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9 ways to boost productivity that will make you a better teammate

boost productivity

Employee performance is the foundation your businesses success is based upon. It’s a tricky task to keep a large and small scale staff compliment happy at all times. A happy employee is a productive employee. We would all love to work from home and own our destinies, however, the nature of traditional businesses demand that employees be in the office at all times.

There are companies disrupting the status quo and challenging this outdated mentality. We live in a new age where modern technology has bridged the gap between vital communications within an organisation. Useful online tools like Skype or Slack can help your business communicate with companies in other countries in real time.

Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand challenged linear thought and started working outside of the box. By implementing a 4 day working week instead of a 5 day one, they successfully boosted employee productivity and alleviated stress levels.

Your organisation may not be there just yet, but we have uncovered some useful skills to keep you motivated and boost your productivity levels at work.

  • Keep track of your time consistently

One of the most valued assets on the entire planet is time. Time is money in the business world and if you can consistently keep track of your time, and manage it, you will become a greater asset to your organisation.

There are a few nifty tools to help you keep track of time. You can use something like Toggl or Nutcache. These tools can provide you with useful insights to show you where you have devoted your time to, on any specific project.

  • It’s okay to use do not disturb sometimes

We all love our sleep, however, we are also glued to our smartphone’s screen just about 24/7. All modern smartphones have a “DO NOT DISTURB” feature. Why not use it at work, flip it on and reduce the amount of outside interference in your day, giving you more time.

  • Take breaks

Nobody is a robot and you can’t keep going at the grind all day. Taking breaks keeps your brain sharp and motivated to keep working on a project. Allow for some down time with a cup of tea or a ten-minute walk.

  • Say no to pointless meetings

We are not suggesting that you go to your line manager and say “No Barry, I simply refuse to come to the Annual General Meeting today!” But you do need to decide what is relevant and what isn’t. If you feel you are involved in meetings that have no relevance towards you, then simply say you disagree to the meeting because it is ultimately a waste of time for you to be there.

Be up-front and respectful and you may just find that your manager respects you more for making a choice, which affords you with more time to do what you need to for your organization.

  • Ask for help if you need to

Everyone wants to impress their boss. It’s a natural reaction when you work hard. This can become challenging though, especially if you’ve bitten off a little more than you can handle. This will only make you feel overwhelmed. You have a team, use the team accordingly.

Allow each component within your team to work effectively, like a well-oiled machine. This will increase proficiency and productivity.

  • Stay focused on the essentials

Don’t overthink it. Stay focused on the essential requirements and then fill in the less important parts later. By getting the big stuff out of the way, you clear a path for your team to start perfecting the project.

  • If you have the opportunity to work remotely, take it

With the internet in nearly everyone’s home, it’s more than possible to take a breather from your desk, and work remotely for the day. This helps to refresh you and keeps your head focused for the future.  

  • Keep yourself and others around you optimistic

Don’t be the type of person to create a negative office environment. Rather stay optimistic. Even if you think that you may be buckling just a little bit, crack a joke here and there. ‘Fake it until you make it’, and keep the optimism going around the workplace.

  • Establish your most productive time, and work it  

If you are fortunate enough to get into work early, then you may notice that you get more work done without the distraction from the daily hustle and bustle. Capitalise on these hours and schedule your most important tasks for those times.  

With these nine helpful tips, you’re sure to become a more valuable employee. Keep checking back on our blog page for disruptive content that can change the way you do business.

South Africans are concerned about their working futures

south africans are concerned about job security and employability

The economic and political situation in South Africa has all of her citizens concerned about their job security, especially in the years to come. A research report conducted by MasterStart reveals that a mere 23.8% of working South Africans believe that their current skills will keep them employed in ten years time. One undeniable fact about all South Africans is that we are resourceful, intuitive and most of all survivors. It’s exciting to see that our people are taking initiative, and finding new ways for staying relevant in a world where change occurs almost daily.

