Financial Well-Being = Mental Well-Being For Employees

LJ Morris

Keeping employees focused and productive can be a challenge for many companies. The amount of research that’s been conducted around this topic has grown exponentially over the past decade, and for good reason. Without a doubt, when employees feel more at ease and unburdened by their personal financial situation, they will be more focused on their work duties, and with that, have their heads in the game.

Financial stress is disruptive… and not for the better

Through a 2016 survey, PwC uncovered startling results regarding financial stress. The findings revealed that 52% of employees claim to be stressed and preoccupied about their financial state, with 45% claiming their finances cause them the most overall stress in their lives.

According to financial guru, Dave Ramsey, over 55% of employees in the United States are disengaged in the workplace due to some level of financial stress. Some researchers believe this equates to approximately 20 hours of unproductive and wasted hours per month. The repercussions of low productivity and how this impacts an organization’s bottom line is deleterious, but understanding the many causes that come into play when calculating the disruptive nature of financial stress is more complicated.

Disengaged employees are less likely concerned about customer satisfaction, show less loyalty to their employer, experience higher healthcare costs related to stress-related illness, and are more likely to be absent from work. In addition, the burden of financial stress can be something people carry with them as they enter into the workforce, and not something that manifests due to a life-long habit of poor money management or misfortunate circumstances.

According to a 2013 study in the publication Anxiety, Coping and Stress, researchers found that recent college grads with greater perceived financial stress experienced more anxiety and depression as compared to their counterparts who were not saddled with financial burdens. In 2014, seven out of ten college seniors exited school with an average of $28,400 in student debt, as reported by Project on Student Debt. These findings equate to the condition of new talent entering the workforce and the state of emotional distress they experience before even starting their career pursuits.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from new people entering the workforce are the employees who cannot afford to retire. A recent Charles Schwab survey of 1,000 401(k) participants nearing retirement age reported that 24% of respondents admit to being stressed about their retirement finances more than their job security. This has led many people to reconsider their retirement age and continue working to a much older age than anticipated to qualify for a bigger payout of their social security benefits.

Help is on the way

As many companies today offer employees physical wellness programs, incorporating financial responsibility training is also a doable offering. “Personal finance is 80% behavioral and 20% head knowledge,” states Dave Ramsey. Ramsey believes this is due to people simply not understanding how to manage their money, and further, knowing very little about making the money they do have work in their favor.

This is where education comes into play. With the assistance of organizations that specialize in employee wellness and benefits plans, employers can offer informative programs as an ongoing and informal learning process. One thing companies need to understand is that financial stress can occur for many different reasons. What may be the cause of financial stress for one person may not be the same stressor for someone else. Illness, divorce, unforeseen situations like personal injury, or the responsibility of primary caregiving to an aging parent are not situations people necessarily prepare for, but once they occur, financial stress usually follows.

Regardless of the cause, education is still the key here. Along with education comes confidence. When people feel more in control of their financial state, they will feel good about other things in their life and respond accordingly.

Employers can also incentivize employees to participate in financial wellness programs by offering company-paid inducements such as company-wide financial retreats, lunch-and-learns, or bonus days to participate in financial learning classes off the work premises.

Integrating programs that instruct your employees on various financial savings and financial protection techniques with emphasis on the benefits of why it’s in their best interest to participate shows that employers have a bona fide interest in their most precious asset: their human capital.

For more on keeping your employees engaged and balanced, see Employee Benefits In 2016: Perks Or Expectations?

Photo Credit: stovmasyan89 via Compfight cc

The post Financial Well-being = Mental Well-being For Employees appeared first on TalentCulture.

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Why The Next Steve Jobs Might Just Come From Kazakhstan

Vivek Bapat

Denis is a typical nine-year-old who loves playing video games. His parents both work full-time jobs — his father is an accomplished engineer and his mother is a professor of economics. Thrice a week during the summer, his grandmother drives him to a small computer training center on the outskirts of town. When his parents discovered this training center through Facebook, Denis proactively suggested he wanted to go there to learn how to make his own computer games. On return trips, Denis often tells his grandmother, with great excitement, how he just developed a new game in which a monkey must make several moves, jumping and spinning over obstacles to gather fruit.

