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Tuesday, 20 August 2013 12:15

Choose your office colours wisely

Choose your office colours wisely

The colours you choose for your offices have an enormous impact on your clients and employees; it could influence the way visitors perceive your business, and how your workforce performs.


Visual ergonomics, the science of developing a colour scheme that is most suited for the task at hand in the office, employee lounge or factory workroom, is based on matching colour responses to expected behaviours and attitudes in an environment.


The psychology of colour has been researched extensively, and decorators and advertisers have used this powerful tool to affect and influence us subconsciously for years. Colour is now also used to generate certain feelings, moods and behaviour in employees. The appropriate use of colour does not only maximise productivity levels and minimise fatigue, but it also stimulates collaboration, creativity and cooperation.

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Published in Wellness & Ergonomics
Friday, 01 March 2013 11:36

The "Soft Stuff" Really Does Still Count!

The "Soft Stuff" Really Does Still Count!

I was chatting the other day with a group of successful business men and women and the inevitable question came up - "Which part of your business gives you the most problems?" Equally inevitably, the usual answer came up – "People!"


It seems that we are destined to re-live history! For years business and HR have recognised that a sustainable competitive edge often flows from exceptional staff in an organisation. For years we have recognised that motivated, willing and skilled people are a core asset in our organisations, and yet we still can't seem to "get it right!"

Published in Leadership
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 12:08

A cyclical approach to motivating employees

A cyclical approach to motivating employees

Every manager and business owner understands the challenge of keeping employees motivated. It requires a year long program and adaptive strategy to ensure staff are always performing at high levels. For many employers however, this takes on menial importance when it comes to productivity, with the basic incentives of monetary reward at the end of the year expected to yield results states Manpower South Africa.


“However, staff go through specific cycles of demotivation throughout the year and months and even through separate days of the week and hours of the day. Having a better understanding of the psychology behind these fluctuations can go a long way to improving productivity in the workplace,” states Lyndy Van Den Barselaar – Managing Director for Manpower Group South Africa.


“The traditional yearly bonus or thirteenth cheque is just not cutting it anymore as far as motivators go, and many businesses can attest to this in seeing staff performance pick up closer to bonus time or when personal performance assessments are due.”


With the change in the world economy after the 2008 economic downturn, business has changed from what had been working for decades to a new form of employer/employee relationship and many businesses are picking up on this and moving forward into the new ‘era’.


“It has been harder however for many employees to adjust to this shift. With the job and pay cuts as well as absence of bonuses in the credit crunch following 2008, businesses started to look at motivation in a new light. The bonus idea was no longer a ‘given’ and individuals became prized for their abilities in the workplace and the abilities to spread their skills across different job positions. This has been evolving over years prior to 2008, with performance appraisals and other forms of performance based rewards entering the workplace,” says Van Den Barselaar.


“However, in spite of this change, many businesses still face the daunting problem of motivating their employees to do more and to try and ascertain how and why employees become demotivated by certain events or times of the year, month, week or even day. Most employers are familiar with the basic cycles of motivation in their staff such as low motivation towards the end of the workday, the week and the year.”


“Understanding the cycles of your employees’ motivation can assist in remedying it at certain times. Changing work cycles or implementing motivational events around these times can increase motivation at low motivation level cycle periods. Businesses need to self assess the cycles of motivation in employees for their specific departments in order to narrow down job specific cycles of motivation, which will make the issue easier to address and remedy,” says Van Den Barselaar.


Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, in his notion of flow, cites three main reasons for employees disliking their jobs. The first is that the job is pointless. The second is that the work is boring and routine. The third is that the job is often stressful, especially when employees cannot get along with a supervisor or colleagues.


Based upon this, what can employees do to motivate staff better?



“Leadership is still the overriding factor in employee motivation, and is a key influencer in all the other staff motivation factors. Strong leadership will earn employees respect and also give an employee ‘value’.


Positive environment

Positive energy is vital to keep employees motivated and this can be done in various ways. On an individual level, it’s important to develop an individual’s strengths. This fosters a company philosophy of a can-do attitude. As a business it is crucial to have leaders in an organisation that can inspire people, not simply ensure they get their work done with an iron fist.


Making tasks enjoyable

Critical to motivation is the enjoyment of the task at hand and in many cases this can be as simple as changing the perspective of employees with regards to their position. Helping employees see their position as a valuable contribution and a purpose for enabling their own lives instead of grudge action, which they’re forced to perform to survive, can go a long way to increasing motivation.


