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HR joins the tech revolution

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The technology revolution has swept away most vestiges of the old ways of business. But not all. Now the HR department is about to be disrupted, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

There is hardly a mainstream business that has not been transformed by technology, yet the management of human resources (HR) remains stuck in early 20th century mode.

This is ironic, considering the massive emphasis placed on young workers and the new generation of job-entrant. The problem is that buzzword are being used to paper over the cracks in the system. The term “millennial” has become a convenient byword for describing this new kind of employee, despite the fact that the 17-to-37-year-old age group it defines is utterly meaningless.

The result is that, while tremendous effort is made to attract young talent, little is done – outside youth-oriented brands like Google and Facebook – to retain them. Performance measures and reward systems may well be in place, but little is done with the huge amount of data collected in the process, and little effort goes into understanding what makes employees tick, and what contribution HR can make to the business.

Yet, in the age of big data and artificial intelligence, human resources should be given as much emphasis as sales, marketing and the customer experience – currently the obsession of most big businesses.

This gap explains the massive growth of a business like SuccessFactors, which provides human capital management software solutions via the cloud. Listed on the NASDAQ exchange in 2007, it was acquired by SAP in 2011 and now serves more than 6 000 companies and 45-million subscribers across more than 60 industries.

“A lot of people believe on-boarding ends when someone is sitting in their office,” said Stefan Ries, chief human resources officer of SAP, opening last week’s SuccessFactors SuccessConnect 2017 conference in London. “It doesn’t stop there. You need to check it after 30 days, after 60 days, after 90 days.”

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Ries was brutal in his assessment of the failings of HR. But he was equally frank in what needed to be done, providing a roadmap for businesses that are ready to evolve in the way they manage employees. Even those who have moved from thinking of staff as customers had not caught up to the way other areas of their business were being disrupted.

He outlined the five key elements that matter most in the new HR roadmap:

1.

“HR needs to deliver much more experience. Stop calling employers and managers customers; they are consumers. It’s not only about employees, but also managers, contingent labour, the retired workforce, as well as new candidates. They all want to have a consumer experience. It’s all about usability, simplification and performance. We need to think and act as if we’re in a consumer business, and we must be ready for the next big thing: mobile and conversational HR.

2.

“We in HR need to measure much more strongly our impact versus the activities we are performing. Within the cloud environment, you need to deliver HR services anytime, anywhere, on any device. If you can’t do that, you won’t attract talent from the younger generations. We have to understand how cloud services can help us to have high employee engagement and to be a more attractive employer of choice.

3.

“We need to continue to get much more fluent in data analytics. We have the tools available. We are hiring data analysts in HR, and that job description didn’t exist four or five years ago.  Integration of machine learning is very important, but it’s not in isolation or separate; it must be fully embedded.

4.

“How jealous are we of the finance department? Business loves them because they have the numbers that define the business. We need to work hand in hand with them, and our numbers must be seen as an important business metric. Sales, marketing, finance and HR must all come together to enable us to make the right business decisions.

5.

“Social media and social commitment really matters.  In the solutions we offer, we must capture the needs of the younger generation. They are much more embedded in the social media environment. These generations have a clear determination in their minds that they need purpose in their jobs. What can they do to help the company make an impact and improve the way we live on this earth? We must continue to invest in corporate social responsibility.”

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Later, at a media briefing, Ries offered the flip side of the coin: how to look after the older generation that may feel left behind by digital transformation.

“On the one side you’ve got to listen to the younger generation, but on the other side have to pay attention to other generations. You have customers out there with managers and leaders in their 50s or 60s who may say, ‘Why bother?’

“They will bother if they see the benefits, that they have to work for another 10 to 15 years and can experience the advantages of the new approach. And at home they are confronted with the same challenges with kids or in the broader family. The magic word is integration.”

A company that seems to have got it right is the venerable automotive brand, Jaguar Land Rover.

“We thought we would have a lot of rejection of the whole concept, so we geared up for putting out fires, and over-supported people through the change,” said Jon West, the company’s director of manufacturing HR and employee relations.

“Actually, we found that there was a high level of acceptance,” he told media at the SuccessConnect conference. “A significant amount of people in the organisation – forty per cent of employees – are older people who’ve been with us for a long time. But over time we brought in a lot of new people, and they were expecting this new approach. We’re lucky we have such well-established, premium brands, and we have to make sure our HR practices do the brands justice.”

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Cape Town not so calm – if you’re a driver

Cape Town drivers lose on average 162 hours a year to traffic jams, so will need some tech and a few tips to stay calm

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Cape Town drivers lose, on average, 162 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, and the city is ranked 95th out of around 200 cities, across 38 countries surveyed globally, in terms of congestion issues.

That’s according to the latest INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard, which is an annual analysis of mobility and congestion trends. The study provides a data-rich evaluation of information collected during peak (slowest) travel times, and inter peak (fastest point between morning and afternoon commutes) travel times. Together they provide a holistic account of congestion throughout the day, delivering in-depth insights for vehicle drivers and policy-makers to make better decisions regarding urban travel and traffic health.

Of the further five South African cities surveyed:

  • Pretoria drivers lose, on average, 143 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, ranking as the 64thmost congested city
  • Johannesburg drivers lose an average of 119 hours annually, ranking 61st
  • Durban drivers lose 72 hours, ranking 141st
  • Port Elizabeth drivers lose 71 hours, ranking 75th
  • And Bloemfontein drivers lose 62 hours, ranking 165th

If these hours sound horrific, spare a thought for the poor drivers in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá who lose, on average, a whopping 272 hours a year stuck in traffic jams!

