Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Redefining Longevity

Today’s workforce is more dynamic than ever before; new generation employees will change jobs and even careers a number of times throughout their working lives. This does not have to be a bad thing, business owners need to look at longevity in a new way – it may not be about keeping someone in the same position forever, it is perhaps about keeping talent in your company long enough to maximise the time and enthusiasm new employees bring.

You can hire the best and brightest candidates and they will come in bringing fresh perspectives and ideas; they will soak up the knowledge you have to offer, pour their heart and soul into the work, master the skills benefiting your business and then move on as their interest wanes. Isn’t that perhaps better than trying to keep someone who has lost their zeal for your business?

This workforce wants a lot out of the jobs that are available to them - they want to be engaged, to learn and grow and to feel that they are contributing. If you want to get the most out of them, it needs to be a fair trade. This is the perfect opportunity for small businesses to take the lead over larger businesses.

There is a common misconception that bigger corporations provide the best job security and have more room for growth and progression in a clear career path. In fact, it is more likely that a new employee will simply be a small cog in a very large machine; a larger company is more likely to downsize, resize or refocus as times get tough, and the rule of thumb tends to be “last in, first out”.

Smaller businesses can offer a new employee far more attention, more input and accountability, more mentoring and access to business leadership. As you grow, your staff can grow with you. A small business is more agile, more flexible and more likely to change which is more difficult with legacy staff, newer younger staff are more likely to accept and even welcome change. You also have the ability to teach specialised skills and ways of doing things that will translate across any further fields your employee might look to explore in the future.


Regardless of the size of your business, the way to optimise your staff is through effective employee engagement; it is the only way to get full investment, more productivity, better service, and greater longevity from them. You need to give your employees trust and responsibility, allow them to set their own goals and provide valuable input and to feel heard. This new version of longevity has so much to offer, utilise it instead of treating it as a risk to be managed.

*As published in Accountancy South Africa magazine in May 2014 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Hiring based on discrimination

I am against hiring people because there is a law that tells me I have to, whether it is because of race, gender, age or hair colour. In an ideal situation, I would like to review a CV without any of this information included, that should be the law – it is the only way in which you would be guaranteed to short list the best person to perform the job function you require without any concern for discrimination.

I work closely with a number of strong women at all levels of my organisation (and I have another three at home in my wife and two daughters!). These are all qualified, independent, motivated, driven people who would have my head on a platter if they believed for a second that they were hired to fill a quota of female employees.

I am sure that in certain industries an argument for discrimination based on gender may be made, but I would argue that in professional fields it should be irrelevant.  Anyone who has successfully qualified in accounting or law or medicine or computer science received the same training and must deal with the same business environment. Results are clear cut and easy to determine, so what has gender got to do with it?

In today’s world, work-life balance is an issue we all deal with, and respecting that both men and women have families is good for everyone. Men are often as involved as women in their children’s lives and are as likely to take time off to look after sick kids or attend ballet recitals or even take paternity leave, so that should no longer be relevant to employment decisions.

All the women I know can be every bit as practical, objective and cut-throat as men; perhaps, in some cases, accentuated by years of being treated as if they weren’t. I have also found their ability to empathise and find alternative solutions for issues more often than not make them better able to deal with business situations and conflict.

But even these statements are making the assumption that women are more empathic than men or acknowledging the stereotype that a woman is seen as more likely to be emotional than a man, which aren’t necessarily true. Stereotypes may have been stereotypes for a reason once upon a time, but now they are largely irrelevant where gender roles in business are concerned.


In the end, I believe hiring someone because of their gender is discrimination, whatever that gender might be. And I feel that forcing a business to create their hiring policy based on discrimination of any kind should be beyond the purview of legislature.