Adapt with technology

Technological advancements including artificial intelligence and robotic process automation have the majority of South Africans looking for a way to future-proof their careers. In a survey of over one-thousand people, the MasterStart workforce barometer uncovered a very real statistic. That was 95% of people agreed lifelong learning is the key to retaining relevancy in their chosen field.

A word from the CEO

Andrew Johnston, Former CEO of MasterStart says, “Our workforce is clearly concerned, but positively, our research revealed that people are aware that frequent upskilling and reskilling will aid them in remaining relevant and employable. Especially in a country where unemployment is an ongoing issue, it’s imperative that we empower people to future-proof their careers by making lifelong learning opportunities continuously accessible.”

The Raw Reality

Did you know that it is estimated that artificial intelligence could boost global Gross Domestic Profit by as much as $15-trillion by the year 2030? That’s a whopping injection into the world economy. Aim to be a part of this dynamic movement, with technology that helps make our lives and jobs easier, it is still imperative that we keep ahead of the curve, in order to stay relevant.

Today is the biggest challenge

It’s really tough out there; 80% of people surveyed believe that it is far more difficult to find employment, as opposed to ten years ago.

Factors to consider today

In today’s day and age, there are numerous aspects to consider in the South African workforce. If we zoom into it; macro and micro factors seem to be at the core of the current employment situation in South Africa.

The most talked about and obvious being the political and economic climate of the country. Increased competition, where even online businesses are starting to become over saturated making it difficult to stand out. Fewer employment opportunities and rapid change have also been noted as a hindrance to growth and development within the job market.

IT and technology jobs are seen as the most secure

It’s actually quite ironic that IT and technology-related jobs are viewed as the most secure amongst South Africans since these very industries are responsible for decreasing the demand for human engagement in the workplace. Our survey noted that 30% of IT and tech employees felt supremely confident in their skills and relevance moving forward into the future, or at the very least for the next ten years.

Don’t let age hinder your career prospects

Many of the survey participants claimed that their age and lack of skills were their biggest barriers to gaining meaningful employment, especially for people over the age of fifty. It is interesting to note that people from twenty-four up to the age of thirty-four listed a lack of skills as the most prohibiting factor in securing employment.

Recognise, Retain and Nurture Talent

Large companies need to take the lead. Corporations can help by becoming apart of the solution. By investing in their staffs’ education, they are able to upskill their employees to help them stay relevant in a world that is constantly changing and adapting to technological needs. The reality is not all managers are equipped to deal with people on a human level.

If you recognise this, it could be beneficial for your business to upskill managers on people skills. A short course in human resource management from MasterStart may just be the answer you have been looking for. Likewise, there are various courses on offer for any employee wishing to stay relevant in the modern age. The key to staying relevant and a cut above the rest is lifelong learning. This short-course will help you stay at the top of your chosen field, now, and far into the future.


It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

Even with the glum statistics and the current recession South Africa has slipped into, rest assured there is still hope on the horizon. Its uplifting to see that 80% of survey respondents were planning to study further in the future. Studying further allows you to not only enrich yourself but enrich your company. The majority of companies love employees who take the initiative to study further and enhance their skill set.

Look to study online

Studying online courses can help you receive that promotion that you have been yearning for, followed by a hefty salary increase. You owe it to yourself to stay relevant, which will ultimately result in a more diverse set of skills making you less irreplaceable, higher motivation levels and improved communication skills, which allow you to form long and lasting relationships with your company.

Johnston concludes, “Given the competitiveness of the market – which will only increase with the rise of automation – having a sought-after skillset is the best way to guarantee ongoing job retention.  This means using online learning tools to get to grips with AI and RPA in order to build on efficiency and one’s overall value-add in a business.”

Read the top 10 key findings from the survey here: MasterStart Workforce Barometer Report 2018.


