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The Importance of Remote Working Policies

By | Digital Transformation, Future of Work, Remote Working

More than 70% of companies do not have adequate remote working policies and it’s a multi-billion dollar issue.

100 days ago, the debate was whether you could work from home on some days. Now the debate is whether you should work from the office on some days or at all. This monumental shift has happened so rapidly that businesses have yet to really deal with the ramifications and opportunities.

Recently Fujitsu announced that it would be reducing its office space by 50%. With 140 000 employees globally, this global 500 powerhouse is no small IT firm. The aimed cost reduction will save them around $800 Million in lease obligations (based on their latest financial reports). What is more important is that they have undertaken it as a “work-life programme” with clear aspirations and goals of what remote working will achieve for their people. They have set out that work locations can be chosen between home, corporate hub or satellite offices. Their overarching statement was, “FUJITSU will introduce a new way of working that promises a more empowering, productive, and creative experience for employees that will boost innovation and deliver new value to its customers and society.”

We conducted a study with over 250 respondents to evaluate how well teams were performing with regards to their work from home strategies and policies.

The results showed that while employees felt they were coping, and engagement was equal to or better than the office (76%), more than 67% felt that their companies did not have adequate policies to manage remote working, even though 73% found working at home more productive than at the office. More than 40% of respondents said they had more work than at the office, and over 55% said they felt overwhelmed by the volume of calls, emails and other communication.

Nevo Hadas, Partner at dY/dX, says setting a remote working policy is not an IT task, “It is a strategic task that is a combination of HR and executive leadership. Its purpose is to enable the company to benefit from the big changes occurring in society while enhancing staff engagement, productivity and retention.”

The remote working policy will become a cornerstone digital transformation document for the company. It will impact almost every aspect of work, just like the physical office did, and in many ways define the future of the company’s culture, employee base and customer base.

Some questions to consider when forming a remote working policy

  1. What percentage of your workforce are able to be remote and how do you reduce office space to meet that?
  2. What limitations do your employees face at home and do you assist them to overcome that (i.e. home office allowance) or provide offices just for them?
  3. How do you coordinate a work from home company, what tools and, more importantly, what standards for those tools, do you use to align communication and tasking?
  4. How do you move your employment contracts away from time-based (9-5) to output-based (agree on tasks to be completed within a time frame) effectively and maintain team communication? 
  5. How do you keep employee engagement and culture strong, while not leading to burnout as employees stay connected at their desks for too many hours?
  6. Do you change your recruitment policy to hire from other countries/locations or do you keep your employee base closer to an HQ.
  7. Do you need physical offices to expand globally?

“Remote policies aren’t about whether you use Zoom or Microsoft Teams for meetings, but core strategic issues,” says Hadas. Done well, it can boost companies bottom lines dramatically. Done badly, it can make them uncompetitive. “As the dust settles post lockdown, executives will need to focus their vision on thinking through how the future of work impacts their business’s evolution into the future.”

Listen: dY/dX partner Nevo Hadas on Radio Helderberg – Digital Solutions To The Plastic Packaging Crisis

By | Automation, Case Study, Customer Experience, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Human Centered Design, Product Development

Created in partnership with Smollan, dY/dX has recently built a smart dispenser which could change the future of retail – reducing plastic usage and improving our consumption habits. Nevo Hadas, partner at dY/dX, recently spoke on Radio Helderberg to explain more. Listen to the interview below.

 

Annelia Preis:
Today we are speaking to Nevo Hadas, he is a partner at the digital transformation company dY/dX. What does dY/dX stand for?

Nevo Hadas:
dY/dX is an abbreviation for ‘dY’ over ‘dX’ which is a mathematical formula for the rate of change. It comes from differentiation – the change in Y over the change in X – which is very critical to what we do. We help companies deal with the changing world and find their way through digital transformation; helping them to create new products for customers and change their working processes. For example, now during COVID, we’ve been doing a lot of work with companies to help them master remote working.

Annelia Preis:
We won’t ever get rid of plastic completely but we can reduce our use of single-use plastics – such as encouraging people to use cloth or paper bags [as opposed to plastic ones]. What is your suggestion around reducing single-use plastics? 

Nevo Hadas:
So we started a project with a company called Smollan where we looked at the informal market – such as spaza shops – and the amount of single-use plastics that are being used there. What we noticed was that, as affordability takes a hit – so, for example, people can’t afford to buy a 20 Rand bag of rice – brands are making packaging smaller and smaller. That leads to the production of more single-use plastics. We’re also seeing that the value for customers is decreasing because they are still paying for the cost of packaging while receiving a small quantity of product.

We asked ourselves, what if we could get rid of packaging completely and allow people to buy as much as they need without any restrictions in terms of packaging size? This is taking us back to the old market process, where you can go to a market and buy according to the weight or amount of the product that you want.

