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Why HR must lead in evolution of business

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HR needs to become better equipped to lead an organisation’s people through change as they need to build a more agile workforce that is ready to adjust, writes ANJA VAN BEEK of Sage International.

Most organisations are under pressure to evolve their businesses at a faster pace as they try to get in step with rapid changes in the business landscape, technology and customer behaviour.

That means HR departments, too, need to become better equipped to lead the organisation’s people through constant and rapid change. They need to build a more agile workforce that is ready to adjust to the evolving needs of the market. This goes beyond offering people flexible working arrangements such as flexible hours or the ability to work from home.

It is about helping to shift the organisational culture to one that embraces learning, change and innovation. It is also about recruiting, developing and retaining people who thrive in a changing world – chameleon workers who can adapt to change, learn new skills in a short space of time and seamlessly move from assignment to assignment.

The HR department of the future must thus shift its focus from reducing risk and managing red-tape towards a highly strategic role of guiding change, improving agility, and ultimately driving higher performance.

Here are a few ideas about how HR must evolve in the years to come:

 Accommodate a more fluid workforce

The way that businesses structure their workforces is changing as they begin to source more of their talent through freelancers, crowdsourcing, and other approaches that give employees and companies more flexibility. What’s more, we can also expect to see a further churn in the workforce as more young professionals join an organisation to take part in a project or achieve a specific career goal – and then leave after two to three years.

Even within the walls of the business, we can expect to see teams become more fluid as people are brought together for specific projects and initiatives, and then disbanded so they can move to other parts of the business. In a sense, many parts of the business will follow the same sort of ‘gig economy’ model as movie studios and agencies, building bespoke and sometimes virtual teams of in-house and external skills for each project.

HR teams will need to facilitate this shift, making it easier for managers to source and develop the talent when they need it and where they need it.

For example, they might build databases of skills that they share with managers and facilitate talent exchange programmes between different business units and departments.

Create flexible career options

In an agile workforce, HR will need to rethink how it develops career paths, salary bands and job descriptions. It will need to support managers and their teams as they organically develop their own roles and tasks, often on a project-by-project basis. This will also mean new ways of measuring performance and rewarding employees that meet the needs of a changing workplace.

For example, tech companies like Google allow engineers to spend some of their workday working on passion projects and innovative ideas rather than making them spend all their time on a narrowly defined scope. This has the benefit of creating new ideas for the business and keeping employees engaged – in turn, helping with talent retention.

Facilitate a culture of innovation

HR departments play an important role in shaping organisational culture – from helping to source talent to supporting change management and designing rewards and incentive programmes. To support a more agile business, they need to look at how and where they source talent; how they reward and incentivise the right behaviour; how they support managers and employees through their tools and processes; and how they measure performance.

Develop a learning organisation rather than a ‘training strategy’

One of the major challenges HR face is helping the business and the workforce keep up with the rapid pace of change in today’s digital world. With mobile technology, the cloud, analytics, blockchain and the Internet of Things changing the world so rapidly, companies and their workforces need to learn fast.

This means that HR departments need to look beyond rigid learning programmes towards creating a culture where continuous learning is valued. This is all about creating opportunities for mentorship, providing on-the-job learning opportunities, and responding quickly when new skills are needed.

Closing words

Integrated HR management systems play an important role in helping HR departments become more agile and to provide their businesses with strategic support. They automate red-tape so that HR professionals can focus on where they can add value, and they provide data and analytics tools to support agile decision-making.

In a time of seismic technological change, Sage is focused on using the smartest technology to reinvent and simplify HR processes and this has made us an indispensable business partner to our customers.

* Anja van Beek, Vice President for People, Sage International

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SA consumers buy 3.2m smartphones in Q1

Smartphone sales in South Africa grew by 12.4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, reaching around 3.2 million units for the period.

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However, the value of the smartphone segment increased by 22.8% as sales of entry-level devices to low- and mid-income consumers continued to drive the market, according to point of sale data from market research firm, GfK South Africa.

GfK South Africa’s data reveals that telecommunications retail enjoyed a strong start to the year, with revenue growing 22.4% year-on-year. The growing popularity of phablets and higher unit prices (as a result of a weaker rand) helped to drive this increase in revenue, against a backdrop of low or negative growth in many segments of the consumer technology market.

“The mobile device market showed good growth in the quarter, despite rising prices during the period under review,” says Norman Muzhona, Solutions Specialist for Telecommunications at GfK South Africa. “In addition to the exchange rate, the introduction of popular, new mid-tier devices by several leading vendors helped to drive higher retail revenues in the telecoms market.”

Information technology retail revenues for the quarter contracted 4.8% compared to 2017, largely because of decreasing monitor prices and a 38.9% decline in tablet revenues. However, desktop computer revenues grew 39% and mobile computing revenues grew 6.5% year-on-year, thanks to higher prices and increased sales of higher-end products.

Says Berno Mare, Solutions Specialist for IT, Office Equipment and Value Added Services: “Retailers introduced new computing devices priced in the R3000 band during the quarter and enjoyed surprisingly strong demand for these entry-level units.