HRM roles and how they are changing

how human resource roles are changing

If we’re honest, the Human Resources department has always had a slight ‘stigma’ amongst employees. They’re often seen as the ‘police department’ of an organisation; associated with hiring, firing, issuing warnings and handling grievances. Employees believe HR is watching their inputs; ready to strike with a performance appraisal that’s less than favourable. Thankfully, the HR department pay the salaries!

However, this stigma is about to be obliterated. The role of HR in organisations is being revolutionised rather rapidly, and the changes are sure to surprise you. Let’s take a look at the transformations we can expect within the HR department:

From hiring and firing to empowering, engaging and supporting

HR will no longer be seen as the department responsible for hiring and firing. The future of HR sees the department playing a key role in employee and organisational growth; consolidating the two elements to ensure employees are heard, valued and supported throughout their journey with the organisation. Modern-day HR responsibilities will largely focus on strategy and development to create an inspiring, uplifting employee experience.

From the ‘police’ of the organisation to the mentors and coaches

The HR department has long since been viewed as the department that enforces rules and leans towards the side of the organisation, rather than the workforce. This mindset has shifted, with the HR department now being the place to go for career advice, guidance and feedback. The modern-day HR department has the organisation, as well as the employees’ best interests at heart; and is now seen by employees as the place to go to to voice concerns and seek assistance, instead of being the place to shy away from, and feel intimidated by.

From eluding technology to relying on technology

The use of advanced technology was not always a driving factor in the HR department, however, as technology has evolved, as well as the nature of the department; there is a need for advanced technologies to streamline processes and foster growth. The use of new tools like big data and analytics, is giving the department a better understanding of employee behaviour; further assisting in employee motivation strategies and employee experience.

From having little impact on strategy to having an immense impact on strategy

For many decades the HR department was excluded from most organisational strategy exercises and decision-making efforts. Previously, the department was directed by top management and was told what to do, with little say on most company matters. Nowadays, the department is fully involved and has a significant impact on organisational strategy. They are seen as the voice of the company – speaking on behalf of the workforce; ensuring employees are considered during each stage of the decision-making process.

From meeting the basic needs of employees to creating an employee experience

HR no longer just meets the basic needs of employees; such as issuing employee contracts, paying salaries, or drawing up performance appraisals. The focus of the department has shifted from an admin mindset to a growth and experiential mindset. The department is now also responsible for creating an inspiring employee experience, and office culture in order to retain good staff and improve productivity and performance.

From focusing on employee inputs to focusing on employee outputs

Instead of honing in on employee inputs and what needs to be done, the modern-day HR department is now shifting their focus to employee outputs. This means employees are given more control over what they do and how they perform tasks, and only their outputs are analysed. This encourages motivation and seeks to improve performance in a less controlling manner.

From annual performance appraisals, to real-time feedback

Another way HR is improving employee experience is through real-time feedback. This has/is taking the place of performance appraisals, which are drawn up and analysed at a specific time during the year. It’s a much more ‘approachable’ method, and reduces the stress and anxiety associated with performance appraisals – many employees believe this exercise to be intimidating; which of course does more harm than good when it comes to motivation and company culture. Real-time feedback gives employees the chance to correct their shortfalls in the moment, rather than have them brought up later down the line. This method improves communication and relieves the feeling of being ‘watched’ or analysed.

From filling gaps in jobs to nurturing talent and enhancing careers

HR no longer looks for ‘placeholders’ for vacant roles. Now, as much as they seek to find the perfect person to perform the role, they also concern themselves with the way in which the role will serve the individual’s career development. Through nurturing talent, building skills and unlocking the potential within employees, they further create an environment of growth, built on upliftment and empowerment.

Become part of the revolution! Sign up for our Human Resource Management online short course

Interview with Kevin Henderson, the HR man

Kevin is a clinical psychologist, facilitator and motivational teacher with over 30 years’ experience in education, training and development, private practice and employee wellness work.

