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Business must prepare for employee of future

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.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

The leader in cloud data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ gets funding

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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