Category Archives: Career

Know Your Ergonomic Rights

According to the Ergonomics Society of South Africa (ESSA), ergonomics is the science of work. The goal of ergonomics in the workplace is to design tasks, jobs, products, work environments, and systems in such a way that they are compatible with the needs, abilities, and limitations of people.

In November of 2013, the ESSA announced that they will be working closely with the Department of Labour to ensure ergonomic design is recognised in the South African legislation. This development will ensure the safety and sustainability of working conditions in our country so that our jobs do not negatively affect our overall health.

How do I enforce my ergonomic rights?

A worker should have the freedom to preserve their health while doing their job. It is therefore completely within your rights to approach your seniors with complaints about strain on your back caused by a non-ergonomically designed chair, poor ventilation, or any other undue strain to your body.

Not all problems concerning worker safety and comfort have been addressed in our legislation. There is, for example, no legal limit to what weight a worker can be expected to lift manually. A lot of airlines draw the weight-line for a single piece of luggage at 32kg in an effort to spare employee’s backs. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a much lower maximum weight of 23kg, and that’s only if all other conditions are perfect.

Another example of holes in our ergonomic legislation is a lack of clear regulations when it comes to temperature control. International regulations do however dictate a summer bulb temperature of 23 to 28 degrees Celsius. In winter this range drops to 20 to 25.5 degrees Celsius.

Luckily space allocation is clearly stipulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Environmental Regulations say that workers are entitled to 2.25 square metres of office space including their desk, chair, computer and accessories. Hopefully all aspects of our worker environment will soon be stipulated this clearly.

Promoting an ergonomic workspace

Keep in mind that your employer wants you to be healthy as well. A lack of health concerns in the office leads to employee absence, and profit losses. Office environments and control rooms where employees spend the whole day in a seated position should especially be concerned about ergonomically designed desk spaces and adequate lumber support.

It is your employer’s responsibility to have your workspace audited and certified by the ESSA. There are plenty of companies who specialise in office layout and ergonomic control room design.  These specialists can help with implementing the correct features and floor-plan to make your workspace as friendly as possible, and thereby promote your health.

The cost of implementing ergonomic design is easily validated when looking at the impact it has on worker happiness, days taken off sick and general productivity. Do everything you can to ensure your workplace is not harming your health, whether the legislation demands it or not.

Courses to improve your chances of landing an admin job

If you are fresh out of school and in search of your first real job, the admin field may provide a few great job possibilities.  Every year thousands of companies place ads in search of well-rounded candidates to fill admin roles.  While your lack of working experience may be a disadvantage, this does not disqualify from getting the position immediately.

Business colleges and certain universities offer many short courses that could give you a fighting chance at landing one of the many admin jobs out there, even with limited to no experience.

Microsoft Office

Most positions, from customer care to being a bank teller will require you to be efficient in Microsoft office. Many colleges and high schools offer courses in the Microsoft Office package and provide a certificate on completion of the course.  Computer literacy is taught at as a subject at most schools and form part of a more career-based curriculum. If you did not have computer literacy as a subject on school, a Microsoft Office certificate would be a great place to start.

Typing

If you end up in an admin position, chances are that you will spend a huge part of your day typing.  Sending emails and typing out certain documents are only two of the functions you might fill while in this position. Many companies require their admin staff to be able to type up to thirty five words per minute.  While many business colleges offer this as a course, there are as many good online options you could consider.

Your course won’t mean much if you don’t put your skill to use. Practice on your own to improve your typing speed.

Sage Pastel

If you are planning on working in the admin field, Pastel may be one of the most valuable courses to complete. There are a huge number of admin jobs in Cape Town and other business hubs today, and many of these would require you to have some knowledge and experience where Pastel is concerned.

Payroll

Secretaries and office managers are responsible for working out and paying staff wages.  The University of Cape Town offers a really good online course through their Get Smarter programme in payroll and tax administration. This will definitely put you ahead of the curve when applying for an admin position.

Reception

Admin branches out into many different roles and reception is one of them. As part of an admin team you may be required to spend time being on the switchboard and dealing with front of office duties.  Although most companies should provide you with the necessary training should you have to take on switchboard duty, College SA has a great certificate via distance learning you could take a look at as well.

How to get ahead by upskilling yourself

Having and maintaining a career has changed when compared to what it was 15 years ago. You no longer get jobs for life, promotions that are based on your position or static work tasks year in and year out. Nowadays, the workplace is more flexible than what it was and employers value workers who take control of their careers and have a willingness to learn.

This places a major emphasis on personal upskilling, one of the common workplace buzzwords used. Upskilling involves anything from day-to-day learning on the job or going back to a learning institution and selecting from an array of short courses relevant to your job. If you want to get ahead, you need to do it yourself through upskilling. Career complacency is no longer acceptable in the workplace and could result in one becoming obsolete and unemployable in future.

The good news is that in South Africa, most companies are required by law to contribute an amount each month on behalf of each employee towards the Skills Levy, as prescribed by the Skills Development Levies Act. This entitles companies to apply for partial reimbursement for skills development done to benefit its staff, which ultimately benefits the business.

However, not all businesses are required to contribute towards the Skills Levy, but this shouldn’t deter a worker from finding ways to upskill themselves. When considering a particular course or skills development activity, it requires proper research and a bit of deep thought. Not only should you think what the prospective skills you will acquire can do for yourself, but what value it can add to your current place of employment.

Whether or not your employer contributes to the Skills Levy, it is vital to sell the value you are able to add to the company when seeking their assistance in some form. When an employer sees the effort made to upskill yourself, they will be more likely to support you in some way whether it be financially or in the form of time off to focus on your studies.

