By Otori Emmanuel
An organisation in its early phase of existence is referred to as a start-up. Entrepreneurs that desire to create a product or service think there is a market for launching start-ups. Because start-ups often have high startup costs and low revenue, founders frequently look for money from a variety of internal and external sources, including personal savings, loans from family and friends, business venture capitalists, and crowdsourcing. There are start-ups in different industries like Information Technology, agriculture, communication, health and other sectors.
Start-ups and Innovation
Establishing a start-up takes careful planning, including consideration of factors like business location, cost of goods or services, product packaging, and supply efficiency. Start-ups frequently run the risk of failing because of unfavourable environmental and industry conditions. Embracing new opportunities and focusing on innovation, among other methods, are accelerators for a business’ survival and growth.
Although, it is true that established businesses also frequently collapse. Technology has advanced throughout time, and many start-ups are combining the cutting-edge idea of tech into their respective fields.
For example, tech is now being used to improve education as in edtech, finance as in fintech, and more use cases are being introduced to daily activities. Statistics show that start-ups are expanding most quickly globally in the technology sector. Over the past few decades, Africa has seen an exceptional number of start-up generations.
The State of Start-ups in Africa
The phrase “start-up” became more common in the 1990s as the number of enterprises centred on technology and the internet rapidly increased.
According to an analysis, African start-up marketplaces hit historic heights in 2021 at over $4 billion, representing a nearly 20x rise since 2015. Start-ups have been increasingly popular in Africa due to various factors, including drawing on previous success stories from the west, attempting to address grassroots challenges, adapting global content to local quirks, and adhering to supportive policies. In terms of current economic events and cultural developments, numerous different facts are at play here.
In terms of living standards, the rate of extreme poverty in rural areas in Africa was close to 50%, which was far higher than the rate in urban areas, which was about 11%. According to the conference board’s Global Economic Outlook, the pace of global GDP growth will reach a recessionary level in 2023 after starting to decline from 3.1% in 2018 to 2.7% in 2022.
Africa has clearly also been impacted by the global economic downturn, which has resulted in a sharp decline in living standards, lower-quality goods, higher costs, and inflation. When prices increase generally, yet fewer goods are available for the same amount of money in an economy, this is called inflation.
When there is inflation, sources and forms of income are affected, from passive income to investment income to disposable income. Our focus here is the disposable income which is the money left to take home after tax and other deductions. Most households depend on disposable income for survival, and the trending inflation gradually steals from this income of an individual in the form of increased grocery prices and the cost of feeding. This has led to the term “sachetization”.
Startup business owners use this approach to satisfy declining demand and maintain operations. Sachetization is the idea of distributing products, which are typically sold in greater amounts, in smaller quantities using sachets in an effort to increase sales. Sachetization helps consumers purchase what they can afford. When only a small amount is required, consumers do not need to buy big quantities of the commodity. So far, this has appeared to be sustainable, with the exception of its drawbacks, where it has been observed that sachet items are of low quality, contain fewer items than is indicated, and even defraud the consumer into purchasing smaller packages when, in reality, a larger package would have been more appropriate.
Reduced disposable income has also affected start-ups in maintaining production costs, purchasing raw materials, increased interest rates on loans, market instability and declined demand.
Therefore, to get through the process of inflation, individuals, households, and businesses seek sustainable measures to meet their needs. A few include:
Upskilling Young People to be Entrepreneurial in Digital Age is Critical
Africa’s young people are undoubtedly one of the continent’s greatest resources. As other regions battle with ageing populations and declining birth rates, Sub-Saharan Africa can lay claim to a median age of 19.7 with around 70% of the population under the age of 30. Those young people are increasingly well-educated and connected.
But all that potential means nothing if they aren’t getting the opportunities needed to fulfil it. And in many countries, it’s clear that they aren’t. In South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy, the unemployment rate sits at 63.9% for those aged 15-24 and 42.1% for those aged 25-34 years. In Nigeria, meanwhile, the rate among people aged 15-34 is around 42.5%. And in Kenya, the lobby group, The Youth Congress, claims that seven out of every 10 unemployed people are aged 35 and under.
