Reading Time: 3 minutes
For several years ‘customer experience’ has been the driving force behind many business strategies that bring about product development, marketing, and all-around business culture. However, recently, there has been a shift in focus to what many are calling ‘the age of employee experience’.
Here’s what you’ll find out in this article:
- What is Employee Experience
- The importance of Employee Experience
- Why there has been a shift from culture to experience
What is Employee Experience
The rise of what we’ve come to know as ‘employee experience’ has set new demands for most businesses. An easy way to understand this fairly new concept is by saying, if customer experience relates to how we measure all communication a company has with its customers, then employee experience relates to everything the workers of a company experience – every interaction from the very first interview up until the moment they leave the company.
Related: All you need to know about a revolving loan
Employee experience goes beyond providing a great place to work. It forces companies to offer their employees a new level of support in their career and personal wellbeing, flexibility, and a plethora of opportunities.
Some key features of a good employee experience include, but are definitely not limited to;
- Protecting and encouraging a healthy work-life balance
- Encouraging a collaborative work environment
- Using technical advances to minimize ‘meaningless’ tasks
- Offering flexibility and support for individual schedules
- A designed professional development plan to suit each employee’s growth
- Encouraging employee autonomy and self-direction
- Promoting an environment of purpose and meaning beyond making money
Related: What is a business credit facility?
The importance of Employee Experience
So the question on everyone’s mind is, why is it so important? According to a Forbes article, in 2019, employee experience became a ‘preeminent corporate priority’. The reason for this is partly due to the evolution of the employee-employer relationship, as well as the fact that job-hopping is more frequent than ever. All in all, there is an imminent need for companies to raise the bar when it comes to retaining employees and providing a thriving work environment for their people.
Why there has been a shift from culture to experience
There’s no doubt that the rising importance of “customer experience”, with its focus on empowering individuality, influenced it. Where most companies previously focused on employee engagement and company culture, recently it’s more about overall employee experience.
While company culture is still important, it’s significance is limited. Your office can be as trendy as ever, filled with table tennis areas, Friday drinks, and casually dressed staff working flexible hours – but that will only get so far. These types of perks are fast becoming the norm and probably do promote collaboration and a shared vision, but if employees are not motivated and engaged with their work, these perks are futile. Employee experience relates to the daily norms of the workplace, the bonds between team members and managers, the sense of support between everyone in the company. These are the things of real value.
Related: Business Funding: An overview of how SMEs can access funding in SA
So why should SMEs care about investing in their company’s employee experience?
Those who make a sustained investment into employees are able to retain top talent within their industries, dominate the competition, and in turn, promote higher turnover because people are motivated to do their best at every turn. According to HBR, on average, companies that invested in the experience of their employees returned over four times the average profit – despite being around 25% smaller, implying greater levels of both efficiency and creativity.
The statistics certainly back up the hype: having a positive experience is not only crucial to attracting and keeping the best workforce, but staying relevant as a business, too.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
The high five is on hiatus. But we’d never leave you hanging! We’re your friends in funding, and we’re still here to support you if you need it.
Even though we can’t give out high five’s right now, we still aim to create those high five moments for our customers. That means checking in, making sure you get friendly, fast service and keeping your funding needs our number one priority.
This is the part where we’d normally high five… but instead we’ve got some other ideas.
Here are some ways to stay connected to your community – hands free!
When you’re a small business, building relationships with your customers is really important. Our own Lula staffers can sometimes tell who they are talking to on the phone without you even mentioning your name. We’re close – some might say joined at the hip. Use the ‘hip howzit’ to say hi, with no hands.
The ‘work it wave’
Business is all about riding the downs and celebrating the ups. Before you reach for that high five after signing your next big order, or taking on a new exciting client: Stop, collaborate and… do the ‘work it wave’ to keep up morale and cheer on your team mates.
The ‘1.5 meter maker’
Being a business owner takes guts, and an appetite for risk. But it’s important to keep that risk as calculated as possible and to be guided by the information and data at hand. Use the ‘1.5 meter maker’ to ensure you don’t encounter unnecessary risk and that you stick to recommended health guidelines. We’re risk conscious too and proud to call ourselves responsible lenders. You can read more about that here.
The ‘elbow bump’
We reckon the elbow bump is an anytime, anywhere handy (but not so handy) trick. With the handshake and the high five on hold, this is a good way to greet – even our president thinks so! It’s something you can use anytime, when you need it. Kind of like our credit facility, which gives you access to funds, whenever you need them. Just like that.
The ‘namastay calm’
Yes, things are a little crazy. Yes, there is probably cause for panic. But we’re hopeless silver lining seekers. This is a time for South Africans to come together and really support our small business community. Give your local coffee shop, butcher, florist or accountant a shout out on social media or a review. Let’s support our community of business owners in any way we can. Let’s stock up on all the essentials we need from the shop on the corner. Keep calm, keep positive and keep supporting SMEs.
