Pressure points of being a youth in the SA workplace

Last year’s Matriculants, who form part of the Millennial generation, represent a new way of thinking, working and interacting in the workplace.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that they will face some tough challenges on the road ahead … and employers need to take these challenges into account.

For example, is how they experience the workplace going to be what they expect? And if not, what are employers doing to make the transition from being a Matriculant, or recent Graduate and Millennial to employee a smooth one?

A White Paper we recently published at Yellowwood titled, A Youth Lost in Translation, seeks to understand the dynamic and complex youth of South Africa. The paper is based on the findings of HDI Youth Marketeers’ research, specifically the Sunday Times “Generation Next Study”, which offers up interesting statistics and insights that represent the views of 5400 urban and peri-urban youth. Including children between the ages of three and 12 (Generation Z), teenagers between 13 and 18, and young adults from 19 to 23 (Millennials). The study reveals what young South Africans are passionate about, worried about and dreaming about.

A key insight that came out of the report is that many youngsters feel huge pressure to succeed, with their most aspirational future job title being that of CEO. Significantly, the Generation Next Study found that finding a job entered the top fears of young adults for the first time in the history of this study, and despite high ambitions, one 16-year-old respondent noted that: “One of the biggest fears for me is not being successful. It scares me so much, it gets to the point where you do everything you think you should do in order to be successful because you are told that if you do these things then surely you will be successful …”

In tandem with this, many of them feel that the education available to them in public and private schools is insufficient to equip them with practical, usable skills for their future in the workplace. When asked what they would improve if they were made President, education came first across all racial groups, ahead of child abuse, crime and housing.

The report goes on to describe how employers employing Millennials and later Gen Z’s need to realize they are not getting their old-school first time jobbers with the expected skills. These Millennials won’t work regular or long hours; they are not adept at spelling or playing by the rules, but rather the logic behind the rules. So unless the Millennials get why any company policy is logically worthwhile, they won’t accept it as necessary. However employers will get far better multi-great at research and processing information.

These youngsters are innovators and have vast skills employers haven’t even considered – the question is whether the workplace is ready to adjust their structures to make it easy for Millennials to navigate and add value to the workplace.

Gaming impacts youth workforce

The study also touches on the fact that as many as 78.3% of South African males under the age of 23 play console games a few times a month. Around 25% of these gamers play every day. According to a 2010 Toronto University study, playing computer games develops the same mental agility as learning multiple languages.

Research also shows that when gamers enter the job market, they have an uncanny ability to multitask, solve problems and lead. According to Ray de Villiers, a TomorrowTodayGlobal consultant on the future world of work and expert on Millennials and Generation Z, “Gaming enhances their brain flexibility and strategic mind and enables them to adapt to the context. It makes them very competitive and increases their ‘can do’ attitude.”

“They learn real skills through gaming and if they say they can do something that may seem beyond them, they most likely are able to because they have learnt to do it while gaming,” adds de Villiers.

Dipping youth happiness

The drive for success, paired with frustrations around access to education and concerns around safety, has had a marked impact on the youth’s overall psyche.

Research shows that youth happiness has dipped over the past few years. In 2010, 73,2% of respondents said they felt happy most of the time. However, that figure fell to 64,3% in 2013 and stood at 67,4% in 2015. 7,7% of the 2015 respondents said they often feel depressed and only 41% feel they get enough sleep.

An unhealthy obsession with materialism and status brands has also impacted satisfaction levels of the youth, althoughthey generally don’t live on credit – as most spend in cash (even though they have bank accounts). Interestingly, 25% are using mobile technology to make payments.

Despite some of the more challenging trends among South Africa’s youth, they are a group that really values being listened to and believe that what they have to say matters. That, combined with their drive to succeed and their awareness of social and political issues, makes them a potent force to lead the countries workforce into the future.

David Blyth is the CEO at Yellowwood.

Possible reinstatement after reaching agreed retirement age

This was the question before the Labour Court in the decision of Dr Lubka Ivanova v The Department of Health: Kwazulu-Natal and Others, Case No: D695/14 handed down in January 2016.
The facts in brief were that the employee was a qualified medical practitioner who worked at the G J Crookes Hospital, in Scottsburg, Durban. During June 2012 she treated a patient who had been involved in a serious motorbike accident. Certain allegations were levelled against her regarding the negligent treatment of the patient concerned.

The employee was subsequently charged and dismissed after a disciplinary enquiry. She went on to challenge the fairness of her dismissal but was unsuccessful at the arbitration. The employee then filed a review application to the Labour Court, seeking to set aside the award and claiming reinstatement.

The employee’s prayer for reinstatement was opposed by the Department of Health: KwaZulu-Natal who raised the ‘doctrine of effectiveness’, claiming that the order sought was no longer capable of being given effect to. This argument was premised on the fact that the employee had on 12 March 2015, during the currency of the dispute, reached the agreed retirement age of 65 years – as stipulated in the Government Employees Pension Act, No 21 of 1996.

