Ways to use neuroscientific office design to enhance your sales force

Selling has become significantly more difficult in a market where products are commoditised, and an agile, responsive salesperson is often the most significant competitive edge that a company has. A workplace that achieves synchronicity between selling and experience at every touch point is more important than ever.

Research shows that every worker’s physiology and psychology is altered by the neurotransmissions their headspace produces – shaping each owner’s thoughts, heart and hands as they shift. With so many variables in the broader environment, the first step to motivating a successful salesperson is doubtless to design a workplace that will help them achieve their full potential.

However, workplaces for sales people are often disabling rather than enabling, leading to disinterest and disengagement.

Gallup’s State of The Global Workplace Report (2013) revealed that across all job titles in Sub-Saharan Africa, salespeople are the least engaged or motivated in the workplace (i.e. just 5% of salespeople are engaged compared to mineworkers at 12%). By investigating the neuroscience behind human behaviour it’s easy to understand why.

Our prefrontal cortex (PFC) – the thinking and problem solving part of our brain cannot function when bombarded by too much stimuli through our senses. Even the slightest irritation drains blood from the PFC to the survival parts of our brain, causing the PFC to shut down.

Maintaining blood flow in our PFC is not easy when you’re stressed. Under these conditions, salespeople lose the very tools that they need the most – their ability listen to customers, build trust, handle objections with empathy, and problem solve.

Workplace design can respond to two specific types of sales behaviour: relationship-oriented (heart), and task-oriented (hand); and functional workplace design assists both. Businesses that adapt workplace design to meet the needs of internal and external sales staff create the right environment for them to become more productive and satisfied.

Workspaces that recognise the unique work done by salespeople and enable their work by providing the right space drive up sales because when the correct cluster of drugs or hormones – serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin – is combined, it’s a powerful concoction that drives better resonance, engagement, communication and social skills, which are all essential traits of a successful salesperson.

Workplaces that integrate all the critical influences that affect the human psyche get results – and those that don’t, fail. By combining an enabling physical space and work environment with an engaging leadership style and organisational culture, the right mix of the neurotransmitters can be achieved and maintained – delivering big paybacks.

Neuroscience research shows that there is a clear correlation between workspace design, workplace culture, and the attitudes and energy of general staff and sales teams – and that these energies and attitudes present the face of your brand in unexpected ways.

They are apparent in face-to-face meetings, on the showroom floor and in presentations – but they also make their way to customers via emails, telephone calls, and Skype calls, with passive or active emotions stimulated by the workplace becoming unintentionally obvious.

Think of your most recent encounter with a sales person. Did they sound happy, like they derived meaning and purpose from their job of interacting with you? Did they offer you creative and innovative solutions in response to your need? And did you feel like you connected with them, and that you were part of their team in reaching a positive conclusion?

Chances are, if the answers to these questions were positive, the sales person you engaged with was part of a workplace that adopted a neuroscientific approach to creating a positive, engaging environment, that stimulated all the right kinds of human response in their worker, and in their client – closing the deal to make business and client happy.

Ian Rheeder is a neuroscience consultant at Tower Bridge.

What you need to know on your digitalisation journey

There is no doubt that digitalisation is the main driver behind business across the majority of industries, and as businesses enforce their strategies, they need to keep customer experience, content, mobility and security front of mind.

Migration from paper-based systems to digital counterparts and the storage of information in digital format is well underway.

There is growing evidence that digitalisation has taken root in key market segments, including agriculture and healthcare, as more businesses seek to manage interactions online rather than rely on traditional physical infrastructure. This is underpinned by the desire to capitalise on the Internet of Things and data analysis.

The Internet of Things gives us the unique ability to get data from multiple hardware devices that then enables business decision making. In the case of farming, this is already having a huge impact as all farming infrastructure and methods are becoming measured and creating the ability to increase food production yields, and manage crops much more effectively based on moisture content and other metrics.

This increase in information becoming a huge driver for consumer medicine. A typical example would be the use of smart watches to determine health and sleep patterns, but in more complicated hospital environments, the ability to get a single view of health will increase the effectiveness of treatment.

The challenge

Data security has always been an issue, compounded by the exponential growth in data volume and the need to comply with laws regulating governance.