In addition to running a private practice in psychology, Kevin is a seasoned facilitator focussing mostly in the areas of leadership, EQ and people management at the Business School (Executive Development) of the University of Stellenbosch.
If we do say so ourselves; Kevin is an extraordinary mentor, whose knowledge and experience will feed your growth, both personally and professionally.

1. What is the highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career has been being able to facilitate people management practices to employees of the UNFPA in Uganda and Sierra Leone.

2. How is Human Resource management different in start-ups vs well-established companies?

In most start-ups, the HR function tends to be more of a generalist role, whilst there’s more specialisation in established organisations. The HR role in startups also tends to focus more on moving people laterally in order to assist with the motivation of employees whereas in established organisations there’s greater opportunity for promotion due to the size of the organisation.

3. Any tips or advice for those starting their careers in Human Resources?

Be smart about how you brand yourself in your organisation. You have the opportunity to contribute to the bottom line in the organisation as you are better positioned to contribute to strategic discussions regarding strategies towards achieving the organisation’s goals. You can also assist in changing the perception of HR with your colleagues by contributing to the people agenda within your organisation.

4. Why is it important for those in leadership roles to have HR skills?

It will assist leaders to maximise what they can get out of their people. In the world, it is all about productivity. You can improve productivity when you understand what motivates people, and by addressing people’s needs in addition to addressing the needs of the organisation.

5. What book are you currently reading? Or what is your favourite thing to do to take a break from the everyday hustle?

I enjoy playing a round of golf or just having fun on the squash court.

6. And finally, what is the one thing you can tell us about yourself that we won’t find on your resume?

It gives me the greatest joy to do things for my kids in order to improve their quality of life.

short course in human resource management

Human Resource Management Skills for Non-HR Managers

human resource management guide

Have you heard the statement ‘people are the most important assets’, when referring to an organisation? I’m sure you have, and even if you haven’t, it’s likely you believe this statement to be true. Whether you’re a Human Resource Manager, a Line Manager, or even a Team Leader you’re aware of the value people add to a business. They’re invaluable components who move the business forward. It’s safe to say that without good people the organisation would certainly collapse.


“People can exist, indeed did exist for thousands of years, without companies. But companies cannot exist without people.” — Lazlo Bock

If people really are the most important asset, doesn’t it make sense that each person who finds themselves in a leadership role should understand basic HR practises? Understanding how to manage staff challenges, how to successfully drive employee motivation, how to improve staff retention and how to hire good people, should not be left up to the Human Resource department alone, but instead should be a prerequisite for managers across the board.

The benefits of strengthening your HR skills as a non-HR manager:

Before we emphasise the benefits of strengthening your HR skills as a non-HR manager, let’s first understand the general responsibilities of a manager. You may notice that almost every managerial function involves the staff that are being managed.

People-focused responsibilities that managers are called to perform:

  1. – Staff management: managers are required to interview, hire, and train new employees.
  2. – Communicate: managers act as the communication vessel between top management and employees.
  3. – Delegate: effective managers identify strengths within their team, and delegate tasks accordingly.
  4. – Motivate: a manager is required to encourage and further motivate staff, to increase productivity and performance.
  5. – Enforce company policy: managers enforce company policy, creating an environment built on accountability, responsibility and respect.
  6. – Train: managers are required to devise training strategies, to train employees on new technologies or systems that being are introduced.
  7. – Evaluate: managers evaluate employee performance and analyse data to ensure goals are being met.

Do you agree that the role of a manager requires a certain level of skill in human relations and people management? The manager does not perform their core responsibilities without interacting, managing and involving the people beneath them.

How you will benefit from strengthening your HR skills:

  1. – Understand people and personalities to ensure your staff management strategies are optimised
  2. –  Learn effective recruitment and selection techniques to ensure you build high-performance teams that’ll accelerate growth
  3. –  Devise and develop winning training strategies to get the most value out of your team
  4. – Understand performance evaluation techniques, and learn how to strengthen performance and rapidly improve employee motivation
  5. – Deal with grievances and disciplinaries in line with legalities

A good manager becomes an excellent manager when their HR skills are just as strong as their technical and conceptual skills. Through their basic understanding of HR, their team will be positively impacted; aiding further growth of the department and the business as a whole.

