What you need to know before you start your new remote job!

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
~Stephen Covey

As the country continues to grapple with the effects of COVID 19, the economic effects are gradually being felt. Employees in the aviation industry, transport sector as well tourism sector have either been furloughed or laid off. Job loss in this particular environment can be difficult, if not complicated, given that jobs seem to be scarce and hard to find. This does not mean that there is no hope for you. Organizations are increasingly realigning their workforce as they seek to diversify and confront the challenges that have been presented by COVID-19.

Remote working is new for most organizations.

A survey carried out in Kenya in 2019 indicated that 63.3% of millennials in the country would prefer to have flexible working hours. For years, organizations have been slow to adopt flexible or remote working models. This crisis has been a crash program for most of organizations. Amidst challenges with infrastructure and cyber security, human resource managers have had to reconsider their talent management strategies.

An organization may have hired you remotely but that does not mean that processes such as onboarding have been integrated into the remote working model. Adapting the onboarding experience to remote working might not be a priority for the organization at the moment. As the new hire, it counts to have that in mind. It helps you keep your expectations in check and directs you towards asking questions that can ease your entry into the organization.

What do you need to do as the new hire?

Your attitude determines your altitude

Focus on the bright side of things even as you ease into your new role. Remote working is the future of work moved forward. It can be adapted to various roles with relative ease. You will not have to worry about going to an office most of the time hence it is safe.  Be enthusiastic about it. Learn every day. Embrace the opportunity to tackle a new challenge. 

You should have a proactive approach towards learning given that it may not be possible to be in the same space with your colleagues. Schedule time at the beginning and at the end of the day to draft questions you may have about your work. In the office, your team mates can easily pick up a quizzical look and clarify their points. Due to the limitations of virtual technologies, this may not be possible during a video conference call. Embrace a “think-on-your-feet” approach and seek clarification whenever you are uncertain on matters arising during a virtual meeting or phone call.

Every organization has its unspoken norms. It is easy to pick on these while working in a physical office. When working virtually, this may prove to be challenging. Schedule one-on-one meetings with at least two or three colleagues in order to get to know the company’s culture better. These interactions can be an opportunity to talk about the projects you are working on as well as learning about the projects that your colleagues are working on. This will provide you with insights that can help you address some of the challenges you could be facing.

In addition to this, it is easy to assume that virtual technologies are sufficient to remind you of what needs to be done. Keep a notebook and a pen on your desk as you work. It is easy to forget new aspects of your new “office.” Writing notes in a diary and reading them later can help you with that.

Etiquette

The fact that you are “technically” at work does not mean you are not at work. Observe the company’s dress code at all times. Be formal and polite in your verbal and written communication. Your managers may not be there to supervise your every move but this is not an excuse to binge watch television shows or chat incessantly during working hours.  A daily routine is essential in ensuring that you succeed as a remote employee. 

 IT considerations

Every organization has its own IT policies which are particularly important when working remotely. Learn these policies and observe them. Some organizations might require their employees to work via VPN’s in order to ease access to resources in the main servers. As a result of this, the speeds may be affected. Patience, they say, can cook a stone. Embrace the challenge that comes with it and learn to work around it. If the organization allocates resources such as data bundles and call resources, it is important to ensure that those resources are strictly utilized for carrying out work related functions. It may also be important to identify a room within your house with minimal distractions. This will enhance your productivity and ensure that you meet your objectives.

Performance considerations

It is important to understand the metrics that will be used to gauge your performance in order to focus your efforts. For instance, if you are in the sales and marketing department, you need to work towards ensuring you generate a specific number of leads per day in order to meet your monthly target. If you are working as an accountant, you need to have a daily flow of tasks that culminates into meeting the month’s objectives.

Planning ahead is the first step towards getting ahead.  

 Identify your mentors

*. There are two types of mentors. The first type of mentors is comprised of people who know how to get things done within the organization. The second group of mentors is comprised of people who are well connected within the organization and beyond and helps you navigate key spaces with ease. If you have just started working remotely, the first group of people is essential. Using emails and professional networks like LinkedIn, you can work towards building a network that will help you succeed in your career.

Announce that you are new

People tend to notice a new face in the office with relative ease. In such circumstances, they easily offer help. This is not possible when working remotely. Whenever there is a team meeting, make an effort to introduce yourself in the early stages of the meeting. You can also indicate that you are new to the team in your emails. This will enable your colleagues to bring you up to date on any details that you may not be aware of. It is not easy to be the new person in the office and the current situation does not make it any easier. By being proactive, asking for help and building relationships, you will eventually adopt to your new remote job.