There are a number of things to consider when deciding on how to upskill yourself. For example, when considering a particular course of study, factors such as the sacrificing of of holiday time, family time, financial costs, added pressure of exams and assignments all need to be weighed up in order to reach a decision.

Furthermore, upskilling involves regular career planning sessions in which you map out where you want to go and how you intend on getting there. All it takes is a few hours a week. During this time you need to uncover what makes you happy in your job, what you are unhappy with at that moment, what changes do you need to make to your career for you to be happy and then what sacrifices are you willing to make.

In addition, the tips below will aid your attempt in upskilling yourself:

  1. Prepare to allocate time to your career plan. You need time to research, network and simply to think about what you want. Work that time into your week.
  2. Network. Talk to people both in career areas that interest you and also people who have done courses that might suit you.
  3. If you find a course that interests you, use your allocated time to go in and meet the director of that course. Going back to education is a big commitment. You need to really do your research and make sure the course is for you.
  4. Decide what level of course you are willing to do. For example, a short course or degree. Much of this will come down to your confidence and the time you’re prepared to commit.
  5. Consider the finances. If you can’t afford a full course, is there an option to do a module instead? Is there a short course that you can build on later?
  6. Make sure you have an eye on the bigger picture regarding your career. Know where the course you intend to do fits into your overall career plan.

Etiquette for International Business People

In our globalised world, we often find ourselves needing to do business with people who live on the other side of the world. However, every culture has their own way of doing things. What’s acceptable in your home country might be offensive elsewhere. And a simple misunderstanding can damage a perfectly fine business relationship.

Here are some basic guidelines on social interaction in a multi-national business context.

Cultural awareness

There’s no universal set of business etiquette rules that can be applied around the world. Every nation will have its own set of rules and standard practices, so it’s important that you familiarise yourself with the particular culture of the people you’ll be doing business with.

Make the effort to find out what’s going on in their home. That way, you won’t appear ignorant and insensitive. For instance, if you understand the concept of “face” in many Asian cultures, you will know the implications it has for business conduct. Never “lose face” in front of contacts if you want to be respected, and avoid causing your Asian contacts to “lose face”.

Take cues

When doing business in another country, take your cue from your overseas colleagues. This is especially true for where to draw the line with personal space. In some cultures, men might be very unreserved in their affection with one another, so it would be normal to greet business associates with a hug. However, in that same culture it might be highly improper for a male associate to greet a female contact in the same way.

If you’re not sure how to act, hang back, observe your environment closely, and check what the locals do.

Time zones and language barriers

Aside from the cultural differences you’ll encounter, there are the more obvious differences of language and time. It’s important that where you can, you make allowances for these differences. Want to send a brochure or report to colleagues in China? Remember that not everyone speak English, so provide a Mandarin translation. Need to make a phone call to Hong Kong? Check the local time first.

Be tolerant

There’s always going to be something that will seem like a strange way to go about conducting business to you. For instance, Germans are well-known for their punctuality. But in many African and South American countries, on the other hand, scheduled appointments are often treated like a general guideline rather than an absolute rule.

In occasions like this it is vitally important that you be patient and adaptable. Be tolerant and non-judgemental towards everything that is new and different.

 

Finding Your Own Leadership Style as a Manager

Definitions abound for what exactly a leader is. Thing is, there are many different kinds of leaders. A leader doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who is loud and authoritative, or someone who can spontaneously come up with passionate motivational speeches.

And while some people are natural born leaders, this doesn’t mean that not everyone can step into a position of leadership. So if you have your eye on a managerial role, but worry that you won’t be a good leader, don’t worry. You just need to find a style of leadership that suits you. Here are some common leadership styles -. Which ones suit your personality?

The charismatic leader – Some people lead through sheer force of their magnetic personalities. By simply being themselves, people are naturally drawn to them and want to follow them. Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King – these are some of the most famous examples of charismatic leaders.

A holistic leader – You realise that an employee is a person with many different aspects. You don’t just push to make your team perform, but take an interest in their lives in general. You don’t just want a productive workplace, but a healthy environment where people can really flourish. People look up to you and respect you for this. And at the end of the day, this approach gets results because you bring out the best in people.

A leader who leads by example – You aren’t the type of person who says “Do what I say, not what I do”. You lead by inspiring people by your own conduct. You understand that leadership isn’t an end in itself, but a means to encourage and motivate people to commit their energies, skills and talents to be the most they can be.

The democratic leader – People appreciate your leadership style because you don’t act like it’s not all about your vision. You give everyone the chance to participate and be heard. Even the quiet ones in the corner, because you realise that everyone has value. You create a positive office culture and build a team around you that can work well together.

The take-charge leader – If you’re this kind of leader, you’ve just always been the type of person who in any situation can stand up and take responsibility. You don’t run away when the pressure gets too much; you can make difficult decisions, and you have the initiative to get things done.

The introverted leader – You know that the best leader isn’t necessarily the loudest person in the room, so you don’t fight to be heard. You sit back and let everyone have their say, because you know the importance of listening to others and thinking before speaking. Once all the commotion has died down and everyone has given their two cents, you say what you have to say. And it’s thoughtful, valuable and to the point. There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how introverts make great leaders, so you’re in good company.

Being a manager doesn’t automatically make you a leader. Think back to all the managers you’ve worked with. Do you think they were all leaders as well as managers? Probably not. If you want to be a good manager though, it’s important that you learn how to lead. Business management training will certainly help. But remember that it’s also about accepting the type of leadership style that suits you best, without trying to be something you’re not.