Tag: workplace

Lifestyle-focused work environments are for everyone

What time do you power down your laptop at night? Look at the plug next to your bed. How many devices are plugged in there? Your answers to these questions have probably revealed you’re at the office more than you’re actually in it, tucking into some bite-sized admin with breakfast at the corner café or catching a quick IM meeting from the back seat of an Uber. Your staff are no doubt doing the same. So, how do you restore work-life balance to encourage happy, healthy and motivated employees when everyone’s overflowing inbox is tagging along home with them? Make them feel at home with a lifestyle-focused work environment.

At the moment, a fundamental shift away from hierarchically designed offices, toward more inclusive, collaborative spaces, is taking place. One major reason for this is the growing platoon of Millennials in the modern workforce. These super-social and adept multi-taskers like open plan coffee-shop style environments, tech bedecked meeting hubs, acoustic pods, and even working from treadmills or barber shop chairs is not an unusual request these days. As a result, more and more companies are starting to mimic the trendy offices of the Googles and Facebooks of the world. But what if that doesn’t align with your brand… and your older staff just can’t comprehend the idea of morning meetings in an indoor treehouse?

Embracing lifestyle-focused work spaces doesn’t mean your office needs to look like a children’s playground. It’s simply about making the office more flexible to your employee and business needs. That means the first step to an ideal workspace is to understand your company requirements, culture and staff. Traders are bound to their workstations, attorneys require privacy, creatives like space to throw ideas around in, and so all the lifestyle-focused workspaces for these kinds of employees will need to be different to efficiently support the way in which they operate. However, there are a few minor changes that we’ve noticed can help to streamline any and every office, improving efficiency while giving it a homey air.

Comfortable soft seating hubs, intimate task lighting, quiet areas, private spaces, warm colour palettes, and the smell of brewing coffee are just a few minor tweaks that make most staff feel at home in the office. But another major stand-out benefit and consideration of lifestyle-focused work spaces is scalability. Lifestyle focused spaces allow for expansion without the costs of a new workstation for each new staff member. Instead, employees may move around an environment, without desk ownership, working from a pod or quiet room, canteen or bar-height collaboration table.

A lifestyle focused workspace that looks and feels more welcoming and comfortable will put your staff at ease, make their work-lives more meaningful and encourage them to invest more passion and drive into a company that is investing in their in-office experience and overall work-life balance. After all, home is where the heart is. Start your journey to a more lifestyle-focused workspace today and get more heart from your staff, as well as a responsive and agile office that changes and grows around you, instead of the other way around.

By Robyn Gray, Associate Director for Tétris South Africa

After the landmark sexual harassment case involving Real Security was reported in 2003 I warned employers of the dire consequences if they do not take decisive preventive action. The automatically unfair dismissal claim was based on the fact that the employee was forced to resign because her employer allowed her to be discriminated against by the supervisor who sexually harassed her.

The Court cited section 60 of the EEA that says:

(1) “If it is alleged that an employee, while at work, contravened a provision of this Act, or engaged in any conduct that, if engaged in by the employee’s employer, would constitute a contravention of this Act, the alleged conduct must immediately be brought to the attention of the employer.

(2) The employer must consult all the relevant parties and must take all the necessary steps to eliminate the alleged conduct and comply with the provisions of this Act.

(3) If the employer fails to take the necessary steps and it is prove that the employee has contravened the relevant provisions, the employer must be deemed also to have contravened that provision.”

The Court awarded the employee compensation for unfair dismissal, unfair discrimination, medical expenses, pain, suffering and impairment of her dignity. In total she was awarded R82000,00 which equated to 41 months’ pay which is almost three and a half years’ pay.

Despite the warning that the outcome of this case sounded, employers are still not implementing measures to prevent sexual harassment and are obviously still losing cases in the Labour Court.

For example, in the recently decided case of Christian vs Colliers Properties (2005, 5 BLLR 479) Ms Christian was appointed as a typist by the employer. Two days after starting work the owner of the business asked her if she had a boyfriend and invited her to dinner. He also invited her to sit on his lap and kissed her on the neck. When she later objected to the owner’s conduct he asked her whether she was “in or out”. When she said that she was “not in” he asked her why he should allow her employment to continue. She was dismissed with two days pay and referred a sexual harassment dispute.

