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Managing a multi-generational workforce

Addressing the challenges associated with managing a multi-generational workforce

Each generation has different work expectations. How can organisations address this challenge effectively without compromising on its core values? Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, believes that while a standardised approach is ill advised, there are other opportunities to become more attentive to the requirements of a multi-generational workforce.

“Every generation has its own value system and way of working,” he explains. “Some of the millennial value drivers include receiving praise, being rewarded for participating, and the need to feel valued. Baby Boomers have a strong work ethic, are competitive, self-assured and independent, and unafraid of a hard day’s work.”

“Some might argue that one of the reasons behind these differences is that Baby Boomers had to work hard for everything they achieved and did not want their children to go through the same struggles they experienced. Consequently, they gave their children everything they wanted. Unfortunately, this cultivated a sense of entitlement.”

“Managing these differences can be extremely challenging. Baby Boomers sometimes view Millennials as being disrespectful even though the latter might not feel this is the case. Another example is that Baby Boomers were taught that it is essential to acknowledge mistakes made and as far as possible, correct them. Millennials, on the other hand, look for ways to hide their mistakes.”

Changing ways

Despite the criticism millennials face, one of the most often overlooked benefits of the new generation is that they can teach themselves.

Millennials rely heavily on sites such as YouTube to acquire skills they do not have when they need them. This can be something as simplistic as changing a flat tyre or more complex such as servicing a car. This negates the need for formal qualifications or having to rely on another expert to teach them.

“It’s simply a matter of doing a quick search online to find out how to do something,” says Myburgh. “Of course, there needs to be an understanding of how to effectively search for something online and which paths to follow to get the results in the shortest time possible.”

Separation anxiety

The evolution of technology has also resulted in the creation of a mobile workforce.

This means the various generations can be physically separated from one another. It is also an effective way of avoiding confrontations that could develop as a result of differing value systems, approaches to work, and so on.

Typically, older generations prefer their own office, while millennials enjoy working in an open plan environment.

“But even though splitting the generations might be an effective tactic, decision-makers should focus on teaching the different groups to respect one another’s differences and focus instead on their respective strengths,” Myburgh points out. “Creating a more collaborative work environment will bring its own benefits, especially as companies look to digitally transform themselves. Linking the generations together might just be the best way to do so.”

The impact of cannabis in the workplace

The impact of cannabis in the workplace

Even though the use of cannabis in the home is now legal, the potential exists for employees to arrive at work under the influence. Most company policies cater for the use of illegal substances while at work, but these need to be updated to reflect the new regulations, says Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies.

Studies have shown that cannabis can affect an employee’s occupational capacity in various ways. This includes performing tasks more slowly, performing poorly when handling routine, monotonous tasks, and difficulty in multi-tasking, taking instructions from superiors, making crucial decisions and operating machinery and/or motor vehicles.

“This means that, as with alcohol usage, companies can legally prohibit employees from taking cannabis in the workplace. After all, it’s their company and they control the rules. It is therefore important to include these restrictions in a policy, employment contracts, or even enforce it as a standard rule,” he says.

“Even if a business does not have a policy explicitly prohibiting this, action can still be taken against someone who smokes cannabis at the office, because common sense dictates it is not acceptable behaviour,” Myburgh adds.

Taking the test

What happens if an employee uses cannabis at their private residence and arrives at the office under the influence?

“From a policy perspective, there is no difference between taking cannabis and drinking at home. Consequently, the approach is the same as if the employee arrived at work under the influence. Of course, the challenge lies in proving that the employee is under the influence of cannabis while at work. Fortunately, there are various tests available that can detect the substance for months after use, and a saliva test can identify cannabis in the system for up to 24 hours.”

Myburgh points out, however, that even if a saliva test shows positive for cannabis, this does not necessarily mean that the employee is unable to work. “The test has merely proved that the employee used cannabis in the last 24 hours, which in itself is not an offence. The employee is only guilty if it can be proven that he or she is under the influence of cannabis.”

And while alcohol has a legal limit associated with its use, a saliva test for cannabis does not measure the extent to which the substance affects a person.

