Articles

Flexible working time concept

It is almost 50 years since Christel Kammerer invented flexible working time concept. With the rapid pace other management concepts have been adopted, it is quite perplexing to note the slow up take of flexible working time in our region. Maybe the answer lies in our pace of industrialisation. Flexible time or flexi-time refers to variations in starting and finishing times but assumes that a constant number of working hours are worked each day. Flexi-time is meant to benefit both employees and organisations.

Its application by countries has varied because there is no one size fits all schedule as the concept allows employees to customise their working hours. For example in Australia, flexi-time refers to accumulated overtime hours that an employee can build up and exchange for the equivalent amount of time off. In Florida, employees considered flexi workers are salaried but exempted from insurance regulations and are given a broad leeway to settle their own work schedule.

However coming closer home, flexi-time may mean flexible work arrangements which help employees to manage either their work life demands, time spent trying to get to work or may be used to manage costs by organisations. The concept was once introduced in Zimbabwe some time back when one group of employees was required to start work at 9.00 am finishing an hour later compared to their counterparts. Our financial and telecommunications industries have adopted this concept well. Sales representatives have flexible work schedules and are remuneration based on targets met.

Currently, as a nation we face unprecedented traffic challenges, resulting in loss of productive time. Those able to get to work on time have to forgo resting time by waking up earlier than usual. These challenges have taken a great toll on parents who have to drop off and pick up kids at school. A trip that would normally be done during lunch break may now need two hours. When employees are always in a rush, agitation and fatigue kicks in. Could flexi-time address these challenges?

Notably, the developmental sector has also embraced this concept as used in Australia. Their staff work longer hours per day so that on Fridays staff leave early to attend to their social life as well as avoid traffic jams. The time has also been allocated for social games hence providing the needed work life balance. Where business travel happens over the weekend, they are usually allowed time off in lieu of the travelled time. Consultancy work is a prevalent flexi working strategy and is common in this sector. The flexibility is extended to the place of work too.

Digital technology can be used to enable employees to work from anywhere and anytime. Organisations can create group platforms that allow contributions by group members hence taking away the need to be working within regular working schedules and from the office . Using your local area networks your employees can easily access global group information anytime. The use of flexing makes employees happy, engaged and productive. Unplanned disruptive absences are reduced as employees do not call in at the last minute. There are also less claims on overtime and the system also carters for parents who may want to work from home in order to also take care of their children. The flip side to flexi- working involves the upsurge in utility costs, especially in the manufacturing sector since the plant is open for longer periods of time. Also the managing of the work schedules may pose serious challenges. In the services sector, flexi-time may cause serious confusion in the whole business chain as schedules of delivery may be affected. The Administration of the system may make demands on HR departments by creating additional workloads. Lack of supervision is likely as employees work those non-traditional hours. They also interfere with inter office communication and often compels organisations to implement sophisticated time recoding systems that monitor employee scheduling and punctuality.

Undoubtedly, team work occurs almost without effort were staff interact and spend time together. Organisational culture is also ingrained in such a set up. Flexi-time may take away this family sense in employees.

It is important to conduct due diligence before adopting flexi time. Once adopted, strong administration systems have to be implemented for it to be successful to avoid expenses and pitfalls highlighted above. The work schedules must meet the business needs and accommodate your staff. Extensive communication will assist in achieving the afore-mentioned. Policies and procedures have to be developed to support flexi-work schedules. Employees should not be given a carte blanche to work whenever they want. It should be a system that enables staff to work their lives around work without sacrificing work productivity.

This trend will definitely continue across countries and organisations as work is no longer confined to a particular time period and place but is now viewed as an activity to meet organisational goals. A good start for our local case is perhaps to consider flexi-starting and finishing hours as a way to manage the outside challenges that are negatively impacting businesses.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Competence building tools besides training

This week’s article is about coaching and mentoring as competence building tools in organisations. It is important to realise that training is not the only tool to improve or promote employee learning and development.

Organisations may get confused about the difference between coaching and mentoring. Although the purpose and process of each are different, there are overlaps. Coaching provides specific feedback and can be used within mentoring. Mentoring on the other hand, tends to be more holistic in that it develops the whole individual. It is far more personal and relationship based.  A mentor focuses on the mentee’s longer term personal development. The relationship is never formally evaluated nor only connected to the job advancement but rather to one’s personal improvement. It’s more of a collaborative approach. Both tools include offering guidance, advice, encouragement and training.

Fundamentally, there is a price in mentoring. It is a generous gift that organisations can typically use and will repay in kind over time when the mentee in turn becomes a mentor. Inherently the capacity of mentoring is amplified by embedding values such as respect, generosity and contribution in the corporate culture.