In a default judgement the Court decided that:

• The employee had been dismissed for refusing the owner’s advances

• This constituted an automatically unfair dismissal based on sexual discrimination

• Newly appointed employees are as deserving of protection from sexual harassment as are their longer serving colleagues

The employer had to pay the employee:

• 24 months’ remuneration in compensation

• Additional damages

• Interest on the amounts to be paid

• The employee’s legal costs

13 years after this case decision employers are still getting into trouble because they fail to utilise the best available labour law expertise to:

• Inculcate acceptance that a business can be ruined financially by allowing sexual harassment to occur

• Design a comprehensive sexual harassment policy

• Ensure that every owner, manager and employee understands the severe consequences of committing such acts

• Communicate to all concerned that such misconduct will result in severe penalties including possible dismissal

• Ensure that all employees feel entirely free to report sexual harassment.

• Train all employees in the abovelisted issues as well as in what constitutes sexual harassment, how to deal with it, where to report it and the company’s supportive policy towards sexual harassment victims

By lvan lsraelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

None of us is as smart as all of us

As we enter a new year, it is prudent to pause and consider the many challenges and opportunities we are likely to face in the year ahead. Matters of innovation, digital transformation, technological advancement and business success often take center stage, but for me there is one aspect of our business which I believe will be instrumental to our success on the African continent: that of diversity.

A vibrant and dynamic continent
According to UNESCO estimates, Africa is home to as many as 3 000 ethnic groups speaking more than 2 000 different languages across 54 countries. The African population is the second-largest of all continents, as well as the youngest. In some African countries, up to half the citizens are under the age of 25. Any company wishing to do business successfully in Africa must prioritise diversity, or run the risk of alienating the very people with whom they want to do business.
Whilst Africa may sometimes be perceived to be making slow progress with modernization; it is in many respects a world leader. Recent statistics regarding gender diversity in particular have been encouraging: the 2016 McKinsey Women Matter Africa report found that in Africa, 29% of senior managers are women, and 5% of African companies are headed up by female CEOs. While this is still low, it beats the global average (in Europe, female representation at CEO level is only 3%) and points to a concerted and honest effort to bring equal opportunity to women in the workplace.

The business case for diversity
I am of the firm belief that a company that champions diversity will be more innovative, able to respond quicker to changing customer needs and in a better position to adapt to the challenges presented by a rapidly evolving global economy, than its more homogeneous peers. Data supports this: research has found that African companies with at least a quarter share of women on their boards, had on average 20% higher earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) than the industry average.
More tellingly, the global war for talent, which is set to be one of the core issues businesses will face in the next few decades, makes workplace discrimination a recipe for failure. Any business that ignores the contribution, skill, and talent of a potential employee purely based on their gender or culture or background, is effectively undermining its own ability to adapt and survive in a rapidly shifting and evolving global market.
Decades of science backs this: socially diverse groups (those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups, as they are better at solving complex, non-routine problems, anticipating alternative viewpoints, and making important decisions.

Understanding our customers
For companies wishing to do business here, having a culturally and gender-diverse workforce in place is essential to success. At SAP, we have a vision of making the world run simpler. Achieving this vision requires us to focus not just on the technology, but on the customer journey. We can’t understand what journey our customers want to go on, if we don’t understand our customers, of which SAP has an immense and diverse base that spans the globe. We must employ, empower, and inspire a diverse workforce if we are to realise our “Run Simple” vision.
As a business, we have made great progress on the road to diversity and inclusion. Globally, SAP set a goal in 2011 of ensuring that 25% of people in leadership positions are women by 2017. At SAP Africa, 33% of leadership positions are now occupied by women. We are also introducing new initiatives to support and inspire women in technology. Our Women in Data Science initiative, a collaboration between SAP’s Next-Gen Lab and Stanford University in the US, is designed to inspire women to pursue careers in tech, create awareness about data science, and showcase and celebrate the achievements of women in tech.

Playing an active role in fostering a culture of diversity
At SAP, it is critical to focus on how we can embrace diversity and instil a culture which enables success in a globalised workforce. By creating a diverse team with a range of experiences and perspectives, you can unlock new approaches to problems that seemed insurmountable at first. This, of course, depends on there being a culture which encourages all team members to look for the strengths that each unique individual brings to the team and incorporate their views into the customer solution.
Driving a successful diversity strategy begins with the senior leaders; but in order for it to be fully sustainable, it needs to be lived by each and every one of us.
That is my call to action to all staff, partners, vendors and even our customers: make diversity a core focus for your business this year. Enable the people who work with you to bring diverse viewpoints and experiences to the boardroom table. Inspire your teams to have the courage to bring new perspectives to existing problems and challenges. Instill a culture of openness and trust that makes it easier for people to contribute to the success of the organisation. Never doubt that your contribution has value to the team, the business and society at large.
Our success as a business, and as individuals, will be inextricably linked to our ability to foster diversity in the workplace. Can any of us truly afford to ignore the challenge?