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Here at Lulalend, our proudly South African team are excited to celebrate Heritage Day on 24 September 2014.
Heritage Day is about celebrating the many different cultures that make up South Africa and our rich diverse history. It is recognised as a national public holiday and many South Africans take advantage of the free entry offered at some of the country’s top museums and cultural attractions.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Having an arsenal of advice that you can turn to for inspiration, wisdom, or simply to know that you’re not in this alone, can be a game changer for business owners. Not every day is the same, and some days are harder than others.
We’ve put together a list of TEDx Talks from those that have failed and got back up, those that have learned valuable things along the way, those who know what it takes to build business success, and those who believe Africa is a hot spot for local businesses to thrive alongside local economies.
Magatte Wade,brand creator on why it’s hard to start a business in Africa and how to change that
Many African countries are poor for a simple reason, says entrepreneur Magatte Wade: governments have created far too many obstacles to starting and running a business. In this passionate talk, Wade breaks down the challenges of doing business on the continent and offers some solutions of her own — while calling on leaders to do their part, too.
Leticia Gasca, author and entrepreneur on not failing fast, but failing mindfully
We celebrate bold entrepreneurs whose ingenuity led them to success, but what happens to those who fail? Far too often, they bury their stories out of shame or humiliation — and miss out on a valuable opportunity for growth, says author and entrepreneur Leticia Gasca. In this thoughtful talk, Gasca calls for business owners to open up about their failures and makes the case for replacing the idea of “failing fast” with a new mantra: fail mindfully.
Martin Reeves, Strategist on how to build a business that lasts 100 years
If you want to build a business that lasts, there may be no better place to look for inspiration than your own immune system. Join strategist Martin Reeves as he shares startling statistics about shrinking corporate life spans and explains how executives can apply six principles from living organisms to build resilient businesses that flourish in the face of change.
Knut Haanaes, Strategist on two reasons companies fail – and how to avoid them
Is it possible to run a company and reinvent it at the same time? For business strategist Knut Haanaes, the ability to innovate after becoming successful is the mark of a great organization. He shares insights on how to strike a balance between perfecting what we already know and exploring totally new ideas — and lays out how to avoid two major strategy traps.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Economist on Want to help Africa? Do business here
We know the negative images of Africa — famine and disease, conflict and corruption. But, says Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, there’s another, less-told story happening in many African nations: one of reform, economic growth and business opportunity.
Let Lulalend be a part of your businesses’ success by increasing your financial tolerancesupporting with your financial needs. For business funding on the go turn to Lulalend for your free quote today. Take a few minutes to complete our online application form today and get your free quote today.
Get access to our credit facility and have access to finance whenever you need it. Only pay for what you use when you use it.
Click here to apply online
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Seasonality and business cycles are a certainty, but at least you can plan for them because they are predictable. For some, this is a bumper time for their business but for others, it may feel like the annual graveyard shift. Everything from holiday’s, winter months, tax season, and paydays are part of a business cycle.
If you haven’t got a clear plan for these ups and downs we have some tips below to help you prepare well and confidently enter those business periods.
Identify the cycles that will affect your business
If you don’t know, you can’t plan. Even if you haven’t been in business very long you know your industry and whether certain times of the year are slower or more profitable than others. This gives you several advantages. You can put extra finances aside for these months by adjusting your forecast accordingly, offer specials, or find ways to reduce overheads.
Build alternative income streams
This can involve partnerships that allow for shared campaign costs and reduce overheads for both parties. Alternatively, consider referral campaigns that get rewarded, highlight new products, and stay in touch with existing customers to communicate special offerings. There are many creative solutions so brainstorm ideas that suit your business and support your brand.
Put extra budget aside for marketing
Looking at the previous years’ finances can help you assess seasonality and trends to give you a good indication of when your business has quiet seasons. This can help you plan for marketing campaigns and budget. Plan accordingly so that you can put aside extra budget for campaigns, online marketing efforts, events, or special offers that require more stock at these times. But make sure you have a strategy that is relevant to your customers, you don’t want to waste these funds on ineffective marketing. If you aren’t sure how to best market your business, consider spending that budget to hire a marketing agency that can assist you.
Plan invoicing strategies
These cycles can have an effect on your cash flow as customers are slow to pay or debit order dates change. Plan for months like February that are shorter. Months like this, as well as public holidays, effect payday and debit orders. Business days are also limited while targets stay the same, in comparison to months with more working days this can put a strain on cash flow.
Know where to find quick access to funding
Sometimes you simply don’t have the budget to put aside at these times of year and you need to look for alternative funding. The banks can take a long time and seasonality just doesn’t allow for waiting around. Business lenders like Lulalend bridge this divide by offering immediate funding or a credit facility that you can drawdown from at any time to use as and when needed.