It is suggested that to help with compliance, businesses invest in various levels of storage depending on the type of information being stored.

If the information is high risk personal info, then the highest tiered level should be used, if the into is simply meta data or other less sensitive information, one could store this in a lower tiered solution with more storage space.

In mitigating this challenge businesses should constantly keep the influence of mobility, customer experience and content at the forefront of their digitalisation strategies.

Customer expectations are increasing, and their ability to self-service themselves is increasing, we need to create user friendly experiences that help on various customer journeys, and allow the customer to decide which journey they want to take to get service from you.

Kevin Hall is the national sales manager at Elingo.

How staff outsourcing can help avoid wage strikes

Strike action is so destructive to a business’ operations, it comes as no surprise that organisations are willing to go to extremes to avoid such devastation.

It was recently announced that government and labour and business agreed to a package of labour market reform which will see R20/hour as the minimum wage. This arguably provides more benefits to the labour movement than it does to business. However, this is the price business is willing to pay to reduce labour market tension.

The South African government, business, community sector and the labour federations represented at Nedlac signed the agreement earlier this year in Cape Town. The agreement came in the wake of years of destructive labour unrest, particularly in the mining industry, which wreaked untold damage on the economy and on job creation.

Faced with the option of paying a wage that many businesses really cannot afford, or alternatively risking their entire business destroyed by prolonged strike activity, Nedlac opted for the former. Nonetheless, individual companies may feel they cannot afford that leap in their wage bill. However, strikes at a local level could be avoided in other ways.

Strike action typically doesn’t happen from any principled stance by either labour or business, but because the situation is not anticipated or managed and simply drifts out of control. A viable solution to eliminating the strike factor is by outsourcing your staff. We employ more than 6,000 staff whom we contract out to various clients, and in our experience, if you take care of your staff they will take care of you.

It also makes the commitment that should there ever be a strike, alternative staff are put on site at the client to ensure its operations are not affected. South Africa’s economy has become an extremely competitive one, and losing business through a strike is a serious blow. While some companies are strong enough to survive the damage, they may still lose market share. Weaker businesses could go under as a result of industrial action.

It is not just its client companies that benefit, but also the workers who often in the past found themselves embroiled in strike action against their will due to union pressure. This takes as great a financial toll on the lives of staff as it does on the company, as employees are not paid for the days they are on strike. In fact, a prolonged strike may also mean striking workers never truly recover financially.

The labour agreement also introduces secret strike balloting, advisory arbitration and agreed standards of conduct during industrial action (including by the police and private security companies) and this is a step in the right direction which should reduce the propensity for violence and the length of strikes.

This is going to become the higher priority, if the Nedlac deal achieves its aim of reducing strike activity. The price tag for securing labour’s co-operation was steep: it is estimated that R20/hour (R3,500/month for a 40-hour week) national minimum wage will raise wages across nearly half of South Africa’s businesses.

Many small businesses are panicking that it will put them out of business. Staff outsourcing is an option they should consider as it can save a business up to 60% in operational costs instead of letting things drift until they inevitably are forced to close their doors.

Arnoux Maré is the Managing Director of Innovative Staffing Solutions.

Ways to boost workplace productivity using small office changes

Post-holiday gloom, the 3pm slump, stiffness from sitting down all day, annoying colleagues … whatever the cause, everybody experiences a lag in productivity in the workplace from time to time.

The responsibility of managing staff health and wellbeing falls on both employer and employees.

Often neither party knows how to get the most out of a working day.

So we’ve put together this handy guide to help boost happiness, health and productivity, and achieve more each day:

Step away from the desk

No matter how fit you are, sitting for more than an hour at a time raises your risk of heart failure, diabetes and obesity. We recommend taking at least a two-minute break from the desk every half-hour to stretch the legs, hydrate, get some natural light, and clear your thoughts.

Being active can improve output and work satisfaction by 80% according to the UK’s Business in the Community.

Test alternative meeting styles

Meetings that lack focus are a drain on productivity, time and motivation.

Conducting a meeting while walking, standing or even exercising encourages employees to step away from their desks, inspires ideas and introduces exercise into a typically sedentary day. Methods such as this let you exercise, brainstorm, refresh and build relationships while being part of a meeting.