Coaching focuses on offering solutions to immediate problems and learning opportunities while mentoring offers long term development. The role of the coach is more on informing and offering appropriate feedback while mentoring focuses on interaction, behavioural role modelling and making suggestions and corrections. No doubt as a competence building tool, coaching allows for “just in time learning” and that learning is usually administered in small doses hence positively impacting on the change needed. So evidently, one addresses short term needs while mentoring focuses on longer term development.

These competence building tools though a low cost option for skills development are an overlooked aspect for workplace learning. Although coaching and mentoring have informally and unintentionally gone on in organisations as employees help each other; “Has your organisation established a formal means of harnessing the knowledge of their more experienced managers and staff?’’ Mentoring allows transfer of knowledge, experiences and insights on business management. It is key therefore, for aspiring executives to have a mentor.

I therefore highly recommend the establishment of mentoring and coaching programmes in the workplace. Such programs are built through thoughtful planning. The first step is to define the objective of the programme. Is it developing the next leadership, retaining staff or addressing a need? The next step is pairing the mentor/coach and mentee/coachee. The organisation can make efforts in coming with up with a selection criteria bearing in mind that it is an art more than a science. The existing relationships, organisational culture and desired outcomes will guide this process. Mentoring relationships maybe set up between individual and the responsible manager. But lets us not be limited in our scope. Establishing mentoring relationships between people from different functions of the organisation brings in greater understanding and improves cross functional communication.

Communication has to be part of it, from beginning to end. Both parties should know their roles, expected outcomes, processes and training to be conducted. Consequently, it helps in building commitment. This gives a clear structured workflow. More importantly, the programs should be flexible to allow and support varying individual needs, learning capabilities and demands from current responsibilities. Finally evaluation will wrap it up. Always remember that what gets measured, gets done!

Because of less cost associated with these tools and their ability to change culture easily, organisations need to embrace both coaching and mentoring programs as essential business components. The usage and adoption of these methods offers organisations myriads of benefits as discussed earlier. In addition mentoring and coaching enhanced business performance, attraction and retention of best employees. My experience has shown that the presence or absence of such programs means more than money to a decision to accept a job offer or to remain with an organisation.

These programs offer not only professional growth but confidence to handle new situations and manage change. They also boost self-esteem, job satisfaction and ultimately promote loyalty. Where organisations facilitate mentoring programs usually collegiate groups are built which are more willing to share their experience. Team work becomes the order of the day.

As organisations embark on success planning imperatives, usage of mentoring helps in leadership development. They provide a better basis for promotion and setting up high potential individuals on the fast career traction.

The Harvard Business Review in 1978 had a front page that declared, “Everyone who makes it has a mentor.’’ Facilitating learning is not merely dictating rules and providing resources but through mentoring and coaching we impart knowledge and support employees. The broader impact of mentoring is invaluable in today’s environments and jobs that are fluid and dynamic. These tools develop a set of competence skills that go beyond the day to day needs to complete job tasks. Now that organisations are seeking employee retention, productivity, adaptability, job satisfaction, improved morale and pride, organisations need to seriously consider formally embracing these competence building tools if they are to remain relevant.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Managing millennials

In this week’s article we share some information about the young and old generation of employees and how to get maximum value from them. Millennial is a name given to a generation also known as the Generation Y, whose dates of birth are generally between 1982 and 2000. Millennials are that employee category that is growing in the workplace as baby boomers retire and Generation X grow older. Baby boomers and Generation X are those people born roughly from the late ’40s to the early ’60s and from the late ’60s to the late ’70s respectively. These brag over their strengths as organisational memory, optimism and willingness to work long hours.

Rapid technological advancements have had a huge impact on culture. Has this impact been greatest on a certain generational demographic cohort? Millennials are said to have a drastically different outlook on what they expect from their employers. Character wise they are known to be very educated, self-confident, tech-savvy, energetic and can multi task. These strengths can arguably make them more adaptable to change than the preceding generations. Organisations should take advantage of these strengths. When embarking on change it may pay off to include employees of this generation in such projects’ implementation structures.

Millennials’ electronic literacy may be used to advance business communication to both internal and external stakeholders. Millennials are also known to incorporate characteristics into new products that appeal to customers of their generation who now also form the largest population of customers.

They also prefer team work rather than working as individuals, so structuring your staff in a way that relies on inter-departmental synergies would see millennials thrive in organisations. Work-life balance and social interaction is of utmost importance to them. Therefore, they value organisations that provide information, facilities and programs for staff wellness.