Alzhan is 13. Altai, his proud father, takes Alzhan to the center twice a week. He recognizes great potential in his son’s innate math and English skills and is convinced that early exposure to computers and programming will provide an edge in his son’s future career prospects.

Boris attends the training center five days a week, for six hours a day. Quiet and serious, the 14-year-old has always known he wanted to be a programmer and loves tinkering around with new programs and advanced algorithms.

Elya, also 14, is a sharp, savvy young girl with boundless energy. She wants to study medicine and become a doctor. She attends the training center for several hours a day, thrice a week, to get familiar with programming skills that might accelerate her academic trajectory.

These are aspirations of some of the children I met at Love to Code, a small entrepreneurial educational center on the outskirts of Almaty, Kazakhstan, a prominent city in Central Asia on the iconic Silk Road.

Weaving these strands of diverse aspirations together into a proverbial magic carpet of dreams is one of the founders of Love to Code, CEO Yeldos Balgabekov.

Attired in casual shorts and t-shirt, Yeldos is a soft-spoken, mild-mannered 28-year-old. He has a bold vision to educate one million kids in Kazakhstan with basic and advanced computer programming skills by 2020. Of humble origins, Yeldos has a finance, math, and economics background from one of the most well-recognized universities in Kazakhstan, but has developed significant skills in programming through self-study and interest over time.

I met Yeldos and students Denis, Alzhan, Boris, and Elya — along with many more aspiring coders — during a two-week trip to Kazakhstan. I was there as part of a two-week “social sabbatical” offered by my company, SAP, in support of its mission to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Together with SAP colleagues Eckhardt Siess and Matthias Medert, we served as a team of consultants to Love to Code and Yeldos in his quest to improve digital literacy in Kazakhstan. During our two weeks there, we worked with numerous stakeholders — including students — to identify the opportunities and challenges in bringing Love to Code’s vision to life.

Inspired by the likes of Khan Academy, Yeldos created Love to Code in 2015. It’s a private programming school with a unique approach built on top of commercially available tools such as Scratch, Code Monkey, Python, and other languages. The curriculum uses a proprietary step-by step-process so children between the ages of 8–15 can learn at their own pace through hands-on one-on-one instruction delivered in Russian, Kazakh, and English. Today, Yeldos operates five training centers in major cities including Almaty, with ambitions to grow across the country. He recently organized a national coding event, where his programs touched 150,000 kids with an hour of coding.

Balgabekov’s ambition to get a million kids coding is not as far-fetched as it may sound. Although Kazakhstan was one of the last former Soviet satellite states to claim its independence, it is still very much an emerging nation. Its history and resources (including large oil reserves) provide it with major advantages, which have accelerated its growth. The ninth-largest country in the world, Kazakhstan is abundant in natural resources such as oil, natural gas, and minerals, including 40% of the world’s uranium, providing the underpinnings of the largest economy in Central Asia. It was a space center during the Soviet era, making engineering and mathematics admired pursuits, and its school system produces a population that is virtually 100% literate. While Kazakhstan is 70% Muslim, the religion is not practiced with the orthodoxy found in other regions.

On the other hand, Kazakhstanis have a broad gulf between rich and poor, and despite an elected government (the same president has been in office since the early 1990s), there are limits to freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and other rights that might challenge the authority of the state. In a country where the average monthly salary is 130,000 Tenge (USD $400/month), only a tiny elite earns enough to cover the monthly 25,000–65,000 Tenge cost of the courses at Love to Code.

Between tastings of camel’s milk, horse milk, and horse meat — local delicacies reflective of the nomadic history of the Kazakh people — we witnessed a free-flowing energy. There is a hunger and desire to compete, especially in areas like technology and digital literacy, where the market is just forming and where early movers have the potential to strike it big. While there is little legal infrastructure to protect intellectual property, local coding education startups like Method.kz and Step.it are already carving out niches in the market. It will be only a matter of time until international players such as U.S.-based Tynker focus on Central Asia.