Fuel body and mind

The food that you eat has a real impact on your energy levels.

Sugary snacks and caffeinated drinks give you a spike in energy, but this is often followed by a crash where you feel more tired than before.

Berries, vegetables, nuts, wholegrain cereals, yoghurt and biltong are better than junky snacks. If you feel the need for something sweeter, a few squares of dark chocolate is a good compromise.

Choose perks wisely

An office games console and on-site bar may win you likes on Instagram, but it’s important to consider about whether your work-space perks will benefit your staff in the long term.

Rather than always spending funds on boozy nights out, introduce fresh fruit, flexible working, gym memberships or healthy away days.

An interesting UK survey by Labour Force shows that 30.4 million working days were lost in Britain in 2015-2016 through sickness. Stress, depression and anxiety caused 11.7 million days to be lost, while musculoskeletal problems accounted for 8.8 million sick days. With such losses at stake, looking after staff health has to be a priority.

Being efficient at work helps staff to reach their targets and keeps clients happy.

However, efficiency levels can fall when staff are stressed, constantly reaching to meet high expectations, lacking in confidence or under the weather. Maintaining a friendly atmosphere, having clearly defined roles, and setting realistic goals are essential for an efficient workspace.

Richard Andrews is the Managing Director of Inspiration Office.

What role can older entrepreneurs play in the economy?

The number of older adults who are self employed outweighs that of young adults suggesting that people of 50 years and older still have a significant role to play in economies around the world – according to a new report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM).

The GEM Special Report on Senior Entrepreneurship released last Friday draws on data collected between 2009 and 2016 on entrepreneurial activity in 104 countries. The sample comprises 1 540 397 adults aged 18 to 80 years old across five regions of the world – sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Middle East and North Africa (MENA), South East Asia (SEA), Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and the European culture countries (ECC).

Entrepreneurial success and prosperity has no age limits. While the traditional perception of entrepreneurship is that it is a young person’s endeavour, the data is showing us that, in many aspects, older people are a significant entrepreneurial force. But this segment is largely an overlooked and undervalued resource.

According to the report, 18% of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 and 13% between the ages of 65 and 80 are self employed compared to just 11% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Eighteen percent of “middle-aged” entrepreneurs (aged 30 to 49) are self employed. Yet entrepreneurship programmes and support are, by and large, geared towards younger segments. The report suggests that specialized support for older entrepreneurs could help unlock benefits for economic stability – especially in economies where senior entrepreneurship is underrepresented.

Regionally, senior entrepreneurship (i.e. those aged between 50 and 64) in terms of both entrepreneurial intention (defined as the percentage of the adult population who intend to start a business within the next three years) and early-stage entrepreneurial activity (defined as those who have started and are running a business that is less than 42 months old) is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (35%/19%), Latin America and the Caribbean (27%/14%), and MENA (23%/7%) and lowest in the ECC (6%/4%). Just 14% of seniors in South East Asia report entrepreneurial intentions and 9% are actually engaged in an early staged venture. These numbers are consistent with GEM findings that entrepreneurship levels are typically higher in factor-driven economies where the types of businesses started often require lower skills and less money to get off the ground.

Senior entrepreneurs bring with them a host of benefits – economic, social and environmental – that the report labels “golden dividends”. These include relieving pressure of an aging population on the state and job creation.

Every older adult who is self employed is less likely to place a financial burden on society and to contribute to the economy of that country through the payment of taxes and by remaining economically active. Additionally, senior entrepreneurs are marginally more likely than their younger counterparts to employ more than five people so they are not only creating jobs for themselves but for others as well.

Additional economic benefits come from the fact that senior and older people who act as informal investors also tend to invest considerably more money compared to younger adults. Almost two thirds (63%) of older business angels invest more than the median of all investments. And elderly entrepreneurs across all phases of entrepreneurial activity report substantially higher levels of satisfaction with both their life and their job, compared to elderly routine employees. This translates into better health and fewer demands being placed on social service/entitlement programmes.

These findings have particular significance for economies struggling with the perceived burden of an aging population.

With approximately 16% of the world’s population 55 or older, the issues of entrepreneurial activity at these more advanced ages directly affect more than a 1.2 billion people. The world is beginning to understand how senior entrepreneurs with their wealth of work and life experience, deep networks, and eagerness to remain productive are a huge untapped resource.