Legal route

“Criminal law dictates that a crime must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, but labour legislation relies on the balance of probabilities,” Myburgh continues.

For example, if an employee arrives at work showing clear symptoms of being under the influence of cannabis, and a saliva test proves usage over the last 24 hours, based on the balance of probabilities, the chain of events will in all likelihood lead to a guilty verdict and the employee could be dismissed.

Changing environment

Medical testing of employees remains regulated by Schedule 7 of the Employment Equity Act, which states: “Medical testing of employees is permitted if it is justifiable in light of medical facts, employment conditions, social policy, the fair distribution of employee benefits and inherent requirements of the job.”

It could be argued that it is an inherent job requirement to not be under the influence of any mind-altering substance, making the case for cannabis testing.

“A company could therefore legally require employees to undergo a test that could potentially strengthen its position in a disciplinary hearing, but this does not necessarily mean the company will be able to dismiss the employee, even if he or she tests positive. It all depends on the accompanying symptoms.”

Workplace policies should explicitly state the repercussions for arriving at the work under the influence, whether this is from alcohol usage, cannabis, or any other mind-altering substance.

“Considering that cannabis is no longer an illegal drug, company policies must be adapted to encompass employees being under the influence of mind-altering substances. Alternatively, the alcohol usage policy should be expanded to include cannabis,” Myburgh concludes.

Embracing workforce transformation in a digital world

Embracing workforce transformation in a digital world

Workforce transformation affects all aspects of business and companies must plan for the impact it is having and will continue to have on operations. Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, says the evolving business landscape means companies must start thinking now about the skills they need for the future.

There are currently two major catalysts driving workforce transformation.

The first revolves around modern generations and their preferences for work. Generation X thrives on freedom and responsibility in the workplace. For generation Y, work-life balance is a top priority, along with work satisfaction and developing lasting relationships with people who matter. While Generation Z prefers individual tasks over team-based work activities, they also value physical connection and prefer independence rather than isolation.

Secondly, technology development is having a significant impact on workforce transformation. As automation becomes more prevalent in business and people’s lives, certain jobs are becoming redundant while new ones are being created. Additionally, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is pointing to a merger between technology and how people work and live their lives.

Tech landscape

“It must be remembered, however, that people do not drive technology. Instead, technology drives people. Technology is the only way companies can gain a competitive edge. New technology is being developed daily, but it is meaningless if it is not implemented,” says Myburgh.

Moreover, just as technology drives business, so are people driven by business. “Everyone wants to be paid at the ed of the month and if a company decides to implement new technology, the workforce has no choice but to accept it.”

On the other side of the coin, the argument could be made that people drive technology.

“An example of this is the CRS Technologies’ Engage resource management and reporting tool. This is driven by the employers and employees who use it and is geared to making users’ lives easier without making them redundant.”

According to a Deloitte study, to attract modern employees, companies must offer vigorous training and leadership development with a tangible focus on diversity.

“Organisations must change how they recruit, retain, and develop talent,” says Myburgh. “Besides hiring smart, talented people, this can be achieved through the establishment of internal apprenticeship programmes, multifaceted career paths, and by matching projects with the required skills sets.”

Embracing change

To this end, companies can take certain steps to help employees adapt to and embrace this continual change occurring.

“In today’s business environment no one can afford to be resistant to change because change is constant. Any opposers (it is usually those who have been working a certain way for many decades that find it difficult to adapt) must be excluded because they will become an obstruction to the business by actively working against the change management seeks to introduce.”

Throughout this, communication is key. Management should be completely transparent about any change they plan to introduce so that all employees know what to expect, including the implications and consequences of the change. Any uncertainty could lead to resistance and it is therefore important to ensure that everyone has clarity on what is taking place.

“Change happens extremely quickly. Technological innovation can change the face of an industry almost instantaneously. Companies need to see it coming and be ready for it when it happens. Hold strategy sessions to find out what developments and innovations are on the cards. Business leaders need to identify innovations in the space in which they operate, including who their competitors are and what they are doing. Equally important is to keep an eye on some of the more unique developments on the horizon. This will ensure competitors are constantly striving to catch up with you rather than the other way around,” Myburgh concludes.

