Young South Africans can turn out to be one of the country’s biggest assets, but only if companies are willing to change their organisational structures to accommodate them. ANTON VAN HEERDEN, MD at Sage HR & Payroll shares some of the ways that the workplace is changing.
South Africa, like many developing nations, is a young country. People younger than 35 years old make up about 66% of the total population and around half of our people are aged under 25. As businesses, one of the largest challenges we face is catering for this population’s expectations of the workplace.
If we harness our young people’s energy and innovative spirit, they could turn into one of our country’s biggest assets. However, many organisations are still stuck with organisational structures and old management paradigms that are not optimal for our idealistic and diverse youth population.
Here are some ways the workplace is changing as Millennials (those born after 1980) make their mark and the first generation of “Born Frees” (those born after 1994) come of age.
1. Technology takes over
Trend: Youth are heavily exposed to technology today. Their mobile phones are an extension of themselves and they spend a lot of time online messaging friends, using social media, and watching videos online.
Tip: Take advantage of young workers’ love for, and familiarity, with technology. Give them access to mobile apps that allow them to be productive wherever they are, roll out collaborative tools that have interfaces similar to social media, and use electronic media to communicate with them.
2. Managing diversity
Trend: The average South African workplace today needs to accommodate youth coming from a range of backgrounds in terms of class, ethnicity, culture and race. Youth will enter the workplace with a healthy respect for diversity and a strong belief in inclusion across the lines of race and gender.
Tip: Managers need to be aware of the different backgrounds and experiences of the young people that report to them. They should make a point of listening to, and learning from, their diverse employees – this will help them create a working environment and products that meet the needs of a complex country.
3. Offering guidance
Trend: One way that South African Millennials are much the same as Millennials in other parts of the world is that they value feedback and guidance. They want to know if they’re doing a good job or not, and they want to know how they can improve.
Tip: Make a point of giving younger workers honest feedback in real time, and not just when it’s time for a performance review. Take care to highlight where they are doing well and to offer concrete ideas for where they can improve.
4. From work skills to life skills
Trend: Youth from disadvantaged backgrounds often emerge from schools that lacked the resources to prepare them for life after school. For example, many of them lack basic financial planning skills or insight into workplace etiquette. In addition, they don’t have access to the sort of public health services and welfare safety nets that their peers in wealthier countries take for granted.
Tip: Business in South Africa needs to step in and perform many of the roles that governments perform in richer countries. For example, companies should try to provide younger employees with medical cover, even if it’s simply a hospital plan, and help them with retirement planning or buying insurance.
Depending on the workplace, it might be appropriate to offer optional life skills training in areas such as health and personal finance for employees who need it. It’s not only right to do so, but it’s also good business sense. Financial worry or poor access to health services can damage an employee’s productivity and morale.
5. Getting the balance right
Trend: Youth, especially those privileged enough to have had a good tertiary education, are willing to work hard, but in return expect more workplace flexibility than older workers. They want more freedom to choose their hours, and they also value having some leeway to work from home from time to time. That said, most of them also like collaboration and structure, so a pleasant workplace is important to them.
Tip: Given the soaring costs of real estate as well as growing traffic congestion, workplace flexibility can benefit employees and employers alike. An employee who misses the rush hour by working at home until 10am will probably have a more productive day than one who has spent two hours getting to the office.
But before you decide to support remote working and flexible hours, ensure that you have the right processes, technology and management skills to make a success of it. The policies need to be clear, fair and consistent – and it’s important to remember that not every role is suitable for flexible working arrangements.
6. Dialogue, not dictatorship
Trend: The command-and-control management style of the past isn’t a good fit with today’s workplace. This is especially true in knowledge and services businesses where the workforce is made up largely of bright, ambitious university graduates. Younger employees want to have a platform to voice their ideas, discuss company values, and express their creativity.
Tip: Create formal and informal structures where employees can give feedback. We have found that our employees of all ages love the sense of involvement they get from our annual workplace satisfaction survey.
Regular brainstorming sessions, town hall meetings, and an ideas and suggestions box or email address are also great ways to get younger employees involved in the business. And it goes without saying that managers should have a sincere open-door policy for young employees with concerns or suggestions.
7. Be prepared for change and churn
Trend: The days of a job-for-life are behind us. Today, employees will move around in the early stages of their careers in search of more money or better job satisfaction. Likewise, they understand that today’s economic climate means that there isn’t much job security, even if one has a good job with a blue chip company.
Tip: Identify your top young talent and have regular, frank discussions with them about their future. Help them to advance their careers and learn new skills so that they don’t necessarily need to move to another company for a new challenge. Focus on a holistic employee value proposition that focuses as much on working conditions and work/life balance as on career advancement and rewards.
And even doing all that, accept the fact that you won’t be able to retain every star performer. Make sure that you have access to a pipeline of promising young talent, and keeping building your skills base.
Welcome to world of 2099
The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.
Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.
This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.
Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.
As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.
“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”
The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.
“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”
Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
Street art goes electric
Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.
The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.
The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.
D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.
D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.
“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”
As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.
Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”
Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”