Obviously today there is a bigger requirement for data and people also want to know what product they’re buying – for example, what kind of rice they’re buying. We created smart dispensers which allow the distribution companies and retailers to ship 10kgs of rice to the spaza shop; the spaza shop then has 10kgs of rice in the dispenser, and if the customer wants to buy 2 Rands worth of rice, they can come with their own container or bag, select 2 Rand on the machine and the dispenser calculates how much rice that is. We find really good uptake in informal markets.

Most recently we did a project with Nude Foods in Cape Town which is a zero-waste store – which exists in the more formal and more upmarket environment where people really understand the concept of zero-waste. So, using technology,  if, for example, you wanted to buy 100 Rands worth of nuts, you can pour into your own bag and it will show you how many nuts you are getting. Then you can go and pay!

Annelia Preis:
This makes me think of buying petrol and how you can tell the attendant how much you want according to how much you have to spend.

Nevo Hadas:
Yes, it’s exactly the same model. So, with that as an example, you don’t have to buy multiple containers of petrol, there’s just a big pump house. It’s an interesting model for retailers, the brands and the consumers because consumers can save money doing this. It increases affordability so it increases food security. They also know that they’re getting the quality of food that they paid for. Retailers often measure their store’s profitability on a per square meter basis and because you won’t really be using shelves, you’ll be using dispensers which are longer and narrower – so you’re getting more vertical value out of it – they can actually increase their yield and make more money out of less shelf and storage space. From a Brand point of view, they will be receiving all the live data; so every time someone buys something, they will know exactly what it is that the person purchased and they will be able to see the transaction volume. So the brands actually get a much better idea of how their product is doing.

Annelia Preis:
With COVID-19 now, everybody is afraid to touch things. Would this reduce that problem?

Nevo Hadas:
We have been playing with a zero-touch model where you can just put your hand in front of the machine and it will dispense. You won’t have to touch the device at all, so that is also a possibility.

Annelia Preis:
I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures in the media of what happens in our oceans and how the dolphins and whales are swallowing plastic. Hopefully, we can get rid of that!

Nevo Hadas:
Even though recycling does a lot, if you look at the challenges we face, particularly in South Africa with service delivery, recycling doesn’t help if no one is picking up and taking that plastic away. We have to think of creative ways to eliminate plastic from the system because we are just creating more plastic as we go. Recycling is not going to fix that problem. The only way to keep our oceans clean is to eliminate plastic packaging completely rather than trying to make it more refinable.

Annelia Preis:
There’s a lot of plastic going into our landfills. How long does it take to decompose?

Nevo Hadas:
If you look at most of the studies, it can take hundreds of years to decompose. It’s not a viable solution. Which is why a lot of people are looking at compostable plastics, but even that takes about fifty years or so to break down, so it’s not a quick process. Those plastics also become very expensive to produce, which means it still has a big [carbon] footprint. We’ve built so much of our retail models and thinking around packaging; it’s how the things are shipped and sold – the entire system is based around packaging. If you can ask yourself why packaging exists like this and get your head out of that mode, then you can start seeing that there’s a world where you can eliminate this plastic problem completely.

I’m a big believer that this is going to be a key part of the future of retail – that we will move to a world where we are only consuming what we need and we are consuming in smaller quantities. There are benefits for the entire value chain in moving towards a package-free solution.

Listen: Nevo Hadas on Channel Africa – Digital Transformation In Retail

By | 4IR, Automation, Case Study, Customer Experience, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Human Centered Design, Product Development

Half of the global plastic waste is from packaging. Since only 9% of plastic is recycled, our landfills are overflowing and our ecosystems are being damaged. Retailers can no longer ignore the demands of a quickly growing market of environmentally-conscious consumers. To tackle this problem, dY/dX partnered with Smollan and Nude Foods to test a new smart dispenser which could change the future of retail by removing the need for plastic packaging altogether. Nevo Hadas, a dY/dX partner, spoke on Africa Midday on Channel Africa to explain how the concept was born and why it is important.

Transcript

Lebogang Mabange:
For the entire month of July, people all over the world took part in ‘Plastic Free July’ – a global challenge to reduce personal consumption of single-use plastic. In line with the growing demand for more environmentally-conscious retail, dY/dX, a digital transformation practice in South Africa, partnered with Nude Food, South Africa’s zero-waste retailer, to create a solution which would address the issue of single-use plastic packaging in the form of digitally-operated smart dispensers. Nevo Hadas, partner at dY/dX, now joins us to further discuss this. Let’s start with what single-use plastic is and how it impacts the environment.

Nevo Hadas:
Single-use plastic is used in packaging for foodstuffs or cleaning materials. It’s generally plastic that cannot be recycled and is not easily disposed of. There has been a massive increase in single-use plastics over the last few years mainly because as consumer affordability decreases, manufacturers have been trying to get their products into smaller packaging sizes to make it more affordable. This means that there is more packaging being produced than ever before. The challenge is that a lot of this non-recyclable plastic ends up in landfills, oceans, rivers and all our ecosystems.

