Robin De Cauwer completed the Young Minds Programme in 2016. He has since gone on to become the founder of Homedoc, an online supplier of high-quality, easy-to-use, innovative medical testing products; DNX Medical (Pty) Ltd, which forms part of a group of companies that utilise state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Cape Town to produce and distribute diagnostics specialising in Urinalysis Test Strips – positively impacting the health of people in South-Africa; and Wolwehoek, a private reserve in Montague. Robin shared that before starting the programme, “I felt quite nervous because I really didn’t know where I was heading with my life. I had heard from a lot of people that the Young Minds Programme is a really cool programme, which was why I was really excited about doing it – but I didn’t know what to expect.” He enjoyed that all the information that was presented was based on first-hand experience. “All our lecturers work for big companies themselves, they consult, and they’re masters within their field. You can really relate to everything that they say.” He further found that through the year, his mindset shifted. “During this year, my mindset changed to work harder on everything and to excel in everything. I have become more innovative, I think differently about my business and how to react to certain situations.” He recently spoke to the 2023 intake class of the Young Minds Programme, highlighting five tips from his journey as an entrepreneur:
1. Start with what you have. When you start, you don’t have access to funding, you don’t have the infrastructure, and you have to do everything yourself. But you can design a website yourself, you find a free online programme that you can design it yourself. You bring in a few products and see how they’re doing. You do your research and find out if there’s a market for them. Then you can do some simple marketing, like spending R10 daily on Google ads. It’s a trial-and-error process, and you’re always learning. When we set up our medical company, it took us years to get the company off the ground, because we’re up against massive companies with millions. So how can you do it? You find resources that are low-cost or free to start. When we began, we were watching YouTube videos about how to build the things that we needed, and we didn’t know what we were doing, or if we were doing it the right way, but we were doing it and continually learning from it. Free software such as Canva, Wix and Shopify are readily available online to get you going.
2. Push yourself to think differently. We did a market day as part of the Young Minds Programme when I was busy with it, and everyone was making beautiful products to sell at their stands. Our group looked at it differently. We thought to ourselves, “How do we scale this? How do we make the most profit from this opportunity?” We racked our brains and instead, we rented out stands at the market to external vendors that we found on Gumtree, which was far more profitable. As an entrepreneur, you have to push yourself out of the box and think differently, more creatively. You have to spot the opportunities that are around us all the time.
3. Don’t give up – adapt.
When we were working on the medical company, my business partner came to me and asked me what we were doing. The business wasn’t making any money. But I wasn’t prepared to give up the years of effort that we had put in, so I had to rethink what we were doing – and that’s how we came up with our current business model. Remember that you can always come up with the perfect plan for something, and it doesn’t always go according to that plan. So if something isn’t working, rethink it. Don’t give up.
4. Remember that life is like a video game.
In life, you’re the main character in the video game. Remember that it comes with challenges, with ups and downs. You sometimes feel like you’re winning, and sometimes you feel like you’re losing. As you face the challenges and learn from them, you’ll move ahead in life, you’ll move through the different levels of the video game.
5. Take care of yourself.
Focus on yourself. Take care of yourself, then only can you take care of others. Make sure that you keep yourself healthy – as this is true wealth. Surround yourself with the right people, those who support you and have your back. Remember that money won’t make you happy, only you can make yourself happy. And most of all, enjoy the ride, no one else can do that for you!
In closing, Robin shared, “Young Minds Programme is all about personal development, not only about the business subjects. You also get to develop yourself as a person. You get to know what you’re good at and, even better, what you’re not good at. I’d recommend this programme to others because it changed my life, and I’m really excited about life now.” To learn more about the programme, click here: Young Minds Programme
Straight after finishing his Masters in Civil Engineering at Stellenbosch University, and starting a new job, Rain Carstens had the opportunity to enrol in the Future Managers Development Programme. Read on as he shares his experience of the programme and how it has enhanced his learning and development journey.
I was fresh out of university, with minimal experience. I had a brand new job, I had just started out with my career, and I thought to myself, “Do I need to get involved in something else as well?” In the end, I just went for it. I didn’t know when, or if, I’d ever have this opportunity again. Looking back on it, being able to really think about my future and where I want to be in my career was far more valuable at that point than I realised. The first phase of the FMDP considered the idea of Self Leadership and it got me thinking, “Woah! If I’m going to serve and lead anyone else, I first need to know myself!” It taught me that I need to be really solid, really organised, and certain within myself before I can be of real use to society. It pushed me to think about some really important, sometimes challenging, questions. I explored the kind of person I am becoming – professionally, personally, spiritually, and mentally – and how my mindset needed to shift.