As such, the Department argued that reinstatement could not be given effect to and that the employee had in any event not asked the court to extend her employment beyond the agreed retirement age.

In determining this issue, the court considered the decision of Equity Aviation Services (Pty) Ltd v CCMA & others [2008] 12 BLLR 1129 (CC) in which it was held that s193(1)(a) of the Labour Relations Act, No 66 of 1995 confers a discretion on a commissioner or the court to determine the extent of retrospectivity of the reinstatement and that the only legislative limitation found to exist was that reinstatement could not be fixed at a date earlier than the actual date of dismissal.

The Labour Court found that there was no statutory end point as to how far reinstatement could apply or continue and on this basis held that the ‘doctrine of effectiveness’ was not a valid defense to the relief sought in the employee’s review.

In turning to the merits of the review, the court found that the employer did not prove that the employee acted negligently in treating the patient concerned and as such held that the commissioner had failed to have regard to material facts in the matter. The commissioner was also criticised for failing to properly evaluate the facts presented – the consequence being that he came to conclusions that were unreasonable in justifying his award.

The Labour Court accordingly found that the employee’s dismissal was substantively unfair and set aside the arbitration award, substituting it with an order of reinstatement.

Given that the employee had already reached the agreed retirement age during the course of the dispute, the court held that the employee would be reinstated into her employment with effect from the date of her dismissal and with no loss of income or benefits, but that her reinstatement would be limited subject to the terms agreed to between the parties, namely that she would be entitled to paid as if she was reinstated, but then only up until her agreed retirement age which would have been reached at the end of March 2015.

This decision is indicative of the fact that reinstatement orders will be limited to the rights that the employee would have ordinarily been entitled to had it not been for their dismissal, whether those rights originate by way of agreement or otherwise.

Nicholas Preston, Employment practice and services, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.

Outsourcing versus insourcing

It’s that time of year again where key decision makers get together to scrutinise every aspect of their business model. As they prepare to execute on strategies
for the next quarter they’ll be looking at how their service delivery models may need to adapt to meet the ever-changing business needs and customer requirements.

While the topic of outsourcing versus insourcing has been the fuel for much debate, it’s time to recognise both methods of IT service provisioning for what they really are: the enabling force that drives business change, growth and development. Both outsourcing and insourcing have their respective benefits, and neither is superior to the other, except to the degree that it helps the business meet strategic goals and business objectives.

A change in thinking is necessary

Even though we have seen the emergence of bi-modal IT system where the traditional approach to enterprise technology (one that emphasises efficiency, stability, accuracy and scalability) can coexist with a second approach that focuses on agility, speed and innovation, we’re still nevertheless fixed on thinking that the benefits are to the extent that outsourcing the ‘house-keeping’ component of IT will cut costs and free up resources so that innovation can be addressed in-house.

Essentially multi-sourcing can provide an organisation with the freedom to focus on developing new products, applications and solutions, which is undoubtedly important in today’s highly competitive business environment. Being first to market is a significant differentiator, however, that doesn’t mean it’s best to keep this process in-house, as outsourcing the innovation might prove to be a smart move after all.

It’s not about superiority, it’s about suitability

Because there are many driving factors that might influence a company’s decision to outsource an asset or a service, arguing over which mode of delivery is better detracts from valuable time and effort that should be invested in innovation to engage with the business and its needs. At the end of the day, the debate shouldn’t be over which is better, but rather which is more suited to business needs, which are as unique as each organisation.

Until recently, companies were generally inclined to look beyond their own IT departments in a number of scenarios – the first would be where the organisation would like to cut costs and have a competitive edge. In this situation significant business changes are taking place and the company needs to look for short-term experts to address these changing needs and they would insource that function and keep it in-house, while outsourcing the day-to-day IT activities.

The second scenario typically involves an organisation that has been around for a few decades with long-standing systems and policies already in place. By choosing of a few key IT professionals to align with business, the rest of the work would be outsourced to a specialist service provider – tasks like managing infrastructure, applications and the like. This would enable the chosen key IT professionals to get on with the business of innovating.

Given that technology is changing faster than ever before, the issue of whether to outsource the business transformation aspects of IT delivery becomes more and more relevant. The best justification for outsourcing is that a company might not have the availability of all the skills needed, or they might want to replicate something that has already been done elsewhere and then it becomes simply a matter of finding the right outsourcing partner for the job to take advantage of the many benefits of outsourcing.

There is general consensus that the perks of outsourcing can be expressed as a cost-benefit. This is because it’s the outsourcing of a service that is already performed for other customers, which is where the scale and commercial advantage comes in. Companies get to make use of case studies and learn from the mistakes or successes in different usages, and get assistance in determining whether international IT trends have local relevance.