COVID-19 crisis: What is the present and the future for Organizations?

“Today be thankful and think how rich you are. Your family is priceless, your time is gold and your health is wealth.” – Zig Ziglar

As of 2nd April 2020, Kenya had 110 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3 casualties. There is palpable panic as the nation grapples with the new realities presented by the spread of COVID-19. As organizations attempt to deploy their responses to the crisis, there have been concerns about the effects on the workforce. For some firms, it has been easy to transition to a remote workforce. The use of remote working platforms such as Office 365 and Slack has made it possible for workers separated geographically to realize their targets. For some enterprises, this has not been possible due to travel restrictions, challenges with the supply chain and the nature of their work. The economic effect of the health crisis is slowly being appreciated by the government. Several economic measures have been put in place including the president and his deputy taking 80% cut on their salaries. 

For employees, there are concerns that the jobs that have been rendered redundant might never come back pushing more people into unemployment. In a country where the unemployment rate stands at 9.68%, the looming threat to the future of jobs is difficult to confront. For employees working remotely, there are concerns that even with the measures taken by the government to reduce some taxes, the financial stability of organizations hangs in the balance.

What do organizations need to do in the wake of this new reality?

What matters most for now is the safety and health of your employees.

Different employees face different health risks. For instance, an organization that deals with clients face to face has front office and back-office staff. The level of health risks that front office staff have to face may not be similar to back-office staff. An assessment will help determine which functions need to be on-site and which functions can be done remotely. For functions on-site, it is not just important to print out recommended guidelines, it is equally important to update internal occupational safety and health guidelines and ensure they are adhered to.

Working remotely is not as simple as stay-at-home.

Organizations need to consider eligibility, approved tools and protocols for security compliance. It is not clear how long and how far into the year the effects of COVID-19 will spread globally and locally. For this reason, it is important to develop a remote working plan that envisions this. The infrastructure gaps and cyber security risks need to assessed and addressed to ensure the remote working plan runs smoothly.

Fine, tactical details need to be addressed such as:

Does the organization have the adequate infrastructure to manage a remote working model?

What about employees who do not have laptops? What is the best way to ensure they are not left out?

What tools adequately match the specific tasks that need to be carried out?

What tasks need to be carried out and how frequently?

How will collaboration be ensured for activities that need documentation?

What are the business performance indicators in light of the new working model?

How will the organization document its lessons and implement them for posterity?

Anxiety is everywhere, someone has to deal with it.

It is not as simple as “keep calm, work from home.” There are concerns about the future of organizations in the country. The flower industry in Kenya has taken a significant nosedive as access to markets has been impossible due to the grounding of flights. As online delivery companies thrive, there are brick and mortar companies that are weighing their options. The leaders of each organization need to assure their team members. They need to communicate about the changes that are taking place at the organizational level. For organizations whose finances are in a precarious state, this would be the perfect time to demonstrate the organization cares about its employees.

 Recently, the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Airways announced that he would be taking a pay cut of 80% to avoid laying off staff. Leadership at this time is less about what is said and more about what is being done. The economic crisis brought about by COVID-19 will last for months. If an organization can avoid laying off staff in the meantime, it would save many from sinking into abject despair. Kenya Airways is leading the pack. Even though 65% of the airline’s flights are currently grounded, the airline has decided to keep its staff on a paycheck for lesser pay.

Other organizations are offering their employees shopping vouchers to cushion them as the organization strategizes on how to keep afloat. Others are finding ways to keep their employees at work by exploring alternative business strategies. For instance, there are distilleries in America that have opted to use their raw material to make hand sanitizers in order to keep their workforce. In order to pay salaries, these organizations have sought donations from the public. Locally, there are a number of manufacturers who are offering to use their logistics department to transport medical supplies to far flung areas of the country.

These times call for innovation, creativity and compassion. We believe you are doing your best by your staff and as we appreciate this is business unusual, we are also optimistic that we will continue to figure things out as we learn to live with our new normal. In the meantime, if you are among those who are in the essential services and recruiting, our recruiting operations are ongoing and we would be glad to offer our support in getting you the talent at a discounted rate.

Beyond #IWD2020: Reflections on women, work and the way forward in Africa!