By Brett Parker, MD of SAP Africa

A recent survey of 12 000 office workers nationwide has revealed the most important things we demand from our workplaces.

The survey also uncovered the things we like best and hate most about the place where we spend a third of our lives.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says the poll threw up some surprising findings.

“We asked people what was the most important thing for them in the workplace and 95% said access to good tea and coffee.

“This topped the list ahead of security (91%) and a healthy environment (87%) of what South African see as most important in the workplace.”

Rounding out the most important things was natural light (85%), greenery (71%), canteens (65%) and comfortable chairs (52%).

“Essentially it’s all the smaller things that people really need to be happy in the workplace,” says Andrews.

The poll also quizzed people on their biggest annoyances at the workplace.

Top of the list was loud colleagues, followed by colleagues who “smelled up the place” by eating lunch at the desk.

Third was ‘unbearable bosses.’

“It seems as many offices move to open plan design, the trend of squeezing more people into less space has brought workers in closer proximity to each other. There is nowhere to hide from other peoples’ habits.

“People talking loudly on the phone, endlessly talking to colleagues and making a general ruckus (88%) topped the list of the biggest peeve.

“This was followed closely by people who eat lunch at their desks thereby smelling up the workspace (76%).”

Andrews added that bad bosses (66%) was in third place particularly those that were hyper-critical and micro managers. Lack of privacy also featured with just over 50% citing that as an office downside.

Other strong office dislikes were dreary office spaces, long meetings, dress codes and working hours.

When asked about the best things about the workplace, the social aspect of meeting new people and becoming friends with certain colleagues was the best thing about the workplaces according to 80% of respondents.

Also favourable was the ‘learning and personal development’ that the workplaces offered (61%) and this was followed by ‘a place to make money’ at 49%.

Filling out the remaining office positives was ‘stimulation’, ‘sense of worth’ and ‘contribution to society.’

Andrews says that more businesses in South Africa were moving to address concerns such as those highlighted by the survey.

“Quiet spaces, places to make private calls and a trend towards more comfortable and relaxed spaces will improve the day to day office experience.”

The changing workplace

Innovation hubs, separate and relaxed spaces designed for creativity and collaboration, are quickly growing in popularity in South Africa as a way to drive innovation in a relaxed “feel at home” atmosphere.

“Workplaces are changing,” says Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

“Every leading organisation knows that it needs to innovate to stay ahead. According to a McKinsey survey, 33% of global business leaders rank ‘innovation of new products and services’ as their company’s top focus.”
“But innovation is hard. How do you make ideas grow especially when companies become more globally integrated as business becomes national or global?

“One of the best ways it to make is easy for people to get together in a casual environment. Research shows that 70% of ideas come from when people collaborate.”

He notes that Innovation Hubs create a culture of innovation by supporting creative collaboration, project teams and individuals.

Inspiration Office has recently helped create Innovations Hubs in South Africa for Google, E&Y, General Electric, Accenture and Standard Bank to name just a few. General Electric’s R500m Innovation Hub in Johannesburg is the first of its kind in Africa and is similar to its other hubs around the world.

Magnus Taljaard, head of Digital Customer Solutions at Standard Bank Group, says about the creation of its hub: “We wanted to create a highly collaborative and engaging environment where our digital product teams can thrive and create solutions our customers love.”

Andrews notes that businesses need spaces that support both collaboration at a distance and face-to-face and that also promote privacy as individuals need to do their best thinking. Hubs when not in use by groups, also provide private places to work.

He notes that during the last few years, work has become dramatically more intense. Business tasks today are more varied and more challenging, and in some countries workers are increasingly mobile.

“Employees in every organisation are working longer and harder, and they need a physical environment that not only supports them, but also re-energizes and inspires them.

“Some organisations embrace the idea of employees working in a coffee shop or other third place for a variety of reasons. Employees may need places where they can relax or work undisturbed. Already 31 percent of full-time employees in the United States do most of their work away from their employers’ locations. South Africa is following the same trends.”

Andrews says millennial workers are particularly keen on mobile working but need to have a place where they meet colleagues to catch up and think together.

He also pointed out that the idea of having an opportunity to move during the day is important.

