects that will inevitably lead to tears. But who are you future proofing for and how?

The challenge in 2018, is that your house has only just become Millennial proof. And yes, while it’s great that you’re so On Fleek with all the latest open office concepts, flexible working spaces, new internal communication channels and social media influencers that these hashtaggers thrive on, that aint gonna fly with the more independent multi-multitasking Gen Z, who will favour private enclaves and online collaborations with global teams and communities of influence. And what of Gen Alpha, the Google Glass generation who will view technology as a physical appendage and glass screens as their genuine, not virtual, reality?

The good news is that Gen Z, or iGen as they are commonly known for being weaned off milk with iPads, will pave the way for the even more self-sufficient, independent Gen Alpha. So, if you get the foundations right you can start building a generation-proof business that will stand you in good stead for the next 50 years, give or take.

The challenge with generation proofing is that we often spend all our time focusing on the hard, tangible stuff – the tech and spatial environment – and not enough on the soft issues that will actually help retain and motivate employees to not only stay and play but thrive and grow. And when we consider that Gen Z is heavily driven by career growth and is likely to have 17 jobs and 5 careers in a lifetime, we should be focusing a lot more on getting the work/culture balance right. In fact, engaging and retaining Gen Z will be a balancing act like no other, where two seemingly opposite needs play out in the workplace. Get it right and you win the prize – a loyal, integrated workforce that is connected on more levels than one.

Related: 3 Ways Start-ups Can Build Loyalty With Millennial Customers

Balancing career growth with the need for retention

Every generation is born into an era that shapes, motivates and influences their decisions.  Gen Z’s world view may be largely shaped by technology, but they are also the product of economic uncertainty, having been born into a recession. So, it’s not surprising that they value financial security, job promotion and learning. As expert online collaborators who are also capable of working independently, companies would do well to embrace online learning as a powerful tool for mentorship, training and growth, especially one that promotes career promotion and professional advancement. 

Balancing technology with the need for focus

Eight seconds – that’s how long the average attention span of a Gen Z employee will be. Gen Alpha will be even less. Immersed in technology from an early age, these serious multi-multi-taskers will work tirelessly across different technologies and will process information at the speed of light. The downside is that it’s going to be a challenge to keep their focus, even more so than Millennials. More than ever, companies will need to create multipurpose private spaces or pods, where these workers can retreat to in order to focus on the task at hand. These spaces should also support their need for blended face-to-face/online groups.

Balancing independence with the need for shared culture and meaning

Yes, this generation will be fiercely independent and shun micromanagement and a desk bound culture, but it will also crave meaningful work, regular interaction with management and opportunities to make a valuable contribution to society. Companies that only focus on creating opportunities for remote working and online collaborations, will miss the mark.

To retain this group, you need to focus on creating a shared corporate culture and opportunities for regular engagement. In this way internal communication will become a key driver in bridging the gap between a non-desk and desk-bound workforce and finding new ways to engage and inspire an increasingly disparate workforce.

Employee apps will become the most important channel in workplace communication bringing information, social connection and engagement together in a way that resonates with these digital natives. 

Related: Kid Entrepreneurs Who Have Already Built Successful Businesses (And How You Can Too)

Balancing privacy with the need for engagement

Internal communication will become a balancing act unto itself. How companies communicate with employees will become as important as how often and how much. Internal communication will need to move beyond intranet, SharePoint and ESN like Workplace and Yammer to embrace wearables, robotics, and virtual reality, all of which will not only reflect but drive the digital native.

As the vital link between company and employees, internal communication will need to engage employees through validated channels using curated content that not only drives the message but embeds the company’s shared values and brand ethos. And did we mention the maximum reading time should not exceed 10 minutes per day? Tough ask right? 

Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to proof their workplaces to embrace Gen Z and the AI generations to follow. The mistake would be to focus only on the tangibles and neglect the soft issues that really drive retention and shape corporate culture. Making sure internal communications teams are properly trained, equipped and mandated to handle the enormous challenge, will be key to cracking the generational code and claiming your share of its human capital.

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Why A Generous Paternity Leave Policy Can Be Bad For Equality

Gender-neutral parental leave policies can be great for women – but only if fathers take full advantage of the time off.

Javier Frank

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A few months ago, I had dinner with my wife to celebrate her birthday. Shortly after, as we rode along the Hudson River toward our apartment, we sighed in relief with the certainty that our son wouldn’t be born that night – because, let’s be honest, nobody wants to share a birthday with their mother. We went to bed only to wake up just past midnight to rush to the hospital. Esteban was born the next day.

As it happens, my employer recently implemented a new parental leave policy that offers 16 weeks of full paid leave to any employee in care of a newborn or adoptive child. Generous and equalitarian parental leave policies like this have a well-documented impact on curbing gender discrimination at the workplace. But, this is only the case if men take advantage of them. So, as one of the first employees to have this benefit available to me, I am going to use it fully and I plan to be very vocal about it. I have to. I owe it myself and to those who come after me.

There are three key ways that policies like this can work against gender disparities in the workplace. First, their gender-blindness is inclusive of gender nonconforming parents. No company benefit should depend upon the employee’s gender identity, though, sadly, it is still the norm.

Second, an extended period of full paid leave allows families to fully recover from the financial, physical and, often, medical impact of having or adopting a child. Finally, by doing away with the concept of a primary caregiver, which typically defaults to the mother, it removes the unfair career opportunities advantage men get when their colleagues are out caring for their offspring.

Related: Maternity Leave – The Rights of Your Employees

That said, this last powerful mechanism of gender equality is only effective if men take the benefit in full, too. In fact, if the norm becomes that mothers take the 16 weeks of leave and fathers return to work earlier, the policy may even work against women by removing them even longer from their careers in comparison to men.

Discrimination at work toward mothers, and more broadly toward women in child-rearing age, is a multi-faceted problem. One of these being the perception that motherhood makes women less valuable workers due to their domestic responsibilities. In fact, while women take a 7 percent hit on expected income per child – the so-called “mommy-tax” – dads actually see bump in theirs.

Countries like Sweden, Quebec and Germany have a long history of providing a generous parental leave that can be divided at will between both parents. What these countries have recently realised is these policies, on their own, are widely ineffective in fighting the traditional gender division of childcare. Fathers made little use of the benefit, which reinforced the role of women as primary caregivers. Child-rearing age for women is when the gender pay gap starts to grow. This is widely attributed to women being perceived as less valuable workers because of their role as primary caregivers. This vicious cycle needs to be broken. To close the gender pay gap, men and women workers need to be equally expected to care for their children. In order for this to happen, it is necessary for men to use parental leave benefits at the same rate of women.

Nobody can force men to take paternity leave, but we can create a culture where it is expected and accepted.

Culture is easier to build than change, which is why it is essential that the fathers of those first few babies included in new leave policies understand the implications of their actions. We have an opportunity and responsibility to set the right precedent, to serve as an example to other men in our organisation.

Gender inequality is a serious problem in our society and we must seize every opportunity to combat it – one family, one company and one industry at a time. As a man in a leadership position I have the responsibility to use my influence to combat it. Esteban has given me this immediate opportunity to make things better and I am not planning to disappoint.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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