There’s also the critical benefit of access to skills, which can be difficult to hire and retain internally. Most importantly, by outsourcing the innovative aspects to a specialist, an organisation can speed up their get-to-market strategies, by looking at automation possibilities for large-scale innovation projects. In the same vein, smaller organisations can handover to outsourcing companies and in the process become more agile and responsive to market needs.

In conclusion, regardless of whether an organisation chooses to outsource, insource or multisource, it’s important to bear in mind the goals and objectives of the business. While cost-cutting can be a benefit, it’s critical that this is not the sole deciding factor. Organisations need to choose whichever mode of IT delivery that will help them to deliver a more seamless customer experience once they’ve won that customer over with their first-to-market innovative products and solutions.

Saurabh Kumar is the Managing Director at In2IT Technologies South Africa.

Need to manage diversity within the work place

The recent Penny Sparrow debacle on social media followed by the lack of sensitivity shown in the Stellenbosch ‘black facing’ incident, highlights the need for businesses to carefully manage diversity within the workplace.
In addition to ensuring sensitivity and respect among employees, diversity must also be wielded as a key business strength.

In the South African landscape, where socio-economic inequalities are rife and ethnic and cultural diversity is ever present, companies often face stern challenges with regards to effective human resource management (HRM). Rather than viewing diversity and cultural variety as a challenge, organisations can embrace diversity as a platform through which to better understand its diverse stakeholder base.

As a democracy coming into adulthood, the country’s efficiency levels, leadership conviction, skills development and value systems come under close and often harsh scrutiny. These challenges we face as a young democracy, inevitably filter through into the businesses operating within the country and as a result, organisations big and small need to deal with several challenges on a daily basis. Nonetheless, valuing diversity throughout an organisation’s leadership and staff opens up a world of possibility with regards to interacting and engaging with a diverse stakeholder base – as is the case in South Africa.

Cultural-driven organisations often tend to outperform others, especially during troublesome economic conditions and says that company-culture is the building block on which the acceptance of diversity within an organisation is based. By building a company culture that is accepting of diversity and mutual respect, organisations create a space that is conducive to participation from employees with an alternative viewpoint.

In order to build a company culture of acceptance, effective HRM is required. Culture defines the accepted way of acting, thinking and interacting with colleagues within a business and an effective HR campaign can assist in defining or even reinventing company culture.

In order to change the culture of an organisation, effective research in the form of internal meetings or surveys is essential to first define the current perception of employees regarding the company culture. It is advisable for organisations to partner with an independent HR partner to conduct this research to ensure that employees can freely discuss their views and opinions without feeling threatened.

Secondly, strategic relationship building, internal communication and protocol development is required to filter in a new ‘collective attitude’. Managing change in an organisation is often challenging and businesses must remember that consistence, transparency and effective communication are key elements of success here.

The fact that new generations are continuously entering the workplace and therefore culture management must not be viewed as a once-off exercise. Continuous assessment of the organisational culture is necessary to ensure that different cultural backgrounds and expectations are constantly being addressed.

Besides the business benefits of building a diverse workforce that mirrors and understands the country’s diversity cultivating a culture of acceptance within an organisation will also do wonders for staff retention and overall employee morale.

Francois Wilbers is the Managing Director at Work Dynamics.

Good managers could put an end to sick days

Absenteeism in the workplace costs South Africa between R12 billion and R16 billion each year in lost productivity.
But a new study reveals that a good manager can help reduce employee sick days and boost output at work.

A new study by UK Company Business in the Community shows that managers are even more important in the workplace than previously thought – able to reduce stress and mental distress among employees, leading to a reduction in absenteeism at work.

This study says that managers play a vital role in spotting signs of employee stress, anxiety and depression. The report demonstrates a clear link between employee wellbeing and business performance and promotes tools for developing mental health literacy in managers within the workplace.

Occupation Care South Africa (OCSA) as well as Statistics South Africa claim that on any given day, over 15% of staff could be absent. More worryingly, they also believe that two out of three employees who fail to show up at the office are not physically ill – but are rather battling to cope or are unhappy at work.

A 2015 Bloomberg study ranked South Africa as the second “most stressed out” country in the world with Nigeria coming in first place. In 2015, the Johannesburg office of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) received 400 calls on average per day from distressed people.

Being a manager means by definition that people are being managed. It is all about relationships and how to manage other people. This means being empathic and genuine and understanding what drives individuals.

He explains, “Many employers think what employees really want is more money, but what employees really crave is recognition and feedback.

Too often people are promoted to management positions in recognition for their outstanding technical skills, underestimating the importance that people skills and knowledge of human behaviour have on employee performance.

Research by the University of new South Wales, surveyed 5 600 people in 77 companies and found that the single, greatest influence on productivity was the ability of leaders to spend more time developing and recognising their staff, giving feedback and fostering co-operation.