Africa has often been described as the rising phoenix thanks to the strides the continent has made and opportunities that have emerged as a result of innovation and technological advances in the continent. Women make up 50% of the continent’s population yet they still lag behind at the workplace. In 2018, women only contributed to 33% of the continent’s GDP. The Mckinsey Global Report indicates that $316 Billion could be added to the continent’s economy if all the countries in the continent matched the gender parity score of their best performing neighbour. If the current rate of progress towards gender parity is to be maintained, it would take about 142 years to attain it. Most of the women in the continent work in the informal sector and have limited access to high quality jobs due to factors such as lack of access to education, financial services and technological tools that would improve their lives. Africa has a high rate of labour force participation but representation of women in the formal sector remains low. The formal economy in Africa is ranked as the least gender equal in global rankings.  The global average female- male ratio is 0.86. The ratio in Africa is 0.68.

State of gender parity in the workplace in African countries

In an analysis that was done by the Mckinsey Global Institute, African countries have  varying performances in terms of their efforts to attain gender parity:

Leaders in gender parity: Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia have made significant progress towards representation of women in the political sphere, the number of women in professional and technical fields as well as other societal indicators of gender equality.

Middle of the road: Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Cameroon, DRC, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Uganda, Togo, Madagascar, Burundi, Angola, Mauritius, Democratic Republic of Congo

These countries have average scores in terms of progress towards gender parity. For example, Ghana has attained significant gender parity in education while Madagascar has above average female participation in technical fields and high quality professional fields.

Countries with room for improvement: Algeria, Tunisia, Chad, Cote d’ivoire, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso

These countries need to make concerted efforts towards inclusion of women in the workplace. The number of women in leading roles in politics and business in these countries is relatively low as compared to other countries.

There is good news: Africa tops the world in terms of female representation in boards

The global average of female representation is 17%.  25% of board members in boards across the continent are female. A 2016 study by Mckinsey Global on impact of female representation on boards showed that pretax earnings by companies with at least 25% female representation were 20% higher than the industry average. Female representation at the board level has increased by 4% since 2015. Female representation in executive committees has only increased by 1%. South Africa tops the list of countries with a high number of women in boards at 29%.

But, women are still lagging behind in the workplace in Africa

Women who are formally employed are likely to have higher educational qualifications which gives them opportunities to leadership opportunities. In as much as there is a limited formal economy in the continent, employers need to encourage women’s participation since they shape the experiences of the majority who are participants in the sector.

Only a few countries have made concerted efforts towards inclusion of women in leadership roles therefore enhancing the continent’s gender parity score. These countries include Botswana, Kenya, South Africa and Rwanda. If the current rate of progress towards gender parity is maintained, it would take 20 years to attain equality on boards and 18 years to attain equality on executive committees.

60% of the women on boards across the continent have staff roles rather than line roles. This has implications on female board members’ likelihood to become CEO’s because CEO’s typically come from line roles. Line roles focus on core operations, finance, risk and strategy while staff roles focus on legal and human resources.

The progress that has been made towards increasing the women in middle management roles in Africa has been less than impressive. Research indicates that the representation of women in professional and technical fields is relatively low as compared to the global average. Africa’s gender parity score has remained at 0.68 since 2015 with the majority of countries in Central and West Africa having some of the lowest representation of women in the workplace.

What are the barriers to gender equality in the workplace?
What is the way forward?

Organizations need to make concerted efforts to ensure active participation of women in the workplace. The first step towards this is to combat bias. Bias is often subtle and most organizational leaders struggle to acknowledge that it exists. Bias keeps women from being promoted or hired in some extreme instances. Organizational leaders need to challenge it head on by discussing the types of bias towards women and their effect on the organization’s gender inclusion efforts. They also need to take research backed efforts towards confronting biases. Organizations need to work towards rooting out language and behaviour in the workplace that enhances a culture of bias towards women.

Research has shown that there are few women who become managers in their organizations. For every 100 men who are hired at entry level positions and promoted to managers, only 72 women are hired and promoted to managers. Most women remain in entry level positions in spite of their talent and professional qualifications. This has significant impacts on the talent pipeline. This remains one of the greatest challenges for talent managers hence the need to critically examine the processes and practices that keep women in entry level positions.

Balancing work and life can be difficult juggle. Considering most women bear a significant burden of care at home, having flexible working hours is vital in promoting work-life balance. It can play a role in ensuring women are not left behind. Workplace policies that support women make them more productive and happier at work.

Are you working on a diversity and inclusion strategy especially to have more women professionals in your organization? Talk to us today and we will connect you with amazing women that your organization will benefit having them around.

~Corazon Achieng – Storyteller and Content Creator

Is Your New Hire Struggling?

Once upon a time, Jayne *, the human resources manager at company X met Phyllis*, a potential candidate. Phyllis* was the ideal candidate in person and on paper. She aced all the interviews. She was brimming with ideas and energy. She was the perfect culture fit. There was no doubt in Jayne’s mind that her search had ended.