Typical of a startup, Love to Code always feels like it is on the verge of a breakthrough. The demand for its services is clear among parents, students, and teachers. It has an array of go-to-market models, including franchise and private-label opportunities, no different than anywhere else. It has a strong product that it’s constantly improving. Its challenge is clearly in scaling the program and bringing it to a wide swath of the population. That’s where the SAP team focused our time, identifying prospective partners and distribution outlets. Then we began doing the legwork.

One scalable idea, bringing Love to Code into schools, is fraught with challenges. Mr. Mereihan, the young principal at one of the top-10 public schools in the country specializing in physics and math, told us that he recognized the great value in programs such as those offered by Love to Code. However, for him to introduce the program into his public school, it would have to be endorsed and funded by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry requires a full-fledged curriculum from grades 1–12 — a very high bar. The expensive private schools we asked reported they already covered the topic (though our research suggests otherwise) — and besides, their students could likely afford the fees at the Love to Code facilities.

Mr. Murat Narkulov, the highly progressive director of the United Nations Development Fund in Kazakhstan, is already planning to incorporate coding education into their programs for women and people with disabilities. They are thinking about a JAVA/Rush application that gamifies coding. It would be delivered free of charge on mobile phones with the aim of reaching millions of people in five years. We found that these organizations could provide the muscle and the money required to scale digital instruction and learning.

The greatest opportunities to scale Love to Code, it turns out, are coming from wealthy private donors. Many of them are creating their own funds and NGOs with the explicit intent of improving the civil life of the country. Making coding education across income levels and populations a priority for these new social investors will, in our opinion, present the best opportunity for the widespread teaching of digital skills. Technology companies can also do their part to create a pull for future talent with digital skills — investing the region, creating new jobs, training their employees, and improving wages for high-tech workers.

Despite all of these issues and hurdles that would seem daunting to the best of the best, Yeldos keeps pushing ahead with a flat organization of a few full-time and part-time workers. He is constantly on the go. Like a Swiss army knife,  he does it all: develops the content, delivers training, and talks to investors, clients, and parents. With the classic persona of a founder of a self-funded company, he is quick to strike new deals and make instant adjustments to the business.

As we peeled the layers of the onion back each day, we discovered a new set of ideas, events, opportunities, and surprises that challenged our recommendations from the day before. In the end, our findings and consultations helped uncover a few new ideas, and a short-term and longer-term strategy for sustenance, growth, and scale. Most importantly, it helped validate the fundamental beliefs and tenets of the business model from an independent, external perspective.

One more thing: We learned that Yeldos recently won a full academic scholarship funded by the British government to attend a one-year Master’s program in Computer Engineering in Southampton, U.K. He has decided to take this opportunity to beef up his credentials in data science and is leaving for the U.K. in six weeks. His wife and his 18-month old baby girl are both supportive of this life-changing opportunity. While he is away, his co-founders and staff plan to step in to sustain the business.

Yeldos intends to drive some of the business development efforts to grow the business while managing the rigors of what will be undoubtedly a challenging period in this life.

But he knows that the hopes and dreams of young Denis, Alzhan, Boris, and Elya — representative of the children of Kazakhstan, are all unequivocally pinned on to his own. And that he bears and owes them a greater sense of responsibility in their success than that of his own.

Vivek Bapat is senior vice president and global head of Marketing Strategy at SAP.

This story previously appeared on Medium.

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About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.

Saving The World’s Treasure: Can Technology Stop Pirates?

Simon Davies

When you hear the word pirates, you might think of eye patches, crosses on maps, parrots on shoulders, or all of the above in a Disney movie. Despite the fact that the fictional kind of pirate has thoroughly permeated the common consciousness, Somali pirates have been a real threat to international shipping since the early 21st century.

We need some great plans to combat these sea thieves. In this day and age, technology seems to be the best answer.

Pirates are a real threat to the global economy

Yep, they’re real. On June 23rd, 2017, a group of armed pirates hijacked a Thai oil tanker and drained the vessel of 1.5 million litres of diesel fuel.

