How is the world of work changing?

In the global age, organisations are increasingly focused on the big picture. But, with the means to connect with anyone anywhere, the value of the individual is diluted.

This can affect how people perceive their organisational worth, affecting their productivity and your ROI.

Several studies indicate that the world of work will change radically in the next two to five years. Health and safety concepts that focus on the individual, like lean manufacturing, organisational excellence and the learning organisation, will become fundamental to the sustainability of organisations of the future. But what does this mean for businesses on the ground? 

The importance of health and safety

Organisational health and safety is a multidisciplinary field concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of people at work. Important national and international laws, standards and guidelines exist to govern this arena, with the potential to reduce costs to your organisation, the employees themselves, and the communities in which they’re a part.

The basic regulations, however, are not enough to instil tangible wellbeing; most companies offer that. Real engagement requires an authentic, pervasive investment in the individual. Lean manufacturing and learning endeavours that strive for corporate excellence, for instance, are about minimising waste, maximising efficiency and embracing an integrated community culture.

In the future, all organisations, irrespective of industry, will have to focus on creating an engaged and positive workforce if they are to remain competitive. After all, studies indicate that personally invested employees are 15-18% more productive than those who aren’t. 

In your company’s best interests

You might assume that the kind of people investments referred to here would knock your bottom line, but evidence suggests the opposite; they’re surprisingly profitable. In fact, workforce health and wellness programmes are positively associated with companies’ financial performance – due, among other things, to:

· Reduced risks
· Fewer accidents
· Lower absenteeism and turnover
· Improved supplier and partner relationships
· Strengthened reputation
· Increased productivity 

Corporate wellness programmes

A common approach to organisational health and safety is implementing a corporate wellness programme. Evidence suggests that organisations using these initiatives reduce absenteeism by as much as 2.6 days per employee per year, with a return of R4 on every Rand invested.

The focus of these wellness programmes on physical wellness, however, isn’t necessarily enough. The scope and organisational reach of occupational health and safety should be broadened to include aspects relating to the psychosocial wellness of employees. The divide between physical health and safety and psychosocial wellness are superfluous, since more organisations are starting to realise that the two aspects cannot be separated.

Studies show that mental illness contributes to high levels of absenteeism, poor work quality and impaired productivity. The social cost of mental illness is also severe, as these issues fuel a cycle of consequences that include substance abuse, crime, violence and marital and family breakdowns … all factors that chip away at employee engagement and performance. 

Analysing successful initiatives

It’s understandable, and it has been proven by countless studies, that employees feel physically and psychologically secure when they are engaged and fulfilled. To achieve this, it makes sense for companies to adopt an operational excellence framework that addresses business strategy, leadership development, and cultural transformation.

Specifically, the most engaged employees work in environments that are comfortable, uncrowded, quiet when necessary, and positively stimulating, with plenty of fresh air. Further, ‘good’ environments also offer psychological support, a fair and honest company culture, respect, growth, recognition, influence and a manageable workload.

Such workplaces, however, cannot be achieved through the efforts of a single department; they require a tangible investment on a corporate level. In other words: real, sustainable employee wellness is a leadership-driven initiative, not an HR-driven one.

The future of health and safety

Some of the international trends in workplace health and safety include:

· Pervasive technologies and increased levels of automation
· The rise of big data and the Internet of Things
· Predictive and prescriptive analytics
· A focus on health, safety and environment and its effect on productivity
· Experiential workplaces, and training that is increasingly virtual and visual
· Wearable technologies serving as personal protective equipment
· Auditing beyond commonalities to extremities
· Effectively managing an ageing workforce
· Nanomaterials and their effect on workers

There’s been a recent shift to applying neuropsychological principles to safety management. By using neuroimaging techniques, neuroscientists can now make precise inferences on what is going on inside the brain, and how it relates to observable behaviour. By understanding this, businesses could find smart ways to influence behaviour, and create lower-risk work environments.

What’s the final analysis?