Lebogang Mabange:
How did dY/dX go about finding a solution to this plastic waste problem?

Nevo Hadas:
So the project we did started out by looking at the informal sector. With our client, Smollan, we looked at how we could change the behaviours and social impacts in informal retail – from spaza shops to people who sell items on the side of the road. One of the things we realized was that the solution to reducing plastic packaging wasn’t to make it more recyclable but to actually eradicate it.

Following a design-thinking process, we tried to understand what it was that consumers are looking for in those markets. From the research and the interviews we did, we could see that affordability was a key component from those customers. So we asked, what if we could create a smart dispenser that dealt with a lot of the challenges that people in that value system face?

If we look at it from a brand perspective, what they’re really worried about is that their product is presented well – that’s why they like the packaging. It helps them to identify themselves, for example, Tastic Rice. It also helps them understand how much volume they’re selling into the market. From a consumer’s perspective, when they buy a bag of Tastic Rice, it helps because they know what they’re getting. From a retailer’s perspective, they want to have products that are affordable enough for their clients so they’re looking for a range of sizes and prices of Tastic Rice.

By moving towards a smart dispenser, we get rid of that plastic packaging completely. The consumer can come with their own container or paper bag and they can choose how much they want to buy. So, for example, if they want to buy 5 Rand’s worth of rice. The machine automatically calculates how much rice that is and keeps the rice fresh in an air-tight environment. So to reduce the impact of plastic, we eradicated the use of plastic as much as possible. In doing that, we are able to rethink pricing and affordability for a lot of products in that market.

Lebogang Mabange:
People are becoming more aware of the environment and the need to find sustainable solutions. Is environmentally-conscious retail something that we are going to see more of?

Nevo Hadas:
I think it’s a definite trend. We’ve done a few of these prototypes in different kinds of environments. What was interesting for us when we were doing the research is the different needs and levels of awareness. In the spaza shop or informal environment – it’s driven more by price than packaging. There’s a stronger need for low-cost items. There is a growing awareness of the importance of recycling because people can see the trash around them and service delivery doesn’t always deal with waste effectively.

If you’re moving into the upper end of the market, into the formal market, there is an emergence of package-free retailers which have no packaging at all. They use dispensers. The latest prototype we built was actually based in one of those shops. If you look at how much growth there is in that sector, not just in South Africa but globally, you can see that it is a massive trend and all retailers are looking at it. I think it makes financial sense for manufacturers and retailers to cut out all this plastic which no one really wants. From a consumer point of view, I think it simplifies their lives and helps them to know that they are not damaging the earth with their consumption.

Lebogang Mabange:
The smart dispenser looks after the environment on a macro-level. How can we start implementing it in our daily lives so that each one of us can help make a difference to the environment beyond ‘Plastic Free July’? 

Nevo Hadas:
It’s the way that we choose to purchase and consume. It’s a tricky thing, depending on where you are in the market because there aren’t necessarily options for everyone. For example, in Cape Town, there are shops like Nude Foods, which we partnered with to test the latest prototype, who are purely focused on this type of thing. You can go there with your own containers and fill them up and that’s one way to reduce your impact. Another way is to buy in bulk because then you’re purchasing fewer packets. A third option, which I think is really relevant, is eco-bricks. You take an old plastic bottle, like a milk bottle, and instead of throwing your plastic packaging away, you put them into that bottle. You cram the bottle full of plastic packaging and then the bricks are used for building or ecologically-friendly construction. It also reduces the space required in landfills which is also really critical.

Supporting a Neurodiverse Workforce – Remotely

By | Education, Future of Work, HR, Human Centered Design, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture

Every workforce is neurodiverse; in fact, about 1 in 5 people in your workplace live with Dyslexia, Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia and other neurological conditions. This means they might have different communication forms, strengths and characteristics to everyone else. However, it is increasingly accepted that having a neurodiverse workforce provides increased capacity for innovation, productivity and overall employee wellbeing.

How can your organisation capitalise on the benefits of remote neurodiverse employees? To find out, DY/DX has partnered with Dr Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions; a tech-for-good company, who have developed tools and apps to support neurodiverse children and adults. Recently retired as a professor at the University of South Wales, Dr Amanda Kirby has lectured to more than 100,000 individuals worldwide, written over 100 research papers and 9 books which have been translated into more than 5 languages.

 

What does working remotely mean for a neurodiverse individual?

Working remotely for neurodiverse individuals can be advantageous because it often provides the opportunity for the neurodiverse employee to choose the best environment for them to work in. For some neurodiverse people, this might mean working with music in the background, while for others it might mean having sound off and headphones on. It may be that in a virtual meeting one can walk around, or use text-to-speech tools and technology if needed. It allows the neurodiverse employee to have the environment that is best conducive for them to work optimally.

 

What are the characteristics of a supportive neurodiverse work environment?

A supportive neurodiverse environment is one that is inclusive – the hiring, onboarding and line management is done in an inclusive manner and one which optimises the performance of the whole team. It means that the workplace is also accessible; that neurodiversity is not an add-on but rather built into the fabric of the organisation.