Flexi-hours deliver efficiency improvements

Flexi-hours deliver efficiency improvements

With a flexible schedule allowing employees to work hours that differ from the conventional company start and stop time, Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, says this approach has had a significant positive impact in the South African market.

“More organisations are adopting flexi-hours as they derive better performance from their employees. For example, flexi-hours are usually coupled with strict daily targets that need to be achieved. If these are not met, flexi-hours are removed,” he says.

Myburgh believes that apart from those who work in the service industry, office hours should not be regulated as flexi-hours contribute to staff happiness. “Not only do staff spend less time in traffic as they can commute when the traffic is lighter, but they also spend less time away from home. Consequently, staff are not as tired and do not burn out easily.”

The technology for implementation flexi-hours on payroll already exist

“Of course, flexi-hours are not a legal requirement. This means that if the system is abused, companies can take away the benefit. Employees therefore need to be responsible and held accountable if such a policy is implemented at the organisation,” he says.

Despite concerns around the implementation of flexi-hours on payroll, Myburgh says the technology already exists to accommodate such a system. For example, a time and attendance system feeds the relevant data into the appropriate database. The hours are logged and the relevant pay calculations made automatically and accurately. This applies even if everyone is working different hours.

From a practical perspective companies still need to ensure there is someone at the office during its core operating hours (usually between 09:00 and 15:00 or from 10:00 to 14:00). Of course, this depends on whether the staff are responsible and do not abuse the system.

“Similarly, if employees do not take advantage of the flexi-time and deliver on their job requirements, the company may consider doing away with core hours altogether eventually. It must be remembered that as long as flexi-hours improve productivity, the system should be embraced.”

The benefits to productivity and efficiency cannot be ignored

According to Myburgh, it really comes down to ensuring there are strict targets in place that must be achieved.

“With the labour law providing for the maximum number of working hours, there should be no impact on implementing flexi-hours. Of course, these flexi-hours must not exceed this maximum amount. There is so much potential for embracing this effectively at an organisation. The benefits to productivity and efficiency cannot be ignored and can be used as additional motivation for employees to complete their work on time and on spec,” he concludes.

The role of the stokvel in the organisation

Role of the stokvel in the organisation

South Africans are well-known for their participation in stokvel saving schemes where members contribute a fixed monthly amount that is paid out to a specific member on a specified date. Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, says employers can integrate these payments into existing processes to make it safer and more convenient for those members.

“With stokvels still an integral part of the lives of many South Africans, employers could offer this as a savings option to employees, as most payroll systems incorporate the functionality to do so. Contributions could be deducted monthly or at predetermined periods, the monies kept in a fund, and then paid out according to processes established,” he says.

Additionally, Myburgh believes that a company can further encourage savings by offering to contribute a small percentage to the fund.

If a business does decide to introduce a stokvel or transfer funds to an established one, it is important to establish a contract between all the parties involved. This should stipulate the amount being contributed, its frequency, how payments are made, when monies (including interest) are paid out, and so on.

“Putting this in place mitigates the risk of either non-contributions or someone running off with the money. However, despite the popularity of stokvels in the country, employees should ask themselves whether their money is not better placed in an investment fund with the interest and other returns directly payable to themselves, rather than sharing it with members of a stokvel.

Education

Even though part of the appeal of a stokvel is the social networking aspect, the employer can still play a key facilitating role.

“A company can initiate the discussion, put options on the table, and establish a structure for the stokvel,” says Myburgh. “Furthermore, it can prepare relevant agreements and advertise the stokvel to the staff. As mentioned, the business can also offer to contribute an amount as an additional incentive.”

The benefit of the employer managing the process means that any pay outs can be done via mobile money transfer, which is especially important for those individuals who do not have bank accounts. Unlike a traditional stokvel where cash is common, a company can find alternative (and safer) ways to distribute funds to members.

Alternative savings vehicles

Looking beyond a stokvel or investment fund, a company can provide its employees with a voluntary savings programme. A percentage of the employee’s salary can be deducted every month and received as a lump sum payment at the end of the year – almost like a 13th cheque or bonus.

