Managing people in the new normal

Managing people in the new normal

Stefan Lauber, CEO of iFundi

Revolutions erupt suddenly. The 4th Industrial Revolution just hit us. As the world responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses were forced to pivot into the cloud. What years of deliberation could not achieve, materialised in a few weeks, much faster than anyone could have imagined.

Many of the predicted consequences of the 4th industrial revolution have become true:

  • Companies without digital delivery channels are facing ruin
  • Unemployment has sky-rocketed even in healthy economies
  • Lower skilled workers have been affected particularly hard
  • Workplace and employment relations have irreversibly changed
  • Social inequalities are more pronounced than ever
  • Uncertainty about the future remains

How will this impact on the way people are managed in companies? We do not really know what the future holds. But four issues currently stand out:

  1. The New Workplace
  2. Developing Critical Skills
  3. Leading People
  4. A New Social Contract
  • The New Workplace

Until now, few employers believed that their staff could be trusted to work from home. Covid-19 proved that it is possible.

Free from the need to commute, employees are saving time and money, lowering the burden on the environment. With less distractions from their colleagues, staff can focus better on their work. Online meetings are at least as productive. Employees enjoy more flexibility while working from home, which should allow them to better balance personal affairs and work.

Yet, for some, the workday never ends. Unfortunately, not everyone rose to the challenge of working from home equally well. The promise of working remotely has often been undermined by poor connectivity. We miss social interaction with our colleagues, the conversations over coffee that spark new ideas and give us a sense of belonging.

The future may be a combination of working between office and home. Companies will have to develop new human resource policies that take advantage of the benefits of working from home while mitigating its disadvantages.

When people work remotely, less office space is required. The purpose of an office used to be to accommodate staff. The office of tomorrow will look different. It will seek to compensate for the drawbacks of working from home. The emphasis may be on how to facilitate better communication, collaboration, community and strengthening company culture. 

As the economic crisis will continue, companies need to be nimbler and reduce fixed costs. Non-core function may well be further outsourced. Companies are expected to continue reduce headcount and engage contractors when needed. The gig economy is here. With large scale retrenchments, employees will have to reinvent themselves to become entrepreneurs.

  • Developing Critical Skills

It has been predicted that every second person will have to be retrained to keep up with the 4th Industrial Revolution. As the pandemic has been rapidly changing our lives, we require new skills faster.

Of course, new technical skills, especially IT, are essential when going digital. Covid-19 is forcing managers to adapt their style. Individuals need more resilience, adapt to change quicker, be even more innovative, and solve bigger problems.

Critically, employees will need to manage themselves, with less support from their peers and less chances to learn from others.

The deck is stacked against newcomers. Our educational systems already struggle to produce the kind of people businesses need.  Making things worse, training budgets of companies are strained.

As the pressure mounts, companies will be looking for people who can hit the ground running. However, there will simply not be enough people with tomorrows skills. Companies will have to grow their own talent.

Google has introduced training that leads to career certificates. The private sector is getting involved in the production of talent. Work Integrated Learning such as learnerships, internship and apprenticeship programme are on the leading edge.

What matters in future are not degrees, but practical skills. But how will we recognise what people know? Portfolios of Evidence and Qualification Frameworks will gain in currency and so will product certification by vendors. They are already the norm in the IT industry.

Online learning used to be resisted. Covid-19 forced schools to go online without preparation. Until recently, eLearning was mostly one-way, a tool to present content. Thanks to the rapid adoption of video conferencing, it has become much more participatory.

  • Leading people

Monitoring Time and Attendance was a central component of how companies controlled their people.  How will companies manage their people when they do not need to show up at work.

Managers will have to learn how to manage their teams virtually and use technology to collaborate more effectively.

Performance management will become even more important. Rather than working from general job descriptions, employees and contractors will be held accountable for clearly defined outcomes.

A manager will still have to plan, effectively delegate and monitor delivery. But they will also need to lead, motivate their staff and provide emotional support in times of crisis. Transactional leadership is dead.

By the way, we are now no longer dealing with resources but real people. Compassion is going to be part of our discourse. The focus of human resource managers was a company’s employees. Going forward, the whole ecosystem of people – staff, contractors and suppliers will be considered by the people manager. As companies become leaner, partnership become more important, team members will belong to multiple organisations.

