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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SABC Reporter: Researchers, businesses and innovators around the world are putting technology to work to alleviate the effects of the global COVID-19 health crisis. Advancements in technology and social media apps are playing an important part in limiting the loss of life caused by this pandemic.
Templar Wales is an expert on improving meetings, interactions and workspaces using technology. Templar now joins me via skype for more on this discussion. As a start, I read an article this week that was saying that productivity is actually on the rise while people are working from home and using technology to enable them to work from home. What do you make of that? Is that surprising? I know people like myself need an actual office to work from – I’m definitely not as productive when I’m at home.
Templar: There’s definitely mixed feedback. A lot of people are becoming more productive because they aren’t sitting in traffic for two hours a day, they are at their desks for a lot longer and there are fewer interruptions – so for a lot of people, they are more productive. The opposite is also true – a lot of people are finding that they are having too many Skype and Zoom calls. There’s a thing called Zoom Fatigue, which is very real – it’s draining and exhausting and they might not be as productive as they usually would be.
SABC Reporter: It’s great to have all this technology and the fact that you and I can interact like this, instead of you being here in the studio, sitting here in front of me. But I wonder about human interaction – there is always a pro and con to everything, and I tend to worry about the fact that this isn’t very personal. It’s so impersonal to be having these kinds of interactions and not physically seeing people.
Templar: It’s true to a certain degree. For a lot of people, they may feel more comfortable not having to go out and physically be in front of a room full of people. If you’re having a meeting with 25 or 30 people, in a way, a lot of introverts might feel more comfortable this way. But you definitely lose the non-verbal communication – the ability to pick up on people’s body language.
SABC Reporter: Do you think companies will see this, moving forward, as a cost-cutting measure – in terms of not having to rent out office space; not having to pay big prices to have corner offices in some peak area in Johannesburg, for example, because you’re going to have less people coming into the office. Do you think that some companies are sitting back and going, “Hey – we might be able to cut costs with these Skype meetings and MS Teams platform that we’re now getting used to.”
Templar: Absolutely, I think that there’s a bit of both. I think we are going to go through a transition phase, where you do have people saving on rent and travel costs. But, for a while, those costs will be moved into paying for people’s bandwidth at home, paying for additional equipment and slowly getting out of rental agreements – perhaps they will only be needing space for 50% or 75% of their workforce, rather than their full workforce. There has been a growing trend of remote working, and this is a pushback trend moving forward – I think that a lot of the work of the future behaviour has been accelerated and will not go back. From an economic point of view, a lot of people are being pushed out of their secure work and are entering the gig economy and working from home so that they’re working for 2 or 3 different clients as well.
SABC Reporter: You mentioned the fact that for introverts this might be a great thing, but how can companies use technology to strengthen company culture? Usually you would have something like team building… How do you enforce that kind of thing when we’re social distancing and aren’t really seeing each other. Is it possible for companies to use technology in some ways and how?
Templar: So that’s a very interesting thing that we talk about internally quite a lot. For a long time, culture has been this thing that CEOs are driving for, but in reality, culture is built on behaviour. So it’s actually a behaviour that we are trying to instil. So if you’ve got a team, it’s important to agree, as a team, what that behaviour is, what is your common purpose, what are you aiming towards, what are the outcomes going to be – plan with the team what the tools and behaviours are going to be. You’ve got diverse people within a team, so how do you make sure that all of their cultures, history and behaviour is included in that team culture that is then formed? Then build your tools around that; build your technology around what you’re trying to achieve as a team and what you’ve agreed upon as your team norms – that will govern your behaviour which will build your culture.
According to a McKinsey report, only 16% of digital transformation projects are successful. This is often because companies are limited in the way they look at solutions, basing their decisions on the experiences they have had up to this point and not on future trends and opportunities. Many businesses still employ an industrial-age style of management, where they manage people by place and time – employee contracts dictate the place and the duration of an employee’s work day and the company’s processes for collaboration and communication rely almost completely on geographic proximity. However, as remote working becomes the new norm due to COVID-19 and distributed teams work from their preferred workspace, team leaders will need to shift their focus and manage their employees differently.