Alternatively, if the company already pays a fixed year-end bonus, it can offer to tax employees on this amount in advance on a monthly basis. This enables them to receive a larger amount at the end of the year. However, it is essential that employees sign a form acknowledging that the company may do so. If the employee leaves the company before the bonus is paid out, the onus is on them to claim back the money from SARS.

“The most popular option is for employees to pay an additional voluntary contribution to a provident, pension, or retirement fund and receive a tax benefit on the contribution,” says Myburgh.

All these savings options can help to improve engagement with employees and position the business as a caring employer, a vital competitive advantage in today’s connected environment.

CRS advocates SCARF

CRS advocates SCARF model to employee engagement

CRS Technologies supports the SCARF model to employee engagement as an effective means to boost productivity, agility and operations within a digital business.

Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR business unit, explains that within the context of employee engagement and the role of staff in business, each SCARF model element can increase or reduce engagement in an interaction.

SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness,” he explains. “It is significant because it speaks to people development and the internal and external resources employees rely on to develop and work to their full potential.

Status looks at the relative importance of people or how individuals perceive their own worth in relation to other people.

Certainty is about reducing ambiguity. The brain seeks certainty in order to make predictions; it is normal to want to know what will happen.

Autonomy is about the ability to rely on oneself and the perception of having control over an environment.

Relatedness is about connection and a sense of belonging, while fairness is the perception of being treated fairly.

Why is SCARF significant to a digital business?

“Not only does it help decision-makers develop an effective, sustainable employee management strategy, but it also helps employers enforce the strategy and measure the results,” says Myburgh.

“Consider the influence of trends like gamification, based on the application of game design elements in non-game contexts. The SCARF model for employee engagement takes this to a new practical level for businesses and people development.”

To illustrate, gamification brings in point systems and leader boards (status), a clear roadmap and real-time feedback (certainty), control of progress and direction (autonomy), multiplayer environments and teams (relatedness), and unbiased and unfiltered feedback (fairness).

“There is a lot we can learn from trends like gamification in business and how technology can transform systems to develop people,” says Myburgh. “We know an engaged employee is fully in tune with company objectives and operations, and how best to use resources to achieve these objectives. That is what drives a passionate, dedicated member of staff, and what differentiates companies in highly competitive industries in the new economy today.”

By applying the SCARF model with approaches like gamification and other tech-driven business development methodologies, decision-makers can attract, retain and maximise the investment in people.

Unlimited leave can transform local business

Looking at how unlimited leave can transform local business

Even though unlimited leave is not a new concept internationally, the news that a local specialist banking group has embraced it has raised a few eyebrows. Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, says this approach necessitates a radical change in thinking from corporate policy-makers.

‘Bottomless’ holidays first appeared in the mid-90s and have steadily spread across US and British firms. Yet South African businesses are still hesitant to adopt this trend, owing to concerns around abuse of such a policy.

“While these concerns are legitimate, organisations that implement an unlimited leave policy can just as easily take it away if it is abused as it is not a minimum requirement dictated by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). On the flip side, it gives employees the freedom to plan their own lives and shows them how much the company trusts and cares about them,” says Myburgh.

Unlimited leave policy only makes sense if it makes staff more productive

However, he cautions that an unlimited leave policy only makes sense if it makes staff more productive. It is not about maintaining a business-as-usual approach and hoping for the best.

“An unlimited leave policy goes against the traditional thinking of an organisation and requires a complete mindset change from management and staff. The best way to manage such a policy is to start with strict measurement criteria and couple it to specific targets, levels of achievement, and outcomes.”

Leave is subject to strict achievable outcomes

“To avoid abuse, employees should be informed that such a leave policy is not regulated by the BCEA, but instead by company policy. The business can therefore impose its own terms and conditions on anything that is provided above and beyond the BCEA. Employees should be made aware that this leave is subject to strict achievable outcomes or the policy could be reversed.”