The biggest shift was when I realised that you can’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want. You see, I am an engineer, and I am also a dreamer. I have big aspirations. In the civil engineering industry, as with any industry, you can contribute in thousand-and-one different ways. While it’s great to have grand goals, you need to have a plan of how you’re going to get there. It takes quite a bit of careful pondering and consideration before you really know, firstly what you want to contribute, and then, secondly, how you’ll actually contribute and then what actions you’ll take towards it. The FMDP really challenged and inspired me to look at what kind of leader I want to be. I learned that it’s the things that I’m doing right now that are the steps towards becoming the leader that I see myself as in the future. In order to turn my dreams into reality, I need to build partnerships and relationships. I need to get more and more experience. I need to know what I’m talking about. I can’t just be a dreamer. Even though I was walking into my career with a masters degree under my belt, I also needed to know my place. The FMDP really gave me perspective in that regard. I am working with brilliant minds – some of the top minds in South Africa – solving big problems for the whole of the country, but I had to know when to put on my humble hat and when to put on my feisty, excited, motivated leadership hat. I realised on the FMDP that I could learn so much from those in more senior roles to me. As a result, interactions with my managers and colleagues became more meaningful, because those with more knowledge, experience, and understanding will (generally) only teach you things when you are humble and in the learner’s seat. Since making that internal shift, I’ve noticed that I am given more responsibility. I am exposed to much more precious knowledge that I wouldn’t have had access to if I didn’t know how to effectively play this role that I’m in right now. It’s also important to know that if you want to be a leader, the skills that you develop at university won’t be enough. You need to understand how things are in the current corporate world, and you need to attune and refine your goals so that you’re aligning with that world. The FMDP taught us balanced, futuristic-focused business skills – business skills unlike I’ve ever seen before. It is unlike anything that I’d learned in university. It’s really premium learning. The programme coordinators and faculty didn’t lecture us. Rather, they held space for us to ask questions. There was so much space for discussion and interaction, which I really enjoyed. You needed to engage with the ideas and grapple with them, and this was where the FMDP faculty helped – just asking the right questions prompted excellent investigation and insights. It meant that the result is that your learning is actually up to you, which was exceptionally empowering. It gets you thinking about some really pertinent things; such as how to prepare yourself, in the best possible ways, to be a rock star in your field. I love the fact that I can log back into the learning portal website and I can go back to my assignments. I can reflect on my FMDP learnings as I make my way through my professional journey when I come across situations that speak to what we covered in the programme. While you’re doing the programme, it’s almost like being a toddler playing with crayons. You draw, scribble, and learn as you go because you’re doing something new for the first time. But years later you come back to it, and you realise now you can actually draw something beautiful. This developmental journey has been somewhat similar for me. During the programme, I didn’t have the time to dive as deeply as I could have into every single section. Having the ability to go back to it, again and again, has helped me to continue my learning, even after completing the programme. We don’t stop learning just because we’re out of a learning environment, we carry it through with us.
The FMDP instilled in me that you have to generate your own motivation. Your mentors are not going to guide you along, holding your hand each step of the way. That’s not the job of a mentor. They’re there to help and guide you, but you need to do the work for yourself. Even if you’re doing the most amazing work in the world, you can become unmotivated, your priorities start to go elsewhere, and you start to do the bare minimum. What’s concerning for me is that I see this happen to quite a few graduates. They’ll come out of university and approach their jobs a bit like they’re still at university. They only do the minimum because that’s all they really need to do. That was something that concerned me about myself because I realised what that was communicating to those around me – what it was saying about my personal values. On the FMDP, I realise that if you are not defining some sort of target for yourself, outlining the person you want to be and what you want to do, you can’t be a badass. So for someone like a graduate, the FMDP is super useful as it helps you to cultivate your own self-driven motivation. As you get into the working world, no one is going to cheerlead you along. It’s not going to be done for you. While you may have company goals or a business focus, you need to set your own goals both personally and professionally. It’s so important to find a way to motivate yourself – because if you can do that, you can do anything. If you have something that excites and motivates and uplifts you, you can do anything – and you’re also there for yourself. Through the FMDP, I realised that I needed to first look within myself and see where my insecurities lie, what’s blocking me, what my strengths are, and what I love to do, and then be creative in what kind of person I want to become, because that won’t ever end. It’s an evolving process. It’s an iterative process. It’s a creative process. Your external world continually evolves based on the evolution of your inner world. And that’s something that never ends. If you can make that practical for yourself, the transformation and the evolution just continues into more brilliant states which is what I’ve experienced since finishing the FMDP.
The Future Managers Development Programme helps graduate interns, young talent, and other emerging leaders in an organisation to master the first step in their development: Management of self. It aims to help participants understand who they are within the broader business environment, make them more employable, and help them plan their careers. It also complements existing graduate trainee programmes which mostly focus on in-house company-related matters and practical exposure through job rotation. The programme is structured around modules that equip potential future managers with critical skills for performing in a new world of work. To find out more about the programme, click here.
“My journey started with the Stellenbosch Business SchoolExecutive Development when I enrolled in the SeniorManagementDevelopmentProgramme. The SMDP was a very insightful programme and added immensely to my learning and development journey, which overflowed into my career. It helped me to grow within my role and its realisation thereto. Upon completion of the SMDP, I felt very empowered and encouraged to learn more – since I had learned so much from the insights on the programme, especially about the business management aspect of things. As a result of this, I was very interested in furthering my knowledge, especially in the arena of Business Management. When the opportunity came with the University of Lincoln, I didn’t need a second invitation.”
