Loadshedding needn’t disrupt workforce planning

Loadshedding needn’t disrupt workforce planning

As South Africa continues to grapple with the challenges of loadshedding, businesses across the country face the uphill battle of maintaining productivity amidst the uncertainty of power disruptions. As the managing director of ManpowerGroup South Africa*, Lyndy van den Barselaar shares insights and strategies to help employers mitigate the risk of lower productivity during these trying times.

In its interim results for the six months ending March 2023, the Pep group said that the number of trading hours lost to loadshedding increased 500% to 211,000 hours during that period. This equates to nearly 9,000 trading days across its almost 250 stores, costing the organisation almost R72 million in diesel for generators.

Retailers, corporates, and businesses of all sizes are facing a perfect storm that will shrink revenues and present staffing challenges, while the knock-on effects of loadshedding on both staff and consumers range from increased financial pressure to job losses.

Loadshedding has been with us since 2007 and is not going anywhere soon, threatening workplace productivity in businesses without access to alternative power sources. “Beyond adopting solutions centred around alternative sources of power for laptops, PCs, and phone lines, South African businesses need to implement tailored planning around the loadshedding challenge,” Van den Barselaar points out. “With the correct plans in place, employers can mitigate the risk of lower productivity in their organisations.”

Flexibility is key

One way to mitigate the challenge of loadshedding is to adopt flexible working hours modelled around Eskom’s schedule – ever-changing as it may be – and to allow employees to work remotely when possible. If loadshedding stages ramp up and the worst challenges occur during working hours at the office premises, allowing staff to remain productive by working in an area with access to electricity and an internet connection can save hours that would otherwise have been lost. 

While flexibility helps to mitigate loadshedding, it also aligns with current workforce trends. “ManpowerGroup research has found that millennials and Gen Z prioritise flexibility when choosing an employer, which means that employers offering flexible working options will have motivated and productive staff and will do well to attract and retain the talent within their organisation,” says Van den Barselaar. 

Team building 

Loadshedding also presents an opportunity to tackle tasks that have been pushed down the priority list. Leveraging the absence of higher distraction levels associated with email, Internet, and telephone systems can enable workforces to focus on other areas of the business. In an environment where the challenge of loadshedding may dent morale, team building is one productive exercise to implement.

“Holding team building activities during downtime will not only ensure that the workforce remains motivated, but has positives for the company’s employee engagement strategy, as it prioritises relationship building within the organisation,” emphasises Van den Barselaar. “Organisations could even use this time to conduct activities like team brainstorming sessions or planning meetings to ensure all employees work together toward similar goals.”

Career conversations

Further to ensuring the employee engagement strategy is prioritised, loadshedding presents an opportunity to hold career conversations with all staff. A survey by ManpowerGroup division Right Management saw 82% of respondents say they would be more engaged in their work if their managers had regular career conversations with them, and 75% said they would be more likely to stay with their current employer. 

“Talent has become the most important competitive differentiator for organisations, and creating a culture that encourages career conversations will help an organisation to attract and engage the best talent, while also encouraging all employees to take charge of their careers,” says Van den Barselaar.  

Soft skills training

As technology transforms organisations, skills needs are changing rapidly and companies are struggling to find the talent they need. ManpowerGroup’s report, Robots Need Not Apply: Human Solutions in the Skills Revolution, surveyed 20,000 employers across 42 countries on the impact of automation. It found that soft skills are of the most significant value and are hardest to find. 

“Developing soft skill abilities can have an immediate and long-term impact for both the employees and the employer, and skills development in this regard should be prioritised for all businesses,” notes Van den Barselaar. “Downtime during loadshedding can present a good opportunity for training to take place.”

While meaningful work connects employees to an organisation and its success, it is not enough. To foster deeper engagement and productivity, that work has to be embedded in a culture that invests in employees’ careers, enables informed career decisions, and demands individual accountability for career growth. “This requires organisations to actively facilitate a learning journey designed to help employees develop new capabilities and knowledge while providing longer-term career growth opportunities,” says Van den Barselaar. “While loadshedding may present challenges for local business, it’s important that organisations work to find opportunity in the darkness, too.”

* ManpowerGroup is a global workforce solutions company with clients in more than 75 countries.

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