Myburgh believes that an unlimited leave policy does not necessarily translate to all industry sectors and is arguably more suited to the corporate environment. “Statistics show that staff in manufacturing companies tend to use all their leave in a leave cycle, albeit annual, family responsibility or sick leave. The inference could be made that they are abusing their leave and thus an unlimited leave policy would not be recommended.”

South Africa will gradually start embracing this trend

Expectations are high that more companies in South Africa will gradually start embracing this trend. With unlimited leave already very popular in the US and Europe, there should be a shift in the same direction from local businesses.

“Africa tends to implement Western market trends at its own pace. However, so it might be a while before more companies embrace this as a competitive advantage for employee perks. That being said, it is good to lay the groundwork now and perhaps start experimenting by using it as incentive for completing certain complex projects,” Myburgh concludes.

Never underestimate the dangers of burnout

Why employers should never underestimate the dangers of burnout

Burnout is now officially recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a clinical syndrome, legitimising the physical and mental impact that overwork can have on employees. Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, believes that companies should familiarise themselves with the symptoms of burnout to minimise the potential impact on employees and the business.

“In the fast-paced corporate environment, employees feel they must keep up or risk being overlooked for promotion or a salary increase. Even artisans are under immense pressure due to long hours, demanding customers, and the constant battle to make ends meet,” he says.

Adding further impetus to concerns around burnout is the fact that digital transformation is resulting in jobs becoming more specialised. This is putting even more pressure on people to get their work done as effectively as possible. And in South Africa, with retrenchments a constant fear in the current uncertain economic climate, employees are expected to take on more responsibilities with fewer human resources on hand.

Symptoms

According to WHO, burnout is characterised by three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout is the result of chronic workplace stress that is not successfully managed. Despite the recent classification, it is by no means a new phenomenon and people have been struggling to deal with it for as long as they have had jobs. However, thanks to the connected generation, the issues surrounding this clinical syndrome are now out in the open and decision makers can no longer ignore it.

Education vital

“Despite this, few industries take burnout seriously,” says Myburgh. “Often, it is only if a job relates directly to a person’s safety that managers treat burnout with the respect it deserves. In the corporate environment, employees are typically squeezed until every ounce of their energy is depleted.”

Consequently, education is critical.

“This can involve researching the impact burnout has on the business, running workshops and acknowledging the fact that it is a legitimate problem. People who suffer from burnout should never be told to ‘get over it’ or ‘snap out of it’. Instead, it needs to be managed properly and with consideration for the sufferer.”

Burnout can be viewed as a precursor to depression and if not taken seriously, can lead to other mental health issues that can also negatively impact performance at work.

Minimise burnout

There are several steps employers can take to minimise the risk of their staff suffering from burnout. This includes the obvious step to stop overworking them. Additionally, identify the signs before it is too late, be observant when managers engage with people, and offer counselling if required.

Employees can also do their bit to prevent themselves from burning out.

“People must feel that they are in an environment where it is safe to talk about the feelings they are experiencing,” says Myburgh. “They must be able to have a discussion with their line managers if they are feeling overworked or unable to cope with the demands of their jobs.

“People must also learn to maintain a better work life balance. Yes, the temptation to work from anywhere is there, but this can turn a nine-to-five job into a 24×7 position, which can lead to burnout. Participating in relaxing activities away from the workplace is vital and in extreme cases, burnout sufferers should consider removing themselves from the situation causing the burnout, if this is possible.

“These are difficult times for employees and employers alike. Competitiveness is at an all-time high, resulting in an ongoing pressure to constantly perform at optimum levels. But if the signs of burnout are not heeded, burnout could become seriously detrimental to employees’ general health and wellbeing,” Myburgh concludes.

How the evolution of employee leave from paternity to pawternity affects the HR function

Legislation regulating employee leave continues to adapt to socio-economic developments and has a direct impact on this HR function. While the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) offers clear guidelines, employers also need to be aware of emerging trends among progressive businesses, the latest being pawternity leave.

As the name suggests, pawternity or furternity leave is the offer of time off to be with a new pet, says Nicol Myburgh, Head of HR Business Unit at HR and HE CRS Technologies. This is not a statutory form of leave and falls within the category of unregulated leave offered at the employer’s discretion.