“I was very excited to seize the opportunity for international academic exposure, and my journey coincided with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This brought about its own set of challenges, but the format of the degree, the learning set-up, and the technology that the University of Lincoln was using proved to be well ahead of the game. It was still possible to proceed seamlessly with the tutorials and the course.”
“The University of Lincoln has a team of top-notch tutors, each of whom are well-versed in the knowledge that is presented in the respective modules. I must also acknowledge their approach to the degree and how the various modules were presented. The Finance for the Non-Finance Manager module and the Independent Research module has proven to be the most useful for me. They were both quite challenging at first, but in the end, my personal and professional skills grew in leaps and bounds from doing them.”
“If I were to recommend anyone who is considering enrolling at the University of Lincoln after their SMDP, my advice would be to go for it. If I had to give it a recommendation out of 10, it would be a straight 10, because of the attitude and knowledge of the staff, the tools in place, the excellent library, and the set-up in place that ensures that everyone is involved and aligned, at all times. I am truly thankful for the opportunity, starting with Stellenbosch Business SchoolExecutive Development and the University of Lincoln support staff, programme leaders, tutors and lecturers.”
As a precursor to the Senior Management Development Programme, Sally Boynton completed the Management Development Programme in 2021, for which she won a Top Achievers/Director’s Award. “The programme came to my attention when I heard that my line manager and a few colleagues at my company had completed it,” she says. Her initial goal was to develop her understanding of business, leadership and strategic thinking. “And the programme ended up being everything I anticipated and more!” “I wanted to develop a strong foundation and understanding of business from a global perspective while having the opportunity to work alongside colleagues from different fields in a team setting. I knew that I wanted exposure to business models, contemporary leadership thinking, marketing, economics and finance. I also wanted to gain further insight into an academic setting and have the opportunity to grow within that too,” she says.Sally highlights certain programme’s modules that she found to be of great interest. “I especially enjoyed the Environment of Business and the Finance sections. Within both of these modules, I found myself able to analyse a business, using a structured format, in ways that were new to me, while exposing myself to different means of analysis that I had never done before. We touched on economics too, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Up until that point, I had never gone through or understood the Financial Statements and Sustainability reports of my organisation or other organisations to the extent I did through this programme. It was very stimulating to do so, and now I can share that knowledge and understanding with my team. Overall, my biggest takeaway from the programme would have to be the added ability to see businesses through a more strategic lens.” “Upon my successful completion of this programme, I have been able to analyse our business from this perspective. As a manager, I feel I now have better scope and understanding of the bigger picture, where I fit in, and how I can be more effective in my approach towards my team.” This was especially relevant as, at the time, Sally filled a leadership role while working in a different location to her team. She highlighted learning more about the importance of communication, which the pandemic emphasised for everyone. “It reminded me how important it is to communicate with your team regularly – which was especially important as I used to work in Cape Town while the majority of my team was in the Garden Route. I now work less remotely, in the Northern Suburbs area that includes Canal Walk and the Waterfront, which enables me to visit my stores more regularly and keep in closer contact with my team. Nevertheless, establishing and maintaining good communication is among my top priorities.” “Overall, I believe I exceeded my expectations within this programme,” she ends off with, “Even though there’s always room for improvement, I would like to achieve a higher distinction in the future. I now feel more confident in my communication, my ability to present, and in the academic sphere. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I was capable of doing well academically, but since completing the programme, I feel more confident about it and look forward to taking on more challenges. I know I will relish the opportunity to do another programme with SBS Executive Development in the future!”The Management Development Programme empowers managers to reinforce their managerial skill sets and business acumen while facilitating integration across various business units. Strategic in nature, the programme is packed with material that focuses on broadening one’s self-awareness and leadership attributes, while enhancing the necessary managerial skills required in the ever-changing business environment. For further information about upcoming courses, click here
Digital proposal and design specialist, Michelle Wolfswinkel, explains the shift to mobile-first in online learning at Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development (SBS-ED).
With the boom in the digital arena, the increased demand for online learning and the consumption of online content over the last few years, business schools and learning providers have faced the challenge of rapidly transforming and accelerating the migration of learning solutions to the virtual learning world. What does it mean to be “mobile-first”?
“Mobile-first” is essentially a technical term that describes the way in which online content is formatted to respond to the device that is accessing and engaging with it (i.e. desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone). It is trending globally. Research reveals steadily increasing mobile phone penetration rates, higher demand for exclusively mobile learning content, and impressive mobile learner satisfaction and experience ratings. Being “mobile-first” is a direct driver of responsiveness. At SBS-ED, digitally-enabled learning happens in synchronous, remote learning sessions on Zoom or MS Teams, asynchronous self-paced online courses, or a combination of these in a blended/hybrid solution. All participants, regardless of the course or programme, are required to access and engage online via our learner management system hosted on Moodle. As such, in the modality of online learning, mobile phone user interfaces are urged to be prioritised during the design, development, and deployment of online learning. Indeed, South Africa and other African countries are taking note that the online learning mobile-first race is actually being led by India, China, and Malaysia – all developing countries that may be considered less tech-savvy and less likely to need or want mobile, online learning.
