Why is workforce planning critical to addressing South Africa’s unemployment?

According to ManpowerGroup’s 2017 Total Workforce Index, the jobless rate in South Africa is now at a 14-year high, topping 36% inclusive of the inactive unemployed labour force.

The South African workforce has a nearly 95% literacy rate, but while approximately half are proficient in English only 10% of the total workforce is classified as contingent. This is evidence of a skills mismatch between the available workforce and the skills required to fill open opportunities.

In the long-term, increasing the percentage of the emerging workforce actively enrolled in secondary and tertiary education with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) will be critical in correcting the underlying causes of unemployment and skills gap in the country.

In the short- and medium-term, however, workforce planning is emerging as an increasingly essential component of the business strategy for businesses operating in the modern business environment. With nearly three-quarters of the workforce aged 41 and younger, the South African labour market is moderately flexible with regards to workforce regulations.

Workplace regulation and planning involves ensuring that an organisation has the right employees with the right skills. This helps examine the gaps in the workplace as well determine hiring needs and trends in the future.

The report ranked South Africa 24th in terms of the global ranking for total workforce index, and 13th in terms of regional ranking. In terms of the tools yielding comparative hiring models and strategies amongst organisations, South Africa ranked high in terms of cost-efficiency and regulation, followed by availability and productivity. About 40% of the workforce is contingent whilst 60% is permanent, according to the report. This comparative model allows companies to gain deeper insight into talent trends and workforce composition data to enhance workforce planning and decision-making. Bearing in mind the workforce subjectivity to change, today’s talent engagement strategies must allow companies to objectively predict workforce potential.

Interestingly, the report notes that one-third of South African employees currently work outside of their employer’s offices. Working remotely or from home has become a more common practice in global organisations since business Cloud computing technologies have become pervasive. Employers view the use of remote workers in the region as both cost-effective and beneficial to both employee and employers. This is positive, as it shows the country’s advancement in terms of global best practice and trends, but this trend also requires more rigorous workforce planning to ensure that productivity remains a priority and the business continues to run successfully as methods of working continue to change.

Many organisations have only a single resource to help them analyse and understand the workforce landscape and develop talent strategies that deliver on business objectives. The main benefits of successful workforce planning are an increased productivity and a reduction in labour costs – since organisations will have the right skills, in the right places, at the right time.

Workforce planning works because it requires employers to plan ahead using an integrated talent-management system that accommodates the unavoidable changes in today’s workforce.

Lyndy van den Barselaar is the managing director of ManpowerGroup South Africa.

What are the new training methods used by employers?

Improving your employee onboarding and training is one of the most valuable HR investments you can make.

It has become common knowledge that Millennials and the upcoming Gen Z are staying in one job for shorter periods of time than did their predecessors, and there’s increasing concern about the skills gap in South Africa. Employers without effective training methods are finding it a challenge to efficiently and effectively bring replacements in and expand to meet demand. In many cases, the best route to a qualified workforce is to hire for personality and culture fit, and train to upgrade or specialise skills as necessary.

To get started, have existing staff make a note of tasks they regularly deal with. Depending on the personalities and competencies among your existing staff, they may be able to help you create training materials, or you may want to bring in a dedicated HR team member or an outside consultant for this step.

One approach gaining traction among South African companies is a mentorship or apprenticeship model, where new employees or team members transitioning within the company are paired with a more experienced individual. That approach works well for highly relational personality types, and for jobs where the tasks require more judgment and experience and less checklist-based consistency.

A good checklist, while by no means a new method, can still be highly effective for many jobs that require steps to be undertaken in the same order or to be completed without a gap. Take this to the next level with built-in links to training materials such as videos, digital forms, or mobile apps. Digitisation is growing across the board and fits neatly with the rise of on-demand and remote or mobile training. Checklists can be a great tool for managers as well, helping them monitor new hires and to assess progress and accuracy.