The evidence is mounting in favour of investing in the people in your organisation. Employees want to feel noticed; special; like they make a difference. With happy, engaged staff, positive financial returns, and a competitive edge, there’s no surprise that some of the world’s most successful organisations are adopting these strategies. As for the South African market, the comparatively slow uptake has created a notable gap that could yield some exceptional returns.

Greg Morris is the CEO at MMG and Dr Deonie Botha is the Strategic Manager at Sebata.

Tips on how to navigate a career change

Considering the ever-increasing pace of digital transformation and how it is transforming the employment and business landscape, especially in today’s uncertain economic environment, the prospect of a career transition is becoming a reality that many people need to consider.

That being said, a career transition can be extremely challenging to manage successfully.

The digital transformation is indeed making some roles obsolete, but is also opening up several new industries, business and roles for those currently in the workforce, looking for employment and even those pursuing entrepreneurship. This has seen many people moving into new career fields and even new industries completely, and has highlighted the importance of continuous training and upskilling.

It is important to approach and manage a career transition seriously and in the right way, to ensure the best possible outcome. Below is a list of the top tips to follow when considering a career transition.

Do:

1. Think of the bigger picture.

It is imperative to note that your career does not operate in isolation to the rest of your life and your professional decisions can have a huge impact on your overall life balance. Be sure to consider how your new career path will affect your relationships, finances and daily life, as well as how it aligns with your future goals and aspirations both personally and professionally.

2. Have a support system.

Talk to professionals about your plans for your career transition, and consider their opinions. Sometimes talking to someone with more experience and exposure to the market can help you identify issues or opportunities that you may not have considered. It may also be beneficial to seek a mentor in the new field you aspire to enter, and to reach out to people in your network to gain a better understanding of your plan and how best to navigate it successfully.

3. Grow the necessary skills.

The reality is that industries, and therefore businesses and processes, are changing almost daily to meet the requirements that digital transformation presents. It is important to conduct research on the necessary skills relevant to the career you are looking to move into, and to start making the necessary plans to acquire and improve these skills. With thousands of online learning platforms available, education is easily available, and even at no cost. Internships are also a great way to learn about a new field or industry while gaining practical experience.

4. Build a network.

The Internet makes it possible to engage with the right kind of people. Use the Internet to your advantage, make it known that you’re looking to switch careers and build a relationship through available communication channels. Joining a network of professionals makes it easy for headhunters and recruiters, as well as business associates to find you.

If you already have the necessary skills, begin putting these to use using freelance websites that allow you to register your skills and work with businesses looking to outsource these skills. Not only will this give you valuable experience, but will allow you to build a reputation for yourself through the reviews provided by those who contracted you.

5. Be open to challenges.

A successful career transition can take time. It can also be stressful and challenging. It is important not be to discouraged, to be open to change and to remain determined and focused on your goals.

Don’t:

6. Have unrealistic expectations.

A career transition is not always going to be an easy road. A reduced salary or a more junior position are likely side-effects of a career transition. Do your research and ensure that the opportunities within your new field align with your expectations. A career transition can be unsettling, especially when it is as a result of retrenchment or lack of employment opportunities. It is important to be clear on the kinds of opportunities that you can pursue, and have a plan on how best to pursue these.

7. Try your hand at every opportunity that comes by.

This point comes back to the importance of having a plan. Set out realistic goals for yourself, and outline the steps you will use to reach these – based on the research you have conducted and the advice of others in your chosen industry. While you may want to pursue any opportunity that comes your way, it is important to make sure that you pursue the right kinds of opportunities.

8. Follow the money.

The key is to put the focus on the opportunity and the work, not the paycheck. Most often, candidates look for job satisfaction and work-life balance over the salarys. While earning a salary aligned to your needs is important, it should not be the only factor that you take into consideration when looking at your options – especially during a career transition.

A career transition requires dedication, careful planning, determination and hard work. However, it could also mean the difference between a career path that is relevant in five years and one that is running on limited time.

Lyndy van den Barselaar is the Managing Director of Manpower South Africa.

How to deal with office bullies

While many young South Africans are victims to bullying at school, the phenomenon is not limited to the playground, with many lives and careers damaged annually by bullies in the workplace.