Occupational health and wellness in many industries were an afterthought. We have since learned that health issues can not only bring companies, but the whole world to its knees. The threat of future pandemics is not going away. With never abating pressures, emotional health and wellness are going to receive more attention.  

  • A New Social Contract

During the lockdown, the Gross Domestic Product of many countries shrank by more than 10%. Millions of people have joined the ranks of the unemployed. It will take many years to recover.

But more than ever, we have realised that we are interdependent. One person’s lack of care threatens all our health. Individualism, the believe in the survival of the fittest, is an outdated concept.

Governments were trying to find the middle ground of how to protect lives and livelihoods. During the lockdown, there was a clear shift in focus from profits to people – something that would have been untenable before.

We have experienced a fundamental shift to a more caring paradigm.  Companies will continue to protect their staff. Job creation will be everyone’s concern. There will be no consumers if people are destitute. We will not be able to trade or survive while environmental catastrophes engulf us.

The new normal demands a new social contract. One in which people and the planet will prosper. In as much as the 4th Industrial Revolution called for technological change, we need also social innovation.

2020 was the year of disruption. Let the pain we endured become the catalyst for progress. Let us not slide back to where we came from but instead create a new normal that is better than the past. If not, the danger is that nature will catch up with us again, as a single virus has just done.

This article was published in Fast Company magazine, November 2020 edition

The Importance of IT Support for Business

The Importance of IT Support for Business

The need for businesses to constantly adapt and change has been present for many years and typically the successful businesses have been those that became used to adapting to change in their environment and continuously monitored competitors and trends to remain relevant.

Keeping up with technological trends and updates can be tough, especially in between managing your business and catering to clients. Once you start to adapt, it can be difficult to maintain it.

Having a team within the business that’s dedicated to IT support ensure that your business functions smoothly by immediately making repairs to your systems or identifying potential issues before they arise.

In addition to safeguarding your operations, a reliable IT support team keeps your business competitive and helps develop more streamlined operations. This leads to higher productivity for your business and more room for increased revenue.

It has been shown time and time again that customers prefer businesses with efficient and reliable systems and platforms. If a business is still using outdated and ineffective technology in their Products or services then they are bound to lose customers.

Let’s take a look at the main benefits of having an effective in-house IT Tech support team:

  • Effective Management of Data

Data management is necessary for any business. With Product inventory, incoming orders, unique customer data, and other important information should always be stored and managed efficiently and safely. With the help of a IT support team, managing your data becomes a streamlined process that can otherwise become very time consuming.

  • Improvements in decision making.

Some of the most important decisions within the business will be based on data backed insights. By conducting solid research and planning to gather useful data your team will need to use various technologies and tools to gather and store this data.

  • Expertise to solve technical problems

Errors and technical glitches are inevitable when it comes to using technology. Even in its most up to date version, a software can still encounter troubles along the way. If software essential to your business runs into an issue, it could spell disaster for your day-to-day operations. This is where an IT tech support team can help. They can save you valuable hours, instead of looking for online solutions for the fix, they’ll handle it for you as they are equipped with the expertise and ready solutions.

  • Extensive monitoring and analysis

Monitoring at every stage of the business is critical to success. Being bale to keep tabs on all internal operations and through analysis work towards the business objectives. The value of an IT support team is that they improve your overall quality control and internal auditing. As they are closely monitoring your systems and website, downtime is prevented or recovered immediately, minimising possible profit loss.

  • Top quality security and cyber security

As we have seen in the past with companies like Facebook it can be disastrous if your customer’s personal data is compromised or if any confidential technologies you have are jeopardised. IT support teams guarantee that your business’ online front and computer systems are secure from viruses and other online threats. They protect these by setting up antivirus systems, encrypting your data, and providing other security measures.

  • Top quality customer support

A major benefit of the IT tech support team is providing an improved customer support experience. With rapid response a customer’s query can be handled in a fast and professional manner. The support team can setup multiple channels such as phone calls, emails, social media bots, or even automated answers in your website. If you’re able to answer their queries immediately and on point, customer satisfaction goes up.

The IT technical support team is one that many businesses overlook the importance of, however having looked at the benefits they bring to a business and their operations, having an in-house Support team can be a big advantage to your operations. In this fast paced-world of today customers want responsiveness and effectiveness in their communications with businesses when facing issues.