On average, drivers’ commutes increase by roughly 30% during peak versus inter-peak hours. And the reality is that congestion issues aren’t going away anytime soon. Not here in SA, or anywhere else in the world. So what can we, as drivers, do to make the situation easier to cope with on our daily commute?

Change of mindset

Stressing about the unavoidable, the inevitable, and all the things that are out of our control – like congestion caused by accidents, faulty street lights, or bad weather – is a waste of energy. We should try finding ways of using that time in our cars more productively, to create a less tense, more positive experience. Learning to change our perspective about this challenging time, and associating it with something enjoyable, can drastically alter our reaction to and engagement with it. Rather than expending all our energy on futile anger and frustration, we can channel our focus on things that relax or energise us instead.

Just one more chapter

Being stuck in traffic usually aggravates us because it feels like a huge waste of valuable time. But like a wise man once said, time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Listening to a podcast or audiobook can not only be entertaining, but also educational, which is a brilliant use of your time. Ifyou think of your car as a ‘learning lab’, a mobile university of sorts, and your time spent inside as away to exercise your brain and grow intellectually, you may even find yourself wishing for bad traffic so you have an excuse to carry on listening to your podcast or audiobook.

Tame your inner Hulk

Pulling up a playlist of your favourite, feel-good songs can do wonders to combat stress levels. Downbeat music has been proven to have a mellowing effect on drivers. Making a quick switch to downbeat music shows measurable physiological improvements, with drivers calming down much sooner, and making fewer driving mistakes. So the next time you feel your inner Hulk emerging, crank up the volume on your favourite tunes.

The power of ‘caromatherapy’

There are numerous studies on aromas and their impact on human emotion, behaviour, and performance. Researchers have found that peppermint can enhance mental and athletic performance and cognitive functioning, while cinnamon may improve tasks related to attentional processes and visual-motor response speed. A study from Kyoto University in Japan revealed that participants reported significantly lower hostility and depression scores, and felt more relaxed after awalk through a pine forest. It makes sense then, to incorporate some ‘caromatherapy’ into our lives. There are plenty of off-the-shelf car diffusers available, or you could add a few drops of essential oil to DIY felt air fresheners. Citrus scents like orange or lemon can provide a boost of energy, while rosemary can relieve stress and anxiety. Take care not to hang anything that might obstruct your field of vision though, and always make sure to test out essential oils at home first, in case a scent makes you dizzy or overly relaxed, which could affect driving focus.

Contemplate your navel

The mind is a powerful thing, and simply willing yourself to relax might be the most effective method of all. While we don’t recommend meditating while driving due to safety reasons, breathing exercises can help you stay focused and feeling calm. One useful practice is the one-to-one technique – breathing in and out for the same count with the same intensity. Deep, measured breaths facilitate full oxygen exchange, helping to slow down the rate of your heartbeat and stabilise blood pressure, as opposed to shallow breathing, which doesn’t send enough air to the lowest part of your lungs, causing you to feel anxious and short of breath. Just always keep your eyes on the road, and take care to ensure you’re not so busy counting breaths that your concentration is compromised.

Not all those who wander are lost

Some of our best ideas come in those moments where we’re alone with our own thoughts, able to really reflect on the ideas we have without having something immediate that needs our attention. Allow your mind to wander, and do a little brainstorming. Alternatively, use the time to simply day dream. Remember, downtime is not dead time. It is both necessary, and important for your mental health. Use this time as an opportunity to take care of yourself.

In-built vehicle tech

“As we spend more and more time commuting, cars are being designed to accommodate longer periods behind the wheel,” says Kuda Takura, smart mobility specialist at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “Ford uses human-centric design to deliver vehicles that are inviting, accommodating, and intuitive. For example, our SYNCT infotainment system offers nifty, hands-free functions, like allowing drivers to listen to their texts, change music or climate settings, and make phone calls easily with voice control. Our range of driver-assist technologies, like Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Semi-Auto Active Park Assist, are also designed to take some of the stress off city driving. If our lifestyle means that we might be spending more time in our cars than we do on holiday, then we should make sure we make the most of that time.”

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Vodacom exits Africa biz services

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Vodacom Group has sold Vodacom Business Africa’s operations in Nigeria, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire to Andile Ngcaba’s Synergy Communications. The two entities are in the process of concluding the acquisitions, which are subject to the approval of the regulatory authorities within these markets.

Vodacom says the transaction supports the Group’s enterprise strategy in Africa, which has been refocused to grow and strengthen its core business. It will no longer directly service global enterprise customers in these three markets but will rather continue to operate as a pan African telecommunications networks provider through local relationships, like the one with Synergy Communications. 

This acquisition represents a significant milestone in Synergy Communication’s quest to be a leading provider of cloud and digitally based services in key markets across sub-Saharan Africa and provides key additional assets in its build out of a regional footprint. Synergy Communications currently has operations in Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.

Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Synergy Communications said: “This is an exciting landmark transaction for Synergy Communications, providing us with additional momentum in the delivery of our strategy as a pan-African enterprise digital Services Provider. Synergy Communications will partner with major global cloud providers and deliver platform-based services to both multi-nationals and local enterprises.”

Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group, said: “Vodacom has a clear vision for strengthening our position as a leading pan-African business and will work with local service providers like Synergy Communications to grow in these markets. Crucially, Vodacom is not exiting any of the territories related to this transaction and remains focused on continuing to deliver exceptional service to our global and multinational clients in these markets through long-term commercial agreements. 

“To support the sustainable growth of pan African digital economies and building connected societies, Vodacom will, via local service providers, continue to service clients in each market. We seek to leverage the collective strengths of Vodacom and Synergy Communications to meet the changing requirements of clients across each of these markets.”

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