Is Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development mobile-first?
Until recently, it was assumed that the mobile learning experience might not be at the forefront for us. It was thought that participants mainly engaged with our online learning platform via desktop computers or laptops. However, when tested, it was shown that more than 70% of all user interactions with our learning platform in 2022 took place via a mobile device. Hence the need to prioritise being mobile first!
Embracing mobile, first!
As the mobile-first paradigm is embraced by SBS-ED, two major changes are at the forefront.
Designing learning content for mobile
Learning content needs to be packaged in shorter bits, with tables and columns removed, and figures and graphs adapted. This ensures an easy, straightforward viewing/learning experience on mobile interfaces. Wordy learning content that requires deep scrolling and runs across various columns is simply not practical on mobile devices. Videos embedded in course content, resources that are expandable inside course content, and quiz formatting also need to be avoided, while changes such as mobile-friendly viewing in separate tabs and wider access options like downloads to suit mobile users need to be implemented.
2. Mobile-friendly menu and navigation options
A cleaner look and feel for the learning platform, with tiles that allow seamless mobile selection and navigation enhances the learning experience better on mobile devices. Mobile-friendly hamburger menus, minimal horizontal scrolling, and prominent navigation buttons that are easily tapped on a phone screen are included in this.
Cleaner, new look online learning platform on Moodle
This differs from the desktop experience, which typically offers more horizontal space for menu sidebars alongside learning content, with navigation buttons embedded therein.
Mobile user experience is now the most crucial matter in online learning design and development for Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development. We look forward to implementing and improving these changes to optimise our online learning experience!
PS. Statistics indicate that you are most likely viewing this content on your mobile device.
Understanding Ubuntu is best expressed by saying, “I am because of who we all are.” Ubuntu, as a philosophy, is indigenous to the African people. Research towards this is diverse, covering all aspects, such as comparing different indigenous epistemologies, what we know about how indigenous perspectives as infused management theory, and also the influence of colonisation on current-day interactions. Ubuntu’s philosophy is at the centre of how organisations can evolve into more inclusive and purpose-driven corporations. Within this philosophy comes Ubuntu-driven leadership. Dr. Winkler-Titus reminded us that humans are social, multi-faceted beings – far more so than the Western, individualist approaches have traditionally portrayed. As such, it is our responsibility as Africans to operationalise the Ubuntu philosophy toward more responsible leadership and also how to conceptualise it in more positive social capitalism. Dr. Ntetha recounted, “I was one of those people, not too long ago, that was this global scholar from Africa that went out there to find the best leadership development practices and solutions. And, as Africans, there’s almost this conditioning that the first world will have these solutions. You go out there and that’s where you get these amazing solutions. But what I found was that there is a paradigm shift taking place. Ubuntu is at the forefront of this shift. It is talked about globally where business is moving away from a very individualistic paradigm as we see how volatile, uncertain and unpredictably complex the world is becoming.” “In 2016, I was in Edinborough, Scotland, and there was a discussion about this “post-heroic shift”, and I thought to myself that this sounds awfully familiar to the wisdom that I’ve heard at home around a leadership that is more collaborative, a leadership that is shared, a leadership that is distributed, that is also looking at the follower in the context. It’s about finding a way of interconnectedness. To connect to that form of responsible leadership is actually a combination of your personal self-leadership, which you shape and which is shaped by your context, together with the process of it collectively becoming something that multiple people come together for.” “Instead of looking outside of ourselves for solutions, we actually need to come back to the wisdom that is inherently from the soil of where we come from. That already sets a much more capacious tone in us talking about Ubuntu, not only as an exclusive exotic thing that is ours but as something that already is embedded in the direction of new business leadership and philosophy. We continuously look at the global north for answers and for guidance, and we forget that we are actually the founders of humanity right here.”
Simon expressed that he resonated with that too, as he said, “Coming from the cold north myself, I now find myself at the tip of Africa and feel wholly at home. Especially coming from an entrepreneurial background, I think that is typical that you need to grin and bear it, and get through the pain – because no one else is going to do it for you. But often that’s the journey to burnout and destruction. I believe that the concept of “I see you” is at the core of Ubuntu, because I’m not just seeing myself and what’s in it for me. You begin to think about how to help each other, what one another’s struggles are, what your own experience is and how you can come together with one another. That’s very freeing because it takes the weight off of me doing everything on my own, which is unsustainable. It also brings fullness and light to things. Although I may not have had previous experience in that area, I’ve learned as a creative thinker that my mind is broadened by seeing your perspective, your background and your lived experience. It opens up possibilities.” Yesthiel commented, “When we embrace our Africanism principles like Ubuntu and Thuma Mina effectively, they differentiate us from our international counterparts. This is something that is coming more and more to the forefront, especially post-COVID, where people were so focused on just profits before. We are now going back to the human element, back to the community element because we’ve had some time to do a lot of introspection. We realise that if we are to survive, it is through community and by supporting each other. As responsible leaders, we need to re-look at what our organisation’s values are, and if that aligns with our purpose? Are we a purpose-led organisation or are we a profit-led organisation? And how do we balance those?”