Victims of this kind of bullying should not resign themselves to their fate, as there are several steps they can take to put an end to the bully’s reign of terror.

Workplace bullying is the consistent and repeated mistreatment of one employee by another, and international estimates suggest that at least one in six people will at some stage fall victim to an office bully. Workplace bullying takes a huge toll not only on the person on the receiving end, but also on teams, divisions and even the company as a whole.

Workplace bullying affects the target both mentally and physically, and will almost certainly impact on motivation and productivity. Psychologically, bullying causes heightened stress levels and often leads to depression, breakdowns, poor concentration, compromised memory, insecurity, irritability, and even post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Physically, those on the receiving end of bullying may suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, lowered resistance to colds and flu, high blood pressure, migraines, hormonal disturbances, thyroid problems, skin irritations, stomach ulcers and substance abuse.

Toxic team members cause a drop in productivity and organisational health, due to increased absenteeism and staff turnover, more accidents, bad customer service, higher costs for employee assistance programmes, and decreased motivation and morale.

It is essential to remember that workplace bullying affects both the target and those who witness the bullying. For example, a researcher in the United Kingdom, Dr Charlotte Rayner, found that almost a quarter of people who witness workplace bullying will search for new employment.

While legitimate and constructive criticism should be considered as positive and par for the course in the workplace, companies and individuals should not allow bullies to continue down their path of destruction.

Legitimate criticism occurs in a positive, non-threatening manner, and typically includes helpful methods for you to improve your work. In contrast, bullying occurs in a negative manner and is abusive – either overtly or subtly.

A workplace bully may make unreasonable demands, use techniques such as verbal abuse which includes cursing, shouting, gossiping and constant undermining of the target, or tactics such as intimidation, degradation, isolation and humiliation.

Both employees and employers can and should take steps to address bullying in the workplace.

Steps for bullied individuals include:

– Determining whether criticism is warranted

If you cannot distinguish between criticism and bullying, ask a trusted co-worker.

– Speaking to others about the problem

Ask for help from a colleague who has been with the company for a long time, who may have greater insight into the company’s policies, procedures and any precedent.

– Logging and escalating behaviour

Bullies are often guilty of gaslighting, which means that you may start to doubt yourself and your observations. Therefore, you should keep a log of all incidents, including dates, times and context. Then approach your direct manager or HR department with your concerns and evidence.

– Moving on

Unfortunately, victims of bullying often seek friendlier pastures elsewhere. If you are in the position to find work elsewhere, and if your attempts to address the bullying behaviour were not successful, ditching the toxic environment is a legitimate course of action and should not be seen as running away. However, before you resign be sure to consult with a lawyer regarding your rights.

Steps for employers include:

– Being pro-active

There is a lot that employers can do to prevent bullying from happening in the first place. It is in the best interest of the company to make it very clear from the outset that bullying will not be tolerated, by establishing codes of conduct and ensuring all employees understand what is expected of them.

Regular staff assessments are also helpful, particularly 360-degree reviews, as they are likely to reveal patterns of bullying.

– Keeping accurate records

Employers should ensure that all complaints are made in writing, which ultimately protects the rights of all parties. The target is not likely to put exaggerations into writing and management will have a written record of exactly what the complaint is, while being able to spot developing patterns sooner rather than later.

– Responding effectively and promptly

All complaints should be taken seriously, and investigated without delay. The alleged perpetrators should be given the opportunity to respond to the accusations, and once a determination is made, disciplinary action, where warranted, should follow in line with company procedures. In addition to punitive steps, professional help should also be provided for victims and teams in general, to create a more harmonious and positive work environment.

If a bully at work is causing someone to feel miserable about going to the office every day of their life, victims should address the matter as a priority. The problem will not go away on its own, and you can’t spend your days, months and years tolerating the intolerable. Ultimately, it is not only your career that will suffer, but also your health, your wellbeing and even your family.”

Dr Gillian Mooney is the Teaching and Learning Manager at The Independent Institute of Education.

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