Many companies fail to take into account how burn-out can affect staff morale and health. TEI statistics show that assistance offered to employees suffering from burnout increased significantly from 36% in 2013 to 46% in 2014.

In the UK, 44% of certified Top Employers have in-house doctors available for staff and some kind of stress management training or support. Other companies encourage wellness by offering yoga or tai chi classes.

Good management goes beyond offering wellbeing programmes – there is no substitute to really being able to listen to employees.

There is a healthy bottom line is just one way to measure the impact of a good manager. A good manager is somebody who knows him or herself well, understands how human beings function under pressure and how to really communicate. It is not as easy as it sounds. If you can get it right then you will see your team and your organisation flourish.

There is no science behind it. Management is not a fact or a formula you can follow; there is an art to understanding how to manage people to ensure that they are happy, productive and want to come to work each day.

Bruce MacDonald is the Management development expert and convenor of the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) Programme for Management Development (PMD), Samantha Crous is the Regional Director Africa and Benelux at the Top Employers Institute (TEI) and Professor Walter Baets is the Director at GSB.

Five key Budget highlights

Last week Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan did an admirable job of balancing South Africa’s books at a difficult economic time in his 2016 Budget.
There were few surprises in the budget, but it offers a sound framework for the country’s finances for the next year.

Here are a few highlights to reflect on from this year’s Budget Speech:

1. More incentive for employers to provide bursaries

One of the most welcomed budget proposals is an increase in the fringe benefit tax exemption threshold for bursaries provided by the employer to employees and their relatives. The income eligibility threshold for the employee (in the case of a bursary for his relative) is proposed to be increased from R250 000 to R400 000.

The qualifying bursary threshold is increased from R10 000 to R15 000 for basic education and from R30 000 to R40 000 for higher education. With the ‘Fees Must Fall’ movement and continued unrest at South African university campuses highlighting the challenges many South Africans face in paying for their education, this is a positive development.

2. Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) up in the air

The 2016 Budget indicates that the ETI will be reviewed in the third quarter of 2016 with a view to extending its life for another year. However, indications are that the ETI has not been effective in addressing the crisis of youth unemployment. If the legislation is to be renewed, it needs substantial changes to make it more effective and to encourage wider participation by businesses. Areas of difficulty in the current legislation include:

• Putting the responsibility for minimum wage compliance into the ETI Act has compromised its simplicity and effectiveness.
• The three-step formula used to calculate the monthly incentive, results in complicated and poorly understood ‘grossing-up’ calculations that the payroll must perform if a ‘partial month’ is worked.
• If employers claim the monthly incentive in a month in which they are inadvertently not tax compliant, penalties and interest can be the very unpleasant result. This risk is too high in the opinion of some employers.

Generally, employers are of the opinion that the administrative costs and risks outweigh the financial benefit of the incentive. I am hopeful that pragmatic changes to the ETI Act can address these challenges and improve its effectiveness as a way to boost youth employment rates.

3. National Minimum Wage still in the works

Minister Gordhan reiterated that we’re making progress towards a minimum wage framework for South Africa. This remains a contentious issue, with labour and some economists arguing that this is critical in addressing inequality, and many other observers fearing that a minimum wage will lead to job losses.

Deputy President Cyril Rhamaphosa is currently investigating the impact and the practicalities of implementing it. Government seems to have made the decision to implement a national minimum wage – what is up for debate is the base value at which the wage will be set and how it will cater for geographic and industry-specific nuances.

4. National Health Insurance (NHI) makes slow progress

Minister Gordhan promised more information about the funding of the NHI later this year; meanwhile, government continues to run a pilot for the scheme. NHI is a national priority, given the importance of improving the quality of public healthcare and extending the reach of the system into the rural areas.

NHI proposals have been on the table for eight years, and it is clear that it will be many more years before we have clear answers about how exactly it will work. The high costs of implementing the NHI are a major challenge, given South Africa’s economic challenges, and the complexity of marrying the public and private healthcare systems is another barrier to implementation.

5. Personal Income Tax: watch the fiscal drag

Most observers expected to see some income tax hikes in this year’s Budget, but Minister Gordhan left Personal Income Tax rates untouched. But it’s worth bearing in mind that the personal income tax relief of R5.5bn granted in this year’s budget is R7.6bn less than the R13.1bn that would have been required to account fully for fiscal drag.

Fiscal drag is the effect of inflation which pushes taxpayers into higher tax brackets even if remuneration stays the same. If your income is more than R406 401 a year, you are contributing a portion of what you would have received for fiscal relief back to the fiscus. Your earning power is going backwards unless your remuneration increases are well above inflation.

It’s also worth noting that Minister Gordhan will need to increase tax revenues by about R15 billion per year for the next two years. If economic growth doesn’t outpace the current expectations, it seems likely that tax hikes will be necessary to bridge the R30 billion shortfall.