“We are shifting towards a very human focus coming through from the corporate world. There is more focus on employees, the broader community, and creating ecosystems to support each other. If we can do that effectively from a community perspective, we all benefit. We will grow South Africa, we will grow Africa, and we will grow each other.” While we care for one another, we also hold each other accountable within Ubuntu. As we do good, we do so in a sustainable way so that we can take care of future generations. We need to fuse communalism with accountability. Yesthiel continued, “This is something that is seen within the BEE policies, and can be further integrated into organisation’s approaches. As an example, at my organisation, we have our formula for success, which is our values coupled with a set of behaviours that dictate everything we do. In there, we talk about the core behaviours and elements of focus, which not just leadership, but the entire business needs to take into consideration in the actions that they’re doing. This extends to the broader community, whether it’s with our partners, our employees and our duty of care to each other. This helps us to keep Ubuntu, community, respect and dignity at the forefront. We measured it in terms of the data and from an accountability perspective.”
Dr Ntetha added, “As interveners within corporations, we can offer guidance and standards for accountability going forward, while also shifting our own interventions towards Ubuntu. We don’t want them to only stay at the macro “tick box” level, we need to infuse belonging within these spaces. In this way, responsible leadership becomes further embodied at a very personal, mastery type of level. When we think about the Thuma Mina concept, it becomes so vast. But what we need to do is to go back to the individual. Look within your own sphere of influence and see how you can rehumanise your business.” This move from profit towards Ubuntu can be practical as a business model, added Simon. “The core of positioning of a for-profit business to attack key social issues is to have purpose and mission. In true business terms, you would want your vision and mission to be aligned with the whole of the business. That should interrogate every decision you make. It should set the culture for the business. With these, you’ve basically got a plum line for how we do things around here. That can be outward-looking, and that could be inward-looking. That’s how you treat your staff and that’s how you treat your customers. It’s how you make strategic decisions. If you haven’t thought about your vision and your mission as an organisation or recently made them more relevant, or disregard them then you lose track very easily. Within business, we all get distracted, but we all have choices to make. So when you have a good, solid, purpose-driven mission and vision that you can keep coming back to and directing employees to, then that’s a great step towards driving you in the right direction.”
Dr. Ntetha agreed, adding, “In the business world there is a contrast between the model that we are so used to within decision-making and Ubuntu. Conventionally, business is individualistic and fast-paced, yet Ubuntu urges us to slow down and make collective decisions. Sometimes the issue comes when you think that you are separate from the collective, or from what’s out there. In the past years, it has become clear that this is not the case. What’s happening in the outside world is also going to affect me, and I am going to affect what goes on out there.” “The revolution really starts internally. The human is always in context. For instance, in our parents’ generation, English names needed to be used to be more palatable for the corporate space. Now there’s a shift in acknowledging language and context and how to pronounce names. This is something that’s adopted even globally. When you look on LinkedIn now, it guides you with a prompt, “This is how you pronounce my name.” These evolutionary things that we infuse into the system contextually are also significant, and it can extend even into leadership enabling others to lead so that we start to lead together. Including other people in the leadership practice, means that you give people the resources and the power that’s needed to affect change and influence decisions within those spaces.” “We see this form of collaboration arise as competitors are supporting each other, sharing knowledge and experiences with each other to have better business and better business practices. This is something that involves leadership being brave, brave enough to sit with their competitor and say can we compete or team up and collaborate as a community within our particular industry. This takes a certain amount of vulnerability too. But leading through Ubuntu you end up having people who follow their leaders by choice, not because of title.” Responsible leadership promotes the idea that the influencing power of leadership should reach beyond a single organisation, toward improving society, and the world – highlighting people, profit and planet. It’s not one or the other, rather it is the combination of the three that brings about organisational success. Responsible leadership is deeper than just a role. It represents some form of agency that gives meaning to what is responsible, but also what is possible. Evolution happens by going back to our Ubuntu roots as leaders within the modern-day African context. And, as we return to our continent’s indigenous ways, we are going back to who we are as humanity too – infusing the philosophy of Ubuntu into our business and leadership practices.
The Leadership Foresight Webinar Series is presented by SBS Executive Development in collaboration with the Stellenbosch Business School Alumni Association. This free, live series takes place over the course of four events, facilitated by heavy-weight subject matter experts and consultants, with contributions from panels of subject matter experts and industry leaders. Guests from across the African continent and abroad speak about the past, present, and future focus of leadership in Africa.The recording of this final event, “We’re all in this Together”, facilitated by Dr. Natasha Winkler-Titus, is available here. The previous events can be viewed on YouTube here.
The once-taboo topic of mental health in the workplace is making headway – and with good reason. 1An estimated 12 billion working days are lost globally each year to depression and anxiety at the cost of $1 trillion per year in productivity. What’s even more concerning is that this number is on the rise.
3About one-third of human life is spent working. It is now more than ever needed for an organisation to take a proactive approach to address mental health and wellness in the workplace. Employers and employees cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand.
