Tackling obesity in the workplace

Obesity is a prevalent global issue, with a new study from The New England Journal of Medicine revealing that 30% of the world’s population suffer from weight issues.

Of the 4 million deaths attributed to excess body weight in 2015, 40% of these were people that were not technically considered obese, but fell under the classification known as overweight.

And this is not an issue occurring outside of our borders. According to the latest South African Demographic and Health Survey, over 70% of local women are considered obese or overweight – staggeringly high statistics. And the implications of these figures are dire: excess weight is linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoarthritis, as well as less serious diseases that can increase absenteeism and reduce productivity.

So how do you try and reduce obesity in the workplace?

Here are some options to consider:

1. Raise awareness

A large part of this problem is that many people do not understand the direct link obesity has to certain health issues. They may moan about their aching back or their heartburn but they never attribute these issues to their own lifestyle choices. Ensure that your employees are educated on the effects of obesity and then organise a full health assessment for each of them with a nurse, including their blood pressure and BMI (many medical aid schemes offer this service). If they need to lose weight, offer them guidance when it comes to nutrition and exercise.

2. Provide healthy food choices

If you’re stocking vending machines in the office only with fizzy drinks, chocolates and crisps, you’re doing your employees a disservice. Fill a fruit bowl with seasonal fruit to choose from, get some unsalted nuts and popcorn as options and offer healthy meal choices too like yoghurts, salads and wholegrain sandwiches. Depending on company budgets, you could also subsidise healthier meals and snacks so that they become more attractive options for your staff. Also consider placing unhealthy options like chocolates away from eye level so that they don’t easily catch people’s eye when they’re at the cashier.

3. Relook at your workspace

A sedentary life is an unhealthy one. Relook at the environment you’re asking your staff, your most precious resource, to work in every day. Offer standing or even walking desks as alternatives, ensure their chairs are correctly set up ergonomically and encourage regular breaks to stretch and get some fresh air. Also get them walking up the stairs instead of always using the lift, and speak to management about the idea of standing meetings, where sitting is discouraged.

4. Exercise together

Most people don’t thrive exercising alone. If you are exercising with friends or colleagues you’re more likely to honour your regular fitness commitments, and you’ll have more fun while doing it too. Establish company running or walking clubs, with short runs or walks organised during your employees’ lunch hour, especially among those who need more motivation. Offer incentives for exercising, like free juices or coffees for those who achieve certain fitness goals in defined time periods.

5. Make being healthier cheaper

It’s all very well telling people to live a healthier life but the truth is that things like yoga classes, gym memberships and organic food are generally more expensive than unhealthy choices like fast food (and sitting on the couch!). See if you can negotiate discounts with gym companies for example, making it easier and cheaper for your employees to keep in shape.

Provided by Fedhealth.


Why Gen Z is ignoring your job ad

Eight seconds. That’s all recruiters have if they want to capture the attention of Instagram, who are about to enter and shake up the workplace.

Born between 1995 and 2014, Gen Z is starting to enter the workforce with even shorter attention spans, and even less desire for face-to-face communication. They want to use technology platforms of their choice, to maximise productivity, solve problems and complete daily tasks. They’re self-sufficient, master networkers and researchers, and just want to get on with it.

These are valuable traits to have, especially at a time when the speed of business has never been faster.

Who better to help the acceleration than Gen Z?

But how can recruiters get their attention, when they are never in one place for long?

Overly complex, long job descriptions are a sure-fire way to put them off. Gen Z is forming an opinion of your brand at every touch point, which means you should approach recruitment as a marketing opportunity. In marketing, when you know who you’re targeting, formulating and delivering the message is a lot easier.

Here are three tips to write clear and effective job descriptions that target Gen Z:

1. Step into their shoes

Think about what Gen Z wants to know about your company and the role. Talk about your corporate culture and your community initiatives; describe a typical work day (ask someone who is already in the role for input); and give more information about salary, benefits and opportunities for growth.

Spell out acronyms and avoid jargon – even if they’re commonly used within your industry. Someone just entering the workplace might not have that knowledge yet.

2. Keep it short and visual

Gen Z communicate in pictures. They don’t have time or the desire to read long job descriptions, no matter how appealing the position. Now is not the time to enthuse the company’s values and list every responsibility. Sum up everything you think the candidate will be interested in, in a short infographic or video. Consider using platforms they’re already engaging on – like Instagram and Snapchat – to reach them. Get a young member of the team to proofread the ad, to ensure the tone and language resonates and that there are no unanswered questions that a Gen Z-er might have.

3. Be authentic and transparent

Don’t overcomplicate or talk up the position. Curiosity is second nature to Gen Z, so they will conduct thorough research before applying and holding you to what you’re selling.

Be clear about what experience level you’re recruiting for, don’t create unrealistic expectations about what the role will involve; and define what success looks like and how you’ll measure performance.

Businesses need to understand and capitalise on the strengths and skills that Generation Z will bring to the workplace. We might not fully understand the impact they’re about to make but we could definitely benefit from their agility.

Heidi Duvenage is the Head of Sage Talent Solutions.

