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Business must prepare for employee of future

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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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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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