So, what constitutes good mental health exactly? According to the 2World Health Organization (WHO): “Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and to contribute to their communities. Mental health conditions occur irrespective of whether work has causally contributed to them.” Thus, the onus lies on both the organisation and the employee to take responsibility to create and have a mentally healthy workplace.
Here are 5 steps that organisations can take to create and maintain a mentally healthy workplace:
Educate and Introspect
Before mental health in the workplace can be advocated for, it must be understood and taken seriously. Employers need to understand what mental health entails and how organisational practices can contribute to mental health and well-being.
Employers can reflect on the impact of their leadership style, people management skills, and the health behaviours they are modelling and how these feed into the organisation’s culture.
Insights gained through understanding proactive mental health programmes can be an investment that yields valuable returns11.
Mental health conditions can be prevented by managing psychosocial risks in the workplace. These risks include stress, fatigue, bullying, aggression, and violence which can be attributed to job demands, low job control, lack of role clarity, traumatic events and inadequate reward and recognition.
Psychosocial risks can be mitigated by implementing organisational interventions aimed at reshaping conditions, cultures, and relationships. Examples of such interventions include providing flexible working conditions, implementing frameworks and policies to deal with discrimination and harassment and appointing mental health ambassadors at work and breaking stigma.
Enable a level of control. Giving employees a sense of autonomy and control at work contributes to job satisfaction and fulfilment, which are likely to aid in preventing poor mental health conditions.
5Protect and Promote
The 6WHO suggests protecting mental health by training managers on recognising and responding to employees experiencing emotional distress and building interpersonal skills (such as how to communicate and listen in better ways).
Employers can support employees by providing reasonable accommodation, implementing return-to-work programmes after being off-sick and supporting employee initiatives.
Initiatives and interventions should be monitored and adapted to ensure effectiveness.
Communicate and Build connections.
Employers should aim to openly communicate about mental health8 (which can include personal experiences)9, to aid employees to feel safe and engage in open conversations. This can help employers and managers to detect distress and direct employees to available support.
Make time to connect and have fun as a team.
And here are 3 ways that employees can maintain good mental health and well-being at work:
10Employees should take ownership of their mental health.
Employees contribute equally to creating mentally healthy organisations. It is an employee’s responsibility to report hazards and risk factors to manage psychosocial risks.
A major part of an employee’s day is spent at work, but employees can still choose how they spend their time outside work. Employees should take time to prioritize their well-being by including the following practices:
Daily self-care includes being physically active, maintaining a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and connecting with friends and family.
Practice mindfulness and gratitude
Educating themselves about mental health.
11Get involved Employees represent the largest group within an organisation, and therefore have a significant impact on organisational culture.
Employees should reflect on how their actions feed into the organisation’s culture, for example: ‘How do I treat others? Do I make time to listen to colleagues? Am I openly talking about mental health? Am I adding to a colleague’s workload by not pulling my weight?’
Enquire and get training on how to become a mental health ambassador.
Employees can also encourage employers to focus on and offer mental health support and wellness initiatives.
12Utilize the resources available.
Many initiatives can be put in place; however, it remains the employee’s responsibility to use or direct their colleagues to these when needed. As well, as to help employers identify support or resources that are needed or insufficient.
Arguably, mental health needs to be taken seriously by employers and employees.
1,2 World Health Organization (WHO). 2022. Fact Sheets: Mental health in the workplace, updated September 2022 (online).
SBS-ED in collaboration with Stellenbosch Business School Alumni Association presents our Leadership Foresight Webinar Series 2022 – a series of 𝗳𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝘄𝗲𝗯𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗿𝘀 facilitated by heavy-weight subject matter experts and consultants, with contributions from industry leaders.
Register for the upcoming event in our 𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽 𝗙𝗼𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀, “𝗪𝗲’𝗿𝗲 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗧𝗢𝗚𝗘𝗧𝗛𝗘𝗥” which will take place on the 27th October 2022. Natasha Winkler-Titus, together with Dr. Joy Ntetha, Sifiso Skenjana and Simon Peters will discuss why it’s more important than ever for businesses to embrace #Ubuntu philosophy, and how leaders can make this shift.
As part of the Young Minds Programme, Joshua Fillmore is hosting a series of conversations with some of South Africa’s most successful young entrepreneurs. Chad Robertson is unquestionably one of the best social entrepreneurs in South Africa. Chad is the co-founder and CEO of Regenize – an extremely innovative waste management company. Regenize has won numerous awards over the past few years and is making a difference in the lives of thousands of South Africans on a daily basis.
Can you give us a short overview of what Regenize does?
Our whole business is about making zero waste services accessible, inclusive, and rewarding. We are a recycling solution and we perform recycling services, using two business models – one in paid or upper-income areas, and a free model that focuses on lower-income areas. For both of them, it’s about making recycling accessible.
We’ve worked on a new type of model within the lower-income side – integrating formal waste collectors and setting up decentralized recycling hubs in these communities. Our service is free to residents of these communities, as the majority of people who live in lower-income areas didn’t recycle before. We do this through our virtual currency called “Remali,” or “Recycling Imali” (i.e. money in isiXhosa), which encourages and rewards environmentally sustainable behaviour, which residents earn each time they perform recycling activities.