Developing HR-related skills will advance your career in management:

“Having good people skills means maximising effective and productive human interaction to everyone’s benefit”, says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant; How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job. “People want to connect on a humane level in the office; the alternative is a sterile environment with low productivity. So, the more you demonstrate these abilities, the faster your career will advance.”

She goes on to say:

“Given the choice between a savvy job candidate or, similarly, an employee seeking promotion – the one with excellent people skills and less technical ability will usually win the prize versus the converse.” She adds that “having good people radar is harder to teach than technical skills, but is a requisite for long-term, effective leadership.”

An HR dilemma: hiring the perfect candidate or upskilling an existing employee?

hiring the perfect candidate

As a manager, at some point, you may have thought to yourself  “I have a great performing team, but they lack the level of expertise we require to grow”. In such instances, conducting a skills assessment of your current staff complement can be beneficial. Perhaps you need to hire new employees or upskill existing ones. Upskilling employees is definitely the better way to go as they become greater assets to your organisation.

Conducting a skills gap analysis will not only help you identify these and other imbalances in your company, it will identify current employees with the potential and necessary skills required to fill a role. Recognising potential is key, as an employee may not have all the desired attributes to adequately fill the role, but with some level of upskilling, it’s possible they can become a success. At some point, you will have to answer the question: “Do I choose to hire the perfect candidate or upskill an existing employee?”.

Benefits of upskilling

It can be very beneficial for an organisation to have employees that have the ability to wear many hats. This is especially true in smaller companies, where there may not even be an HR department responsible for the hiring and administration of staff. Having a key employee with formal HR training can also ensure that you are covered for HR-related situations. Another great example would be managers and supervisors who are tasked with recruiting. Often, managers and supervisors are not adept at recruiting as they may not have the necessary training to conduct such a task. Enrol in a course to learn new skills that can help your organisation overcome these issues.

A recent Randstad (2017) study showed that 75% of global respondents feel they need more training and/or education to stay up to date.  71% are looking for more vocational training and 49% for the training of personal skills. The study also showed the disconnect between employers and employees in attitudes towards upskilling. The Randstad study further stated that 80% of companies feel they have a responsibility to upskill but have no plans or programmes in place.

Recognition breeds productivity

Like Uncle Ben said: “With great power comes great responsibility” and this is what employees are seeking. They are not looking to upskill themselves merely to improve their circumstance. An employee that feels engaged is critical to a productive and efficient organisation.

There is the fear that an upskilled employee will at some point recognise that they have a desired or marketable skill, and would want to leave your organisation.  The truth is that this is always a risk but by recognising their potential and investing in them you will inspire loyalty and their long term personal investment in your organisation.

The most important lesson I learnt in HR

lesson in hr

‘People are our greatest asset’, is a phrase that can be loudly heard from the sky’s of high-rise glass boardrooms to the canals of mine-shafts beneath the earth’s surface. Conglomerates to small enterprises, sole proprietors to corporations, ‘people first’ is the vision, mission statement and goal of most businesses. Especially when you play in a field like Human Resource Management, you need to value people. 

People first

Learning how to manage and lead people is a daunting task. You will win some and lose some. You will have those that will walk the line with you and those who will cross the line. Most of us move from subordinate to superior positions based on knowledge and expertise in our field of work. Rarely, is it based on our people skills or the ability to oversee fellow colleagues.

So why is it then, that certain businesses put so much emphasis on ‘people first’. Simple answer: as a human being, it is taken for granted that you should just be able to manage other humans because you are a nice person, or you get along with everyone. Well, manager or not, we know it is just not that easy – help is required.

Listening to understand

As a manager, you need never forget that the only way you can own this title is if you have people to manage. It is imperative that you keep your people content, thus allowing you to keep your position.

