All in one place: Everything we’ve learned in management and HR in April to inform your planning in May and the future
Disaster relief tax measures. A new working landscape. And what employees need most from their managers. April 2020 was a landmark month for business in South Africa and the world. It was the month we all stayed home. When everything from economies to our personal resilience was tested. And here are 26 things we learned in management and HR in April 2020.
FROM 27 APRIL 2020
1. LEVEL 4 AND BEYOND: HOW SAFE ARE OUR TEAMS REALLY?
Many industries were to return to work from 1 May 2020 under SA’s Level 4 tiered easing of CVOID-19 lockdown. And disinfectants manufacturer Biodx’s CEO Burt Rodriques reminded us that as we’ve seen in China, for those returning to the office, your health and safety are now more important than ever. Because, should there be a new COVID-19 outbreak in your company, you could get shut down again.
We were urged to think about how you’re going to sanitise people coming off public transport, whether your sanitary supplies are certified for COVID-19 and do you have enough stock? Also, are your people properly trained in best-practice sanitising methods and do they understand their role in disinfecting themselves and their workspaces? Are you equipped to test all your staff for infection, probably regularly?
2. WHO’S ALLOWED TO OPERATE IN LEVEL 4?
Government’s Level 4 had a few interesting general rules: everyone has to wear a face mask (or wrapped scarf or cloth) outside of their home, no one’s allowed out between 20:00 and 5:00 and people can exercise a little and buy only a select few things from stores.
Only retailers selling specific goods can operate, and only large public works construction can commence. Utilities supply companies, telecoms, media, some call centres and essential financial services, private security, mining, emergency repairs and manufacturing and supply chain are allowed to go back to work. See a full list here.
3. NEW TAX MEASURES TO HELP BUSINESSES STAY AFLOAT
At the end of April, the National Treasury announced additional tax relief to the tune of R70 billion as part of the Draft Disaster Management Tax Relief Bill. This includes a 4-month holiday on skills development levies, fast-tracked VAT refunds, and increasing the Expanded Employment Tax Incentive amount from R500 per employee to R750pm.
This along with a few individual tax benefits for employees. See the full report here.
4. IT’S TIME TO EMBRACE NEW IDEAS
Wits lecturer and Cranfield School of Management programme director Dominik Heil reminded us that no one really knows what will still happen as the global pandemic unfolds – in fact, he says the best we have are estimates based on assumptions. And, if crises of the past taught us anything, it’s that the businesses who survive will be the ones who are able to quickly adapt to new ideas.
But how do you that strategically? Heil suggests going back to your shiny mission and vision statements. Do they truly reflect who you are and what your business is here to do on earth? Your vision is more than PR, it’s the very fabric and DNA of your company. See his article here.
By the way, creating a clear and active company vision is one of the new services that LifeXchange Solutions have been working on over the last few months (in fact, we have a few case studies already, if you’re interested). So, if you need some guidance, let us know.
5. WHAT EMPLOYEES NEED FROM MANAGEMENT IN A CRISIS
Strategic consulting and tech firm Accenture’s Markus Gschwari said that their research gives some guidance on what employees needed from managers during the global pandemic. It’s almost like a pyramid of needs. First, there are physical needs of health, safety and to feel empowered to keep their families safe. Then mentally, people need managers to understand they need the flexibility to work differently right now – working from home might be difficult with frustrated children around.
Third comes the need for connection – we’re all little disconnected right now, but people need to feel like they’re still part of something big and worthwhile. But Gschwari sums it all up under the big need for trust. People need to know that management has a plan and that their needs are being taken into account. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. We’ve always maintained trust is at the core of every thriving business – see our collective on workplace trust.
6. ABOUT THAT LEAKED LOCKDOWN DOCUMENT
Just before the president’s speech announcing Level 4, News 24 reported on a leaked document that outlined how it would all work. CHRO gave even more insight into what was in the document, including a frightening prediction that the tourism, arts and aviation industries might only be able to pay some 5% of its workforce, construction only 15% and something like 45% of large and 65% of small businesses could fail if the lockdown is extended into May.
The jury’s still out on whether Government’s levelled phasing out mechanic will be able to prevent that if you consider that most of those industries can still not go to work under Level 4. But it’s worth mentioning that government said it was an old copy of the document that leaked, and they’ve updated it since. So let’s hope for the best.