You know you are moving toward a supportive environment once you are able to ask the questions: “how can I support you?”, “are there any barriers to you being successful?”, “what are your needs and skills gaps?” to all your team members – but you’d do it in a way that uses effective communication methods learned through awareness training. Then you’re actually being truly inclusive and it isn’t a mere tick-box or once-off exercise.

 

Is there anything remote teams or remote team managers should avoid doing?

One key thing for remote team managers to avoid is making assumptions based on an individual’s label. For instance, assuming that people who are autistic are good at IT, or people who are ADHD are very creative. This means you limit your understanding of that individual and it can lead to incorrect biases. The second key point is for managers to measure and check on their own conscious and unconscious biases.

Assumptions can be avoided by being person-centred. Understanding your team as a whole and embracing diversity within your team, means you will naturally have better productivity and employee wellbeing.

It’s also important for organisations to be wary of one-off exercises such as “this year we’re doing inclusion, next year we’re doing LGBTQ+ and the year after that we’re doing diversity.” Neurodiversity is everyone and should be ingrained in your whole processes because that’s when improved productivity and wellbeing take place.

 

What should be included in a working agreement to support neurodiverse employees?

Nothing that shouldn’t be included in a comprehensive working agreement for all employees. However, the way the agreement is formed, the way information is gathered and the way the questions are asked will make all the difference.

We often communicate in the way that we prefer because that’s our style. If you have become a successful manager, you might continue to use your set style of communication, unaware that some people find that method difficult to understand, comprehend or engage with. So, we need to question our own communication style in order to lead better.

By crafting a working agreement in an inclusive manner and understanding the different forms of communication, you can create a supportive environment for everyone, including those neurodiverse employees. Reviewing this regularly is also important.

 

What is the biggest barrier to support for neurodiverse employees?

The biggest barrier is understanding and awareness. I think there is still the idea in some camps that neurodiversity means autism – which it doesn’t. There is sometimes an oversimplsitc approach to awareness; and organisations believe if they understand what autism is and what ADHD is that they understand the strategy or approach to neurodiversity. However, this isn’t the case and often means organisations move away from the fundamental goal of understanding the person in the context of their work and home life.

Another barrier is the term ‘disclosure’. Sometimes employers say “why didn’t they tell me?”. First of all, many adults don’t have a diagnosis. They may have grown up recognising that they have differences in the way they communicate, be it written or oral forms, or they find certain tasks more challenging; but they may not have the words or the confidence to say “I am dyslexic” or “I am autistic”.

Secondly, the term disclosure has the connotation of ‘revealing’, like revealing secrets. Some people may feel shame; and when they have revealed this information before they have not had positive experiences. If someone has to tick a box to reveal themselves, they might be reticent or apprehensive to give this information.

At the heart of neurodiversity is everyone; so if you’re asking everyone “how can we best support you” then you are more likely to get the appropriate answer without those biases.

 

Specifically regarding remote communication, what are some of the considerations employers and teams should have for neurodiverse colleagues?

We have to have the same recommendations for someone who is neurodivergent that we do for the team as a whole. Because actually, the most important thing is that the whole team communicates effectively together. It requires an understanding of how each member communicates and this may differ from task to task or project to project to project.

High performing teams take into consideration the neurodiversity of the whole team. Offering a range of ways of communicating, without saying “this way is right or wrong” means the whole team works and communicates in an effective manner. And it’s when teams don’t do this that problems and misunderstandings arise.

 

How does neurodiversity give organisations an edge?

There are a number of ways neurodiversity can benefit an organisation. First of all, you have neurodiverse people in your organisation already; and you may be losing talent because their wellbeing and productivity are not supported appropriately. They may feel misunderstood or not heard or listened to.

By embracing neurodiversity, you’ll be seen as a ‘good’ organisation and enviable place to work, and you are going to attract new talent that you wouldn’t otherwise attract without inclusive processes and procedures. You will also likely see an uptick in productivity. We know that people who are neurodivergent take less sick days, that they are often very reliable employees.

You also don’t know who isn’t applying for your jobs. By having your hiring, recruitment and management approaches be inclusive, you might attract new and innovative talent.

Where does one start to become inclusive?

Some basic awareness which needs to be driven from the top down. There also needs to be buy-in from all levels of the business that this is worth it, something which is good for business, employees and customers.

Once you have that, you can put in a D and I policy that becomes ingrained in everything you do. And then you need to look at your recruitment, retention policies and provide line managers with training not to become experts in Dyslexia, ADHD and Autism because otherwise they need to be experts in epilepsy, Diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, too. Sometimes this is a barrier because a manager can feel like they’re not expert enough to handle a sensitive situation.

It’s important your employees know where to go for this supporting information. In large businesses it means having someone in your business that is a little more informed and that person might be in HR or in Diversity and Inclusion. 