While there are a number of interventions that could, and should, be made to help reverse those figures, perhaps the most important is to ensure that young people have the skills they need to be entrepreneurial. Indeed, research has shown that innovators can create significant wealth and have considerable developmental influences on society.
It’s even more critical at a time when technology is accelerating so fast that jobs can quickly become redundant.
“Fostering entrepreneurship among young people not only enables them to create their own opportunities and employment for other young people,” says Didi Onwu, Managing Editor at The Anzisha Prize, an organisation born out of a partnership between African Leadership Academy and Mastercard Foundation that seeks to increase the number of job generative entrepreneurs fundamentally and significantly in Africa. “It can also help them recognise and pursue employment opportunities that they might not have been able to otherwise.”
Yes, entrepreneurship really is a skill
Before digging into exactly what kind of skills can help foster entrepreneurship among a whole continent’s worth of young people, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a pervasive myth that needs to be busted. Over the years, glowing profiles of entrepreneurs (particularly in the tech space) have convinced many that entrepreneurs are born rather than made.
But, as Onwu points out, that’s simply not true.
“The idea of the brilliant innovator turned billionaire makes for a good story,” she says. “But dig a bit further and you’ll see that most successful entrepreneurs were given the tools they needed to succeed from a very young age.”
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, for example, was given extensive time with his high school’s computer at a time when having one was still a rarity. His mother also sat on the board of a non-profit with then IBM chairman John Opel, and helped the then fledgling company score a contract with the computing giant which ultimately proved crucial to its future success.
“While we can’t give every prospective young African entrepreneur a family connection, we can help them develop critical entrepreneurial skills that will serve them well in the future,” says Onwu.
The right skills matter most
While there are obviously a number of hard skills, such as those that concern technological proficiency, which are important to being an entrepreneur, the really valuable ones are a little more intangible. And equipping young people with those skills requires more than a straightforward curriculum.
Take network building, for example. While you could teach the basics in a course, establishing real networks takes time and consistent effort. The same is true for pitching to investors for funding. Other skills, such as mastering the fear of failure, can only be learned through practice.
“It’s something that we thought hard about when we redesigned the fellowship programme from the ground up a few years ago,” says Onwu. “We wanted to ensure that our fellows were holistically building a broad range of entrepreneurial skills throughout their fellowships and beyond.”
Fellows are, for example, given access to communities of fellow entrepreneurs, introduced to a wide network of stakeholders and business experts, and provided with the opportunity to shadow successful entrepreneurs in their sector. It’s an approach which makes a great deal of sense when you consider that research has shown that exposure to innovation has a significant positive impact not just on the kind of innovation that young people produce, but also on their overall ability to be innovators.
Upskilling, now and forever
It should be absolutely clear that Africa needs its young people to be equipped with entrepreneurial skills if they are to meet their full potential in an age of accelerated technology. And, as Onwu points out, efforts to ensure that this is the case need to be made at every level of society.
“While we’re incredibly proud of the work we do at the Anzisha Prize, along with our partners, no single organisation can provide all of Africa’s young people with the skills they need to thrive as entrepreneurs,” she says. “It needs buy-in from governments, NGOs, the private sector, and a variety of other stakeholders.”
Moreover, these efforts cannot simply be short-term and instead need to be sustained over a prolonged period.
“The factors that make upskilling Africa’s young people to be entrepreneurial so important now aren’t going away anytime soon,” she concludes. “It’s therefore critical that all efforts are made to ensure that any initiatives aimed at building entrepreneurship are sustainable and capable of adapting to a constantly shifting business and technology environment.”
By Hyther Nizam
The workplace today is vastly different than it was a few years ago. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by businesses, both for their customers and employees.
Today, the majority of businesses operate on a hybrid model, and as a result, internal collaboration—both digital and in-person, has become critical for business success.
When it comes to creating an environment that supports online and offline employee collaboration, many businesses continue to fall short and work in restricted silos.