7. IF EVER WE NEEDED CHANGE MANAGEMENT, NOW’S THE TIME
If one thing is becoming clear by now, it’s that business is not quite going back to usual any time soon. While many companies and employees could deal with the idea of things changing for a few weeks, there’s the new reality that it could take a lot longer than that.
Not to mention the chance that your business might never be the same again. It’s time to adapt, and you can do it. But as we all know, change can be hard for teams. Adapting to new software, a new way of working, under a new strategy – these things are hard for people, but they’re not insurmountable.
If you don’t know, we at LifeXchange Solutions specialise in change management. And we do it in a unique way: We combine the best and latest in neuroscience with behavioural psychology and NLP to really understand and drive change in a way that makes sense and feels comfortable for people. Have a look at our management and organisational solutions.
FROM 20 APRIL 2020
8. NEW SURVEYS: LEAVE, PAY AND WHAT SOUTH AFRICANS ARE THINKING
In a series of snap surveys by remuneration company 21st Century, we learned that South Africans are quite divided over the issue of leave during COVID-19 lockdown. 50% are for using annual leave and 50% against it. And we’ve seen that many SA companies are offering full pay to employees working from home – but not for those who can’t work at all. It seems that a few are considering pay cuts among senior management at the moment.
And then, customer engagement company Consulta ran its own separate survey on the opinions of South African employees on how their employers are handling the pandemic and lockdown. Among about 1000 participants, 70% say they are able to continue working from home, although 50% expect their income to decline during lockdown.
60% feel their employers are doing a good job in putting in the necessary safety measures, while 27% say their employers are not providing them with the tools to work remotely. Importantly, some 40% say they feel a need to stay more connected with their employer and colleagues. See loads more interesting opinion results here.
9. UP TO 35% SABPP MEMBERSHIP DISCOUNTS
You can get a discount on annual memberships to South Africa’s professional body for HR practices, the South African Board of People’s Practices (SABPP). Existing members qualify for 5% discount and new registrations get a whopping 35% off, but only if you renew, apply and pay before 31 May 2020. The discount notices appeared recently on the SABPP website.
10. TAX RELIEF DURING COVID-19
According to the draft disaster tax relief bill (which is in effect from 1 April, though it’s not officially approved yet), private sectors companies could be able to claim up to R1500 (plus a bonus R500 per month for April–July) tax relief for employees between 18 and 29 who earn under R6500 per month. SMEs could also pay only 80% of their employee tax (PAYE) for April–July and can pay a portion of their provisional tax for 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 with no interest or penalties.
And even some donations will be exempt from donations tax. See more on this by Baker Mckenzie’s Jana Botha.
11. RECRUITMENT WAS SLOW BUT STILL HAPPENING DURING LOCKDOWN
Jobs portal CareerJunction noted the recruitment has dropped by some 28% since lockdown. And, while it was expected, the drop-off doesn’t seem all that much. For those still hiring, Sage Africa VP Matthew Kibby suggests keeping safety in mind by promoting internally, doing virtual interviews and onboarding and even using AI or specialist recruiters to secure talent during COVID-19.
12. HOW IS WORKING FROM HOME CHANGING THE SA WORK LANDSCAPE?
More importantly, will it become the new normal way of doing business in SA? These are important questions as we go into the final two weeks of lockdown, because we’ve learnt by now that life doesn’t just go back to normal after quarantine.
In China, 3 months after the coronavirus outbreak, people are now going back to a very different work environment. Reports say there are strict measures in place: no more crammed lifts, lobbies and cafeterias, most employees work in shifts to minimise the number of people on the floor, everyone wears masks and gets scanned with infrared scanners. Entire offices also get disinfected multiple times daily. And in some places, even these measures have failed, with new lockdowns initiated.
You can’t help but wonder if South African businesses are going to fork out all the money to employ the same safety precautions, or whether it will look more attractive to keep working from home.
Some believe we’re seeing a moment of huge change in SA. African research and analysis firm In On Africa predicts that those companies who adjust well to working from home and adopt technologies early could gain a 120% profit gain over their competitors.