This requires a shift from an office-bound to a remote mindset, the key to which, is an internal cultural transformation. The most successful digital agendas are driven by engaging with people and culture first, and then employing technology. Listen to what Nevo Hadas, Partner at dY/dX, has to say in this interview on ChaiFM.
Avi Kay: I’m reading from your press release and it says that digital-first processes not only eradicate the problem and challenges we had before, but they also eradicate the ineffective solutions we had come up with for these for those problems, making teams more productive and focused on the actual work. Please flesh it out a little bit more as to what that means practically.
Nevo Hadas: Fundamentally, we approach problems from the environment that we understand them in today. So, if you look at Amazon, for example, in 1996, and you looked at it as a bookshop – we would have said it’s a terrible bookshop. With Amazon, you can’t go and browse through or smell the books, you can’t ask the nerdy guy behind the counter about his favourite science fiction book – it’s terrible, who would want to do this? But we’re judging this on the basis of the experience that you have in a bookshop. If you change your mind and asked something like, well, is it more effective at selling books? The answer would be undoubtedly, yes. Amazon is much better and much more effective. And in truth, the science fiction recommendation from the geeky guy behind the counter isn’t as good as 10,000 people’s science fiction recommendation. So what that really speaks to is the fact that we are often limited in the way we look at solutions today, based on what we’ve experienced up to now. And our current construct actually limits our ability to see the future or to see how we could implement solutions which are future-focused.
This ties back into dY/dX. The name actually comes from calculus. It’s the formula for the rate of change – the change in y over the change in x; delta y over delta x. The whole business is about helping companies with digital transformation. We first look at where they are today and then look at where this digital future could lead them to, and we focus on three things. The first one is new products and services – so how could they develop something that is future-focused, that has new revenue opportunities or new service opportunities for their customers, and helps them gain market share or additional profitability in the future. The second one focuses on how digital transformation will impact them as a company – solooking at your processes and saying if I change how I work, and I utilize technology more efficiently and more effectively, how do I change my profitability and my ability to please customers? The final one is looking at the sales funnel and digitizing their sales funnel – looking at how they optimize that flow from a lead to a converted customer, automate marketing and those kinds of processes? The interesting thing that all these three have in common is actually not IT. At the core of dY/dX, we’re actually a human-centred design business. It’s really about understanding people. If you can understand people, you can actually solve a lot of problems in very different ways, which don’t always require very complicated IT.
Digital transformation is interesting because so many of these projects fail. You know, it’s something like a 17% success rate, according to McKinsey, for digital transformation projects. But the thing that makes successful projects is when they actually focus on the culture and the people first, and the technology second. That for us is the key concept – how do you help people understand the problem, reframe it and take it from a different perspective; then it’s easy to solve the challenges that you have.
Avi Kay: I think what a lot of people are waiting for us to discuss is how is COVID-19 and the whole global shutdown will affect business moving forward? My experience has been threefold. Number one, there are those that don’t even know that there’s an epidemic going on – they’ve had to change a bit and they’re wearing masks, but life goes on, business goes on and it’s great. Then you’ve got the other extreme, where you’ve got the guy who woke up on that Friday morning with zero income, zero potential, business shut down, debt, and business overheads that have to be paid. And then there are the guys in the middle, hustling their way through it. But the common thread amongst all three of those people is that the needs to be a way forward – there definitely has been a change. In your experience, what size companies have adapted the easiest to this change?