Regenize is a for-profit company, which is focused on creating both environmental and social change. You’re playing in the people, planet, profit model. Which of these three elements were you most focused on in the beginning? Has this changed over time?
In the beginning, personally, my drive was very much planet-focused and environmentally driven: fighting climate change, seeing the impacts of climate change on the planet, as well as the impact of waste on the planet. As I got into solving the problem, it shifted entirely to people, as it’s a human-created problem. I saw that, if you can get the people on board, you can make the changes necessary.
That shift came after about a year of operating when we realised the role of informal waste collectors in the South African economy. Research says we have about 90,000 informal waste collectors in our country. They are responsible for collecting up to 80% of all paper packaging waste that we recycle. And they save the government up to R715 million land a year from landfill efforts. For us, it begged the question, why are we not working with this big market? They are already doing the work. We try to do the same work, so let’s work together. And that’s how the whole integration process started. But what came from that was so much more. We started working with these guys and in doing so, realised that we needed to start thinking about so much more than just our business and operations.
It involved another dimension of thought for our business. All of a sudden you’re working with people who might have a substance abuse problem, who might not have a bank card, who might not know how to work a smartphone. Automatically, we had to start training the guys about how to use a smartphone, how to deal with customers, and assist them to open bank accounts – and if they needed any other assistance, providing that. That’s the best way to look at it because if you can’t get people on board, you’re not going to get the impact or the behavioural change that you want to see with it.
Profit is obviously important for business, but it is probably the least important out of the three for us. If you don’t have a planet, you’re not gonna have people and you’re not going to have people who can give you the profit. So, our theory is that by focusing on impact, the planet, and our people, then the result is profit. And if you can solve an issue that’s going to impact millions of people, then it is easier to make a profit than focusing on making a profit from the start. That’s at least my theory. For us, our focus now is primarily on people, especially with what we do in the informal space.
On your website, it specifically states “recycling for South Africa.” Can you elaborate on the importance of local entrepreneurs, stepping up to build solutions that solve local problems?
Local entrepreneurs are so important because we have very special problems. Our context, as South Africans, is unique. You can easily just take a concept and try to adopt it or adapt it, but at the end of the day, it needs to work for your users, your context, and your location.
In South Africa, we are a nation of complainers. There is a lot to complain about. So, when I hear people are leaving South Africa, looking for opportunities, I am very confused. I see all our problems as potential solutions. In every community, there’s a problem that needs to be solved. Finding problems in our country is quite easy. It’s up to you as an entrepreneur to decide what size problem you wanna pick. If you pick a big problem that is impacting a lot of people, your market is really big and you can obviously scale your solution.
For us, it was about trying to rectify what has generally been done in the recycling space – which is something that is usually just adopted from first-world countries. But we have different stakeholders in our value chain, we have different users. So, it was important for us to develop and design according to that. In the beginning, we didn’t know about it. We had to learn it. As we developed our solution through various trials and errors, we had to do a few pivots in our business model as we learned what is important to our users, what is important in our country, and what is gonna work here. We have to build for our context, and this is a phrase that we use often in our company.
What is one of the biggest leaps of faith that you’ve taken on your journey?
As an entrepreneur, you are committing so much. Every act you do is a leap of faith in some way. It’s difficult, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say it was when I was starting out and I made the decision to leave my job. Coming from the Cape Flats, I didn’t have a rich background. I had studied for four years, I had put in quite a big effort to get the job that I had and, all of a sudden, I was saying goodbye to that safety. I didn’t have a salary, so I had to sell my car. Starting out was a big risk, but at the same time, it didn’t feel like it at the time because I was young and didn’t have many responsibilities. Leaving my job for what I wanted to do was the biggest leap of faith.
What would you recommend to aspiring entrepreneurs to be able to identify and understand both the problems and potential opportunities that are out there?
Align the problems that are out there with your interest and your passion – make sure that the problem you are solving aligns with something that you truly care about. We are currently in the recycling space, looking at zero waste solutions, but where we started was a totally different area. I’ve always been an environmentalist, so that was where my personal interests live. My skills are in software and I managed to find a sweet spot between my passions and my skill sets.
That said, my business partner and I had backgrounds in software as we studied information systems. Our journey into the entrepreneurship field was through an excitement around the concept of 3D printing. We went through a journey from wanting to use 3D printing, to designing 3D, to printing people’s 3D designs. From there, we went on to pivot into using plastic waste to make 3D printing material.
It was through those pivots and research that we learned what the really big problem is. We discovered that, at that time, only 3% of South Africans were recycling plastic waste. (That number is now sitting at 7.5%). So we started moving in a totally different direction, and we came to learn about the more pressing issue at the same time.
We entered the recycling space as a potential software solution. All we wanted to do was make recycling more accessible to residents – we wanted to incentivise them to recycle. So we came in as a solution for existing recycling companies to try and get them to use our solution. But that didn’t happen right away– and that kind of forced us to get into the recycling space ourselves. We had to get our hands dirty and we had to get into the operations of the industry to bring in our own vision, which was really interesting – especially as our skills were in software and building in tech. But in some instances, to find out where the ecosystem or existing infrastructure isn’t working, you have to go and get your hands dirty and sometimes build that value chain that you want to solve.