Remote Hiring For Cultural Fit | Meeting Formula

By | HR, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture

Cultural fit interviews are used to single out candidates whose values, beliefs and behaviours fit in with your company’s culture. Seeing as you are often unable to meet remote employees face-to-face, a culture fit interview can go a long way to indicate how well a candidate might fit in with your staff members. 

What is the goal of this meeting?

Clearly reach consensus on which remote candidate to hire based on developed criteria.

What tools will I need for this meeting?

Video conferencing tool and a collaboration platform which supports stickies.

How much time should I set aside?

You will need about 45 mins – 1 hour to complete this session.

Who should be there?

4 – 8 staff members from different departments, selected at random or by their availability to attend.

 

 

MEETING AGENDA

Timing

Title of Session

Description

5 min

Check-in

The meeting facilitator sets the scene for what will be done in the session. This includes an introduction – each staff member introduces themselves to the candidate and reveals the reason behind their Zoom background choice.

5 min

Either-Or

The candidate chooses one of two options in a series of three questions.

10 min

Deep and Meaningful

Each staff member asks the candidate one deep and meaningful question.

5 min

Turn The Tables

Candidate gets to ask the participants any questions they have. 

15 min

Candidate Scoring

The team gives the candidate a score after the interview.

5 minClosing

Finishing comments and remarks to be discussed

 

Check-In | 5 Minute Discussion

As part of the information you send out in your meeting request, ask that each of the participants set a virtual background to the theme of “Where I would Rather Be”. You can do this in Google Meet, Zoom or Teams. As each participant introduces themselves, they have a chance to elaborate on their choice of location.

Either-Or | 5-minute discussion

Taking your company culture, quirks and inside jokes into account, compile three ‘either-or’ type questions and ask the candidate to choose their preference between the two. For our example, we’re asking candidates to choose between: sunrises or sunsets; pandas or racoons; pirates or the Navy.

The candidate can reveal their answers and can discuss their choices and the background of the questions with the participants.

Deep & Meaningful Questions | 10 Minute Discussion

Prior to the meeting, ask each participant to input one ‘deep and meaningful’ question into the culture fit slide deck. The idea is that these questions should not relate to work, but should rather try to get a sense of who the interviewee is. The candidate can then choose questions at random to answer. You could also ask the candidate to guess which participant posed each question before they answer it.

Turn the Tables | 5 Minute Discussion

Allow the candidate a few minutes to ask the participants any questions they may have around the company culture and what it’s like to work with you. 

Once you’re done, thank the candidate for their time and allow the participants to say goodbye. The participants stay on the call as the candidate leaves so they can score the candidate. 

Candidate Scoring | 10 Minutes Silence

Using predefined criteria, the participants can vote on which candidate they think is the best fit for the organisation. For this example we’ve used three guiding questions: Would the candidate enjoy working here?; Would you hang out with the candidate after work?; and Would you have the candidate on your team? A simple scoring mechanism using Google Excel works well to manage the candidate’s scores.

Each participant takes a few minutes to rate and score the candidate. Once each candidate has been interviewed and scored, you can clearly see the candidate best suited to company culture.


Closing | 5 minutes

Thank the participants for their time and involvement, and draw the meeting to a close. 

Digital Transformation in Retail – Zero Packaging Solutions

By | Design Thinking, Human Centered Design, Product Development | No Comments

Packaging has defined how modern and informal retail works. The entire system is centred around packaging, from displays, pricing, shelving, distribution, returns and more. Consumer purchasing behaviour, the way we promote goods (2 for 1), how check-out works, all link back to packaged goods as the “atoms” of modern retail. So with plastic waste and single-use packaging being responsible for 40% of all plastic production, it’s a systemic challenge to make significant change. Consumers are demanding smarter solutions and less packaging, but retailers and brands are struggling to find the way forward because it is a complex system, not just a single point solution.

First developed for the informal market, where smart dispensing can increase affordability and food safety, we were excited about the ideas potential scalability at formal retail too (read more about our experience in the informal market here).

The smart dispenser concept provides an insight into the future of retail. They benefit retailers, consumers, FMCG product manufacturers and the environment. Consumers are enabled to purchase the quantity they need and take their purchases away in their own container, use a disposable paper bag or purchase a container.

Through IoT-based technology, the smart dispenser shows their purchase cost as they dispense on a screen. The same sensors provide real-time stock levels to both the store and the manufacturer, simplifying restocking and distribution. 

If you can imagine how the customer shopping experience, payment experience and retail back-end systems change when you have a store with 300 or more smart dispensers for all dry goods (powders, grains, single purchase items) and liquids, it is a profoundly disruptive idea – like ordering a car on your smartphone was 10 years ago.

The smart dispensers allow retailers to offer their customers a packaging-free purchasing experience at scale, while at the same time increasing the effectiveness of their floor space through vertical stacking and real-time stock levels per dispenser. FMCG manufacturers can reduce their packaging costs by being able to ship in bulk to retailers and use the data generated by the smart dispenser to manage re-ordering and distribution more effectively.

