The world of work is changing in South Africa, just ask Generation Y


The South African workplace is being defined by technology and the Generation X and Y workers that are using it. The Internet of Everything (IoE) is enabling new forms of connectivity, changing communications and fostering new ways of working. With the plethora of devices, apps and solutions now available and growing at a phenomenal rate, to remain relevant and competitive, employers in South Africa must move with the times, while striking a balance between current and future employee and business needs.

In South Africa, as in the rest of the world, the number of connections – of people and things – is growing every day. It looks likely for instance that there will be 40 million mobile users in South Africa by 2018, up from 38 million in 2013. In the same period, Internet traffic is expected to grow 2.6-fold at a compound annual growth rate of 36% while mobile data traffic will grow at 53%. This growth is in line with the South African government’s goal to connect all citizens to broadband services by 2020, as laid out in the National Development Plan, which also prioritises a “seamless network of networks that by 2030 will make broadband universally accessible at a cost and quality that meets the needs of citizens”.

The Internet of Everything, enabling people globally to be connected wherever they are and whatever they are doing, has led to the rise of ‘Supertaskers’ – members of Generation X and Y who have honed their skills of completing several tasks efficiently and simultaneously. The dynamic is changing and the lines between work and home life are blurring as technology enables South Africans to make the most out of what used to be wasted hours sitting in a traffic jam or a doctor’s waiting room. This flexibility minimises downtime during load shedding, which can often be a challenge in South Africa, as staff can work from anywhere they find power and a Wi-Fi connection.

For the workplace, this means the emergence of a generation of workers with the potential to be highly productive. It also suggests the need to ensure that employees are given the variety of tasks they need to tap into this skill and lead to their fulfilment. Another recent report found that 62% of respondents believe that ’super tasking’ will be the most coveted skill in an organisation by 2020, with just under a third of HR professionals believing that the skill really does equate to more productivity in the workplace. It will therefore be essential to create a working environment that engages and encourages this way of thinking. Our VNI research predicts that there will be 98 million connected mobile devices in South Africa by 2018 – meaning more things vying for our attention.

As HR professionals begin to see the value in unique qualities younger candidates bring to an organisation, their method of recruiting these candidates is also shifting. The majority of recruiters surveyed (58%) are comfortable to hire based only on a video conference. But business-class video extends far past the HR department. Research conducted last year found that 69% of South African organisations believe business-class video technologies could positively impact their organisations, while 71% believe video will support remote working as they reduce travel time and costs. This speaks strongly to the way in which technology is shaping the workplace and taps into a pool of differently wired candidates who see the value in being part of a technologically forward-thinking organisation.

There is a growing preference for flexibility among younger generations, and Cisco’s Connected Technology World Report states that a quarter of them are already allowed to work from home. This is becoming easier for companies to deal with because more than half of the same workers are ‘always on’ and consider themselves accessible 24 hours a day for work requirements. However, it is also interesting that 54% of Generation Y workers still prefer a more traditional schedule, with 44% claiming to be more focused and productive when they are at the office. This is true even for Generations X and Y, who share the opinion that by 2020 it will still be necessary for them to visit the office at least sporadically.

Essentially, businesses in South Africa will need to straddle the fine line between what has traditionally worked and what will work in the future, based on the needs, strengths and mind-set of the future workforce. Each new generation is progressively more Internet- and technology-focused so it makes sense to understand the mind-set of the younger generations to put into motion a win-win transformation that will take South African businesses to the next level in terms of business success and employee satisfaction.



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