Nevo Hadas: It’s been less about the size of a company and more about the industry a company is in. Any consumer-facing businesses, like the restaurants and Airbnbs, have had massive issues, no matter the size of the business. We’ve had clients from Tsogo Sun down to much smaller manufacturing businesses that have all been impacted. I think that’s been the primary indicator of impact. The second factor really speaks to resilience, and how well they’ve been able to adapt to things. We’ve seen everyone adapt really well – we’ve actually done an online assessment. About 500 different people have taken this assessment and even teams of companies have taken the assessment – which is really interesting to see how a team evaluates each other – and what we’ve seen is that most people are actually coping with the change. But there’s a lot of issues with how effectively they’re working. And a lot of issues which we can see coming down the line – that there will be in burnout, where people don’t understand how to separate their work and life environments.
Has COVID made a big change in these businesses? Yes, it has definitely accelerated a lot of change that we wouldn’t have had to face or that we otherwise might have had to face over a longer period of time. Working at home and the effectiveness of companies being able to work this way has been moving forward at a slow and steady rate for quite a while. Laptops and data have enabled people to take work home, and now people are actually working from home. There’s been a big transition from taking work home to working from home.
Avi Kay: One thing that I’ve found fascinating is the discussion around how what people were trying to do before, they are now doing and it’s here to stay. Are you working from home or have you got an office that’s up and running?
Nevo Hadas: We’ve actually been a remote-first company for about five years. So we’ve got team members in Cape Town, Joburg, London, Netherlands and recently just added people in Zurich. So we’ve been working this way for a long time and we’re very familiar with this process. The interesting thing for most companies going through this experience, as you said, is that it is here to stay. Right now, everyone is in lockdown, at their homes and at their desks for extended periods of time – this won’t last. What will start happening is that you’ll get more hybrid or distributed teams, where some people will be at the office and some people will choose to be at home. And what we find then in those environments is a change in management – how do you grow, how do you engage these distributed teams effectively – this changes dramatically for businesses, whether they are small or big. They need to start thinking through the next stages of evolution of remote working.
Avi Kay: You’ve made such a fascinating point about management because that’s something that I’ve found that I’ve never really had to do before. Everyone was here, you walked in, you could physically see people, you might look over their shoulders to see what they’re doing. But now when you call and speak to a person, you get kids yelling in the background and you get told, “Oh, I’m just receiving delivery of this or just getting that.” As management, you almost need to have broad shoulders and appreciate that it’s not business as usual, there are other distractions. How do you roll with the punches but at the same time keep the reins tight, but not strangling, so that the worker gets things done?
Nevo Hadas: I think it’s an Industrial Age concept of management – that we manage by place and time. What you find happens very quickly, as you get more into this remote working and distributed teams approach, is you focus more on outcomes. With our team, I don’t know what people do every day and it doesn’t make a difference. I’m sure they do yoga in the afternoons or do stuff with their kids. And it’s great. As long as the job is done and is of high quality, right? That’s all we care about. There are lots of leading global companies with thousands of employees that are all working remotely, which have consistently shown higher effectiveness measures than traditional companies who are office-bound or geographically bound.
What you’ll find as you migrate is that there’s a lot of advantages. You can have more Flexitime workers, no one needs to work five days a week, they could choose four days a week – sometimes it goes up and sometimes it goes down – you’ll find that it changes your employment contracts. This is something that hasn’t hit lots of big companies here yet or hasn’t really hit South Africa, but your employment agreements are going to change because all the employment agreements are: be here at nine, leave at five, and everything is built around your attendance. Now it’s not about attendance. You could be attending for three hours a day and be you know, outworking somebody that is there for 10 hours. So you get all these big cultural and social shifts which companies really need to grapple with, and most importantly managers need to grapple with. The tools that used to work before – when everyone was around, you could see them, you could ask them what’s happening with a certain project – those don’t exist anymore. So how do you restructure your time and processes and not over-communicate?