It is time that we stopped thinking about this demographic as a liability and instead recognise them as assets and work across sectors to help break down barriers to unleashing their potential. It is imperative for governments to create innovative, inter-agency frameworks to marshal resources, catalyze strategic thinking, prioritize new policy and create actionable research to advance this movement.

Mike Herrington is the Executive Director of GEM and Thomas Schøtt is a Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern Denmark.

How to minimise the impact of wage overpayments

Wage overpayments can have a significant impact on the corporate bottom line, employee and business taxation, and also employee relations. It is a complex issue which requires that payroll management and HR work together to ensure that systems and controls are put in place to prevent this type of error from happening.

There are numerous reasons why overpayments occur. These include errors in administration and capturing, late terminations, non-adherence to policies and procedures, ineffective time recording administration and duplicate records. Each of these issues can be addressed through systems process, individual accountability, operating in a highly-controlled environment and regular payroll audits.

Addressing the challenges

Robust internal controls within the payroll department must be implemented and documented to mitigate employee record duplications and payroll errors from occurring. These should include regular payroll audits, run monthly, which pick up any new or residual issues throughout the year. Not only will this dramatically reduce or remove duplication issues, but it will also put payroll ahead of the tax year end process.

Time recording is potentially one of the most challenging of the issues impacting on wage overpayments, especially if the organisation has numerous employees paid by the hour. Without accurate time recording, overpayment and subsequent recovery of funds become a problem. Often, the individuals responsible for reviewing the time records are not doing it timeously, which results in incorrect data capture and payments. This can also be addressed through more stringent system controls and exacting processes and procedures, and by reviewing time records regularly.

This ties into overtime overpayments – if people are working overtime without authorisation, or if their hours are not monitored correctly, it can cost the business a pretty penny. Often, when these errors are found, it is too late to recover the funds.

To address both of these concerns the organisation should implement clearly defined rules and a system that prevents manual intervention. It is also important to ensure that there is a segregation between the person administering the time and attendance records, and the person who is authorising them. In other words, these tasks should not be undertaken by the same person.

Of course, as with any rule-based system, there must be exceptions. The business needs effective tools which allow for exceptions to be addressed in the system to prevent incorrect payments and tax issues at year end, while operations which conform to the rules can be automated.

Reports all the way as Preventative Control

It is by running monthly tax validation reports that the business can find and address issues in the system, as well as preventing year end issues around tax and income corrections. Best practice calls for reports to be run monthly to avoid tax year end corrections. It is also important to have a set of payroll reports which examine elements such as variances on net pay. This will ensure that when there is excessive net pay, it is instantly picked up, investigated and corrected.

Termination policies are also vital in mitigating overpayments. If a late termination comes through, an employee can receive a full salary for a month they didn’t work and there are complexities in recovering that amount. Not only is the money almost impossible to recover, but medical aid and other similar schemes will be affected as they need a month’s notice to withdraw.

This particular challenge indicates a disconnect between HR and payroll, or between line management and payroll. It is critical that line managers understand the impact on the business of late notification of terminations. Departments need to work closely together to ensure payroll is notified as soon as an employee is terminated. It will prevent them from being overpaid in periods they have not worked and ensure the final payment is accurate.

Communication is key

Communication is essential in reducing many of the challenges around wage overpayments. A lean internal communication process between departments, HR and payroll can minimise these significantly.

In addition, payroll must ensure that there are processes, procedures and controls in place, do regular checks and correct errors on time. Avoidance is always better than correction as the latter can become a logistical nightmare. While it is common for staff to bring underpayments to management/payroll attention, it is rare for them to notify these departments when they are overpaid!

With these boxes ticked and reports run, both payroll and business will be ready when the times comes to roll over into the next pay period, and tax period. Nothing is missing, everything is correct, and payroll is in the perfect place for the tax year end process.

Lavine Haripersad is the Director of the South African Payroll Association (SAPA).

How to manage inappropriate staff behaviour on social media

To manage an organisation’s reputation and ensure that it is not associated with any controversial, discriminatory or damaging (legally, financially or otherwise) views, it is vital to keep an eye on what employees are putting out on social media platforms.

