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Kill the sacred cows of the new workforce

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A study has revealed a link between an employee’s ownership of their career and the means of how they expand that career. While employees like good coffee, more than 60% of them would prefer improvements on their desks, says CHRIS BUCHANAN, Dell Director – End user computing – Africa.

A happy employee is a productive employee. So we decided a few months/years ago to give our sales teams something that would make them happy. We turned our break room into a modern Silicon Valley enclave, complete with foosball tables and a barista. Really nice stuff and the staff were very keen for it.

If only I had known better…

To give you an alternative perspective, let me ask a question. Where is the world’s largest cemetery? You may hazard a few guesses, but would any of them be Facebook? Everyday, 10,000 of the social media giant’s users die. That’s incredible – and unheard of. It challenges our perception of the world around us.

But do we bring these new perceptions into our organisations? Not nearly often enough. We still treat workplaces with the same thinking as we always did. And yet the workers of today have very different expectations.

I’m a customer experience guy, with a love for technology. I enjoy it when humans are uplifted and can do more for themselves, especially with the right tech on their side. But I continue to be amazed how the small things, such as the aesthetics of a device, can excite an employee – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What Employees Really Want

Dell recently completed a multi-year study with Intel and the Institute For Future Technology. The results were astounding. Here’s a sample: 32 percent of graduates today will turn down a job if they don’t feel the tech they are provided with will enable them to do the job properly.

Not foosball tables or baristas (though I must add our staff are very happy with those additions!).

The study revealed a clear link between an employee’s ownership of their career and the means of how they expand that career. While employees like good coffee, more than 60 percent of them would prefer improvements on their desks than nice amenities.

This is where the technology comes in. This is an opportunity for IT managers everywhere.

Here’s another question: if you can improve someone’s desk, what would you add? There are many good ideas, but what about headphones? Absurd! Everyone has headphones! Except they don’t – the study shows that many employees see a good pair of headphones as the perfect cure for a busy and noisy office environment. It helps keep them focused.

The same for dual monitors. A second monitor can boost employee productivity by 19 percent. Combine that over a week and it’s nearly an entire day’s extra productivity.

Small Things Matter Most

One of my ongoing challenges in an organisation is the way IT treats employees. We technologists give lip service to the fact that we should be treating our employees as customers. When someone arrives, they might get the device they need only three days later, and then they get the model based on management levels. Little consideration goes into what people are going to do and how they will be productive.

Humans are becoming digital conductors. You don’t think about electricity anymore – it’s just there and you switch it on. That’s the way modern workers look at technology – it’s expected.

The effect goes beyond gadgets on desks. How long does it take to sign up a new employee? They would normally have loads of paperwork to process, which means they are not hitting the ground running. Yet it is certain their CV was sent in an electronic format. If your IT systems could capture that information digitally, it would preempt their paperwork and get them started faster. Everyone will thank you for that one.

Employee journeys are becoming as important as customer journeys. You want to retain good talent and enable them to excel. You don’t really have a choice, because they expect this. The good news is that you already have the power to make those changes, providing you understand the workforce.

Empower The Personas

There are five general personas in most companies: Desk-centric workers who spend half their time as a desk, corridor warriors who spend half their time in meetings, the on-the-go pro who travels a lot, remote employees who work from home, and specialised employees who operate in special environments such as remote audits of sites.

These are not carved in stone, but they give a general idea of who works for the business and what they need. Meeting those needs in practical and often simple technological ways helps keep them productive and motivated.

To tap this momentum, you need to step out of traditional thinking. Get rid of your sacred cows: a nice break room is not as important as multiple monitors or reliable remote access. Change your mindset and then query the digital readiness of your organisation. Get it to the cutting edge.

Study your workforce’s digital maturity levels and engage with HR – they know better than everyone which personas are inside your walls. Finally, create employee resource groups to give feedback. Employees are not meant to be only seen and not heard. If they have your ear, they can help you see the future.

I don’t regret our new break room. In fact, it’s pretty great. But back then I thought you had to go big to impress your workforce. That’s a sacred cow, the old way of thinking. Many small gestures are better than a few big ones. People remember the small touches that technology can deliver.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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