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Productivity is seeing rapid gains despite retrenchments

5 October 2009

Productivity is rising in companies despite extensive retrenchments, Liza van Wyk, CEO of Johannesburg-based executive and business support training organisations, AstroTech and BizTech says

“We are getting feedback from companies that despite, or perhaps because of, extensive retrenchments, productivity, which tends to be a problem in South African companies is suddenly seeing rapid gains. This appears to be following global trends as anxious workers perform better to keep their jobs; whether it will be sustained remains to be seen,” Van Wyk said.

“But too the economic crisis has forced businesses to be more innovative, to seek new and better solutions and that could be a contributing factor.” South Africa usually has among the lowest productivity ratings in the world Van Wyk said too that: “Our top courses at present revolve around problem solving of one kind or another, it’s evident from the top courses what sort of challenges the economy is grappling with. And, inhouse courses have become more popular than public courses as companies focus on team building rather than sending one or two people on a course.”

Top courses at present include: Technical person to Manager, People Management for New Managers; Management for New Managers; Problem Solving; Finance for Non-Financial Managers - “business is looking for ways to improve the people skills of the management teams they have, but skills shortages are seeing a lot of relatively inexperienced people appointed to top positions and so management training is receiving an unprecedented focus on basic management and financial skills.

“The economic crisis and retrenchments mean that businesses are trying to get the most out of their teams right now and if managers are skilled they will achieve that. A big driver for training is to seek ways to boost productivity. In our own business we have become smarter. As an example; instead of hiring outside agencies to pursue debtors we now do it inhouse and are getting better results.

“Companies report taking a hard look at their business and shifting people around to improve performance. There is also better performance management and closer monitoring of work. We used to have two people a day calling clients and between them they averaged 15 calls a day, we brought in one more staff member and the call ratio went up to 30 a day. If you have one person in a team that is ambitious it often boosts the productivity of everyone.”

Van Wyk said another trend was that South African businesses are increasingly turning to sports solutions to find clues to team building and problem solving.

“We’ve had a feast of great sport recently in South Africa and more to come and we find more businesspeople are looking at sportsmen and coaches for clues to success.” Jake White and Francois Pienaar are popular business coaches and business leaders pay large amounts of money to hear Tiger Woods discuss how the discipline and strategies of golf can be applied in business. How to be a Total Team Leader has never been more important.

Van Wyk says rugby coach; Pieter de Villiers is an example of a Total Team Leader: “He has learnt how to focus on motivation, empowerment and the development of his team. We find that in this sports-mad country there is a strong positive response from discussing sport successes and failures to demonstrate leadership success and failures in business.

“The anxiety around Bafana Bafana’s performance particularly around the World Cup is an example of how a team can influence morale within a country or an organisation. And the way the nation united behind Caster Semenya is an example of its powerful uniting capacity.” And the conduct of Athletics South Africa chief, Leonard Chuene was an example of how poor leadership can wreak havoc.

Van Wyk points to some of De Villiers winning advice that business executives and business support staff respond well too:

“Great teams have a great team spirit. You need players that don't expect anything from the team but give everything for the team. You need players that can handle the pressure of performing in front of thousands of people. When the opposition comes at you with all guns blazing, you need to be up to the task. A great rugby team stands up as brothers.”

De Villiers has also said: “It's not necessarily how you play when you're winning that's important, but how you react to defeat as well. If you work as hard as you can you'll do well. It's good to endeavour to be the best that you can be. The road to success is always under construction.” He says the best leaders bring “calmness and direction to the team.

“What he says about the role of the team leader is particularly important,” Van Wyk says, “De Villiers has said he respects people and that's how he gets the best out of them. If you understand and respect people, you can get the best out of them.”

As a team leader goals and targets are essential for business success if employees know and understand them. “At BizTech we offer the Total Team Leader course which also puts an emphasis on goal setting and how to get maximum buy in,” said Van Wyk.

It is not just about building a team but also maintaining the team and dealing with challengers that may arise. “People are not easy to deal with especially when they are being faced with a lot of external factors that can affect their performance,” cautions Van Wyk.

“There is no ‘I’ in team and the South African rugby team is proving this to be true,” said Van Wyk.

The next Total Team Leader course will be held on 30 November to 1 December 2009, at the AstroTech Conference Centre in Parktown Johannesburg.

Contact information:
Liza van Wyk
Tel: 011 582 3211 or 082 466 8975
liza@astrotech.co.za
www.astrotech.co.za

Issued by CSC csccapetown@telkomsa.net 021 762 2656 www.charlenesmith.net