“It is important for employers to know that they don’t have to wait for legislation to come into effect in order to implement pawternity leave; employers may choose to offer ten hours or three days per year, or even more. It is entirely at their discretion,” explains Myburgh.

He notes that if employers wish to implement pawternity leave in their company, a policy must be formulated that includes the amount of leave days offered, the qualifying criteria (e.g. sick pet or adoption of a new pet), and the burden of proof required (e.g. vet’s note for a sick pet and a breeder’s certificate for a new pet).

“Again, it is up to the employer to decide what criteria to apply, Myburgh adds.

While implementing pawternity leave could lead to happier employees (knowing that the company cares), Myburgh points out that the risk – and potential cost to the company – is that it is open to abuse and must be closely monitored, although this is not easy.

Employers are generally free to offer staff various types of leave not covered by legislation but recognised and governed by company policy and contracts. This ‘other leave’ is not a right and ought to be seen as a privilege.

Myburgh distinguishes between leave covered by the BCEA, which includes annual, sick, family responsibility, and maternity leave, and non-statutory ‘other leave’ such as study, cultural, and now pawternity leave.

Prior to approving ‘other leave’ types, companies should weigh the business risk against operational requirements and the number of staff members needed to achieve operational goals.

“For instance, if an employee takes leave that keeps him/her away from the office for a long period of time, like sabbatical leave, the employer should determine whether the employee’s absence will negatively impact the business operations,” Myburgh explains.

Paid maternity leave not compulsory

The BCEA gives pregnant workers the right to take maternity leave, but it is up to the employer to decide whether to offer compensation while the employee is on leave.

The Unemployment Insurance Act and Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act apply to all employers and workers, but not to those who work less than 24 hours a month for an employer. Nor does it apply to learners, public servants, foreigners working on contract, workers who receive a monthly state (old age) pension, or workers earning commission only.

According to South African labour legislation, a permanent employee is entitled to several benefits when that employee is unable to continue employment owing to pregnancy:

  • Four consecutive months’ maternity leave, which can be taken from four weeks before the expected date of birth, or on a date specified by a medical practitioner or midwife.
  • The employee may not return to work for at least six weeks following the birth of the baby, unless the medical practitioner or midwife says she is fit to do so. The same applies in the event of a miscarriage or stillbirth.

“While maternity leave is mandatory, employers are under no obligation to offer compensation while an employee is on maternity leave,” says Myburgh.

“Employers may, however, at their discretion, offer a percentage of the employee’s salary. The current trend is to offer no compensation, but to continue with pension, medical aid and other company benefits. Employers may also choose to enter into a payback contract with the employee regarding the above – either as instalments over a specified monthly period, or as an obligation of service for a specific period.”

Workplace Skills Planning and Training

Only a few days remain until 30 April 2019 – the final date on which South African employers can submit their Workplace Skills Plan (WSP) and Annual Training Report (ATR) to their respective Skills Education Training Authority (SETA).

CRS Technologies, a leader in HR and human capital management solutions, also points out that employers with a total salary bill of R500 000+ over a 12-month period are required to pay SDL levies to SARS every month.

SARS distributes these fees to the respective SETAs which, in turn, allocate the fees to grants.

SETAs offer mandatory grants to employers investing in their employee development, while discretionary grants are awarded to develop scarce skills.

This is where CRS can – and does – make a difference, by helping employers secure a return on the investment in their employees.

Nicol Myburgh, who heads up the HR business unit at CRS Technologies, says the company is ideally positioned to help businesses submit their SETA reports and ensure that they benefit from the process.

“The submission process is complex and requires a meticulous approach to gathering and applying information,” says Myburgh.

”The relevant legislation is extensive and must be carefully considered when compiling the workplace skills plan and annual training report. This is where CRS Technologies can assist clients in understanding the legislation and its impact, and advise them on the best practice process to compliance.”

Compliance with SARS and SETA regulation is mandatory and while Myburgh advises a careful and attentive approach, he also recommends enlisting the services of an experienced and knowledgeable partner on board for the best results.