Retrospective Meeting Formula For Remote Teams

By | Education, HR, Productivity, Remote Working, Team Culture | No Comments

Short for retrospective, a “retro” is an opportunity to reflect on the recent past and optimise for the future. Commonly used by Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley tech startups, retrospectives are a powerful way to optimise a remote team’s effectiveness.

Without the casual water cooler chats or gripe sessions that happen organically in an office environment, issues affecting a team’s performance and morale might go unnoticed until it’s too late. The best way to prevent that kind of pain is by making an effort to uncover problem areas while they’re still easy to address. 

It’s important to note that a retro should be a constructive session and a positive learning experience. To avoid retros becoming blaming sessions or monotonous, this retro meeting formula can help your team express their views with more safety and engagement. Promoting psychological safety in your remote team will help to ensure people feel comfortable to share their honest thoughts and opinions; leading to a higher functioning and more effective team. 

What is the goal of this meeting?

Evaluate the past working cycle – with the entire team – with the aim of generating insights to help optimise how the team works together.

What tools will I need for this meeting?

Web conferencing tool and a collaboration platform that supports stickies.

How much time should I set aside?

You will need about 1–1.5 hours to complete this session. Note that the length of your retro meetings will be determined by the number of team members and how new the team is.

When should I host a retro?

Retros are a great way for a project lead to assess the effectiveness of their teams. Retros can happen at the end of a work sprint, the end of a product iteration or at regular intervals throughout a project. If your team is losing momentum and not meeting deadlines, if sub-tasks did not go as planned, or if there is misalignment between project leads, a retro can help get you back on track. 

MEETING AGENDA

  • 5 min | Check-in – The meeting facilitator sets the scene for what will be done in the session. 
  • 5 min | GLAD – Reflecting back on the project so far, the team writes down what made them feel Glad. 
  • 10 min | Discuss – The team elaborates on their contributions in a discussion. 
  • 10 min | SAD + MAD – The team writes down their frustrations of the project so far.
  • 10 min | Discuss – Ask the team if they see a pattern emerging and if there anything they wish to discuss in greater detail. 
  • 5 min | KUDOS – The team reflects on moments, teammates or skills which contributed to the project’s success. 
  • 5 min | Discuss – This is discussed in greater detail and champion team members are celebrated. 
  • 15 min | Actions – Key take-outs are discussed, process and Culture Canvas is adjusted, and steps going forward are agreed. 
  • 5 min | Closing 

It’s a good idea to prepare your retro document ahead of time and then share the document link in the meeting agenda. For this example, we have used Google Slides as our collaboration tool.

SET THE SCENE | 5 minutes

As the meeting facilitator, remind participants of the meeting purpose and then explain the process of filling in the GLAD, SAD, MAD, KUDOS stickies. Explain that participants can copy and paste their sticky notes into the relevant sections or slides.

Some people are very outspoken, while others are quiet and observe more. Keep mental notes as to who hasn’t contributed much and make a point to draw them into the conversation to the extent they’re comfortable.

GLAD | 5 minutes (silence)

You could start with any of the Glad, Sad or Mad slides but in our experience, it can be helpful to start off with some positive thoughts about the project. Allow participants 5 minutes of silence to reflect back on the project and type a word/phrase or sentence to describe something positive or something that made them glad.

DISCUSS GLAD | 10 minutes

Once your team has filled in a satisfactory number of GLAD stickies in the allotted time, it’s important to discuss and unpack what the team has put down. If anything written down is unclear, this gives your teammates a chance to elaborate and clarify on what they have to say. 

SAD + MAD | 10 minutes (silence)

Now your team has an idea of what to do, it can save some time to do both SAD and MAD sections at once. Allow your team 10 minutes of silence to reflect back and fill in their frustrations and project pain points.

DISCUSS SAD + MAD | 10 minutes

At this point, it would be a good idea to ask them if they notice any pattern emerging from the stickies. Often, a pain-point experienced by one team member is also experienced by another; so it is likely that your teammate’s stickies will be repetitive. These patterns or repetitions can help you identify next-actions or ways to optimise your process. Starting with SAD, identify as a team where the patterns are and then get one or two team members to sort the stickies into groups.

KUDOS | 5 minutes (silence)

To ensure the session doesn’t end on a sour note, it’s important to give time for kudos. This is where your team will call out a champion team member and celebrate a particular effort on the project.

DISCUSS KUDOS | 5 minutes

Allow your teammates 5 minutes to share their celebrations and props with each other and to elaborate on the ways this contributed positively to their project experience. A little peer-to-peer recognition is a great way to end your retro on a positive note.

ACTIONS | 15 minutes

This is an opportunity for the team to discuss solutions and to make necessary adjustments to project processes and your Culture Canvas (an essential tool for remote teams). As the team solves a challenge or agrees on a way forward, this is recorded as an action. These actions should ensure elimination of the frustration and pain-points experienced in the project so far.


