LifeXchange

21 Lessons in Management and HR in May

All in one place: Everything we’ve learned in management and HR in May to inform your planning in June and the future

Digital leadership in development. Resilient teams. And balancing mental health with work safety. May 2020 was another landmark month for business in South Africa and the world. It was the month we started going back to work after COVID-19, when everything from economies to our personal resilience was tested. And here are 21 things we learned in management and HR in May 2020.

From 25 May 2020

  • The SA President announced all of South Africa will go to Level 3 lockdown on 1 June 2020. Travel, accommodation, events, personal services and tobacco products are still banned – for what’s now allowed, see here
  • An online survey by Stats SA paints an almost rosy picture of SA’s lockdown, where around 85% of respondents are still employed, earning and looking forward to going back to work, while only 8.1% saw any negative effects – see it here
  • At the same time, a PwC report on CFOs in Africa shows that 89% of company leaders are really worried about their company’s future – see the report

1. IS TEMPORARY EMPLOYMENT THE FUTURE?

With the lockdown disrupting business and, in some cases, forcing staff changes, businesses everywhere had to make some changes. Some businesses who weren’t otherwise allowed to operate innovated and started producing essential-service goods, like masks and safety products. But, even here, there’s likely to be instability in the future as the need for these products change over time. 

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Staffing company Workforce’s Jeandie Leone says that the future could require some businesses having a to look at temporary staffing solutions, to give them the needed flexibility to survive the pandemic and recover.

2. TERS UIF PAYMENT ISSUES? SOME IDEAS TO HELP

After numerous HR managers and business owners indicated that they hadn’t received the official Covid-19 disaster relief scheme’s TERS UIF payments even for April, we created a page with some news and ideas to help you sort out your UIF TERS payments.

3. WHY DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION FAILS

The pandemic forced a lot of business divisions to go online/digital. And HR was no different. But an article in BizCommunity points out that the latest McKinsey research shows that only 20% of digital transformation projects in companies succeded in the last decade. In fact, in 2018, only 16% were successful. The article asks why: If technology is getting better, why are companies struggling to adapt?

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The piece says change is harder than we think. And, one mistake most companies make is to use the tech team to bring in tech changes. But there’s a different way to look at it:

“It’s not the software or the technology, it’s the people who need to use it,” says LifeXchange Solutions’ Dr Cobus Oosthuizen. “I didn’t realise what a big concern just introducing a new piece of software (like point-of-sale) was for companies until one of our clients called us in desperation – they’d just spent so much money on new software and people are just refusing to use it. We had to go in and help them manage the change, so people embrace the tech.”

Do you have any current digital transformation projects on? Not sure how your people will embrace it? Dr Cobus and the team can help. Just ask.

See all the latest exciting & unique HR Software.

4. BALANCE MENTAL HEALTH WITH SAFETY

As people started going back to work, we saw the real toll the pandemic had taken on them. It’s not the same office anymore. Things are different. Everyone’s wearing masks. You can’t get too close to anyone else. Everyone’s kind of awkward and “suspicious” of each other.

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Consultancy Mindworx’s COO Martin Pienaar says it’s important that businesses take into account the mental health of employees as much as the safety aspects of going back to work. See his comment in this post on HR Pulse.

5. INDEMNITY FORM FOR WORKING FROM HOME

This might sound strange, but the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (Neasa) is working on a draft form that indemnifies companies from employees’ COVID-19 risks when they’re working from home. This after experts found wording in the Occupational Health and Safety Act that technically sees the home of any work-from-home employee as the company’s responsibility – meaning the company would be liable if an employee contracted COVID-19 at home.

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6. A RESILIENT HR COVID-19 PLAN

Create a COVID-19 resource guide for staff. Organise an emotional resilience task force in your company. And develop contingency plans for your talent. These are the 3 big steps that employer branding agency Universum recommends for business resilience during and after the pandemic.

From 18 May 2020

  • All online sales except alcohol and tobacco products now allowed – more info
  • Business closures, discussions around lockdown levels, rampant illegal trade and mental health were some of the top-trending topics on social media at the start of this week – see here
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7. WHAT’S GOING ON WITH TERS UIF PAYMENTS?