Within a week, Phyllis* got the job and was posted to her new work station. The first few weeks were spent learning the ropes. The company had a mentorship programme in place so Phyllis was assigned to a mentor. Within the next few months, Jayne began to doubt her decision. Phyllis was struggling. Some department heads found it difficult to work with her.

The situation above is more common that most human resources managers and CEOs would care to admit. Based on our work with hundreds of organizations, we have identified the following common pitfalls and measures to avoid them:

Mistake #1: Inefficient testing of the candidate’s standard skills

Human resource professionals have for years been pondering over factors that predict whether a candidate’s past performance will be replicated in the new role. It has been proposed by some organizational psychologists that unstructured sequential questions would be the best predictor of future performance. The limitation of this is that one cannot glean sufficient information from a candidate based on these questions regardless of how they are structured.

As experts continue to ponder on the best way forward, it is important to determine whether the candidate has standard skills. The 4C’s summarize the crucial standard skills a candidate must have: communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. For instance, if you are looking for an administrative assistant, you need to determine whether the candidate has proper report writing skills, is organized and time conscious.

THE 4C’S THAT ARE CRUCIAL

Mistake #2: Failure to regularly review your interview questions

Research carried by Glassdoor indicates that the average interview duration has almost doubled since 2009. It may sound easy to interview a candidate but in reality, interviewing is one of the most technical aspects of hiring. Biases easily affect the process of getting a good hire. Most companies have a template in place but this template is rarely reviewed to eliminate questions that do not add value to the process. For most organizations, interviews are an opportunity to determine whether the candidate fits into the culture of the organization. In reality, most organizations have a poor understanding of what constitutes their culture and what sort of candidate would fit into it by extension. Have measures in place to review and improve your interview process.  

Mistake #3: Poor relationship building

It is possible that one of the reasons why Phyllis was struggling could be due to a poor relationship between her and her mentor. While most organizations have some form of mentor-ship program for new hires, few of these organizations work towards finding out whether these programs are working. Human beings naturally gravitate towards familiar faces. It is not always easy for one to build a relationship in the work place in spite of having common goals. This may be attributed to difference in personality types or learning styles. Organizations should frequently review their mentor-ship programs and improve them accordingly.

Mistake #4: Using performance improvement plan as a prelude to termination

Performance improvement plans (PIP) are an essential tool in determining what is not working. They should be developed in a way that clearly identifies the problem, outlines the steps that will be taken towards the improvement and timelines for improvement. Using examples, the plan should help the employee understand their deficiencies and why they need to work towards improvement. If a plan is structured properly, it may foster collaboration between an employee and their departmental head that will result in improvement of performance.

Mistake #5: Failure to pay attention to learning styles

People learn in different ways. Some people can watch someone perform a task once and have the confidence to perform the task by themselves after that. Some people need steps outlined for them so that they can refer to these steps later. Others prefer a video or a book. Your organization might not have the capacity to train all types of learners according to their learning styles but it can adjust accordingly to ensure that no one is left behind.  The organization can expose new hires to different types of learning material. Instructional material can be in the form of booklets, videos and infographics.

Image courtesy: Project-general.com

Mistake #6: Organizational culture that has never been challenged and changed

A few years ago, PwC in the USA noticed that most of its new hires were leaving the organization as soon as they got a chance to leave. This took the consulting firm by surprise because for years, the organization had employees who had accepted the long working hours.

As millenials increasingly became a part of the organization, the attrition rate soared. PwC also noticed that there was reluctance among younger college educated candidates to join the organization. The organization commissioned a study to determine why it was losing its top talent. The study revealed that the millenials were more willing to question assumptions about work that had long been held as truisms. In response to the crisis, the organization introduced flexible schedules and a wellness program.

Africa will boast of the largest population of young, working employees in the next decade. Using yesterday’s work approaches with today’s Gen Z employees will not work. Organizations need to be agile and adaptable in order to retain top talent particularly millennials and Gen Z who will make up a significant portion of the workforce in the next decade.

Do you have a vacancy that you need to fill? We are available to walk with you the talent search journey just as we have done with our clients. Crystal Recruitment puts clients and candidates at the heart of their operations and nothing is more rewarding than hearing that new hires have performed and they are not struggling to settle in.

What are you doing as a Company to prepare for tomorrow?