Rob Cooper is the Tax expert and Director of Legislation and Proposed Legislation at Sage HR & Payroll.

Debunking the myth of managed services

Does your managed services investment truly deliver on its promise, or is it merely ticking the boxes on the surface?
Managed services can be defined as a strategic and cost-effective investment into outsourced services which handle specific processes and solutions for the organisation. When done right, it has the potential to streamline internal workflows, speed up operations and cut back on significant costs. The day-to-day functioning of the business falls into the hands of experts and provides the organisation the tools it needs to focus on what it does best – growth and clients.

However, there is a dark side to the managed services moon where what is delivered doesn’t quite match what was promised. Many offerings don’t offer the right levels of in-depth insight into critical processes and are not nuanced enough to recognise and resolve issues swiftly. Here are seven steps to finding and implementing a managed services solution that really does tick all the right boxes …

1. Most managed services software is unable to report on critical errors in a timeframe which the client both needs and expects. The result is a monitoring service which isn’t reliable or insightful enough to assure of minimal downtime in the event of a failure.

2. The volume of information generated by the majority of monitoring solutions is often not managed properly. This leads to serious events being missed at the most crucial moment which has more than one unnecessary impact on the business. Another concern is the loss of vital data which can potentially be used to improve operations and drive business functionality. The information should be kept off-site in a repository for secure storage and immediate access.

3. A reliable solution must be able to determine instantly when operations are up or down, what is performing, where connections are not managed properly and where there are gaps in the business. This will then give the organisation the ability to really prepare for any potential event by having the right systems in place.

4. The scale of an enterprise-wide solution doesn’t allow for a person to log-in and see what may be causing a problem. A highly configured and well-designed managed services solution must be able to trace and check every person who has logged in, what they did and their keystrokes if necessary.

5. The speed of access to your network to determine the cause of a problem needs to be measured in minutes, not hours. Your managed services solution has to recognise an event instantly so it can be repaired at point of origin, not so far down the cascade that identifying it is both time consuming and costly. It must be capable of a comprehensive examination of the network, CPU, Memory issues and more, so it can determine status and provide data on historic issues alongside the current one for deeper insight into what may have gone wrong and potentially head off any future problems.

6. A well-designed managed services solution must provide the client with a comprehensive ecosystem that delivers reporting and functionality which can be attuned to specific business requirements.

7. Ensure that any managed services solution is technology agnostic and secure, giving the business the ability to pick and choose functionalities that assure of compliance. The looming legalities of POPI remain very much a reality and few organisations understand what it is and what it means for the business. Technology drives a lot of the data protected under the Act and a powerful managed services tool will give the enterprise greater control with the requisite layers of security.

Ralph Berndt is the Director, Sales at Syrex.

Challenging the myths around SA’s retirement reforms

Challenging the myths around SAs retirement reforms

From 1 March 2016, a number of retirement and tax reforms introduced by National Treasury will take effect. Designed to create a simpler and uniform retirement savings regime,
the value and purpose of these new laws has not been clearly communicated to the public.

This lack of clarity is believed to have caused wide spread misperceptions around retirement reforms. Ultimately, it forced Government to postpone the compulsory annuitisation of provident funds at retirement for another two years.

If we don’t tackle these issues now, we’ll be sitting in the same predicament in 2018. It’s important to immediately clarify some of the burning issues related to vested rights, tax deductions on contributions, as well the ability of members to access their fund benefits on resignation or dismissal.

Uniform tax deductions across all types of retirement funds

Presently, there are different tax deduction limits on contributions to pension, provident and retirement annuity funds.

From 1 March 2016, these limits will be standardised across all three types of retirement funds, at a maximum of 27.5% of gross remuneration or taxable income (whichever is the higher), subject to a cap of R 350 000 per annum. There is presently no monetary cap on tax free deductions so this is changing.

This also means that from 1 March provident funds members will enjoy the same tax deduction on their employee contributions as pension fund members. Presently, provident fund members do not receive a tax deduction for employee contributions. The new laws change this, so these members should now see an increase in their take-home pay.

Clarity on resignation benefits

Under both the old and new regime, members can withdraw 100% of their provident or pension fund (including the Government Employees Pension Fund) if they leave their employer before reaching normal retirement age.

By cashing out early, people don’t only forgo the future investment return on those savings, compounding over many years, but also valuable tax benefits.

For example, members who draw all their savings from their pension or provident fund, will only receive a tax-free benefit on the first R 25 0000 drawn as opposed to the R 500 000 tax-free portion available on lump sum payments at retirement.

The tax table for lump sums taken before and at retirement is shown below:

Annuity requirements for Provident Funds

One of the Government’s objectives for these retirement reform was to reduce the likelihood that pensioners outlive their savings. It wants retirees to become less reliant on the State or their immediate family for financial support.

National Treasury therefore wanted provident fund members to invest at least two-thirds of their fund balance relating to contributions made after 1 March 2016 in either a living or guaranteed annuity.