In today’s age, companies need to think about implementing effective collaboration platforms that facilitate team communication regardless of whether employees work in-office or remotely. With the necessary tools in hand, developing a strong digital collaboration culture becomes significantly easier.
The importance of collaboration
Before diving into what businesses should look for in collaborative online tools, it’s important to understand why collaboration is so effective. Research shows that high levels of collaboration result in more engaged employees, who communicate openly and don’t fall prey to bottlenecks (such as managers taking overly long to sign off on projects). That, in turn, results in better service delivery and improved customer experience.
Besides the increased employee engagement mentioned above, effective collaboration also improves the flow of information across the organisation and fosters better communication. That, in turn, results in faster problem-solving. Employees recognise this too. According to a study, 86% of employees pin workplace failures on a lack of collaboration and ineffective communication. When people collaborate, they’re more likely to see a project through to the end. In other words, collaboration is important for any organisation seeking long-term success.
Finding the right tools to digitally recreate organizational cultures and improve collaboration
As many organisations have learned over the past couple of years, the general assortment of tools that they previously relied on simply won’t cut it anymore. Hopping between different instant messaging services, meeting platforms, and productivity solutions means that vital information is bound to get lost at some point. Context carry-over, informational continuity, and service uniformity become challenges for employees when they are forced to use a bunch of non-integrated tools for their everyday work. When digital employee experience drops, it has a direct effect on customer experience.
As the virtual world increasingly infiltrates the workplace and becomes a permanent fixture, organisations should consider implementing a company-wide collaboration and connectivity platform that enables inter- and intra-team communication, eliminates silos, and assists employees in maintaining productivity levels. Especially, productivity platforms or suites that leverage tight integrations and consistent interfaces to combine essential office productivity needs such as email, instant messaging, internal forums, A/V conferencing, and word processors with live-collaboration features, for example, enable these applications to become even more powerful and contextually relevant across services.
For instance, when email and instant messaging applications work together, employees have an easier time converting email conversations that warrant live discussions into chat threads and porting relevant information into the chatbox. Based on chat discussions, employees can also add final deliverables as personal tasks directly from the chatbox. And online word processors that facilitate live collaboration, allowing multiple people to contribute and comment simultaneously, can be convenient and life-changing for remote workers. Not to mention the version control issues that can be averted by freeing employees from having to email documents back and forth.
Another aspect to look for in collaboration suites is the ability to fold this internal collaboration into business applications like CRMs. For instance, the capability of an instant messaging tool to contextually integrate with an organisation’s CRM platform will enable executives to discuss a certain ticket via chat or a quick audio call before responding to the customer. Collaboration-conducive elements like these can further elevate productivity levels and get work done faster as well as make the experience of working across multiple services a smooth-sailing experience for employees.
A change in mindset
To help fuel the mindset shift needed to ensure that digital collaboration becomes ingrained in a company’s organisational culture, it’s equally critical that managers adopt, and are seen to adopt, the platform. If they’re getting full use out of it, their team members will also be spurred to. At the same time, employees all over the world are also experiencing digital burnout and virtual fatigue as their entire work schedules shift online. So it’s vital that managers balance empathy and humaneness with the usage of such tools in a non-intrusive way.
A virtual world of work
Businesses must adapt to the new virtual working environment. This requires re-evaluating processes and prioritising online solutions that facilitate collaboration, all while maintaining a focus on company culture. The customer experience begins with employees, and businesses will ultimately benefit from improved teamwork and communication.
Hyther Nizam is the President in charge of MEA at Zoho Corporation
On June 21, 2022, the United Kingdom confirmed that Ukraine had destroyed a Russian vessel in the Black Sea. The strike was considered a game-changer for Ukraine, now viewed as a talented underdog in the Russia-Ukraine war. This also sparked a conversation about how the military recruits and retains top performers.
In a Marine Corps’ talent management report (released November 2021), the Corps Commandant, David H. Berger, explained that the Force “must bring into the service the right people with the right skill sets, measure their talents, and then match their skills to the duties they desire and are suited to perform.”
In the same way, organisations realise that to outperform the competition, developing a good supply chain for talent is non-negotiable: you simply get what you plan for.