The first mistake lots of people make is that they want to over-communicate – they do daily check-ins and stand-ups. Stand-ups come from agile, which is a development methodology. When agile started, it did stand-ups to make everyone uncomfortable so that they’d get out of that meeting really quickly – that’s why it’s called a stand-up, you’re not allowed to sit down… But now we’re all sitting down at our computers. So I think there’s a lot of maturity and transformation that needs to occur with how companies approach the way they do work because that really helps your business go to the next level. So you go from an office-bound mindset to a remote working mindset.
It is no longer a question of ifthe Fourth Industrial Revolution will change our ways of working, but when. The answer might be sooner than you think – COVID-19 has already ushered in a new era of digital transformation. While the pandemic has provided a global impetus for working remotely and many businesses are restructuring to move their systems and processes online, traditional employment structures and contracts will start changing, opening up a world of new opportunities for both employers and employees.
Nevo Hadas, dY/dX partner, speaks on SAFM to explain what businesses can expect and how to prepare for the coming changes.
Songezo Mabece: Nevo Hadas, partner at dY/dX, a digital transformation company – we’re in conversation with you this evening because we need to talk about something which makes a lot of senior employees somewhat uncomfortable – engaging technology and how companies themselves are not necessarily moving with the times. COVID has forced the agenda of working remotely and increasing the use of technology, and all of that speaks favourably to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What is your response to that?
Nevo Hadas: I think it’s spot on. What we’ve seen is a massive and rapid shift for companies and society to move into remote work. It’s left a lot of companies, and especially managers and leaders, in a very uncomfortable position because they have no skills and haven’t been trained in how to manage and lead people that aren’t at the office. I think it has impacted many businesses as you said.
Songezo Mabece: What should be the process or protocol that companies employ? How much of my own personal equipment is supposed to now suddenly be work equipment? What responsibilities does the employer have to provide me with this infrastructure at home? I understand it could be costly, for instance, I’m a lawyer – if we were working in a legal environment the turnover for paper would be astronomical. You would need a printer. Sometimes you would need a colour printer when you engage graphs and colour diagrams. What balance, if any, can be struck between the expenses in relation to fulfilling one’s obligations as the employer and employee?
Nevo Hadas I think that’s a great example. I’m going to first use the example, then I’ll answer the question of who takes on this cost, and what the future of work looks like in an employer and employee relationship. We have a lot of solutions in the office – things that we use and that we do every day that are actually solving a problem that doesn’t exist in a digitized world. So for example, the issue of printing – one of our clients was working quite effectively running radio stations, where they have a traffic department who needed printer desperately. This was one of the key requirements of this department – they would print out documents to see which ads were running where and track their performance and results on paper, just like you as a lawyer – and still, they were forced out of the office. Suddenly paper wasn’t a critical requirement because they worked out ways to work without paper, and everything became digital. A similar thing will happen to the legal profession; the idea of a physically signed contract will shift into digitally signed contracts, and those contracts will become more accepted. So what you find is the requirements that we had before, for things like paper, were actually habits that we’ve developed from working in an office-based environment, and once we move out of the office, we find new solutions that get rid of those problems.
What that means from an employer-employee perspective, talking about who is responsible for certain costs – what you’ll see is generally a progression, especially for the digital-first or remote working companies. The traditional structure of an employment contract which is a nine-to-five – you’ll be at the office at 9 and go home at 5, and all the time between those two periods belongs to me, as the employer… That really starts shifting because suddenly, I don’t know if you’re at your desk from 9 to 5 and I lose control over that period of time. Before, a lot of our contractual and behavioural components came out of the industrial age and a sense of geographic proximity. Location ruled the work environment and employers wanted everyone in the office at one time so that they could maintain control, communicate and do everything they needed to do. But now, I can’t see you and you could be anywhere – I have to move, as an employer and as a manager, to output-based performance. I have to look at what you’re actually achieving. And once it all moves towards output-based performance, I don’t actually have to care how many hours you work and whether you’re working from 9 to 5, as long as the job is done and done well. That dramatically breaks this whole traditional idea of employment. So now people are moving towards flexible employment and Flexitime. The exciting thing for employees is they get more of their life back, they should get more control over what they do with their days, yet still, be able to be employed and produce good work.