“Telcos enjoyed robust growth in mobile computing retail sales, thanks to credit deals, subsidised contracts and attractive data offers. However, South African consumers are heavily indebted, which may dampen growth for the rest of the year.”

With consumers rapidly migrating to smartphones, sales of traditional mobile phones continued to decline, down 1.6% year-on-year to around 2 million for the quarter. However, the exchange rate and the introduction of higher-priced brands helped to drive a 8.9% year-on-year revenue increase in mobile phone revenues during the period under review.

This follows the 21% drop in mobile phone unit sales in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. “Operators continue to lead the transition from feature phones to smartphones as they pursue higher data revenues,” says Muzhona. “The entry-level market for smartphones is fiercely competitive, and the minimum specs of lower cost smartphones is improving all the time.”

GfK South Africa expects the migration from mobile phones to smartphones to accelerate in 2018. However, it remains to be seen if the introduction of 4G-enabled, Voice-over-LTE-ready feature phones will have any impact on the South African mobile phone market.

Sectors of the consumer electronic market that showed strong growth for the first quarter of 2018 include loudspeakers—revenues up 21.6% year-on-year, thanks to demand of Bluetooth-enabled product—and ultrahigh definition (UHD) panel TVs—where revenues grew 33%, thanks to the growing affordability of the technology. UHD unit shipments were up 76%, while the average selling price of the products fell 24%.

Other market highlights for the first quarter of 2018 include:

  • Photo category revenues were up 8.1% year-on-year.
  • Small domestic appliance revenues grew 8%, following a 10.3% decline in Q1 2016 over Q1 2015. Hot air fryers sold well, as did kettles and toasters.
  • Major domestic appliances showed small year-on-year growth over Q1 2016, despite a decline in average selling price in many sub-categories of this market. Cooling products continued to make the highest contribution to growth in this segment.
  • Office Equipment revenues declined 18% year-on-year, led downwards by lower printer and cartridge sales volumes.
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What kids want online

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Kaspersky Lab’s latest report on the online activities of children – based on statistics received from its solutions and modules with child protection features – highlights children’s online activities and the importance of protecting them when online. For example, video content globally, comprised 17% of searches over the last months. Although many videos watched as a result of these searches may be harmless, it is still possible for children to accidentally end up watching videos that contain inappropriate content.

The report shows anonymised statistics from Kaspersky Lab’s flagship consumer solutions for Windows PCs and Macs that have the Parental Control module switched on and from Kaspersky Safe Kids, a standalone service for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

In South Africa, communication sites (such as social media, messengers, or emails) were the most popular pages visited by computers with parental controls switched on – with users in South Africa visiting these sites in 69% of cases over the previous 12 months. Software, audio, and video accounted for 17% of searches. Websites with this content have become significantly more popular since last year, when it was only the fifth most popular category globally at 6%. The top four is rounded off with electronic commerce (4.2%) and alcohol, tobacco, and websites about narcotics (3.9%), which is a new addition compared to this time last year.

The report presents search results on the ten most-popular languages* for the last 6 months. The data shows that the video & audio category – including requests related to any video content, streaming services, video bloggers, series and movies – are the most regularly ‘googled’ by children (17% of the total requests). The second and third places go to translation (14%) and communication (10%) websites respectively. Interestingly, games websites sit in fourth place, generating only 9% of the total search requests.

We can also see a clear language difference for search requests: for example, video and music websites are typically searched for in English, which can be explained by the fact that the majority of movies, TV series and musical groups have English names. Spanish-speaking kids carry out more requests for translation sites, while communication services are mostly searched for in Russian.

More than any other nationality, Chinese-speaking children look for education services, while French-speaking kids are more interested in sport and games websites. In turn, German-speaking requests dominate in the “shopping” category. The leading number of search requests for porn are in Arabic, and for anime are in Japanese.

“Kids in different countries have different interests and online behaviors, but what links them all is their need to be protected online from potentially harmful content. Children looking for animated content could accidentally open a porn video. Or they could start searching for innocent videos and unintentionally end up on websites containing violent content, both of which could have a long-term impact on their impressionable and vulnerable minds,” says Anna Larkina, Web-content Analysis Expert at Kaspersky Lab.

As well as analysing searches, the report also looks into which websites children visit or attempt to visit that contain potentially harmful content which falls under one of the 14 preset categories** for the last 12 months.

The mobile trend is again highlighted in the figures for computer games, which are now in fifth place locally on the list at 3%. As kids continue to show a preference for mobile games rather than computer games, this category will only continue to decrease in popularity on computers over the coming months and years.cleardot.gif

“No matter what they are doing online, it is important for parents not to leave their children’s digital activities unattended, because there’s a big difference between care and obtrusiveness. While it is important to trust your children and educate them about how to behave safely online, even your good advice cannot protect them from something unexpectedly showing up on the screen. That’s why advanced security solutions are key to ensuring children have positive online experiences, rather than harmful ones,” adds Anna Larkina.

The Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky Internet Security consumer solutions include a Parental Control module to help adults protect their children against online threats and block sites or apps containing inappropriate content. In turn, the Kaspersky Safe Kids solution allows parents to monitor what their children do, see or search for online across all devices, including mobile devices, and offers useful advice on how to help children behave safely online.

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