What are the key findings from the 2017 Robert Walters Salary Survey?

The 18th annual 2017 Robert Walters Salary Survey was recently released, containing a detailed analysis of global salary and recruitment trends across the world during 2016, as well as predictions for 2017 and beyond.

The survey is based on an analysis of permanent, interim and contract hiring placements made across the 27 countries in which the company operates. These include countries in the UK and Ireland, Continental Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand as well as North and South America.

On a global level, despite the economic and political uncertainty created by Brexit and the US election, the survey found that many markets across the world experienced strong economic growth and an increase in hiring activity during 2016. Across the Middle East and Africa though, hiring levels in many sectors were reduced as a result of the fall in oil and gas prices. Despite this, there was still a shortage of local talent available to fill these roles.

Within South Africa specifically, the survey identified the following key high-level hiring and salary trends during 2016:

1. Hiring volumes were reduced across the country. This was due mainly to political challenges negatively affecting the economy. The knock-on effect of this is that South African businesses in general adopted a more cautious approach to hiring. This was expected to continue throughout 2017, which has been the case.

2. The recruitment process became far more protracted during 2016. This was because hiring managers were more focused on cost saving in light of the economic downturn.

3. Job seeker confidence was low as a result. This meant that many candidates were looking for guarantees around increased salaries, bonuses and career development opportunities before they would accept a new role.

4. Companies were seeking candidates with extremely strong industry experience. This was particularly evident within legal, finance and IT, where professionals with five to seven years’ experience were in high demand.

5. Companies wanted candidates with international experience. Specifically, companies were looking for internationally-minded professionals with strong business acumen who could quickly assimilate into the organisation, as they wanted to minimise the downtime that is often experienced during the onboarding process.

Predictions for 2017

The survey expected market conditions to remain similar in 2017 as they did in 2016, which has largely been the case. Among the survey’s predictions for 2017 were:

• Most businesses would continue to adopt a cautious approach to hiring, opting for lean headcounts and aiming only to replace critical skills and functions.

• As a result, organisations would be open to the potential for absorbing new responsibilities into existing employees’ roles as a way of diversifying employee skill sets.

• Despite this, there would be an increased hiring confidence in key areas, specifically for recruiting specialist banking, legal and IT professionals.

• Despite reduced demand for skills overall, hiring managers would still be looking for professionals with two to five years’ experience, and at the more senior seven to ten years’ level.

• Many employers would struggle to find these professionals, as a result of ongoing skills shortages and low jobseeker confidence.

Going forward, Robert Walters outlined their recommendations for South African companies looking to hire their ideal candidates. Firstly, they advised hiring managers to streamline their recruitment process. Then, they recommended that South African companies offer clearly defined career paths and opportunities to potential candidates, who would largely be looking for both reassurance and variety in this uncertain hiring market. In conclusion, the survey expected salaries in South Africa in 2017 to be similar to 2016, with average increases of 10-15% for professionals moving into new roles across most sectors.

Provided by Fedhealth.

Why must hiring managers eliminate first impression bias?

The adage that first impressions last should serve as a warning to employers seeking to improve diversity in their companies.

Potential employers too often still evaluate applicants based on their initial impressions, with the result that their unconscious biases continue to influence hiring decisions.
It is time for companies to consider the need for first impressions to literally be the last thing they consider, and to make hiring decisions based on attitude and skills to avoid discarding talent that doesn’t fit preconceived notions.
If we’re going to achieve real workplace diversity, we need to focus on hiring skills that will keep pace with our changing environment and with the thinking required to both maintain ‘business as usual’ and to innovate and disrupt.
There are a number of new and exciting innovations in hiring that can assist in properly uncovering functional competence.
Hiring managers continue to favour the more traditional, unstructured interviews despite multiple studies finding this style of interview to be among the worst predictor of actual and future job performance.
Unfortunately, unstructured interviews allow unconscious or ’implicit’ bias into the hiring process, which perpetuates homogeneity in organisations, because managers continue to appoint people based on feeling rather than fact.
It’s human nature, and very tempting, to ‘hire in your own image’ because the familiar is comforting. We do business with people we like and who are like us. However research has unequivocally proven the benefits of diversity – including improved earnings, enhanced problem solving, increased growth and innovation, and improved quality of work.
It therefore makes sense for organisations to review their approach to shortlisting prospective candidates, and to ensure that the truly talented, qualified and experienced candidates aren’t lost from the get go.
So what measures can organisations take to ensure they don’t lose top talent based on first impressions?
They should consider adding the following approaches to their hiring repertoire:

Blind auditions

A blind audition allows all candidates to be adjudicated first and primarily on their functional competencies, including knowledge, skill and experience.
Using software such as, for instance, GapJumpers, companies get candidates to complete anonymous challenges that demonstrate their skills and test whether they are qualified to perform a job. The software then strips CVs of all identifying information, such as name (which could give clues to ethnicity), graduation year (age), school and address (socio-economic background).
Potential employers then evaluate applicants based on skills only, to avoid discarding talent for the shortlist that doesn’t fit preconceived notions.
It’s important to remember that using software to anonymously screen candidates will get you only half way through the hiring process, and that those who pass should still be considered in terms of fit through other processes.