Studies have shown that more than 80% of the world’s trade is transported by sea, which means that our economy is highly reliant on the shipping trade. It’s no mystery why pirates seem eager to hijack merchant’s vessels and claim the “treasure” on board. Maritime piracy is a big problem that can take a sizeable cut from the world’s economy—$6 billion, to be exact.

Satellite imagery provides eyes from above

Maritime tracking using the latest in satellite technology is the new solution on the horizon, according to Earth observation experts Earth-i, who have discussed how satellite data helps prevent maritime piracy. With high-resolution images, it’s possible to track ship and vessel movements to ensure safe passage for passenger and cargo boats across the world’s seas.

Monitoring, observation, and tracking technology has been used to surveil trade at sea with precision and reliability. Pirates can disable terrestrial AIS (Automatic Identification Systems), which are used to track ships and vessels, but the same cannot be said for satellite AIS.

Companies using satellite AIS also benefit from the tech’s capability of providing coverage for the most remote parts of the Earth and sea 24/7.

Unmanned stealth vessels can take on pirates remotely

A self-made millionaire has taken the treacherous seas’ biggest problem into his own hands by inventing a one-of-a-kind high-tech stealth boat.

The Ghost is a seaborne combat vessel made by Greg Sancoff’s startup, Juliet Marine. It’s called “Ghost” because it’s “virtually invisible to sonar and radar detection through its aluminium and stainless steel construction.”

Sancoff said that although the boat can function as a speedboat and attack ships for Navy SEALS, it is best suited for fighting pirates. Gas turbines are used for the engine, and the ship rides above the water on robotically stabilised pontoons, making the vessel steady on rough seas.

Inside the high-tech vessel, the battleship is controlled by an array of computer screens, but Greg Sancoff said that the anti-pirate machine can be modified for unmanned operations, potentially making the Ghost moniker even more fitting.

Unmanned stealth vessels may be an effective way to combat pirates, but they are expensive. That expense may be justified if Juliet Marine is accurate in saying that two Ghosts, which would cost $20 million, could protect thousands of square miles.

Hardware for tackling pirates head-on isn’t always effective

Large budgets have already been spent on hardware for directly tackling pirates, with less than impressive results.

The long-range acoustic device (LRAD) uses a pain-inducing sound beam that has been used to drive pirates away, and the ADS (active denial system) transmits a narrow beam of electromagnetic energy to heat the skin without causing permanent damage. The wave can be used to penetrate beneath the skin and cause an unbearable burning sensation, forcing pirates to jump overboard.

Unfortunately, as Wired discussed in an article titled “Sonic, Pain Weapons All Wrong for Pirate Fight,” these options are severely limited. The LRAD can be rendered completely useless by pirates’ firearms; guns such as the AK-47 out-range the non-lethal sonic weapon. Meanwhile, the ADS, costing $3 million, is known to have harmed the people using it.

Evasion remains the best defense

Despite the proliferation of high-tech solutions for taking on pirates, HowStuffWorks maintains that the best defense against pirates can be low-tech: “The best defense against a pirate attack is evasion.” They have recommended that crews encountering pirates should fire flares, sound their alarms, call for help, and warn other ships in the area when encountering pirates. They should then commit to outmaneuvring the pirates.

With the ability to monitor the progress and route of vessels, shipping companies using satellite systems to track their ships will find avoiding pirates far easier. This informed-evasion not only keeps the monitored crews safe; it can also provide greater security for all vessels at sea. If shipping companies share their insights (gained through satellite data) with the relevant authorities, they will always be one step ahead. Removing the element of surprise from the arsenal of pirates, which is arguably one of their best weapons, could help prevent maritime piracy for good.

For more on technology’s role in security, see Ransomware Attack Highlights Need For Comprehensive Cybersecurity.

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About Simon Davies

Simon Davies is a London-based freelance writer with an interest in startup culture, issues, and solutions. He works explores new markets and disruptive technologies and communicates those recent developments to a wide, public audience. Simon is also a contributor at socialbarrel.com, socialnomics.net, and tech.co. Follow Simon @simontheodavies on Twitter.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Jenny Dearborn: Soft Skills Will Be Essential for Future Careers

Jenny Dearborn

The Japanese culture has always shown a special reverence for its elderly. That’s why, in 1963, the government began a tradition of giving a silver dish, called a sakazuki, to each citizen who reached the age of 100 by Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Elders Day), which is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.