Potentially damaging activities range from sharing confidential information, infringing on customer privacy and cyber bullying, to posting comments which can be perceived as discriminatory or inappropriate, these actions elicit consequences – for both employee and employer.

With the need for clear guidelines of what constitutes hate speech, defamation or racist content, the posts of staff on a public forum – even if in their personal capacity and out of working hours, can have a negative impact on an employer. As such, social media misconduct cases are becoming more common with offensive remarks that bring employing organisations into disrepute, for example, being reported and employers taking the necessary action in terms of disciplinary hearings and/or dismissal.

A recent example of such a scenario is that of an individual in the medical field who was dismissed from her position after having allegedly made comments on social media relating to a medical procedure undertaken on President Jacob Zuma’s wife in the hospital in which she worked.

So how can employers deal with negative employee social media activity?

When an employee behaves in a way which makes the employer believe that a third-party may change his or her perception on the organisation, they are well within their rights to pursue legal action and dismissal.

While this is an effective reactive measure of dealing with social media misconduct, it is important for business leaders to consider some preventative procedures which focus on educating staff on what is expected of them and how offences will be addressed. With this knowledge and understanding, employees can be better prepared, exercise good judgment and be equipped to deal with the consequences of their actions.

It may seem obvious but, within an employer’s social media policy, it is crucial to outline that employees should never share confidential and proprietary information online, forgoing to include this simple point can result in serious financial and reputational harm.

Having a social media policy in place will, at the very least, act as a reminder for staff to be more aware of their online activities and think before they post.

We live in the digital age and while it is essential for businesses to establish and grow their social media presence to connect and engage with the public, one needs to always keep in mind that nothing posted online is truly private.

Kay Vittee is the CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions.

How leaders increase productivity

When some people hear the words boss or leader, they may think these two words mean the same thing. The reality is that these two words are completely different.

When they are put in charge of people, a leader will inspire them. They are invested in their people. A boss may view those who work for them as an aggravating requirement of their job. They view these people as something they must deal with to achieve their goals. In many cases, a person can choose how to view those who work for them. They can decide if they want to be a leader or a boss.


People who are bosses are often very rigid in the way they choose to have things done. A leader will view those working for them as individuals. They will know how to make a person’s individual style valuable to the needs of a company. A leader understands there are benefits to a person’s individuality. They will have expectations that are flexible and able to adapt when necessary.

Employees are not pushed

In every situation, a leader will lead their people. They know that pushing them will result in a negative reaction. According to Fast Company, a leader creates inspiration for workers to follow where they’re going. They know how to develop a sense of being part of a team among their people. Those who work for a leader do not think they’re just a collection of coworkers doing a job. 

Accept the blame and give credit

When something goes right, a boss will be the first person to take credit for the results. They are also the first people to blame a worker with something goes wrong, and goals are not met. Leadership development involves a person knowing how to control their ego. They will know success is a result of their workers. They will be the first to talk about how their worker’s efforts resulted in success. When things go wrong, a leader will blame themselves.


A person who is a boss only knows how to motivate their workers using fear. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, a leader will observe their workers and learn what makes them perform at their best. They will see excellence in their workers even if the workers don’t see it in themselves. A leader acknowledges when a worker has success no matter how big or small. They realize this will help increase a worker’s confidence and desire to try new things to achieve goals.

Career development

A boss will be focused on their career. They will think about how the daily activities of workers affect their future. A leader will know how their worker’s skill development can benefit the company and themselves in the present and future. They will assign work based on a desire to build the company’s future with the workers. This will give workers a sense of being part of a growing company and motivate them to achieve a company’s goals.

Risk acceptance

A boss will try to avoid all types of risks. They are too afraid of failure to try anything new. A boss feels playing it safe is always the best way to handle things. A leader is someone who knows that the greatest success often comes after taking the greatest risk. They will encourage their workers to come up with new ideas and to try new things. A leader views every mistake as an opportunity to improve and get better.


When people in a company are put in a leadership position, they need to determine if they want to be a boss or leader. It is possible for a person who is a leader to become a boss, a boss seldom if ever can become a leader. Studies have shown that a leader is more effective than a boss. A boss believes their authority is with them. A leader believes their authority is in the hands of the people they lead. A boss and leader will get results, but most people prefer to work for a leader.