“People hate the idea of being stuck at their desks all day.”

Businesses increasingly see the need to offer employees a place where they can take a break from their usual workspace, choose from spaces ranging from individual to large group settings, and maintain close connections with colleagues and the organisation.

“It resets your mind and gets you reengaged. Having spaces that are appropriately designed for the activity that’s going on makes that activity much more productive. What we’ve installed for clients tend to cater for a ‘palette of postures’ so people can sit or lounge in a way that’s most comfy for them. We also tend to use bright, colours and funky furniture not typically found in the more formal offices spaces.”
Innovation Hubs also help to manage commercial property costs by having fewer people in the office if companies allow remote working.

Characteristics of Innovation Hubs

Technology Integration
More than anything, highly effective hubs that accommodate real work must provide great technology. Users come for refreshment and with the expectation that the place will provide what they need for effective performance, so technology needs to be immediately available and convenient.

Design Attributes
Design elements create the ambience of a corporate hub and influence worker reaction. Finishes, lighting, music, scent, inspiring artifacts, artwork—these all work together to attract users by creating a sense of welcome. They also tell users how to behave in a space.

Hosting Characteristics
Hosting is ultimately about making employees feel connected to the organisation and to each other. The way employees are welcomed and supported lets them know they are valued and demonstrates that the organisation recognises the challenges of work and life integration.

Where should companies locate an Innovation Hub?
The corporate cafeteria is an obvious place where a company can create a corporate third place and better leverage under- utilised space. It isn’t the only answer, though. A company might need more locations to hold meetings, for example.

Andrews notes that some project groups often go off-site to hotels.

Think desk workers spending their days in front of a computer aren’t likely to get injured on the job?

Think again.

More than half of all workplace injuries are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) — injuries that are common among those who engage in repetitive motion activities as typing on a computer keyboard.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, says that even the seemingly ‘safest’ jobs lead to employee injuries and a large cost to the bottom line of business.

“In fact, nearly 60 percent of employees doing office computer work say they have wrist pain.

“Long days hunched over keyboards can lead to cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) and lower back ailments.”

Here are some other common complaints:

  • Muscle fatigue or pain. Working for long periods in the same position or in awkward positions can put stress on hands and wrists and lead to injury.
  • Eye strain. Sitting too close to — or prolonged staring at — a monitor can reduce eye blinking and may lead to dry or aching eyes.
  • Lower back pain. Using laptops or non-adjustable office furniture can cause employees to work at awkward angles and lead to back stress.

Andrews notes that several trends make CTDs a special concern for today’s typical office workers.

“So many employees use computers all day and then also sit down at the computer at home to surf the Internet or even catch up on work.

“Secondly, specialised jobs are on the increase the world over. This means more people are doing the same thing all day. And finally, people are living longer and also working longer which means many more years of wear and tear on the body.”

According to South African workplace research company Know More, only 40% of 10 000 South African workers surveyed feel that their workplace environment supports their wellbeing.

And this doesn’t just exact a physical toll on employees, it can have a significant impact on businesses’ bottom line.

“For example,in 2003 in the US, the average medical claim associated with a CTD was over $43 000. Now it’s over $50 000. And that doesn’t even include the hidden costs for employers of lost productivity when an employee is injured or the cost of hiring and training a replacement worker.”

So what’s a business to do?

“Don’t think that a desk and chair is all that employees need,” Andrews advises.

Ergonomics, or the process of safely and comfortably relating workers to their work- spaces, can help by reducing the likelihood of work related injuries through greater emphasis on a well designed workspace.

“Studies have shown that a well-designed office space can increase efficiency by up to 36%.”

Andrews adds that Inspiration Office has increasingly installed several ‘collaborative spaces’ with furniture like couches and coffee tables.

“These are designed not only for teamwork, but also to encourage people to move around and change their workstations to reduce repetitive actions during the day.”

Moving is particularly important: according to the same Know More survey, only 21% of South African office workers feel that their workplaces offer sufficient areas to allow physical activity.

It needn’t be costly either. “When one considers that in most organisations 80% of the budget is allocated to people in the form of salaries, while only 7% is allocated to space, by leveraging the smallest cost line item better – businesses can obtain a return in efficiency in the biggest cost line item,” says Andrews.

For instance, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests measure such as leaving enough room for range of motion, adjusting desk chairs to individuals, positioning monitors so eye level is at the top of the screen and finding a pointing device, such as a mouse, stylus or tablet, suited to the individual.