Songezo Mabece: On that, it does assume certain things. Some of those things which were not necessarily part of the discussion are now becoming a reality. If we look at the elder generation – it’s enough for them to open the laptop, press the button and start the computer… Then they click on Outlook, Microsoft Word or whatever system they use, and that for them is as much training as they would have needed in interfacing with the infrastructure for the purposes of doing their work. If there was a problem, they’d simply call someone. Now, all of that is taken away because one has to work on their computer at home. Now there are Zoom and Skype meetings and they are forced to be very conversant with this technology, which they didn’t have two or three months ago. Now they have had to have a crash course and learn as they go. This poses challenges to the workplace. And again, whose responsibility is it? I would assume I have to take the initiative but at the end of the day, it can be costing me money to perform my work, which for the most part, was supposed to be something traditionally provided by the employer.
Nevo Hadas: I think there you’ve got a very good point – this transition from the way that work was, to the rapid new world, is the employer’s responsibility. If you’ve come into the contract and you’re already a remote worker, that’s one thing, because you’ve got your laptop, you’ve got your input manufacturing costs, and that’s part of your agreements with your employer. But if you’re a traditional employee and you’re seeing the shift, then definitely – it’s actually in the employer’s interest to help you transition into this new world.
We’ve recently been doing a whole range of assessments for companies and we’ve been breaking it into two concepts – the one is ‘Company Remote Readiness’ and the other is ‘Team Remote Working Maturity’. We’ve been doing this to get a sense of whether these companies are ready for their people to work remotely. In other words, if somebody has a laptop, then it’s great, they can take it home. But a lot of companies don’t have that. They have PCs, for example, in which case you can’t do your job from home. So those companies can’t even transition effectively to remote working. For those companies to be more effective in the future and actually get the benefits of remote working, they need to invest in training their staff from the bottom to the top, in how to adapt to this new way of working. A lot of this training, especially for senior managers is about loss; it’s about what behaviours they have lost by moving into remote work. They will no longer get to walk into the office and greet people – they lose that sense of comfort from having people around. Your traditional ways of management aren’t there anymore, so there’s a big sense of loss for managers, as well as employees, in this whole transition.
Songezo Mabece: This has me thinking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution; South Africa was talking about it quite a lot, leading up to COVID. Job threats, job security, the advent of technology; we now know we can, in many respects, continue running an economy working off-site. Does this not accelerate, or should it not accelerate, the Fourth Industrial Revolution agenda altogether?
Nevo Hadas: It 100% accelerates the Fourth Industrial Revolution agenda. Guaranteed. A lot of companies that we worked with were debating whether or not they should be allowing people to work from home, and discussing how to do that – and then COVID happened and they had to start working from home. A lot of those debates have ended and that’s bringing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
From a jobs perspective, there are two ways to look at it. If you have a high paying job or are fortunate enough to be in the IT sector, remote working sector or if you’re a knowledge worker, you don’t have to live in a big city anymore, you can live in a small city. This is a massive trend now. This is happening at the top global companies like Facebook. Even in our own business, we’ve had some of our team members saying, “I’m going to go live on a farm for three months.” Which is fine, it doesn’t make a difference. What’s interesting for me, is that it allows South African companies to compete globally without needing to have offices all around the world. Suddenly, it’s acceptable for you to not be there face-to-face with the customer to provide services and products. Suddenly, you don’t need offices in Europe, London, New Zealand or wherever to be a global business. This will hopefully help a lot of companies shift – to realize that you don’t need those big capital costs to expand. That could boost South African jobs and would also hopefully bring a lot of employment demand to South Africa, where we still have lower costs of employees when compared globally, but we also have very strong talent and very smart people. So yes, there is the risk, but I think there are also lots of opportunities if people are willing to grasp them and to see the glass as half full.
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