NISSI: Human Capital Solutions founder Nomihlali Ntsunguzi says we’ll start seeing the difference when companies who didn’t keep up with change go back to work – will employees even remember what they were working on before lockdown? She also believes that a work-from-home strategy is naturally more inclusive and that it emphasises a need for strong company culture.
PS: Have you seen our video on creating a high-performance company culture?
13. PLUS: HOW’RE YOUR MANAGERS DOING?
With the current focus mainly on employees and the larger business side of things, it might pay to take a look at how managers (those who’ve had to keep it all together) are faring during COVID-19. They’ve directly had to deal with huge changes in daily operations (working from home, shutdowns), loads of extra pressure and the emotional toll the pandemic is taking on people.
Maybe now’s a good time to ask whether you’ve done enough to equip them with the holistic skills necessary to thrive in a crisis. If you haven’t done so already, consider exploring some more advanced, science-based management training.
FROM 15 APRIL 2020
14. HOW SA RESPONDED TO EXTENDED LOCKDOWN
In mid-April, SA President Cyril Ramaphosa officially extended the COVID-19 lockdown until the end of April (assumed resume of business at beginning May). This amid reports of deepening financial worries and even more on potential retrenchment, while reports said few companies had actually applied for Government’s relief funds.
There were also new worries over increased security risks as more employees work from home in those companies that can still continue operations. And a professor specialising in analysis and trend prediction made some good points in asking whether lockdown is actually right for South Africa.
15. CONSCIOUS CONTRACTS COMES TO SA
It’s no secret that the pandemic is exposing a whole host of the problems with our current economic and political structures – if halting production for a short time to save human lives so greatly threatens our entire system, you know there’s something amiss. And, of course, all of that has trickled down into our companies.
If anything, one hopes the pandemic will shift our focus back to more conscious business, which is a big part of what LifeXchange Solutions stands for – see our progressive organisational solutions.
And one movement that we’re extremely excited about is a new way of thinking about and executing contracts. Financial indexes show that “conscious businesses” perform 10x better than their peers, and they have better relationships with employees and stakeholders. That’s why we want you to see the video below and check out our feature on conscious contracts.
WATCH: A NEW WAY OF DOING CONTRACTS
15. SPOTLIGHT ON EMPLOYEE MENTAL AND FINANCIAL WELL-BEING
The news that SA is extending its lockdown hit pretty hard. And now a new University of Johannesburg report on employer response to COVID-19 shows that only 20% of companies that have ceased operations actually applied for government’s C19 TERS relief fund for employee wages – urging Government to broaden access to the fund as well as its UIF relief fund.
At the same time, CE and founder of financial advisory group deVerve, Nigel Green, reminds employers of the importance of giving employees access to financial advice, saying it needn’t cost the organisation anything and can be seen as part of your staff’s benefits package.
In fact, in the current financially-uncertain climate some are even exploring the possibilities of cutting executive pay to relieve pressure on the workforce. And others reminding employers of the importance of keeping their brand in good standing with employee perceptions.
16. R30 BILLION IN UIF RELIEF FOR EMPLOYEES
For those whose people were losing income, Government made available some R30bn through its UIF relief fund – see how to access it here. The amount of benefit is based on a sliding scale between 34% and 60% of earnings and the monthly minimum is reportedly in line with the national minimum wage.
Also, Barker Mackenzie’s Johan Botes provides some insights into the various employer options during COVID-19.
17. IT’S TIME TO LISTEN TO YOUR PEOPLE
With everything that was going on in South Africa in April, Kristine Da Silva from HR Company Solutions reminded employers of the importance of allowing employees to innovate. Amid job insecurity fears and alternative ways to work, your staff are likely best suited to come up with new solutions in their activities, so create systems that allow that to happen.
PS: If this is not something you’ve done before, LifeXchange Solutions can help – they’re a change-management company that uses neuro- and behavioural science to redesign your company’s systems so they’re scientifically more sound and resilient. See their neuromanagement and strengths coaching in SA.
18. HELPFUL STRESS-MANAGEMENT TIPS
The founder of women’s boardroom empowerment initiative Beyond The Dress, Lori Milner, led a discussion among various HR leaders. And out of it distilled her 5 lessons for managing stress when working remotely during this time: Set boundaries, make time for yourself, focus on what you need “to be” instead of the to-do list, don’t let your inbox rule your life, and try to actively manage your state of mind – see them in more detail here.