Jennifer Livingston is a freelance writer who specializes on topics related to business, digital marketing, and web development.

What are the financial considerations upon reaching retirement?

As you near retirement, two questions will likely occupy your thoughts: “how do I manage my time” and “how do I manage my finances”.

This article offers some guidance for the latter and suggests some key principles to consider in order to secure a financially comfortable retirement, which ultimately depends on whether enough money has been saved to support the type of lifestyle you would like to lead. 

1. Make a plan

The best place to start is with pen and paper, and some introspection, to plan the future. This will force you to identify and confront the beckoning issues. The plan should clearly set out goals, and details about how these will be funded. The primary goal will be to maintain an acceptable lifestyle, covering accommodation, food, healthcare, transport, communication and entertainment, which will require a steady income stream. You will probably have to draw up a detailed budget to get a sense of what this lifestyle will cost, and how much money is needed to fund it for an indefinite period.

Beyond that, you may have aspirations about travel, recreation and personal development that necessitate periodic outlays, and need to access the required funds at short notice, but only at a future date. Furthermore, you will want ready access to funds to meet unexpected emergencies and capital purchases.

Each of these objectives has a different time horizon, which should instruct how your retirement savings will be apportioned and invested. Normal living expenses can last for decades, which means that the savings should be invested with a long-term perspective, however emergencies do happen unexpectedly, and you wouldn’t want to expose this money to short term risks.

During pre-retirement years it was in your hands to build a savings pot commensurate to the lifestyle desired in retirement, but once retirement age is reached, you need to deal with what you have, which may mean adjusting your lifestyle to what the savings will afford. 

2. Manage your retirement fund proceeds

Members of pension or RA funds are not permitted to take more than one-third of proceeds as a cash lump sum (unless the fund value is less than R247 500), and are required to purchase an annuity with the balance. With a provident fund, you have the option to claim the full proceeds as a lump sum.

Cash lump sums confer certain tax advantages, with no tax is charged on the first R500 000. While this option is tempting, remember that the intended purpose of your retirement fund is to provide you with adequate income throughout your retirement years. It is not to pay off your debt, buy a new car, start a business or finance a long holiday. The cash lump sum will reduce the amount available to purchase an annuity, and as a result lower the monthly income received for the rest of your life. If you lack the discipline or financial acumen to deal prudently with your cash lump sum, you should consider taking less than one-third as cash. 

3. Choose your annuity

Choosing an annuity (either a living or a life annuity) requires careful evaluation of your specific needs and circumstances, so you should use an appropriate retirement planning tool.

With a guaranteed annuity, the insurer pays you a specified monthly pension for the rest of your life. This insures you against the risk that you live longer than expected or depleting your capital too soon due to poor investment returns. The drawback is that your capital dies with you, and no money is passed onto your heirs.

There is no standard guaranteed annuity, so you need to choose the one that is right for you. Your income will depend on the type of annuity you choose, and also on your annuity provider. You should therefore shop around for the best available rate at the time.

A living annuity offers greater investment and income flexibility and your heirs inherit any capital that is left after your death. On the flip side, you carry the risk and responsibility of securing an adequate income for life. You are effectively in charge of your retirement savings, and the decisions made will determine the level and sustainability of your pension and lifestyle. If uninformed decisions are made you may stand the risk of outliving your savings. 

4. Manage your discretionary savings

If provident funds are claimed as a lump sum, and/or you have gathered a substantial amount of non-retirement savings, you will still be left with the same problem: how to manage this money so that it works optimally for you.

You may think that the safest and simplest bet is to put your money into a savings account and live off the interest. The interest income will however not grow with inflation, and the purchasing power of both the interest income and the underlying capital will decline over time. You will also not receive a consistent income as interest rates fluctuate.

One if the most important aspects to consider is your time horizon. If you anticipate some big near-term expenses then it does make sense to “preserve” some of this money in a savings account. If you plan to draw a regular income from these savings over ten or twenty years you will then need to invest the balance with a long-term perspective to achieve inflation-beating growth.

This means you have to put some money in the share market, which is the most reliable way to grow wealth, and by doing so will most likely sustain the required income for longer. The simplest way is to invest in a low cost, balanced (multi-asset) unit trust fund. This does not just facilitate monthly contributions, but also monthly withdrawals, giving you the benefit of both a low cost growth portfolio, as well as a regular income.

