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Lessons from Lonmin

Oct 23 2012 10:27
*Kay Vittee

STRIKES taking place across the country have dominated our news headlines in recent months.

Kay Vittee, CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions, suggests that all business managers can learn a lesson from the industrial action: to look at what causes employees to retaliate and put preventive measures in place, before the workforce becomes a ticking time bomb.

Says Vittee: “The lesson to be learnt by all business managers, not only those in union-related industries, is less about what strikers are demanding and is more about why employees feel the need to rise up against their employers in the first place.”

Between the celebrations of miners on their record 22% wage increase and the inquiry to determine how the violence broke out, the question that must not be forgotten is: why did the Lonmin miners feel the need to go to these extremes?

“A workforce is the lifeblood of any company and disgruntled employees can negatively impact business,” continues Vittee. 

“This is not only done through strike action, but also by being less productive, resorting to theft or via a high staff turnover.  Staff will find ways to retaliate if they feel they are being treated unfairly.

“Therefore, it becomes imperative for business managers to take a step back and critically look at factors and processes that cause dissatisfaction among their staff.  Although money is often a contributing factor, it is seldom the root cause. 

"Henry Ford said: ‘There is no happiness except in the realisation that we have accomplished something,' and most people enjoy receiving a sense of accomplishment from the work that they do. 

"However, if these achievements are overlooked via factors such as discrimination, overwork without compensation, lack of interest in career goals, unclear communication about company direction, monotonous tasks, inefficient skills development and poor management, employees will become unhappy and be provoked to take action in some way,” she explains.

Vittee advises: “When reviewing issues experienced by a workforce, it is important to gain insight from the employees because what may make sense to a manager, does not necessarily makes sense to their staff.  This will prevent companies from being blindsided by problems that push their staff to boiling point and ultimately risk the growth of the business. 

"However, the issues as well as the solutions are specific to each company and the identification thereof will be unique to the various factors influencing the company culture.

“Lonmin is an example to all businesses that it is essential to understand employees and find solutions to the difficulties that they face."

*Kay Vittee is the CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions.

*Share your experience of setting up your own business, or simply ask a question. Our business panel can put you on the right path.

lonmin  |  mining unrest  |  entrepreneurs  |  workplace


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