Following an outcry from employees and trade unions, Government and National Treasury have decided to postpone this requirement at least until 1 March 2018. Either provident fund contributions will then be subject to the same annuitisation rules as pension funds, or the proposal will be abandoned. If the requirement is scrapped, then National Treasury will probably reduce the tax deductions available to provident fund members.

It’s important to point out that contributions to all provident funds remain the property of the member and they continue to have the right to invest all or a part of their savings into an annuity of their choice.

These annuities are provided by the private sector (investment and life insurance companies) and not by Government. Contrary to another misperception, any money remaining when the annuity holder dies does not go to the State. With a living annuity, any remaining capital goes to the nominated beneficiaries. A guaranteed annuity ceases on the death of the annuity holder, unless it includes a guaranteed portion or a spousal benefit.

Vested rights and misconceptions around provident fund reforms

It important to emphasise that if annuitisation does become compulsory for provident funds from 1 March 2018, it will not jeopardise the member’s existing rights in respect of their savings. The annuitisation requirement will only apply to provident fund contributions made after 1 March 2018, and on the subsequent return earned on those contributions.

The provident fund balance on the day before these reforms become effective, and any subsequent returns on that balance, will remain under the old rules. There will be no need for employees to panic or resign to access their retirement savings.

Together with better regulation of the industry, improved market practices and more informed consumers, these reforms will play an important role in helping investors attain greater financial freedom. The legislation will ultimately offer investors more protection and will afford savers a more secure retirement.

Steven Nathan is the CEO of 10X Investments.

What would Steve Jobs do?

I’m one of those people who prefers not replace stuff just because someone tells me it is time to do so. I like driving the same car until it’s really, really dead.
We still have the same appliances that we bought when we got married 30 years ago. (Well, those that still work, anyway.) I refuse to replace the bathroom tiles because some celebrity tells me that the “old” classical colours are now out of fashion.

If I sound like an old curmudgeon, then I wear that badge with pride – and my wife is with me on this journey of “enough is enough.”

So when I bought my perfectly capable and convenient iPhone 4S four years ago, it was more than enough for my all of my needs – and more. That is until my sons and the cell phone company finally persuaded me to replace it with a brand new iPhone 6S. The new and exciting features did give me a thrill – for about four days – until I suddenly realised that this new upgraded and more expensive model had about half the memory of the older phone. At 16GB, it is woefully inadequate for all the photos, videos, apps, books and magazines that I have downloaded over the years.

Now I do firmly believe in the wise old adage of “caveat emptor” or let the buyer beware. I know I should have been more careful in doing my homework properly before making my final decision. I must add that I have always been a great admirer of the Apple company and Steve Jobs for their innovation and design capability, for their obsessive customer focus, for their ability to shake up whole fat-cat industries and to literally change the world. They truly represent what it means to be an all-round entrepreneurial company.

I know that these amazing characteristics do come at a price – financial and human. The products are definitely not cheap. But, visionary that he was, Steve Jobs was not always a pleasant person to his staff, and there is a rumour that he one day fired someone who worked for him – in the time it took an elevator to reach the next stop. Nevertheless, most of his colleagues bought into his vision for the future, and were happy to put up with his occasional quirky behaviour.

Customers, of course, loved his products, and the accompanying service. At one stage pundits threw around a random quotation that Steve Jobs didn’t care about customers. As business journal Forbes put it in an article: “No one is saying to form a communist-style committee to ask customers what features they want in a new product because, as Jobs said, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

But this statement doesn’t reflect who the true Steve Jobs was. In reality, Steve Jobs spent most of his life listening to customers and giving them more than what they wanted. A less-used Jobs quotation was made at a software developer’s conference in 1997, when he made this statement: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology … I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room … As we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with ‘What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?’… I think that’s the right path to take.” This doesn’t sound like someone who doesn’t care about customers and what they think.

But I probably won’t be buying shares in this most valuable company in the near future, and I’ll tell you why: Somehow between Job’s death and the purchase of my brand new iPhone, something went wrong. I went back to the store where I’d purchased my new gadget, and asked if I could buy some additional memory. The answer nearly knocked me out, because it was “No, that’s impossible.”

“Not even an SD card?” I asked. Again, the answer was no.

Bewildered by this, I asked the young “expert” how it could be possible that an old phone would have such a superior feature while the new one didn’t – especially because we know that phone-memory has become increasingly more essential in today’s digital world.

Almost furtively, he looked around and then said, “It’s because Apple wants you to store your information in the Apple iCloud.”

My blood pressure just shot up, because we all know what this means: For an additional fee at some point in future, and supporting the further expense of downloading and uploading data from your mobile company, I didn’t have a choice in this matter. Something big changed and nobody explained it to me.