Last week, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi said in a statement that an additional R221 million in UIF payments had been processed. Noting specifically that the money was paid directly to workers because of the ministry’s shocking contention that there are businesses withholding UIF payments form their employees.

However, we at LifeXchange Solutions have been contacted by a number of HR managers in South Africa who say many of their employees have still not received any payment. Again, some say that a small number of employees have received, others say none.

At 8:00 AM on Monday 18 May 2020, the TERS UIF portal’s reporting function was down and giving server errors, so we couldn’t retrieve an updated “paid” list. And it’s a little worrying that on the same day (18 May) the special TERS UIF portal said that UIF is not yet accepting May 2020 TERS applications, despite the fact that the current turnaround is supposed to be 15 days.

This week, we will devote a little extra time to try and get a little more clarity on this issue.

8. EMPLOYEE BENEFITS AND COVID-19

What if an employee contracts the virus? COVID-19 and the acute respiratory distress it causes should currently be included in most employee benefit schemes. And CGI Group’s Employee Benefits Head Jeremy Hawson says that, while COVID-19 is not classified as a dread disease itself, it can sometimes arguably cause the onset of one, or even be linked to a disability. Read all his insights here.

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9. THE IMPORTANCE OF TRANSPARENT LEADERSHIP

Open communication and transparency from leadership are perhaps more important now that ever. This according to talent search agency Signium Africa’s Michelle Moss. The virus, through its very nature, has forced us to be more open and transparent with employees around health and safety and the future. And it can be a good training ground for making all business comms and processes more transparent in the future. Read her insights here.

10. HIRING AND VIDEO

Business Development Manager at HR consultancy Mindworx says that, with relaxed restrictions on the horizon, there’s a lot of good reason to look to using video when interviewing new candidates. In fact, it might be better. Because you can organise it much faster, still assemble a whole panel for C-suite hiring and the full range of assessment tools still applies – from cognitive to personality tests, they can now all be done online. 

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The only difference with interviewing online is that you miss out on some of the normal social cues you would have picked up in person. So HRs need to be a little more creative in the questions they ask to really get a sense of the person being interviewed.

11. HEALTH AND SAFETY AT THE OFFICE

Control the temperature. Discuss the risks openly. And review all the “touchpoints” in your office – any hot spots where people come into close contact with each other. These are some of the ideas from coworking space The Business Exchange’s CEO David Seinker about ensuring your workplace proactively guards against COVID-19 infections. He also says that, by now, every office should have easily accessible hand sanitizer. And it’s best, he says, to have a zero-tolerance policy about masks: no mask, no entry into the building.

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It’s also important to note that the Department of Employment and Labour recently said that they’ve inspected over 2000 South African business premises since 30 April 2020. And they found that over half of them weren’t compliant with the normal Occupational Health and Safety Act. So be aware, health and safety could become a huge focal point very soon.

From 11 May 2020

12. SAFE STAFF TRANSPORT IN THE SPOTLIGHT

GM of transport company Zeelo (a relative newcomer in SA), Andrew Robarts, noted that SA’s lockdown response to COVID-19 had been meticulous but expressed concerns over the safety of staff using shared transport. Though there are strict rules and regulations for public transport, the main thing, he says, is whether it’s going to be enforced. And he reminds companies that the onus of ensuring safe staff transport probably falls on them.

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13. NEW LINKEDIN HR SUPPORT GROUP

Following the feedback on their weekly webinars, HRworks has created a support group of specifically for HRs on LinkedIn. MD Adria Bulpitt said they’ve invited industry experts onto the platform to help assist members. The group already has over 300 members. And you can join here.

14. MORE IMPORTANT PAYROLL QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Is TERS better than reduce working time UIF? Does the relief fund compensate employees who contract the virus? Following a recent webinar on tax, labour and labour matters during COVID-19, chairman of the Payroll Authors Group of South Africa, Rob Cooper, answered a couple of burning questions around payroll at this time. See his post here.

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15. NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR THE 2ND CHRO AWARDS

On a lighter note, nominations have opened for the CHRO Awards, where you can nominate the Chief HR Officer you believe exemplifies HR excellence. Only the second annual awards of its kind, nominations will be judged by a panel of directors and CEO judges from companies like Nedbank, MTN, Telkom and Servest. See the website here and make your nominations here.