Put your best foot forward so to speak and allow change for the benefit of customers and for the sake of your businesses future.

How to Become a Front-Runner in the Race for Talented Project Managers

How to Become a Front-Runner in the Race for Talented Project Managers

As a result of digitization and growth in global economies the demand for skilled project managers is expected to rise significantly. While this is projected to occur we have also been seeing downward trends in the amount of skilled project managers to meet the demand.

The talent crisis is real and organisations most valuable projects are at risk, it’s time to make talent acquisition and closing of the talent gap a strategic priority.

The talent gap is being worsened by the post- pandemic ‘Great Resignation,’ which has seen workers quitting their jobs in droves all over the world, and it seems that the situation will only get tougher.

Hiring managers within businesses find it easier to recruit people with critical project skills who are more successful at up skilling themselves for success. Their shown preference is candidates who show potential, have adequate levels of training and hold a whole host of diverse skills.

These are known as “Front-runners”

Front-runners are also shown to have have performed much better in terms of: revenue growth; customer acquisition and customer satisfaction. Making them invaluable to growing organisations.

They are no longer creatures of only scope, schedule, and budget. They are now – enabled by new technology – focusing on influencing outcomes, building relationships, and achieving the strategic goals set by the organizations.

In research conducted by PWC in 2021 the top skill identified by recruiters that many project managers lack is creative-problem solving. This skill is identified through questioning of high level managers to be the one sore spot in experienced project managers within organisations.

This is important to not as the project managers in training can take note of where their focus should lie.

The training of these roles is vital to their candidate’s success, because If capabilities aren’t aligned to organizational strategy. Then building up of staff isn’t going to get the attention it deserves. That’s why the number one barrier to developing project manager capabilities is that learning and development isn’t seen as priority.

This problem can be made even worse by the need to operate in a remote working capacity where many front runners are not able to develop power skills and business acumen skills while operating in a remote capacity.

What can we learn from this? Priority with organisational development and the successful training of the next generation of project managers must begin today. Prioritization must be placed on developing the right skills and mending skill gaps in their established work force.

All this together will allow for the role of Project manager to flourish and the front runners to set themselves apart in their career aspirations.

Building New Talent in Real Estate

Building New Talent in Real Estate

The COVID-19 pandemic has rattled human communication, the core of the commercial real estate business. Industries were challenged to digitalize as many aspects of work possible while realigning employees in the now often virtual work environment. Companies had to plan and provide an infrastructure that would enable employees to work effectively from home in order to priorities health and safety. Looking ahead, what does this tell us about talent needed in real estate?

The industry of Real Estate is undergoing a change like many other industries. With labor and skill shortages around the globe, now more than ever, agencies need to attract, develop and effectively train new recruits to succeed in the long term.

Technology in the future of Real Estate:

One key change that is taking place in the real estate industry Is the rise of technology. More and more real estate companies are going to have to become tech companies that happen to be in real estate.

With the way customers and prospects are researching and communicating with Real Estate Agents technology has become the backbone of this entire process.

According to the PwC report Talent Trends 2019, “organizations desperately need tech-savvy leaders and employees … who can harness innovative thinking, form the right strategies and apply the systems and tools that best fit the needs of the business.”

This need to train and recruit new talent effectively is creating a demand for skilled agents as well as those with the soft skills we often see in real estate agents:

  • Communication.
  • Active Listening.
  • Negotiation.
  • Patience.
  • Problem-Solving Skills.

These skills are typically what would make a successful Real Estate Agent. However while these skills are important Tech skills are rapidly becoming necessary as well. These skills can be taught early on in their careers to ensure that they under-go rapid growth and represent themselves and their businesses as a high quality professional.

Investing in the next generation of talent:

Investing in young talent is about imagining and building a more sustainable and connected city, with interconnected processes and procedures when dealing with clients.

The Real estate industry needs to start the process of training new skilled recruits as soon as possible however this is not the only change that is needed for the businesses in the industry to stay competitive.

With the Covid-19 pandemic it forced the Real Estate industry to undergo an adapt or die mentality. With many commercial real estate agencies closing down and the added difficulty of needing to solely communicate with prospects and potential buyers through digital means.