Collaborative hiring

Collaborative or team-based, hiring involves including members of the team in the interview process.
The benefits include reduction in bias (particularly if the team is diverse), higher levels of employee engagement, more diverse assessment of applicant skills and different approaches to selling the job to potential hires.  

Comparative evaluation

Structured interviews – where different interviewers pose the same set of questions in the same order – allow for clearer comparison and evaluation of candidates, and questions can straddle both behavioural and functional competencies.
In a process like this, it’s important that the interviewer scores each answer immediately after it’s provided, and that candidate responses are compared horizontally (in other words, all candidate responses to each of the questions are compared). Comparative evaluations help to calibrate across candidates to reduce bias and decrease reliance on stereotypes.

Considering the language in job advertisements

Software like Textio or Gender Decoder for Job Ads helps employers to avoid bias in job advertising by avoiding coded words relating to gender, race, ethnicity, and so forth.
These products highlight words as ‘negative’, ‘positive’, ‘repetitive’, ‘masculine’ (active, adventurous, challenge) or ‘feminine’ (honest, cooperate, depend) and offer recommendations on how to improve job descriptions so as not to exclude a gender or ethnic group.

Implicit assessment tests

Developed at Harvard, the IAT uncovers thoughts that are being unconsciously hidden by testers and helps to measure attitudes and beliefs.
The purpose of the test is to make employers more aware and to check their biases when interviewing.
Diversity and ultimately, greater business success, can be achieved through a combination of hiring processes that are designed to truly uncover functional and behavioural fit.
If greater diversity is one of the goals, as it should be, a good place to start the journey is by reviewing potentially outdated hiring practices.

Georgina Barrick is the MD of Cassel&Co, Insource ICT and IT Edge – agencies of ADvTECH Resourcing.

How can increasing Emotional Intelligence put you a step ahead?

When going to work, one does not necessarily consider the emotional aspect of it, which in reality plays a significant role in your productivity and success.

We are after all emotionally driven creatures, whether we want to be or not.

This is where the term Emotional Intelligence comes in. It’s the ability to recognise specific emotions in oneself and others, acknowledge their effect on one’s goals and relationships, and either minimise negative effects or actively elicit emotions more appropriate to the situation.

With Emotional Intelligence as a tool in hand, you can find much more effective ways of dealing with challenges at work and get your work done as efficiently as possible.

There is a lot that companies can do to foster Emotional Intelligence (or EQ as called by its metric) among employees, one of which is to make it part of their corporate culture. When companies make the language of Emotional Intelligence part of the everyday work experience, they create an environment in which employees naturally embrace and start living the concept. This can lead to lasting results and a bigger payoff in increased productivity.

Internationally, and locally, Emotional Intelligence has gained popularity in business over the last few decades. Research conducted by the JvR Africa Group has shown that, when comparing professionals in South Africa to their U.S. counterparts, the South Africans generally report higher levels of EQ on most of the sub-components of the EQi2.0, which is internationally widely used to assess Emotional Intelligence. However, these differences are relatively small and not really meaningful.

But what is it that increased EQ can do for a company?


Success on employee and business level hinges on effective personal performance and favourable relationships with customers, suppliers, colleagues, subordinates and stakeholders. There are many examples where Emotional Intelligence can have a positive effect, but warns that it must be considered in conjunction with factors like motivation, education and experience.

Many companies already use psychological assessments in their recruitment and selection process. To obtain a more comprehensive picture, the assessment of Emotional Intelligence should be included, as it can distinguish between an employee who only just copes and one who excels. Such assessments also ensure that high EQ employees are hired from the start, reducing the cost of development interventions later.

Productivity usually suffers when employees face aspects of their work they don’t enjoy or people with whom they disagree. Emotional Intelligence provides the tools they need to become more productive, cope better with work stress, resolve differences and work effectively in teams.

A high EQ is therefore vital for executive positions, where good stress management, excellent problem-solving and sound decision-making are expected. By nature, leaders often seek to enhance their performance, and exposure to Emotional Intelligence development opportunities can help them achieve their goals in a sustainable way.

Improving EQ

Emotional Intelligence relates to a broad spectrum of soft skills so companies should first establish where improvements are required. Professionally administered self-report assessments, completed by employees, will highlight areas of concern and provide a guide for coaching and/or skills development. With this self-information, employers can plot the best course for EQ improvements in their workforce.

Emotional Intelligence can then be increased through appropriate employee development that focuses on practical capabilities that deliver immediate results. Programmes can be customised to address the specific competencies required. They are typically offered as workshops stretching over one or more days and delivered as face-to-face sessions with an experienced facilitator.

Ultimately, if companies can truly appreciate the fact that their employees are emotional beings, they can find effective ways of managing this aspect so that it can be the x-factor that sets the organisation apart from its competition, instead of hampering its growth and success.

Dr Karina de Bruin is the Managing Director of JvR Academy, a JvR Africa Group company.

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