Steven Nathan is the CEO of 10X Investments.

Why is honesty a key source of competitive advantage?

It is unusual to speak of honesty in terms of corporate advantage. Unfortunately, recent developments suggest honesty for honesty’s sake may not be enough to ensure principled conduct in all corners of the corporate world.

Therefore, it may be opportune to give a reminder that honesty has a lot going for it as a way of attracting top talent, improving motivation and lifting productivity.

Corporate honesty is also the most fundamental means of guarding against reputational damage … to the business and business leaders.

Dishonesty is costly. Once trust is damaged, litigation costs rise. Fines by governments and regulators mount up. Sales and the share price can take a hit.

Meanwhile, rival brands improve their competitive position.

These impacts are currently being assessed by Samsung and VW, to name just two corporates making headlines for the wrong reasons.

In January, the FBI arrested the VW executive in charge of emissions compliance while he was on holiday in Florida.

A month later, Samsung’s de-facto chief spent a night in jail after being arrested for alleged involvement in a government corruption scandal – this on top of the recall of three million Galaxy Note 7 phones.

The spate of scandals and controversies explains the growing body of literature on the subject of honesty in business. A review of international coverage suggests seven broad lessons …

1. Honesty must be built into corporate culture. This takes more than the publication of a list of corporate values. Leaders must behave honestly and openly. Walking the talk is essential.

2. Executives should strive to build honest environments. Staff should be encouraged to share insights and voice concerns. Executives should listen. This is difficult; especially for owner-managers who have built a successful business. However, requests for feedback should be habitual. This builds team spirit.

3. Honest communication should trigger discernible action. When good feedback comes through, the team should see management acting on it.

4. Blunt, hurtful communication may be honest, but can be destructive. Leaders should display a preference for tactful honesty. It’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it. Play the ball, not the man. Stick to issues and principles. Engaging in personal criticism won’t build morale.

5. The truth will out; not only spread though gossip, but via social media and perhaps through whistle-blowing. Senior managers have to be scrupulous with disclosure – about their qualifications, possible conflicts of interest, the use and misuse of company resources and the accuracy of expense claims.

6. Be consistent. You can’t preach honesty and then raid the stationery cupboard for pens and pencils when the kids go back to school. Even small indiscretions are noticed.

7. Show courage. Being truthful may make an executive unpopular. A little diplomacy may be called for, but you have to make yourself accountable in the end. Hold yourself to high ethical standards.

Honesty plus immediacy requires courage. Mark Twain wrote his autobiography in 1899 with instructions that publication be delayed 100 years. He felt the delay would spare the feelings of some contemporaries and their children.

In the corporate world, honesty can’t be deferred. Even in the short term, it has the potential to improve the quality of job candidates, boost performance and achieve other competitive gains.

Honesty, like strategy, has to be implemented and put to work.

Annelize van Rensburg is a director and co-founder of Talent Africa.

5 lessons on why diversity isn’t black and white

South Africa’s most sought-after employers are increasingly recognising that diversity is a key driver of performance, recent data has shown.

Indeed, the business case for diversity is compelling with an increasing number of global studies, including recent research by McKinsey, demonstrating a clear link between greater diversity and better financial results.

Research conducted on HR policies, strategies and practices of South Africa’s certified Top Employers reveals that the overwhelming majority of these companies follow recommended best practice guidelines for managing diversity. This is crucial because managing diversity successfully is more than just ticking the boxes of race and gender.

And when properly understood, diversity is not just black and white – it’s gold. It brings in more revenue, makes for happier customers, and ultimately builds more sustainable businesses.

Organisations that want to reap the benefits of true diversity must go beyond scratching the surface. Diversity is a theme companies need to embrace and integrate. It can’t be candy-coated. It’s about much more than what you look like. A diverse workforce means diverse behaviour, which means employers must engage fully with making it work. 

Based on data from the Top Employers Institute annual certification of HR best practice in South Africa, there are five key lessons in diversity management that can help to set companies apart:

1. Define and communicate your diversity programme

87% of South Africa’s Top Employers have clearly defined and communicated an organisation-wide diversity programme. And 74% of South Africa’s Top Employers ensure details of their diversity programme(s) are easily accessible via the intranet or handbooks.