You see, I don’t want to use “the cloud.” I’m not interested in storing my stuff elsewhere, where it can be snooped upon by governments and corporates alike, where it can be stolen or “lost,” as has already happened numerous times. I don’t trust the Cloud, and probably never will, and I hate being forced into this with no other option.

As difficult as he may have been, I don’t think Steve Jobs would have approved. He had proven himself adept at viscerally understanding customer’s needs, giving them more that what they expected, and, most importantly, when he realised they were upset about something, he would back off and apologise. This didn’t happen once, but on a number of occasions, such as when Apple lowered the price of a new model too soon after the early adopters had paid a fortune to be seen as the cool and hip pioneers.

So, Mr. Tim Cook, (current CEO of Apple,) I know you are desperate and under pressure to keep your shareholder’s happy, and I imagine your ego will not be able to handle that Apple will not always be the most valuable company and brand in the world. You already received negative reviews and customer complaints about the desperately poor memory on the iPhone 6 model, so why haven’t you responded?

I think Mr. Cook needs to ask himself a very important question with respect to Apple’s customers: “What would Steve Jobs do?” The answer to me is clear as day.

Aki Kalliatakis is managing partner of The Leadership Launchpad.

Restraints of trade: a useful guide for employers

A restraint of trade is an agreement between an employer and an employee, or a provision in an employment contract that restricts an employee from entering
into employment with a competitor of the employer, or establishing a business in competition with the employer, for a specified period in a specified geographical area, following termination of employment.

A restraint enables an employer to protect the proprietary information of its business, ie trade secrets, confidential information, trade connections, customers and clients, as well as the goodwill of the business.

Though every citizen has the right to choose a trade, occupation or profession freely, restraints are legal and very much enforceable against South African employees. Restraints will only be invalid and unenforceable if deemed unreasonable. An employee alleging that a restraint is unreasonable, bears the onus of proving this in court.

Restraints are considered unreasonable if they are in conflict with public policy and the public interest. In this regard, it is important to determine whether public policy requires that the restraint of trade be maintained or rejected. In determining whether an employer’s restraint is unreasonable, a court will consider whether the business interest is deserving of protection. In addition, a court will take into account whether the business interest is being prejudiced by the employee or whether the business interest weighs heavily against the employee’s interest, resulting in the employee not thriving economically and being unproductive. If a court finds that the business interest weighs heavily against an employee’s interest, resulting in him or her not thriving economically and being unproductive, the court will likely find that the restraint is unreasonable and therefore unenforceable. The same will apply in the converse.

A court will also consider inter alia, the proprietary interest of the business, the geographical area and period of the restraint (which should not be unnecessarily and unreasonably broad), whether its sole purpose is to prevent mere competition, the employees right to trade, whether consideration has been paid for the restraint; whether the employee was forced/coerced to sign the restraint and whether the employee was reasonably unaware of the restraint.

A business should only restrain senior employees and those employees who, in their day-to-day operations have access to and would possess the proprietary information of the business.

The issue around the enforceability of a restraint of trade agreement in relation to a senior employee was recently tested in South Africa’s Labour Court. In this case, Vodacom was able to enforce a senior employee’s contract, which included a six-month notice period and a restraint of trade for a further six months after the notice period. The employee had resigned in December 2015 and had planned to start at a competitor a few weeks later. Vodacom argued that as a senior employee, he had been exposed to significant confidential and proprietary information relating to Vodacom’s business which in some instances had a useful life span of more than one year. In making its decision, the court noted that the employee was a senior employee and had intimate knowledge of Vodacom’s short and longer term strategic plans, and that this information would be of benefit to a direct competitor. The court confirmed that the restraint was reasonable and that the employee had to spend six months on gardening leave and could not work for the competitor for a further six months.

The remedies available to a business where a new employer and competitor employs a former employee who is bound by a restraint, are to apply for an interdict or institute a claim for damages under the common law of delict. The same principles would apply in respect of a former employee who is bound by a restraint and who forms a business in competition with the original business.

Generally, a court will only hold an employee to a restraint that he or she has agreed to. However, it has been confirmed that an employee may be bound to a restraint where he or she has tacitly accepted the written restraint. A court will always look at the circumstances of each case in deciding whether or not to uphold the restraint. Employers are, however, advised to sign restraint agreements with their employees to avoid any disputes down the line.

A question that remains open in South African law is whether a restraint would remain enforceable if a business unfairly dismissed an employee. On one occasion the court enforced the restraint on the basis that its provisions intended for it to operate after termination of employment, for any reason whatsoever. In a more recent judgement, the court held that if the restraint provision specifically excluded its operation on termination of employment due to an unfair dismissal, it would not be enforceable.

The enforceability of a restraint of trade is therefore dependent on various factors and there is no one size fits all approach. Each case will be determined based on its own set of facts.

Lusanda Raphulu is a partner, and Nonkululeko Mkhwanazi is an associate, in Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group’s Employment & Benefits Practice.