There are many other simple things employers can consider to help protect their workers and their pocketbooks. For example:

  • Stress the importance of good posture at the computer;
  • Use smart lifting techniques and tools that can make the job easier;
  • Appoint someone on your staff to take responsibility for safety issues. Have this person understand ergonomics best practices, review resources provided by your workers’ compensation insurance company, train employees, and make changes to workspaces as needed; and
  • Take breaks throughout the work day to walk about.

Major risk factors that add to cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs):

  • Static posture
  • Awkward posture
  • Repetition
  • Force and/or vibration
  • Extreme temperature

Safe behaviours that limit CTDs:

  • Good posture
  • Correct workstation setup
  • Occasional rest breaks
  • Task variation
  • Proper lifting techniques

“Common sense measures can go a long way to preventing these types of injuries, “Andrews adds.

As winter approaches, South African businesses will face an onslaught of germs – and not just from people, but from desk “germ traps” too.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy with head offices in Johannesburg, said that South African companies face losing millions of productive hours because of sickness this winter.

“Germs are everywhere, it’s a fact of life. Also known as microbes, bacteria, bugs and now even superbugs, various types of germslive within us, on us and all around us.

“Many of them keep us healthy and alive, but others pose threats to our wellbeing if our bodies cannot manage them.”

Andrews notes that according to a Lancaster University study, 72% of people report going to work when they are sick.

“What most people don’t realise is that it’s not just germs from people that spread to colleagues – office surfaces and materials used in the office space can be potent germ transmitters too.

“Germs are loiterers. They can live and thrive on all kinds of surfaces, including – and especially – desks in the workplace. Many office materials harbour germs making them as infectious as a sneezing colleague when you consider 80% of infections can be transmitted by touch, according to the WebMD website.”

Andrews added that the problem is likely to exacerbated by the fact that nearly 40% of the workforce is expected to be mobile by 2017.

“Workplaces today need to provide a variety of places for people to work, giving people choice and control over where and how they work. But as employees use shared workstations throughout the day, there is also increased need to minimise sharing harmful bacteria.

“One study by the University of Arizona’s Dr Charles Gerba found more than 10 million germs on the average desk. Crumbs for example that accumulate on desks, are a perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive.”
Andrews added the transition from assigned “I spaces” to shared “we spaces” globally has created rising demand by companies the world over for the use of antimicrobials in the workspace as a way of fighting back agains the proliferation of germs.

“Antimicrobial agents and coatings are technologies that either kill or slow the growth of microbes.

“We’ve seen an increased demand from our clients in South Africa and across Africa for antimicrobials since we pioneered them in 2011 in South Africa and have had them as standard since then.
“They’re gaining relevance in the workplace as an option to dramatically reduce germs on frequently touched surfaces such as the worksurface edge and desk pad, height-adjustment controls, and power and data access points.”

Andrews said that the increased use of antimicrobials is expected to significantly reduce the cost of absent works and the related health care costs as they become a standard feature of office ware over the next decade.

“Antimicrobials show promise as another way to proactively create health-conscious work environments in support of improved worker wellbeing.

“Although antimicrobial materials should not replace or decrease regular cleaning routines or good hygiene practices such as hand washing, coughing into elbows and staying home when sick, they can add another level of potential benefit by sharply reducing germsin the workplace,” Andrews concludes.

Work smarter, not harder

Truly efficient people know there’s a difference between being busy and being productive. Harnessing the power of productivity is less about time management and more about managing energy – working smart instead of hard. Nashua has rounded up seven tips to help you perform more efficiently, no matter your job description.

Schedule it
Organise tasks you need to complete each day in order of importance – and go a step further with self-imposed hourly deadlines. Limit time frames and see how your mind focuses to get the task done. Not only are you accountable to yourself, you can also direct focus to one specific project at a time. Be realistic to avoid frustration.

When prioritising tasks, complete the most pressing jobs first to capitalise on high energy in the morning. Set aside time to respond to emails instead of allowing your inbox to dictate how you spend your day. Urgent mails and calls are (obviously) the exception.

Avoid mental fatigue
Scheduled breaks help improve concentration – especially if the break involves standing up to stretch or a short bout of exercise to get blood pumping, like taking a walk. Five to 10 minute breaks between long tasks can help maintain a constant level of performance, as opposed to a steady decline in performance from working without breaks.

Don’t multitask
Although it’s seen as a positive attribute, multitasking isn’t always key to increasing efficiency. In fact, psychologists say there’s no such thing as multitasking – our brains simply switch from task to task at a rapid pace. This results in lost time and productivity. Committing to finishing a single task before moving onto the next is a better, more constructive habit to form.