CLOSING | 5 minutes

Spend the final 5 minutes of the meeting ensuring that everyone has had their say, that everyone is aligned with the next steps, and that any changes to processes or ways of working have been clearly communicated. Ask if anyone has final questions or comments. And finally, acknowledge your team’s participation and express gratitude for special contributions.

Hiring For Agile Work Environments

By | HR, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture | No Comments

The current world of work is an environment of perpetual disruption with a high pace of change in all aspects of business, from technology to consumer behaviour. This means it is ever more important for employers to rethink their hiring process to successfully identify and attract talent that is highly adaptable and open to learning new skills. 

Team leaders now have the challenging task, during interviews, of asking the right questions to reveal which candidates are best suited to fast-paced and agile work environments. 

Candidate Selection Criteria

 

We have found that there are certain traits or characteristics which are common across high-performing agile workers. Seeking these characteristics out in your new team hires may help to ensure that you’re securing the best possible candidate. It’s useful to create an interview form containing your questions which could be filled in by those in the hiring process and used as a template for interviews going forward. For this example, we have used Google Forms.

When you’re looking for talent, keep the following criteria in mind:

1.  A WILLINGNESS TO LEARN:

Workers who want to do things the way they have always been done will often find remote work challenging, especially with emerging technologies. That’s why a desire and willingness to learn is a prized remote working soft skill. Whether the candidate will need to learn a new customer relationship management (CRM) system, adopt a set of new company policies, or tackle another new task, their willingness to learn is a highly valued commodity.

What To Ask:

  • Tell me about a risk you took and failed. What did you learn?
  • What can you do today that you couldn’t do 6 months ago?
  • When last did you take a course?
  • Describe a situation where you were asked to do something you’ve never done before.

What To Look For:
A candidate who has volunteered for stretch-tasks in their roles or who have decidedly taken on a task outside of their comfort zone in order to grow. A willingness to embrace new technologies as well as a candidate who has sought out mentorship are also good examples. 

 

2. A WILLINGNESS TO WORK IN A TEAM:

Having the skill set to collaborate with team members on projects is vital for any team, but especially remote ones. Whether you’re creating a new campaign or launching a new product, how a candidate works with others gives you an idea of what it’s like to have them as an employee and co-worker. Because the candidate will only have the internet to communicate with their peers and complete work tasks, they must possess the skills to work with others efficiently. If they struggle with this, remote work may not be for them.

What To Ask:

  • Have you ever worked on several small teams at once?
  • Have you ever disagreed with your manager? How did you deal with it? 
  • What does it mean to you to be a team player? 
  • Tell me about a time you had to work with a colleague that you didn’t get along with.

What To Look For:
A candidate with the ability to communicate well, actively listen and respond honestly will do well working as part of a team. Empathy and awareness of others are also qualities of a good team player. 

 

3. AN ABILITY TO SELF-MANAGE:

Is the candidate sufficiently self-motivated or self-disciplined? Can they manage time effectively? Working remotely means that work/life boundaries can get blurred and this can make it challenging to effectively manage time. When building a remote team, look for an independent worker who’s responsible for managing their time and setting clear boundaries between deep work and shallow tasks. If someone is consistently late, isn’t good at tracking the time, or is unable to communicate clear boundaries, remote work likely isn’t for them.

What To Ask:

  • What is your preferred management style?
  • What do you when you sense a task is going to take longer than expected? 
  • When you had extra time available at your last job, describe ways you found to make your job more efficient.
  • How do you keep yourself motivated when you experience a setback on the way to achieve your goal?

What To Look For:
A candidate who arrives on time and is well prepared for the interview. This may mean the candidate has downloaded the appropriate meeting app ahead of time, is dressed appropriately for the virtual interview, has a professional background or home-working space, and one who has prepared questions about the organisation.

 

4. A POSITIVE DISPOSITION:

When teams are motivated and positive, they accomplish more and they also have fun being a part of the team. A positive attitude and disposition can go a long way to successfully meeting some of the challenges of working remotely. Several studies have shown that happy, content, positive thinking people are more successful in their careers, more creative and work well with other people.

What To Ask:

  • Tell me about a situation when you dealt with conflict in the workplace remotely.
  • Have you ever felt that your skills were being overlooked? What did you do to improve the situation?
  • What’s the toughest lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
  • How do you handle negative feedback?

What To Look For:
A candidate who shows enthusiasm for working with your organisation, who asks genuine questions about the role and the work. A candidate who does not badmouth previous employers, but rather provides a forward-looking and positive review of their past experiences.

 

5. ABILITY TO HANDLE WORKING REMOTELY:

According to the 2020 State of Remote Work Report 20% of remote workers say they struggle with loneliness. A successful candidate will need to be happy and comfortable working on their own and motivating themselves to do so. When hiring a remote employee, look for a self-starter; someone with the confidence to make key decisions on their own.