Digital skills help narrow the workplace gender gap

Digitally savvy women are helping to close the gender gap in the workplace. And digital fluency, the extent to which people embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable,
connected and effective, plays a key role in helping women achieve gender equality and level the playing field.

Women are using digital skills to gain an edge in preparing for work, finding work and advancing at work. While women still lag behind men in digital fluency in all but a handful of countries, improving their digital skills can change the picture.

If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, gender equality could be achieved in 25 years in developed nations, versus 50 years at the current pace. Gender equality in the workplace could be achieved in 45 years in developing nations, versus 85 years at the current pace.

Women represent an untapped talent pool that can help fill the gap between the skills needed to stay competitive and the talent available. There is a clear opportunity for governments and businesses to collaborate on efforts that will empower more women with digital skills – and accelerate gender equality in the workforce.

Although digital fluency helps women advance in their careers, its impact has not closed the gender gap among executives — or extended to pay equality. Men are still, by far, the dominant earners by household for all three generations. This will change as more millennial women and digital natives move into management. The research found that, in Canada, 34 per cent of Millennial and Gen X women surveyed aspire to be in leadership positions.

In Canada, 15 per cent more women report using digital to prepare for and find work than men (81 per cent and 66 per cent, respectively). Yet, the research found that overall, when women and men have the same level of digital proficiency, women are better at leveraging it to find work. 35 per cent of all survey respondents – men and women combined — agreed that digital enables them to work from home and 42 per cent said it provides a better balance between personal and professional lives. The same percentage (42 per cent) report digital has increased access to job opportunities.

Digital fluency among women in Canada is strong, ranking fifth among all countries surveyed, according to the research model. Canadian women did better than their male counterparts in using digital to secure and improve educational opportunities, but are behind when it comes to career advancement – one of the largest gaps between men and women across the report.

There are many ways to narrow the gender gap in the workplace, but digital is a particularly powerful avenue. Although gender equality will not happen overnight, investments made in building women’s digital skills — through education, training and on-the-job learning — will help speed their progress at every career stage.

Pierre Nanterme is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Accenture and Bill Morris is the President and Senior Managing Director at Accenture in Canada.

How to avoid a culture clash

Even if you find a dream candidate with a great education, solid work experience and a résumé full of raving referees, there is still the chance that employing them will turn into a nightmare if their beliefs, values and needs are not aligned with those of your company. The more that these correlate, the better the culture fit and the more both the company and employee benefit from working together toward a common goal.

Research carried out by the University of Iowa revealed that benefits of a good culture fit include greater job satisfaction, higher levels of retention, stronger strategic alignment and superior job performance.

It’s no wonder that successful companies consistently hire people who share their values. The starting point for any business looking to take on new staff should be defining and articulating their culture – values, goals and practices – and then melding this understanding into the hiring process.

Companies can identify their culture by participating in a culture walk to determine some of the physical signs of culture, conducting culture interviews with employees and engaging people within the organisation to complete a culture survey based on the information collected during the previous two activities.

When hiring for cultural fit, we advise getting an idea of how candidates think and operate. Ways of eliminating or validating someone ahead of an interview include meticulously researching them and using social media tools such as LinkedIn to determine connections within your network – after all in the business world, as in life, we tend to gravitate toward people who similar to us and share our interests, values and behavioural norms.

One of the critical purposes of a job interview is to determine this potential cultural fit. When conducting interviews, ask candidates for specific examples of traits that match your culture. For instance, you could ask them to describe the work environment or culture in which they are most productive and happy. These types of questions will enable you to cut through the typical job interview practice of people telling you what they think you want to hear. In this case, you are forcing them to share what they actually believe.

During the employee selection process, companies should involve other employees.

Who better to judge a culture fit than those who will not only be working with the individual every day but who are also already a part of the company and are working toward achieving business success for the organisation.

Once you have made your decision and hired the person you believe would be the best cultural fit, it is imperative to help the new employee through the enculturation process through which he or she will adjust to and become part of the corporate culture.

While some companies assist new employees to embrace their culture through orientation, on-boarding sessions and other Human Resources initiatives, New employees be welcomed with a plan that not only helps them to learn their job but also immerses them in the most important aspects of the culture.

This could involve sharing the organisation’s mission, vision, guiding principles and values as well as ensuring that the new employee meets with management and other key employees who can convey the culture and accompanying expectations.

It is also advisable to assign a mentor or buddy to the new employee. This existing staff member can teach the new hire about the company’s culture and introduce additional longer term employees.

There are those that feel that hiring for cultural fit can lead to prejudice against candidates and a deficiency in diversity. However, hiring for culture fit doesn’t equate to hiring people who are all the same.

The values and characteristics that comprise an organisational culture can and should be mirrored in a richly diverse workforce.

Kay Vittee is the CEO of Kelly.

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