PS: If you look at how your brain works, a lot of those points make sense. In fact, focusing on how you need “to be” instead of what to do is something NLP and behavioural expert Dr Cobus Oosthuizen puts forward in his advanced methods for success – see this podcast on the power of knowing who you need to be.
19. OPTIMISM IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
With fears running high around the pandemic and economy in April, Popcorn Training’s Anne Collard offers some advice on finding optimism in such times, emphasising the possibilities of digital work and focusing on creativity.
PS: In the same vein, it’s worth noting that LifeXchange Solutions’ Dr Cobus Oosthuizen has been telling us how powerful managing our thoughts can be for years. If you want to see some amazing things that give hope in this time, check out this proof you can rewire your brain for success and see the full story behind this remarkable backwards brain bike video:
WATCH: THIS IS HOW POWERFUL YOUR BRAIN IS
20. PLUS: A FOCUS ON RESILIENCE
In case you haven’t noticed, a large part of the challenges we’re facing today revolve around how individuals respond to challenges in this time of crisis. And, in the world of psychology, we’ve known for decades that the key to health and prosperity lies in that very thing: developing how people respond in a crisis.
It’s called resilience. And it’s not abstract or magic, it’s an important skill and function that you can develop in people, so they’re better equipped to help your business manage challenges better. Check out our focus on resilience theory.
FROM 5 APRIL 2020
21. SIGNS THAT LOCKDOWN WOULDN’T END SOON
At the start of April, we were all still under the impression that SA’s COVID-19 lockdown would end on 17 April 2020. But there were signs it wasn’t going to happen – according to BusinessTech, a management consultant group cited papers predicting SA to only recover in June or August.
This while Netcare South Africa also expressed concerns about whether the time is actually enough and both the deputy minister of police Cassel Mathale and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize expressed concerns that life might not go back to normal after our 21-day lockdown.
To help HR and managers cope and remain prepared, we’ve compiled a list of helpful resources and updates specifically on managing COVID-19 for HR.
22. SHOULD EMPLOYERS DOCK ANNUAL LEAVE DURING LOCKDOWN?
Employers are well within their rights to dock annual leave from employees during SA’s 21-day COVID-19 lockdown, according to the interpretation of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).
But the Department of Labour has requested that employers consider alternatives, urging they don’t force annual leave on employees but rather make use of their emergency Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), according to a post on CHRO South Africa.
23. A DEDICATED ONLINE HR LEGISLATIVE RESOURCE FOR LOCKDOWN
While Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi urged businesses to stay within the law during lockdown, as reported by Biz Community, there are already loads of reports of potential retrenchments in the media, including thousands of jobs at retailer Edcon, according to HR Pulse who also published a post on alternatives to retrenchment as others urge employers consider, if anything, demotion over retrenchment.
It’s clear that businesses are severely affected and already panicky. And that’s when a dedicated online resource containing all the latest COVID-19 workplace documentation and all updated legislation becomes vital. Find one right by HR Works.
See more resources in our compilation on COVID-19 for HR.
24. FOCUSING ON PEOPLE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAT EVER
While SA’s focused on “flattening the curve” and business on the economic impact of COVID-19, Decision Inc’s group HR executive Tarryn Swemmer says it pays for managers and HR to keep in mind the human impact of the pandemic. “As managers, we should keep our focus on enabling three major success factors in our teams – productivity, collaboration, and engagement.”
25. NEW MANDATORY COURSE FOR SENIOR MANAGERS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
In April, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu announced that, after 31 March 2020, applying for a senior management position in the public sector will first need to complete a new mandatory course with the National School of Government called the Certificate of Entry to Senior Management Services.
26. PLUS: A FOCUS ON MENTORING
If the current lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that businesses need their people to support each other. And what better way to make this a permanent in your company than by investing in mentoring in the workplace.
Discover the benefits of mentoring at work, look out for our upcoming webinar on mentoring (more info soon) and discover our neuroscience-based mentoring training. Plus: Watch our discussion around mentoring vs coaching.
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