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Abraham Lincoln

The inevitable future of work is here with us. Automation and AI are set to result in the creation of new roles, redefine the existing roles and create new tasks.  As leaders of organizations gear up for it, there has been a mixture of anxiety and excitement. Employees are grappling with whether their jobs will still be there or not as they seek to remain relevant. Organizations know that they need to prepare for tomorrow but very few are taking active steps to prepare for tomorrow. This may be as a result of not having a clear understanding of what they need to do in order to prepare for the future of work.

Having worked with leading organizations regionally, we compiled a few tips on what organizations need to do in order to prepare for the future:

  • Create a more engaging people experience in order to maintain a competitive advantage

People experience encompasses all aspects of work including the workload assigned to each employee, the office design, training and support provided by the HR. As automation increases, organizations are increasingly adopting lean teams comprising of highly skilled individuals. Tech evangelists admit that the human element can never be entirely replaced hence they advocate for emphasis of core skills such as creativity, empathy and critical thinking.

Cushioning one’s organization against the effects of talent attrition calls for building social resilience which will ensure that new models of work such as flexi-time incorporate human interaction using collaborative technologies. In adopting this approach, organizations will ensure that they have “big ideas crowds” which can provide inspiration and validation of ideas. This will create and sustain a culture of innovation within the organization thus ensuring that the organization remains dynamic.

In addition to this, organization need to make agility and adaptability a part of their values. To make these values a reality entails creating a culture of lifelong learning in which employees are aware of the dynamic nature of work.

  • Support intrapreneurship

Established organizations can learn from startups by encouraging “intrapreneurship.” Leaders should be encouraged to take risks so that they nurture teams and create space for development of ideas. Encouraging intrapreneurship means providing space for autonomy within the organization.

As organizations prepare for tomorrow, they must constantly evaluate the measures that they have put in place. For instance, allowing flexi time for employees can have damaging consequences if the targets are not agreed upon. Having off site employees can put pressure on employees because they feel that they constantly have to be at work. There is a thin line between promoting autonomy and creating a fragmented work force that does not work as a team. Getting feedback from employees and tracking the progress while learning from the mistakes is vital in the success of any organization’s efforts to prepare for the future.

  • Use data analytics to make use of talent

In order to gain a critical edge in gauging the future talent needs of the organization, organizations ought to adopt data analytics in talent management. Data analytics can help in the creation of a compelling employee experience and eliminate biases during the talent recruitment process. A survey of over 2,000 HR and business leaders from different parts of the globe that was carried by PwC showed that only 38% of the respondents use data analytics to gauge their talents. This is an indication of the hesitance to use predictive analytics to plan for their workforce. In spite of the availability of more tools that are user friendly to help in the process, organizations still struggle to interpret the data they hold into actionable steps that will help them manage their talent.

To remedy this, organizations need to use more precise analytical tools. HR teams ought to use tools that not only provide data but also incorporate data visualization tools in order to encourage feedback from leaders and staff. As concerns about data privacy increase, organizations should go to great lengths to ensure that the data is protected and staff know what their data is being used for. People experience can be personalized through organizational network analysis (ONA), skills mapping tools and career mapping tools.

Embracing use of data analytics more in HR can help in the elimination of bias. Data analytics would help organizations track the rates of promotions and recruitment among marginalized groups. In doing this, it is important to ensure that algorithms are not wired to replicate human biases by ensuring that the data analysts understand how algorithms work and are capable of making adjustments in order to result in a diverse pool of talent.

  • Support vitality and tackle burnout

Research studies have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that burnout is on the rise and it affects the bottom line. It is not enough for organizations to set the length of the working day and targets. Organizations that are seeking to retain and engage their talent also ensure that there are measures in place to promote employee well-being.  For instance, Google East Africa has an office that is designed to promote creativity through the incorporation of color and crafts. Organizations are increasingly challenging their employees to take health breaks and engage in physical activities. Organizations can also adopt the following measures to support vitality:

  1. Allow the workers to choose where they want to work from if possible
  2. Promote synchrony between the virtual and physical working environments
  3. Encourage employees to take time away from work
  • Mind the gap

It is often said that human beings are likely to underestimate the likelihood of a bad outcome and overstate a good outcome. This applies to preparing for the future because most leaders assume that they are on the right track yet the reality betrays them. Bridging the gap calls for the following:

  1. HR teams and business leaders must ensure that their employees are future proof by consistently communicating on the initiatives that they are implementing and ensuring they are understood and lived within the organization
  2. Coach team leaders on how to effectively lead the way without leaving their teams behind and encouraging them to have means to track their success
  3. Encourage HR to take a leading role in thinking and planning for the organization’s future.

Is your organization struggling with preparing its employees for the future? Talk to us today