Many employees respond well to a mixture of approaches including a high degree of visual content and often struggle with text-heavy manuals. Custom video training is one of the fastest growing methods and has multiple benefits. It’s possible to show a detailed, multi-step task by video in a clearer and more engaging or entertaining manner. Video also conveys a sense of workplace culture, which helps new employees understand and fit into the workplace faster and more intuitively.

While specialist consultants can help you create effective video for better training outcomes, there are also excellent movie maker tools for you to create your tutorials and informational video. These can also be used for hiring, promotion, and general marketing purposes.

Increased focus on motivation and personalisation in training schemes is another growing trend. Gamification elements included in tutorials and training encourage and incentivize investment and focus and may include an element of competition or reward. Personalisation focuses on finding the right fit between the learner and the material to be covered and is sensitive to diverse learning styles. It can be a challenge for smaller organisations to provide, but results in measurably improved learner outcomes.

Companies in South Africa can prepare for the future and get ahead of the skills gap by investing in learning programmes. Consider both the nature of tasks or job requirements, and employee preferences and flexibility when it comes to creating tutorials or training schemes and stay flexible and up-to-date with digitised materials by including a mix of checklists, graphic, and video materials with human-centric one-on-one learning experiences.

Karl Burrows is Business and Management Graduate and freelance writer.

Are robots stealing our jobs?

We’ve seen it in the Industrial Revolution, where machines replaced countless jobs almost overnight.

The socio-economic effects of that transformation have been well documented. Today, many believe we are facing the same tidal wave of change. The major difference now is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the capability to replace the roles of knowledge workers and highly qualified professionals – in addition to labour-intensive jobs.

For example, retail store managers might be tempted to have a team of 10 robots performing the jobs of 40 employees. Companies designing AI technologies argue that the use of robots instead of people are numerous and speak for themselves: they wouldn’t require remuneration, medical aid, pension fund contributions, leave, lunch breaks, uniforms, a canteen, change rooms or even toilets. Moreover, they can work at full production, 24/7.

These companies also argue that Robots are drama free. Robots are unlikely to steal, make mistakes, join a union, go on strike, harass fellow employees, require disciplinary action, or suffer debilitating episodes of low morale. Most appealing though, is that robots cannot be injured or killed like their human counterparts, and can be used in emergency situations far too dangerous for human risk!

Indeed, from a corporate perspective, it would make good business sense for robots carry out all the menial and repetitive tasks previously undertaken by people.

Automation is here

Although many industries are experiencing a steady rise in the technological displacement of the human workforce, people underestimate just how rapidly this phenomenon is set to upend the job market over the next few decades. A 2017 report predicted that by 2030, as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation. The study, produced by the McKinsey Global Institute, argues that advances in AI and robotics will have a major effect on everyday working lives, comparable to the shift away from agricultural societies during the Industrial Revolution. The report notes “in about 60 per cent of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations and changes for all workers.” In the US alone, between 39 and 73 million jobs stand to be automated — making up around a third of the total workforce.

Industries in Flux

Mechanisation in the mining industry has already replaced millions of mining jobs, and this process will not abate until machines are doing 100% of the work – particularly in hazardous environments. The sad reality is, there will be fewer and fewer jobs available in large mining operations as robots continue to take over.

Then, autonomous vehicles, trains and aircraft are set to disrupt every sphere of the global transport and logistics industry. Although there are still hurdles that must be overcome before autonomous transport is rolled out en masse, make no mistake, it is expanding and will become the norm far sooner than we think.

Combat drones have also proven themselves to be a huge asset in aerial warfare. It is highly likely that these unmanned drones will supersede their manned counterparts, removing additional military personnel from the coalface of war.

And then there’s the escort industry, which is suddenly dealing with an unprecedented competitor – the sex robot.

Just how popular all these AI innovations will become is anyone’s guess, but there is no question significant change is coming to many industries across the globe.

Progress versus Protection

In a country beleaguered by ongoing labour unrest, the South African government has made clear its willingness to protect all jobs. Looking ahead, a delicate balance between embracing progress and protecting workers will have to be achieved.

Brian Timperley is the Co-Founder & MD of Turrito Networks and MD of Dial a Nerd.

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