Identifying Character and Competency
Usually, organisations would analyse past performance to identify future leaders. But interesting new research (by James Intagliata, Jennifer Sturman, and Stephen Kincaid) reveals that previous achievements are not always the sole measure of one’s capabilities.
Drawing on a database of more than 23,000 candidate assessments for roles at public and private companies, the researchers analysed the behaviours of 1,500 individuals, from entry-level professionals to senior leaders, and isolated the following three psychological markers as reliable predictions of an individual’s ability to grow and handle increased complexity in new roles:
Cognitive Quotient (CQ): While many organisations zero in on intellectual horsepower when considering leadership qualities, CQ measures advanced behaviours which differentiate individuals who creatively use their intellect to solve problems. Is it in their character to step back from tasks to see things from the perspective of their manager? In decision-making (big or small), are they able to scrutinise the landscape to anticipate the unexpected while proactively planning to create value, whatever their findings maybe? CQ is the person’s ability to demonstrate creativity and innovation in solving problems and involves intuition, perception, and intellectual curiosity.
Drive Quotient (DQ): People with a high DQ continuously go beyond their comfort zones to happily take on new challenges. The motivation to excel, a strong work ethic, and persistence are excellent qualities that aspiring leaders commonly display, but the DQ differentiator is how the individual applies their energy. Not just to maximise personal performance but to develop and leverage the capabilities of others for organisational good. This is a distinction often overlooked in many models.
Emotional Quotient (EQ): Companies know they need leaders with emotional intelligence, but according to the researchers, they tend to focus on basic skills such as self-awareness, getting along with people, and being able to read the room, which is necessary but not sufficient. To find people with high EQ, the differentiators identified in the new research point toward a search for individuals who engage for impact. For example, those intentionally channelling their insights to influence stakeholders and negotiate outcomes. And in addition, individuals who are able and willing to deliver difficult messages with courage and empathy.
CQ, DQ, and EQ are each impactful. But together, these markers can help organisations identify and develop the leadership required to navigate unidentified challenges. In one of the researchers’ double-blind studies, the three markers also accurately differentiated those who later made it to the C-Suite from those who didn’t, two times out of three.
Optimising Career Development and Employee Retention in a Hybrid World
The COVID-19 crisis revealed a transformative relationship between Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs), with the majority of CEOs surveyed saying that they would prefer their CHROs to spend more time finding, retaining, re-skilling and upskilling great employees. Talent management was top of mind.
There have also been massive changes in the mindset of employees, for whom re-assessing their career development has become more important than ever in the new hybrid work environment. In a recent interview with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, he suggested the need for Human Resource (HR) leaders and their companies to make the work experience inclusive and meaningful for employees, a paradigm shift from “I work for Microsoft” to “How well does Microsoft work for me?”
Asides from attracting and retaining talent, employee commitment is built over time through expanded opportunities, learnings, feedback, and career coaching. An O.C. Tanner Institute study has shown that companies that prioritise career development see an increased likelihood of engagement (+115%), opportunity (+167%), and personal success (+152%). The probability of increased engagement is 3.7 times higher for companies that provide opportunities to grow in specific areas, acquire new skills, and work on special projects.
To help CHROs execute core talent management components such as planning, recruitment, employee onboarding, performance management, learning and professional development, compensation management, and succession planning – an automated Talent Management System (TMS) is deployed to deliver these processes via software modules. TMSs are also increasingly responsible for supporting the remote workforce by promoting proactive conversations, increasing shared commitment, and driving social engagement.
The Future of Work Today’s HR leaders is expected to deliver quite a handful by attracting top talent, building an effective and engaged team, actively listening to employees, developing retention strategies, nurturing a happy and inclusive workplace, and developing a strong employer brand, while also seeking cost-effective mechanisms that tackle current and future uncertainties.
Little surprise that leading HR departments underscore the need to understand better and refine the employee experience to turn any possible attrition into attraction regardless of employee location (on-site or remote).
The future of work clearly demands that organisations must now leverage technology to power and scale a refined talent management system that fosters a culture of sustained innovation.
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