The Young Minds Programme, certified by Stellenbosch University, is a 9-month career-focused gap year programme that helps school-leavers and young adults prepare for the next steps in their life and career. The programme focuses on, among other core themes, business management, entrepreneurial thinking and personal mastery – the key ingredients necessary to explore the real world of work and help participants discover who they are, as well as what they want to achieve in life.
To find out more about the Young Minds Programme, click here.
Higgo van Biljon is a man of many talents. Higgo is the founder and CEO of FinMeUp, and is both a tech entrepreneur and a musician. He founded the app while studying at the University of Stellenbosch. After having to put a pause to their sign-ups, due to the massive demand for their services, they have just relaunched a new app – which is currently being used in seven countries.
Can you give us a short overview of what the FinMeUp app does?
FinMeUp stands for “Finance Me Up.” We aim to clear the way to financial freedom for Africa by bridging the gap between financial education and execution. On the FinMeUp app, you’ll find information about all things finances, insurance, investing, credit, and tax – all on one platform. It’s the curated Instagram for finances. We connect various, vetted industry experts that are creating educational content with you, and we are continuously developing new features to build us towards our mission.
Anyone that meets you will immediately see you are extremely passionate about FinTech and the way that it can increase financial education and inclusion. Where do you believe this passion came from? How important do you feel it is to be passionate about the problem that you’re solving?
Starting a business is very challenging. In the tough times, in the big decisions, it all boils down to the why. And the why comes from your passion. I’ve always hated poverty and seeing people in poverty, and I’ve also had a passion for growing wealth.
When I was in grade seven, I asked my dad, “How can I buy a gold token? Because I want to put my savings where they will be worth more in 10 years’ time.” He told me to rather look at investing in the stock market. And since then I became a stock market fanatic. In school, I used to put my phone in my pencil case and hide it from the teachers, so I could read about investing. In grade nine, my parents trusted me enough to take over their pension fund. I also tried various hustles – selling droëwors and biltong in the halls. I tried a few tech hustles as well, and most of them failed. But it was the learning and development for me that became continuous, both with regards to accumulating money and then growing that money.
Building wealth has always just been this interesting thing for me, and it’s developed into a passion to educate others and see them grow their finances. In that process, I learned so much from other people. When I took over my parents’ pension fund in grade nine, I joined an investment group that met once a month with investing experts, buying stocks collectively, and continuously learning. In that entire process, I wished that I didn’t have to learn things the hard way. That became the basis on which FinMeUp was built.
How would you recommend building a community/network of like-minded individuals for someone who doesn’t necessarily have access to large or wealthy networks?
Building that network comes by doing things well. You need to be executing. When I started out, I was just this ambitious kid that wanted to network and get mentored. I wanted a mentor to teach me the business side of things, but those people that you want to be mentored by are often the busiest. It wasn’t until FinMeUp actually launched and had some traction that they were willing to meet and mentor me. Their time is precious, and for them to notice you, you have to be doing something well.
Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be afraid to get rejected. Even now, I reach for the stars with some individuals. One reply will come from every twenty messages I send. I will get nineteen rejections, but one door will open. So it’s about constantly reaching out, speaking to people, and building relationships – not just doing things for yourself, but also adding something of value to them. Healthy relationships go two ways.
What are your thoughts on the concept of entrepreneurs keeping their ideas to themselves versus going out and actually talking to people about them? How have you approached this?
Ideas are the easy part. Execution is everything. And that’s where 90% of people fail. I’m not afraid to share my ideas because everyone has ideas, but without actually talking to people, you’re not going to get partnerships, investors, or feedback from potential users.
Obviously getting contracts in place is important, and sometimes you need a non-disclosure document when you are really sensitive about your information. But if I have a big idea, I’m willing to share it with our community. I’m willing to share it with potential partners, because if they can execute it before us, then great – we can see how we can partner up.
What are some of the most common mistakes aspiring entrepreneurs generally make when starting out?
I see people starting out alone, but I would start a business with someone else. While I could, I wouldn’t do it alone – but with no more than three people or it starts to become complicated. If one of you is struggling or has no motivation, you can help the other. You can also diversify your skills together. As an entrepreneur, you have to be good at so many things, products, marketing, legal, and technical stuff. There are too many things that you can face that lead to burnout. So having someone else on your side with different skills can help you. Obviously choosing a co-founder is not easy. You’re basically getting into a business marriage with them – it’s not something you can just shake off, so you have to be extremely careful with this decision.
The Young Minds Programme, certified by Stellenbosch University, is a 9-month career-focused gap year programme that helps school-leavers and young adults prepare for the next steps in their life and career. The programme focuses on, among other core themes, business management, entrepreneurial thinking and personal mastery – the key ingredients necessary to explore the real world of work and help participants discover who they are, as well as what they want to achieve in life. To find out more about the Young Minds Programme, click here.