There is a huge perception that millennials change how work gets done. According to Leigh Buchanan, their social mindset is a significant factor. Besides their capabilities in digital communication, they are primed to do well by doing good. They are renowned for their creativity and experience with search engines and wanting to work on new and tough problems. They are also known for wanting to be given feedback, so formulating a framework of feedback is imperative when managing millennials. One writer mentioned that there is no need for holding feedback to millennials, using few accolades like “good job” makes them blissful. Additionally because of their high levels of energy, they always want to know of their career opportunities and want to be involved in corporate social responsibility roles for visibility.

Having said the above, is there a substitute for time? JMJ Phillip Executive Search   said, ‘hiring a millennial with an MBA to replace the baby boomer with experience is misplaced. It does not   necessarily work that way! Have baby boomers that have been there and have done it in life to mentor and coach a young team.’ These tend to bring different perspectives to issues. When a bunch of people who have the same background get together, it can start to sound like an echo chamber as these see the world from the same lens and fresh ideas are unlikely.

Millenials are becoming the largest population in the workplace and as baby boomers retire, leadership roles can only be filled from the bottom. Millenials are more likely to push for diversity and inclusion than previous generations. Age should largely be considered an important element for diversity. Research has shown that organisations with a mix of generations in leadership roles have been able to weather challenges posed by incessant rapid changes in the operating environment. Though boomers are less likely to be well versed in the latest technology their inherent experience is unprecedented. Millennials are more likely to value and be loyal to companies with diverse management teams. This diversity takes all sorts of forms such as race, age, religion etc. They are also keen on seeking out diverse clients.

Millennials are said to be more flexible and have therefore been transforming the workplace for the last decade. They do not put much value in strict protocol and dress codes. Their focus is on the end results. Would it then help for organisations through leaders to consider flexi time, flexi place and less strict dress codes?

Leadership may invest in communication skills development for younger generations. The importance of effective communication in business may never be over-emphasised. This will further promote their interpersonal prominent characteristic in key areas such as active listening, body language, conflict resolution, negotiations and ultimately team building.    

The question is, will they preserve the fore mentioned characteristics. As they take up leadership roles they may adopt some of their predecessors’ characteristics to push organisations further. Inter-generational workforces were said to have a myriad of benefits and organisations that consider age as a detriment are missing out on the benefits of diversity. As leaders let as continue to mentor younger generations and always bear in mind that diversity hiring or promotions into leadership positions is more strategic.

Does your corporate culture accommodate or encourage Millennials to excel?

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Causes and management of stress at work

Stress is perceived as pressure from the environment which makes a strain within a person. It is the result of the interaction between a situation and an individual which has both psychological and physical effects. Stress is also viewed as a normal reaction that comes from a human being. Bodies are built to experience this for a short time in response to various stimuli. Extra stress hormones and adrenaline are released to help the body when faced with perceived threat. But when these hormones activation gets longer the chemical change wreaks havoc on one’s body whose effect can be detrimental to one’s health and organisations’ success.

The most common stressors today are in the workplace. Employees face an array of demands from strict deadlines, dynamic environments; making ends meets and juggling family life.

As leaders, we may think all is well with our teams but a closer look at some of the manifestations may show signs of work related stress. These include feelings (such as fatigue, anxiety, depression), weak mental capacity (memory loss, difficulty in concentration, problem solving) and physical symptoms (difficulty in breathing, palpitations, headaches etc.). If stress persists it may lead to mental and physical ill health. Staff behaving in uncharacteristically depicting ways like snapping at the boss, or crying over the things they would not normally do, signs of being overly emotional, edgy and highly irritable may be symptoms of stress. While some can even get to the point of missing their lunch break in pursuance of work the effects can be detrimental. Usually, work related mishaps are translated to the family resulting in serious conflicts simply because the relationship between work and family life is likened to a circle. When you are happier at home you perform better at work and when you perform better at work you are more pleasant at home. Employees may however fail to control the circle as proposed especially when they feel beholden to the demands of their employment.

Jeffrey Pfeiffer a guru in management addresses the drivers of stress in a work environment as having negative impact on human health. He cited work overload, overtime, skills underutilisation, limited resources, understaffing, organisational justice and climate, poor working environment as common stressors in the work place. Pfeiffer says that employees are only human and have a life outside work which equally competes for their attention. We have an obligation as the leadership to ensure work demands do not overly affect the social life of employees. Today, long working hours have become the norm for successful employees interested in advancing their careers. They may be a status symbol and have become inevitable in certain roles. As such employees drench themselves under pressure to signal how valuable they are or simply to get their work done; these long working hours have become synonymous with successful careers.