This shock of Lock-down and social distancing was an important lesson for those within Real Estate. Technology has enabled us to understand that ‘work is something you do, not somewhere you go’ is actually true. Hundreds of millions of people working from home, actually works.

Simply put the real estate industry needs to transform from being one that sells a product to one that delivers a service. It means that our customers no longer need what we have to sell. They don’t need an office to work.

The shift caused by the Pandemic:

The pandemic has shifted focus towards that of technology but it is important to note what technology lacks – this is where effectively trained recruits come in. The need for tech-savvy agents who have the soft skills of your typical agents are most valuable.

Being able to communicate effectively across many platforms and having the understanding of when to press a response from a potential buyer or let them think on it. All of these are very human skills and can’t be overlooked with these changes in the status quo.

Agencies that retain or hire agents who are not properly trained, well-versed in real estate rules and regulations may facilitate bad housing deals. This may lead to costly insurance claims.

The reality is that the real estate business is no longer just about real estate. That is just the starting point. Yes strong real estate soft skills are needed, but we need all the skills, talent and knowledge within our grasp to reach success.

The real estate industry needs to up its talent game, and deepen their talent pool. It needs to start with the customer, and work back from there. What does our customer really want, what represents added value to them, and how we can give them want they want.

This starts by asking what mix of skills, talent and technology do we need, to create, and run this process. Let’s start by training the right people with the needed skills. To ensure the industry grows and its people grow with it.

Time, scope and cost: the three pillars of Project management.

Time, scope and cost: the three pillars of Project management.

It has been given many names – the Project Management Triangle, Iron Triangle and Project Triangle, we shall be referring to it as the three pillars of Project management. If the number of names they go by doesn’t give you the impression of how important they are then let’s begin to breakdown how these three pillars are the most important concepts in Project management.

When used in combination with effective project management software, the three pillars can give you the ability to drive your projects to success. It also means that the success or failure of your organizations projects will depend on the deadlines, features and the budget set by the stakeholders and upper-management.

As a project manager you have to juggle between all three pillars and try to find the best combination of them for your specific project development process needs.
All three pillars are connected and if you want to change something with one of them the other two pillars would be affected.

Understanding that the three pillars must be kept in mind throughout a projects lifecycle to assist the team to adapt to all changing conditions that project would face in the day-to-day. A team lead by a project manager utilizing this strategy will be able to face numerous obstacles that come their way and their performance will remain consistent.

Now let’s take a closer look at the pillars individually:

Number one:

Time – One of the most important elements that project managers have to consider is keeping track of time a project is taking and will continue to run for. As each task and process that is performed by the team has to be part of the overall schedule.

Wondering what the process of setting this timeframe and schedule here’s an outline:

  • Plan schedule management
  • Sequence all of the different activities
  • Outline each of the activities that will be performed in the project
  • Decide what resources will be needed in the project
  • Estimate the time it will take to complete each activity
  • Develop a full project schedule after analysing the previous steps.
  • After creating the schedule, you’ll need to manage the schedule to make sure that your project remains on track and as a result will succeed

The schedule is the time allocated by the project manager in relation to the requirements set by the stake-holders or upper-management. If a project is unable to keep to its schedule and deadlines then it can be in a lot of trouble.

During the Project planning phase a project manager will outline the time required for various tasks, the time planned is dependent on the market requirements of the project and how fast the project is needed to complete to launch, meet the demands of a customer or to begin a new phase of operations.

Number two:

Cost – Another important element related to the Project management. This is the cost and budget of all tasks related to task/project at hand. What’s most important is cost estimation of the various components.

Some methods of estimating the cost of your project:

  • Using Historic Data: Managers can estimate the budget of the project by measuring different stats from the old and new data that they get from the external market and previous completed projects.
  • Use Bottom-Up Approach: Managers can also use the bottom-up approach to estimate the budget of the project by tracking the lowest to highest budgets spent on previous projects.

Number Three:

Scope – The third pillar is arguably the most important part of the process. This is because all other planning and cost estimation

Towards the end goal set.

You can see the scope as a project manuscript that includes each small detail of the project and how it will run from start to finish. It will also include various risks and threats to the project in terms of completing it within time and budget.

Now having identified and discussed the three pillars we can see that they are vital to the process of a project manager and the importance of controlling them to ensure the success of the project.