What To Ask:

  • How much of your social life comes from work?
  • Where do you feel you are most productive? 
  • Have you ever worked remotely? What were some of the challenges you faced?
  • Why do you want to work from home?

What To Look For:
A self-motivated and technology savvy candidate who does not derive a huge portion of their social lives from work. One who can manage flexible work hours to accommodate overseas colleagues and who feels productive working from anywhere.

 

RANKING YOUR CANDIDATES

 

Using your candidate criteria and the candidate’s interview answers to the assessment questions, you can vote on which candidate you think is best. It is mostly likely that a manager or direct line of report, an HR representative and a senior manager will each cast their vote on the candidates. 

A simple scoring mechanism using Google Excel works well to manage the candidate’s scores. 


At the end of each interview, the key decision-makers give each candidate a score out of 25. In this example, 1 = no ability/willingness; 2 = not a strong enough ability/willingness; 4 = a promising ability/willingness; and 5 = a strong ability/willingness. The highest scoring candidate indicates the best performing candidate.

 

Templar Wales SA Today

Watch: 100 Days In Lockdown and Remote Working. Templar Wales on SA Today, SABC

By | #COVID19, Digital Transformation, Future of Work, HR, In the news, Productivity, Remote Working, Research, Team Culture | No Comments

It’s been 100 days since lockdown began in South Africa and remote working has become a part of everyday life for businesses and employees. This presents a unique opportunity for many companies to adopt new ways of working that will stand them in good stead for the future.

What does the new world of work look like and how are organisations adapting? dY/dX partner, Templar Wales, addresses this question and more in a recent interview with Florence ‘Flo‘ Ledwaba, on SA Today, SABC.

 

Transcript

 

Flo:
The 100 days since lockdown have seen remote working become an integral part of the business life. During this time businesses and employees have adapted to a new way of life and operating. Here to chat about working remotely under the lockdown, I’m joined by Templar Wales, partner and co-founder of digital transformation company dY/dX, for more on this. Just as a start, your company, dY/dX, has recently conducted a study on remote working over this period; what have been your key findings, especially in terms of businesses having to adapt to new operating models in the past 100 days?

Templar Wales:
Many businesses are moving away from everybody working from home to a hybrid model – where some people go into the office and other people work from home. Some of the key issues that people are struggling with are HR and IT policies. Many policies only for when people are in the office and not for when people are working from home. The other is management style – so the role and style of management in terms of building trust and managing output rather than hours. People have been talking about managing output rather than hours for years but now they are having to trust that people are doing their jobs. A very important part of that is also finding a balance between checking in that people are okay and giving them support, making sure they’re clear on what they need to do, but leaving them enough time to do deep work – to deliver on what they need to.

Flo:
HR is central to most businesses. What advice would you give to companies who are grappling with how things are having to move forward?

Templar Wales:
The people that are able to do their job from home – if they work on a laptop or phone – are probably the least affected. The people that are the most affected are those who are leading teams and HR; they’re asking questions like, “How do I lead and manage my teams in this way?” So the one challenge is managing your team so that you can work effectively with them and have clarity around your structures, your meetings, how many meetings you have and how often. The other is around upskilling – making sure that both your teams and your management are upskilled in terms of how to work better together, how to build teamwork and culture together, as well as the tools that you need to execute on that.

Flo:
Let’s talk about the many positives of working from home – for one, we don’t have to sit in traffic. Also psychologically, it must be quite a lot easier to not have to worry about getting up in the morning, preparing yourself to go to work and sitting in traffic. Surely there must be a number of positives to take out from this, not only for employees but for employers as well?

Templar Wales:
Absolutely, the positives are many. There’s the upside on a personal level where you don’t have to sit in traffic for 1 or 2 hours of the day, many people report eating better, exercising and being more mindful. I think the benefits to businesses are that they can start to do a lot of cost-cutting – like downsizing office space and the resources that they use to perform certain duties at work. We need to make sure that we don’t go back to the old ways of working and take full advantage of the benefits that this hybrid model offers – where you can keep people working at home and either have certain people doing certain roles or at certain times; so you do 90% of your work from home and then come into the office as and when you need to. So from a cost-cutting and operational perspective, there are a lot of opportunities for businesses to actually benefit. From an employment point of view – if you are now employing people to work remotely, you can recruit people from around the world. You can find the best people who not only live in your city but anywhere.

Flo:
Let’s say, in a year from now, we find ourselves in a situation where we’re all clear, we’re not dealing with this pandemic anymore and it’s a thing of the past… Do you see companies deciding that this has worked and that this is the way to move forward?

Templar Wales:
Absolutely. A lot of us hope that that’s the case. A lot of the conversation is around how COVID has forced people into a digital transformation that should have happened anyway. We see this as an opportunity to leap forward and not just with a temporary change of behaviour, but a more permanent one. We need to take the best of both – how do we benefit from what we use our office for and how do we benefit from working from home? Already you have businesses like Google who are employing thousands of South Africans to work remotely in their help centre.