When an employee is dealing with looming work deadlines, difficult work relationships, family problems or bereavement, the body switches to the emergency stress response mode. To counter such workplace and personal ordeals, managers have many strategies they can employ to reduce stress levels in teams. There are more compelling reasons to understand and eradicate the causes of stress in any organisation than pretend its non-existence. Good management practice includes assessing the risk of stress among employees. Management interventions to reduce stress may take two approaches, organisational and individual. Organisational structures affect work relationships, workload (both overload & underload) and how change programme will be managed. Organisational culture may be a main stressor in the workplace. Leadership that is critical, unsupportive, and unresponsive or has bullying tendencies may actually cause more stress to employees. When organisations have open and effective communication channels, organisational stress may be nabbed in the bud. As leaders let us be drivers of organisations’ visions by providing enabling environments and resources necessary for employees to excel in their work.

It is important to note that individuals differ in their risk of experiencing stress and their vulnerability to the adverse effects of stress. Employees need to ensure healthy eating while exercising regularly, these are well known to reduce stress levels. It explains why organisations that provide robust staff wellness programmes have happier employees. Employees may be trained on how to manage organisational stress .The best safeguard against organisational stress is to build employee resilience   through developing their capacities to face, adapt and cope with challenges at work and at home. Learning how to increase resilience and deal well with stress could be an employee most important lesson in life.

William James said,” The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.’ This article has come out of the realisation that the old covenant between employer and employee wherein companies used to offer job security in exchange of adequate performance and exhibition of loyalty has evolved. It’s now also the role of the employee to manage their own careers showing commitment to both the company and their homes. As leaders therefore, our role is to support this commitment.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Current nature of employment relations

At the heart of most effective professional organisations are a handful of best practices for managing the professional intellect. As leaders  recruiting  the best  is a leverage  of intellect that is so great  that  a few topflight  professionals can create  a successful organisation or even make a lesser one flourish. It is however uncontroversial that, employment relationships between employer and employee are of profound economic significance. The way labour is managed determines its welfare and productivity. What is controversial is how best can labour be managed to produce the best.

Premised on the above, organisational leadership constantly has to answer questions like, ‘How can businesses invest and receive the greatest return on intellectual capital to accomplish the organisation’s mission?’ Intellectual capital comprises of  the competence which has to be found in all employees in order to deliver. However, competence is not sufficient on its own, but there is need for employee commitment as well. With competent and committed employees, an organisation has all it takes to being successful. Securing employee commitment means leaders have to involve the employees’ emotional energy and attention. As organisations move with speed and adapt quickly, they have to ensure that at the same time they promote and uphold good employment relations. Such institutions strive to offer work environments that promote communication and working with others to get jobs done. Commitment is reflected in how employees relate to each other as well as to the firm through the leadership. Is it important then to effectively manage the employees’ emotions to avoid increases in stress and burnout? To replace burnout with commitment leadership need to learn to share information as well as treating these employees as valuable assets.

The benefits of harmonious employment relations can never be overemphasised. With high morale and commitment levels, employees feel their interests coincide with those of management and this ensures continuity of production. Studies have also proven that such employees minimise wastage of resources and therefore seek to continuously improve efficiency. One scholarly article says, people-problems such as low morale and commitment are a matter of individual attitudes. Industrial relations revolve around the relationship between actors in an institution and reflect the different disciplinary rules.

The question which the leadership in any organisation should be asking from time to time is are we managing our intellect productively in order to get the best out of your employees. It has often been alleged that, in the case of Zimbabwe where unemployment is so high employers are not necessarily concerned about building employee commitment as much as they would if conditions in the economy were more stable. According to this line of thinking employees in such a situation find themselves being subjected to serious industrial relations challenges which include an assortment of unfair labour practices which include unfair dismissal and suspensions. Needless to say that such practices are counter productive and will not help the organisation to get maximum value from its employees.

Promoting good employment relations involves committing to resolving problems that may arise from situations at work. As leadership we need to appreciate that employment relations play a crucial role in establishing and maintaining industrial relations democracy much needed for the sustainable growth of the business and the economy. As leadership, we should never lose our objectivity and continue to build strong committed teams. Let us always be mindful that industrial relations do not subscribe to frivolous assumptions but always subscribe to the truth and facts.

While industrial relations that prevail in a society is a subsystem of the social systems, It is on the same logical plane as an economic system. Thus indiscriminate firing of employees should not be the panacea .Despite the odds, we should always learn to appreciate the diverse values, ideologies and frame of reference of employees and be guided accordingly.

What has become of that dual approach that works towards what is best for the individual and the organisation? An even playing field yields positive results to both parties. It is our role as the leadership to depersonalise conflict. We need to take out the sting out of intellectual disagreements that turn personal. It is our role to understand cognitive preferences so that we manage conflict productively. Always realise that the other person’s approach is not wrongheaded and stubborn but merely predictable differences. Again in the industrial relations arena no one style is inherently better than the other. Stereotyping is resulting in the leadership failing to take disagreements less personally.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

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