External factors

On a cyclical level, motivation is often lost due to external factors – the end of the day means there may not be sufficient time to complete tasks, the end of the week means staff start winding down in anticipation for the weekend and the end of the year often sees the importance of tasks waning as employees attach less importance to the completion of tasks as ‘everyone else (including clients and partners)’ are also winding down and not placing as much importance on work issues, meaning less pressure.


Motivation is internal

Motivation therefore needs to stem from within the individuals themselves to place importance on the tasks at hand and this is where good leadership makes the difference. Respect for leaders and the need to garner their appreciation as well as the need to stimulate self worth by a ‘job well done’ are key drivers in this regard.


Motivating the motivator

But if motivation rests so much on management and leaders, who is motivating the motivator? Managers and business owners are just as prone to low levels of motivation and oftentimes more so than staff as they suffer from higher stress levels and more work and strategizing in order to guide and run the business. It is therefore just as critical for business owners to find ways of motivating themselves and appear self-motivated to employees. Finding reward in the success and growth of the business, and where it can be taken in the future, as well as the admiration of peers, is one avenue for business owners to concentrate on in order to gain motivation.


Higher degrees of emotional or financial stress may increase existing levels of hopelessness to a point where employees feel that regardless of what hey do, they simply will not be able to achieve what they need to in their personal life and so give up trying at work. 


“The festive season impacts people in a number of ways with regards to motivation from spending habits. One way in which it does this is that people get caught up in the exuberance and joyfulness and at times irresponsibility that comes with holiday time and forget about their financial obligations and debts so that they can use 13th cheques etc. to enjoy themselves rather than to pay off incremental debt from the past year. The result is a huge financial hangover in January and increased stress and pressure at the beginning of the following year to pay off even bigger debts due to holiday spending,” states clinical psychologist Dr Giada Del Fabbro.



“The other impact is that people often feel that they deserve a nice holiday at the end of the year or feel pressured to deliver in the form of Christmas presents and spoiling their loved ones at the end of the year. As a result, they may experience stress related to meeting these demands and expectations which could lead to putting in extra hours in the period before the festive season and burning themselves out in order to earn enough money to cater to expectations.”


“Whilst initially increasing work motivation, the resulting burnout will leave employees considerably demotivated with little energy to meet work demands and obligations and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Given that many employees may be facing this scenario, what happens is that you have a collective feeling or irritability, lethargy and lack of motivation in a single workforce which results in the festive season becoming anything but that. In order to cope with these feelings, employees may start using detrimental coping skills such as drinking more heavily, excessive use of recreational and pharmacological substances and smoking. Absenteeism will also increase, affecting the bottom line and end of year profit margins and financials for many companies in a negative manner,” explains Dr Del Fabbro.


Businesses have experienced growing debt stress levels through 2012. This becomes especially worrying in light of the state of unsecured lending in South Africa which has reached concerning levels of late driven by rapid growth in consumer spending. These levels are now likely to impact on employees’ levels of stress and motivation.


“Motivation requires fostering pride and accomplishment as well as personal growth and these concepts need to be applied through various means of managing staff. A well-motivated team will not only perform better but be more open to sharing ideas for the better running of the business. A manager or business owner will not be able to see into every corner of their business and having motivated and engaging employees is one way to improve company performance and see problems or opportunities early on through the eyes of employees,” concludes Van Den Barselaar.

 People – The greatest asset or biggest headache?

A people problem triple whammy has hit some of South Africa’s blue-chip companies hard this year and one expert says this could worsen in 2013.

Finding the right executives and talented leaders to drive growth, deliver shareholder value and ensure commercial sustainability for top organisations, whilst balancing the on-going need to comply with employment equity and other governance and transformation imperatives has become an increasing headache for companies, according to top executive headhunters.


Companies need clear strategies to cope with staff problems and meet the challenges of 2013

A survey conducted by Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters of  companies in the banking, investment, insurance and FMCG sectors has revealed that the on-going struggle to attract the right people, retain good people and cut those who add overhead but don’t deliver, are causing knockout blows to business.

The majority of those polled said they were clear on key strategic initiatives for 2012, but their major challenges related to human resources and their inability to reconcile staffing needs with business priorities.