So how do you keep your staff working to the best of their ability? In my opinion – understand them. Delve into their environment, culture, and learn what makes them who they are. It’s something we shouldn’t take for granted in a country like South Africa, where cultures differ in unique and meaningful ways.

From experience, people want to talk about themselves; they want to be heard, so allow them. This will give you a more intimate understanding of what makes them tick, and allow you to build on their strengths. I learnt this through many years of formal education and leadership experience. HRM (Human Resource Management), is a subject that takes a lot of experience and self-reflection in order to put people first.

Don’t wait till you’re on the top

Junior and middle management have or want to enhance their knowledge of Human Resources. They want to be able to lead successfully, however, it should be a global top-down approach. Big shot CEO’s, Board Members, everyone in their ivory tower, should harness the expertise of human resource management because we forget, they manage people, too. How do we trust a manager when he/she doesn’t have the knowledge to manage the company’s greatest resource – Human beings?

It starts, not when you are in a position of power, but when you want to begin the journey to become powerful. Knowing how to manage the people in your work circle is not only going to make doing your job rewarding, it’s going to springboard you to the next level of success.

The Human Resource Management short course for non-HR managers, coupled with your own experience in management, will consolidate what you know as a manager, but it will also give you the confidence to lead your organisation, so you can make the claim honestly, ‘I put people first!’.

by Nolen Naidoo, Former Head of Sales – MasterStart

Nolen Naidoo – Passionate about Business Management, with a particular focus on Operations and Human Resources. Nolen functioned as the Head of Sales at MasterStart, training and assisting his team in enhancing their sales and operational skills.

Nolen previously lead the outbound sales division for large corporations in South Africa and the United Kingdom, consisting of a staff complement of over 300 sales agents and management personnel. He boasts an impressive breadth of sales experience in markets as diverse as UK, Australia, America and South Africa.

Motivating people to excellence

motivating your team

Employee motivation is important when management is looking to meet the company’s goals. This is especially important when wanting to achieve higher levels of output. Watch an enthralling talk by Cheryl Ferguson, music clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor, on motivating people to excellence. Delivered with great energy and passion and filled with insights that you can easily translate into work and life. But don’t just take our word for it, give the video below a watch and get ready to be inspired. We were so inspired, we developed 4 steps you can build on to create your own personalised strategy to motivate your employees.

Step 1: Define a vision

People can accomplish amazing things when they have a clearly defined vision. With vision, people are able to put into place exact steps to take in order to reach their goal. Without this clarity, people will venture aimlessly not knowing whether they are making any progress and, therefore, slowly lose motivation and feel that the task is hopeless.

Step 2: Give employees the resources they want and need

You wouldn’t eat your soup with a fork, so why would you expect an under-resourced employee to perform? Lack of resources is a common and often overseen, barrier to progress. Resources could be money, personnel, time and support. If you are unsure about what you’re lacking, don’t be afraid to ask your employees.

Step 3: Communicate effectively

Often when communicating, something goes wrong. We say one thing which gets misinterpreted, leading to misunderstandings, frustrations and conflict. What you need to consider is the intentions and emotions behind the shared information, as people tend to pick up on non-verbal messages. One also needs to listen in a way that ensures the person speaking feels that they were heard and understood or validated. Effective communication goes beyond the mere act of exchanging information.

Step 4: Recognise progress

Don’t just extend hollow gestures of recognition, like “good job” or “nice work on that task”. Be specific with your compliments. It can give more depth to them and make employees feel that you truly recognise their efforts.

In the talk below on motivation, Cheryl Ferguson provides the perfect anecdote in her talk that sums this idea up, “… if you say something like the way you played that note at the end of the second movement made my heart flutter and it took me back to the moment I saw my son, Nate, for the first time. Their eyes get wide and they say: well, thank you, excellent!”

Understanding and implementing these steps in your organisation can help you deepen your employees’ connection to your business as well as build greater mutual trust and respect.