That first year, there were 153 recipients, according to The Japan Times. By 2016, the number had swelled to more than 65,000, and the dishes cost the already cash-strapped government more than US$2 million, Business Insider reports. Despite the country’s continued devotion to its seniors, the article continues, the government felt obliged to downgrade the finish of the dishes to silver plating to save money.

What tends to get lost in discussions about automation taking over jobs and Millennials taking over the workplace is the impact of increased longevity. In the future, people will need to be in the workforce much longer than they are today. Half of the people born in Japan today, for example, are predicted to live to 107, making their ancestors seem fragile, according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at the London Business School and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

The End of the Three-Stage Career

Assuming that advances in healthcare continue, future generations in wealthier societies could be looking at careers lasting 65 or more years, rather than at the roughly 40 years for today’s 70-year-olds, write Gratton and Scott. The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

It will be replaced by a new model in which people continually learn new skills and shed old ones. Consider that today’s most in-demand occupations and specialties did not exist 10 years ago, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum.

And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, the report notes.

Our current educational systems are not equipped to cope with this degree of change. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is outdated by the time students graduate, the report continues.

Skills That Transcend the Job Market

Instead of treating post-secondary education as a jumping-off point for a specific career path, we may see a switch to a shorter school career that focuses more on skills that transcend a constantly shifting job market. Today, some of these skills, such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, are taught mostly in the context of broader disciplines, such as math or the humanities.

Other competencies that will become critically important in the future are currently treated as if they come naturally or over time with maturity or experience. We receive little, if any, formal training, for example, in creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, persuasion, active listening, and acceptance of change. (No wonder the self-help marketplace continues to thrive!)

The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

These skills, which today are heaped together under the dismissive “soft” rubric, are going to harden up to become indispensable. They will become more important, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will usher in an era of infinite information, rendering the concept of an expert in most of today’s job disciplines a quaint relic. As our ability to know more than those around us decreases, our need to be able to collaborate well (with both humans and machines) will help define our success in the future.

Individuals and organizations alike will have to learn how to become more flexible and ready to give up set-in-stone ideas about how businesses and careers are supposed to operate. Given the rapid advances in knowledge and attendant skills that the future will bring, we must be willing to say, repeatedly, that whatever we’ve learned to that point doesn’t apply anymore.

Careers will become more like life itself: a series of unpredictable, fluid experiences rather than a tightly scripted narrative. We need to think about the way forward and be more willing to accept change at the individual and organizational levels.

Rethink Employee Training

One way that organizations can help employees manage this shift is by rethinking training. Today, overworked and overwhelmed employees devote just 1% of their workweek to learning, according to a study by consultancy Bersin by Deloitte. Meanwhile, top business leaders such as Bill Gates and Nike founder Phil Knight spend about five hours a week reading, thinking, and experimenting, according to an article in Inc. magazine.

If organizations are to avoid high turnover costs in a world where the need for new skills is shifting constantly, they must give employees more time for learning and make training courses more relevant to the future needs of organizations and individuals, not just to their current needs.

The amount of learning required will vary by role. That’s why at SAP we’re creating learning personas for specific roles in the company and determining how many hours will be required for each. We’re also dividing up training hours into distinct topics:

  • Law: 10%. This is training required by law, such as training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Company: 20%. Company training includes internal policies and systems.

  • Business: 30%. Employees learn skills required for their current roles in their business units.

  • Future: 40%. This is internal, external, and employee-driven training to close critical skill gaps for jobs of the future.

In the future, we will always need to learn, grow, read, seek out knowledge and truth, and better ourselves with new skills. With the support of employers and educators, we will transform our hardwired fear of change into excitement for change.

We must be able to say to ourselves, “I’m excited to learn something new that I never thought I could do or that never seemed possible before.” D!

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