For British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA), managing diversity is non-negotiable. “Diversity is a key business imperative for BATSA, given the landscape of our organisation which includes more than 137 nationalities represented in over 180 markets,” explains Candice Watson, HR Director: Sub-Saharan Africa. The company’s tactical approach to diversity starts with making everyone feel valued for what they can offer and that this is clearly communicated. The programme is called ‘Bring Your Difference’. We believe that from difference comes strength.

According to Linda Ronnie, Senior Lecturer in HR at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (GSB), this kind of explicit recognition of personhood is key to success especially in South African organisations where there are diverse cultural and personal needs in play and mutual understanding in the workplace cannot be taken for granted. Communication and the spirit of Ubuntu or recognising common humanity is especially useful here.

2. Invest in diversity training

87% of South Africa’s Top Employers have trained specific employee groups regarding relevant diversity practices to enable them to build an engaged workforce through authentic and inclusive employee engagement. According to the Global Human Capital Trends report 2015 from Deloitte University, employee engagement is a priority both for HR and for the business and plays a critical role in business performance.

Knowing this, Santam’s Organisational Development Manager Annemarie Christodoulou says the company’s core value of Humanity is expressed through a variety of diversity celebrations around Heritage Day and Women’s Day and concrete steps are taken to build an inclusive workforce for persons with disabilities. Historically, diversity appreciation interventions have been run externally, but this is increasingly managed internally. A key role of HR is to equip front line managers with the tools they need to build greater synergy within teams. We see diversity as a source of strength, and are constantly looking for ways to leverage that and communicate it to our people.

3. Measure the results of your diversity programme

Around 85% of South Africa’s Top Employers evaluate the impact and effectiveness of their diversity programme regularly.

At BATSA, diversity measures are tracked and monitored against markers such as female representation at senior levels. There is also a culture of grow-from-within and inspirational leadership. In fact, 94% of Top Employers have programmes in place to help women progress to senior management.

BATSA and other Top Employers in South Africa understand that what you measure is what you manage. And they are not alone. In the past few years tech giant Google has gone big on diversity investing $150 million into its own diversity programmes in 2015 alone and also setting up a dedicated diversity-related page designed to make its diversity statistics more public – and triggering other silicone valley companies to do the same.

In an interview with USA Today Nancy Lee, Google’s vice president of people operations, explained that the move was not about altruism. Google wants to secure its own future by establishing itself as a leader in diversity. The tech industry really understands that the future of our industry means we have to be more inclusive. We are literally building products for the world. It can’t be this homogeneous.

4. Employ people from disadvantaged backgrounds

An impressive 100% of South Africa’s Top Employers employ people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The latter refers to groups that do not have optimal chances in the labour market because of their socio-economic situation.

For Pernod Ricard, current efforts are targeted specifically at increasing diversity at middle and senior management levels. “More than 75% of our external hires are equity hires, in line with our aim to reflect the demographic of the economically active population,” says Andre Muller, Head of Human Resources. In order to encourage buy-in among staff and address diversity-related challenges, there is an EEC committee tasked with collecting and responding to staff feedback. Our staff turnover is low, at around 6% per year, so we are doing some things right.

5. Education and age are diversity too

Over 40% of South Africa’s Top Employers ensure that they monitor and manage the differences in employees’ educational backgrounds. Creating departments or teams with different educational backgrounds ensures a more diverse way of thinking. Employees can approach challenges with different perspectives.

Furthermore, over a third of South African Top Employers have programmes in place to attract, engage and retain older people and 90% of them set out also to employ younger staff, driving greater age diversity.

This too is part of a global trend. A recent study by McDonald’s, for example, found that age diversity made for a happier and more productive workforce. Employees reported that they were up to 10% happier working in a multi-generational environment and that this also resulted in improved customer satisfaction.

The power of diversity in all its facets is a tremendous business advantage. It’s something we see gaining momentum in Top Employers in South Africa. I believe that the country’s history and context has made employers here that much more attuned to the power and possibility of diversity.

Billy Elliott is the Country Manger: South Africa for the Top Employer’s Institute.

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