Workplace tensions rise on tough economy

Times are tough and workplaces across the world and in South Africa are breeding unhappy workers with tensions rising over dwindling wages. The situation may get worse as the world economy is trapped deep inside a double dip.

This view may be deduced from a statement issued by Manpower Group South Africa saying that with another tough year behind business around the globe, many employees have been left feeling devalued and unappreciated.

In Europe where the once booming euro zone region is mired in a recession, poor economic conditions related suicides are on the rise. Reuters reported recently that “A painful economic recession, rising unemployment and biting austerity measures may have already driven more than 1,000 people in Britain to commit suicide”. They were quoting a study done by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

A recent survey of economic confidence among South African professional graduates conducted by PPS showed that confidence levels among this group has dipped significantly over the past three years or so.

The Manpower statement said cost cutting has had a major impact on increases and bonuses for employees. Although everyone is aware of the reasons, in many cases it does not take the sting out of not receiving the additional cash injection. In South Africa, the rising costs of living brought on by the weakening rand, rising oil price and surging energy costs have many consumers feeling the pinch without any relief.

“It’s caused added tension and dissent in the workplace, however employers have some tough decisions to make in the current economy. For many employees this has been the second or third year without a bonus or significant increase, which is effectively meaning they are earning less in real terms not to mention in relation to the escalating costs of living brought on by the electricity and fuel prices,” says Lyndy Boland – acting Managing Director for Manpower Group South Africa.

“This year, employers will again be considering whether to implement bonuses and raises. The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Business Confidence Index (BCI) in April dropped to 94.3 points, the lowest in three years. This April’s figure was 8.2 points below the April 2011 level. However, it is not simply a case of waiting for things to get back to normal, in fact it seems things have changed permanently with regards to the working environment. The economic troubles have changed the way employers and employees operate as we move into a ‘human age’ of business. Many employees and business are sitting, expecting things to stay the same as they always were without realising that things have changed and they need to change with them in order to move forward.”

It will start meaning more power in the hands of those willing to learn and adopt and less in those who are not. Increased income will be in the hands of individuals through the way they work and learn, using their skills to add value to their services and their remuneration. Bonuses and increases are no longer the given they once were, they are now becoming the payment for value received.

“While many employees wait to start receiving their annual perks again when the economy picks up, many employers have questioned the need to continue with the way things used to be. Changes in the economy have thought them to maximise staff skills and redistribute jobs. These perks are increasingly becoming the means to keep and attract the ‘right talent’ instead of ‘any talent’ as the world becomes increasingly competitive and desires ever-increasing standards of output. For many employees this has left them feeling ‘left out in the cold’ but new thinking proposes a harsh reality – learn multiple skillsets and keep on learning as distinct and static positions are a thing of the past.

“Though some may view this as a negative, the power is shifting toward the individual as the decision maker in their careers and how they are remunerated for it. The shift is a move in a positive direction and is almost a revolution in terms of how businesses and people, work and live. Living in a “new normal” that is anything but normal, epic shifts are converging and moving the world into the Human Age. Identified by Manpower as a new world era, the Human Age will be an era of great transformation, radical changes and new developments, where business models will have to be redesigned, value propositions redefined and social systems reinvented,” explains Lyndy Boland – acting Managing Director for Manpower Group South Africa.

“As attitudes change, time too is become much more of a commodity than ever before, employees are appreciating more of it and employers are seeing the benefits of it and it being increasingly used as a means of reward or negotiation as people either seek to utilise more time for themselves or more time working. This to may prove to offer some alternative to the ‘old’ practice of raises and bonuses across the board based on performance appraisals and reviews. Things have changed a lot in the last few years, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be going back to those ways again any time soon if ever,” said Boland.

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