Banish distractions
Interruptions throughout the day are inevitable, but the extent of the distraction can be mitigated. If possible, try work from different locations or isolate yourself for a certain period of time. For a subtle ‘do not disturb’ sign, wear headphones. And to the colleague who’s looking to shoot the breeze, communicate honestly to let them know you can chat later.

Online videos and phone notifications can also be distracting. Instead of checking social media every five minutes, limit it to every two to three hours (or longer) instead.

Regain control
Procrastination can bring productivity to a halt. To regain control, take an hour to get organised and sort out admin. Delete irrelevant emails and file those you need to keep for reference. Don’t be tempted to start the actual tasks at hand: plan them first. Separating bigger jobs into smaller, achievable chunks reduces the feeling of being overloaded – a great incentive to crack on with the work.

Another trick is to build a routine to get into a working mind-set, like creating a playlist or turning off your phone before you get started.

Declutter your work space
A cluttered desk leads to unnecessary distractions. Instead of hoarding piled-up paperwork, transfer documents to cloud storage, like Google Drive and Apple iCloud Drive.

Research shows art in the workplace can increase creativity and productivity, so personalise your desk with one or two colourful accessories. Paintings and drawings from family, framed photos or desk plants all work well. Stick to two to three desk items to cut clutter.

Prioritise sleep
According to research, after several nights of losing sleep – even the loss of just one to two hours each night – your ability to function suffers in the same way as not sleeping for a few days. You take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, are more prone to mistakes and can slip into micro-sleep (brief moments of sleep that occur when you’d normally be awake).

Set a regular bedtime and put your phone away an hour or two before you sleep, to boost quantity and quality of sleep. Practise relaxation techniques like breathing deeply and visualisation. Also use this time to reflect on your achievements and productivity.

Effectively managing workplace diversity

The recent Penny Sparrow debacle on social media, followed by the Stellenbosch “black facing” incident, highlights the need for businesses to carefully manage diversity within the workplace. In addition to ensuring sensitivity and respect among employees, diversity must also be wielded as a key business strength.

This is according to Francois Wilbers, MD at Work Dynamics, who says that In the South African landscape, where socio-economic inequalities are rife and ethnic and cultural diversity is ever present, companies often face stern challenges with regards to effective human resource management (HRM).

Rather than viewing diversity and cultural variety as a challenge, organisations can embrace diversity as a platform through which to better understand its diverse stakeholder base.

He adds that as a democracy coming into adulthood, the country’s efficiency levels, leadership conviction, skills development and value systems come under close and often harsh scrutiny.

“These challenges we face as a young democracy, inevitably filter through into the businesses operating within the country and as a result, organisations big and small need to deal with several challenges on a daily basis. Nonetheless, valuing diversity throughout an organisation’s leadership and staff opens up a world of possibility with regards to interacting and engaging with a diverse stakeholder base – as is the case in South Africa.”

Wilbers explains that cultural-driven organisations often tend to outperform others, especially during troublesome economic conditions and says that company-culture is the building block on which the acceptance of diversity within an organisation is based.

“By building a company culture that is accepting of diversity and mutual respect, organisations create a space that is conducive to participation from employees with an alternative viewpoint.”

In order to build a company culture of acceptance, effective HRM is required, says Wilbers.

“Culture defines the accepted way of acting, thinking and interacting with colleagues within a business and an effective HR campaign can assist in defining or even reinventing company culture.”

He points out that in order to change the culture of an organisation, effective research in the form of internal meetings or surveys is essential to first define the current perception of employees regarding the company culture.

“It is advisable for organisations to partner with an independent HR partner to conduct this research to ensure that employees can freely discuss their views and opinions without feeling threatened.”

Wilbers says that secondly, strategic relationship building, internal communication and protocol development is required to filter in a new “collective attitude”.

“Managing change in an organisation is often challenging and businesses must remember that consistence, transparency and effective communication are key elements of success here.”

He highlights the fact that new generations are continuously entering the workplace and therefore culture management must not be viewed as a once-off exercise.

“Continuous assessment of the organisational culture is necessary to ensure that different cultural backgrounds and expectations are constantly being addressed.

“Aside from the business benefits of building a diverse workforce that mirrors and understands the country’s diversity, cultivating a culture of acceptance within an organisation will also do wonders for staff retention and overall employee morale,” concludes Wilbers.

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