While companies can take steps to factor in slow economic growth, it is much more difficult to predict and rectify the impact of the big three – strikes, retrenchments and  employment equity compliance and it seems an on-going corporate struggle to attract the right people.


Despite our massive unemployment issues, there is still a lack of skilled people to fill specialist positions and some Cape-based companies have the added issue of struggling with transformation imperatives as Johannesburg remains the preferred base for EE candidates.


Resourcing has a knock-on effect when it comes to achieving business goals – when budgets are not met due to inadequate people or gaps in executive teams, this has an impact on business confidence and ultimately results in a lack of investor confidence, creating a vicious cycle for which there is no quick fix.


Participation in the survey guarantees anonymity. One participant in the insurance sector who cannot be named said: “We just don’t have the right people to do the sorts of thing that need to be done. Implementation of key initiatives for 2012 is behind schedule.”


A respondent from the investment banking sector said that they face “major challenges” when it comes to EE compliance, which in turn hampers their overall success. A Cape-based corporation commented that “the one major challenge that impedes long-term strategy is that the pool of EE talent is based in Joburg with no interest in working in Cape Town. We would have more luxury of choice if we were a Gauteng-based organisation.”


And it’s not only transformation issues that have presented significant challenges to growth. The banking sector was stymied by waves of retrenchments throughout the country – “when other businesses do badly, it has a negative effect on ours. There is room for improvement on our 2012 implementation.”

A major player in the FMCG industry agreed that labour upheavals, like 2012’s bitter strike season, had a significant impact on their business, saying, “When people are striking, they are not buying.”


The survey shows that many companies perceive people issues as the key variable holding business back, at a time and in an era when business sustainability is at its most vulnerable.


In business, people can be equated to money. HR and labour issues are placing an immense strain on our economy. Companies need clear strategies to cope with staff problems and meet the challenges of 2013. What we have learnt in 2012 is that it’s just not business as usual.

Employer branding: Who are you? And what do you stand for?

In today’s business environment, managers are increasingly challenged to achieve the best performance from their employees. Productivity is driven hard and is supposed to be underpinned by innovativeness and creativity, but many argue that this cannot be achieved in a productivity-driven environment.

For some, the issue of employer branding seems irrelevant unless you are a technology driven, creative, young business. However, increasingly, employees are influencing market perception of a brand or product and companies need to manage the impact of this closely if they wish to achieve the desired results that come from a committed, focused team of people.

Companies are urged to consider the individual needs of all of their employees and to ‘reasonably accommodate’ all of their employee groups. At the same time, our teams now reflect a diverse set of skills, experience, education, backgrounds and cultures. As the world becomes smaller through the use of technology, globalisation and the shifting trend in business to chase opportunities rather than customers, we see that intellectual and human capital become the foundation of competitive advantage.

If we picture our organisations as a puzzle, the pieces each look different and are shaped differently, but all make the picture come alive when they are correctly positioned. Whereas previously, dress code and operating norms were defining factors and so we insisted that everyone look the same to give credibility to the brand, we now see passion, service culture and commitment to the brand as the glue that holds that pieces together.

Several opportunities exist for companies to positively manage their brand on a practical level.

Using social networking as a means to capture a larger audience and gain commitment to growth, technology, news and opportunities is a powerful tool that many companies have not yet adequately understood, and not yet assigned to a department or individual.

Retrenchment processes provide an opportunity to engage with labour, to provide opportunities for re-skilling, retraining and working with employees to set up small businesses or switch careers. If managed correctly, this allows the demand for downsizing to become a positive opportunity for brand messaging.

BEE programmes, delivered effectively, communicated widely and managed strategically, provide competitive advantage through bursaries, community development, supplier programmes, employee retention and skills development, mentorship and graduate programmes

In our Africa division, we see the ongoing challenge to try and ensure that African operations emulate their global sponsors. The behaviour and attitude of staff members can undermine the credibility of advertised messages and so the commitment to the brand is a powerful collaborator within teams that culturally and otherwise have very little in common.

Recruitment drives, internal skills development, community development, employee engagement and wellness programmes, internal communications strategies, balanced scorecard models and many other mechanisms exist to ensure that the brand is positively positioned and that key people are taken care of, but amidst all of this, lies the ongoing challenge to manage diversity in such a way that it aligns with the brand and converts potential into excellence.

Published in Employer Branding

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