16. PLUS: WATCH OUR CLIFTON STRENGTHS WEBINAR VIDEO

Ideas on improving business performance. Real stats and results. And a special offer for you and a friend or family member. Discover the value, history and research behind Clifton Strengths.


From 4 May 2020

17. (MUCH OF) SA RETURNS TO WORK AT LEVEL 4

On 1 May 2020, South Africa moved to Level 4 in the country’s risk-adjusted phasing out of complete COVID-19 lockdown. This means that numerous industries are returning to work this week, including retail stores, agriculture, forestry, mining, financial and professional services, postal and telecommunications, IT services and waste recycling.

18. PREPARING FOR A SAFE RETURN TO WORK

In many cases, Level 4 does not mean a 100% return to normal. Apart from the national Level of lockdown, provinces will have their own alert levels, depending on the provincial risk of transmission and economic impact of the industry. (Note: The provincial levels have not been announced yet, but it should come soon.)

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So, if you’re active in multiple provinces, you can expect a different level of activity in some provinces, which can complicate things. And, on top of this, employers are expected to take full responsibility for their COVID-19 risk management, which means there’s a lot to take into account. From phased returns to continuing work from home, purchasing cloth masks, sanitation and even having a plan in place to test and quarantine employees who show symptoms at work.

On this topic, there’s a very thorough high-level look at what you need to know by various writers on BizCommunity, as well as a more access-control and workspace related view at HR Pulse.

19. LEGAL PREPAREDNESS AMID COVID-19

One thing’s for sure, COVID-19 is forcing a whole lot of changes that we don’t really have a legal framework for. And that’s why labour law expert Ivan Israelstam recommends companies have their rules reviewed by a legal team heading back to work. Although government’s requirements initially seem clear-cut, he notes there are complexities that could arise – for example, if the employer is responsible to ensure everyone’s safety and, say, one employee absentmindedly gives a colleague a hug or doesn’t sneeze into the crook of their arm, the employer must show due diligence and address the issue. Yet, due to the sensitive nature of the current environment, you don’t want that action to seem punitive.

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In this case, Isrealstam says the best reference will come from case law, which is why you need the legal input from the outset. See more here.

At the same time, it looks like COVID-19 will still claim many jobs – initial business casualties include Associated Media Publishers who published CosmopolitanHouse & LeisureGood Housekeeping etc. closed its doors last week. And Edcon, SA’s largest non-food announced it’s going under business rescue. Which is why Fadia Arnold of Schoeman’s Law recommends that employers prepare for labour disputes and claims. See it here.

20. CALCULATING EMPLOYEES’ COVID-19 TIERS UIF BENEFITS

South Africa has reportedly paid out over R3.3 billion in UIF benefits since 27 April 2020. The bulk of these being from government’s TIERS temporary employee/employer relief scheme – see more in our guide to COVID-19 for HR. This represents relief for millions of employees, but government noted that tens of thousands of application by employers on behalf of employees could not be paid due to errors – affected companies have been notified and granted a chance to reapply.

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One thing to be very sure of is your calculation of the benefits you’re applying for an employee. You have to calculate the employee’s daily income rate, see which income replacement rate they qualify for and then use that to calculate the right benefit amount. There’s a super handy guide to doing this here.

21. STRENGTHS-BASED DEVELOPMENT

By now, thanks to science, we know that there’s more to employee motivation and engagement than we might have thought in the past. So we’re all introducing progressive ideas to reach and involve people in our companies. Still, research shows that only a shockingly low 16% of employees are engaged in their jobs and that engaging the rest will yield remarkable productivity and growth. But how?

As he detailed in his webinar on creating a high-performance company culture, behavioural expert Dr Cobus Oosthuizen shows that there are four components to achieving amazing productivity, and one extremely important focus point is your systems and processes.

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In fact, we at LifeXchange Solutions believe that one worthwhile alternative is developing your team’s strengths. It’s a new way of thinking about people and physically managing your organisation. And we’d love for you to discover more. See what are strengths, the complete list of 34 Clifton Strengths and our own unique brand of strengths-based development.


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