Reading Time: 7 minutes
China is currently undergoing a digital revolution of an unprecedented scale never before seen. The rollout of digital financial services to all sectors of their vast population is nothing short of incredible. China has many similarities to the African story as well as many differences. Could some of what China is doing to achieve financial inclusion be used in the African context to bring digital financial services to the huge unbanked and underserved population there? I was fortunate enough to be invited on a trip to China to explore this further. The trip was very generously arranged by the Mastercard Foundation Partnership for Finance in a Digital Africa (FiDA Partnership).
In this short blog I focus on some highlights from the trip, namely:
- How tech platforms have leveraged their user base to drive adoption of digital financial services (DFS)
- The innovative ways that financial services are offered to SMEs
- How Chinese tech companies are delivering financial services to rural customers
- How data and AI is used to understand customers, deliver tailored products and reduce risk
Tech Platforms driving DFS adoption
The first thing that strikes you when you wander the markets, shops and restaurants in China is the lack of cash or even card transactions. The majority of face-to-face payment transactions you see in these places are done via mobile payments, namely using a QR code system.
The de-facto way of paying in China
Why this massive take-up of mobile payments? South Africa, where LulaLend is based, has similar QR code based payments systems which are enjoying consistent growth but not at the rate seen in China. One key difference in China is that the mobile payment systems are generally leveraged from existing, non-financial platforms that already have huge uptake. For example, WeChat Pay is leveraged off the WeChat social messaging app (similar to WhatsApp) which has around a billion users. So iwhen WeChat Pay was released it was already accessible to a huge user base.
The Wechat app
While this might sound impressive, WeChat Pay is not even the most popular mobile payments platform in China. That title goes to Alipay. Alipay was originally developed to facilitate transactions across Alibaba, the largest e-commerce site in China, which now has an enormous over half a billion customer base. With such large tech players offering financial services on top of non-financial platforms, it becomes clearer why there is such a massive uptake of mobile payments.
Another benefit of leveraging financial services from an existing platform is that identity can be accurately verified which leads to much lower fraudulent rates. From our meeting with Ant Financial we learnt that less than 0.001% of transactions are fraudulent on Alipay, compared to circa 0.2% on PayPal. Lastly, the tech companies are making huge drives to grow their customer bases, and in doing so building up a bank of data on their customers. This is done by offering incentives and discounted charges on some of the services – payments commissions being one – with revenue generated from other sources such as e-commerce sales and in-app purchases. While customers benefit from really low commissions, platform providers are able to capture a lot of payment data which can be used for credit assessment and delivery purposes.
Innovative ways Chinese tech companies deliver financial services to SMEs
JD.Com is a big B2C (business to consumer) player which focuses on an Amazon-type approach thats sells directly to its 300 million customers. This means it is responsible for delivering the goods themselves and therefore has developed a vast distribution network to support this model. Its strengths lie in its customer and supplier interfaces and management systems, and its supply chain network. JD Finance is the finance segment that was spun off recently to focus on financial products.
The JD.com brand
By managing all aspects of the process, from purchase to delivery, JD.com gains access to a huge amount of data on its customers and their behaviour. The data is turned into insights and understandings, allowing JD Finance to offer unique products to the various elements of the process. For example by observing user behaviour on the platform and transaction history they are able to accurately assess the eligibility of their merchants for credit. This can be unsecured as is the case for suppliers, or secured for the merchants who use their warehousing services and have stock in them. Interests are charged at a daily rate and paydowns are generally flexible.
Alibaba is the biggest e-commerce firm in China. Their Taobao business is a B2C company that focuses on their marketplace that connects business and consumers, much like the eBay model we understand. Their finance focused arm is called Ant Financial. They too offer various merchant funding that is driven off data collected from interoperation with their site. But their main offering is Alipay, their digital payments system. The payment data from Alipay is also leveraged allowing them to segment an incredibly low risk SME base to offer funding too.
Serving the rural population
What was really fascinating and inspiring to see is how financial services are being rolled out to rural populations. This is probably the most relevant aspect to the African context. It involves extraordinary coordination and strategy between government, the banking industry, tech infrastructure companies and new internet based technology companies. The first step was a massive push to get connectivity and ICT out to the rural populations. This created the infrastructure that could essentially leverage smartphones to the majority of people.
Then, the banking industry did a massive push to get branches out as far as they could and drastically increase their number of rural customers. But what is the use of a bank account if you don’t have any money coming into it? That is where technology companies come in. Companies like Alibaba have focussed their efforts into capturing the essence of rural economy. Taobao, their eBay like site, allows any merchant, no matter how small, to sell their wares or services. This has enabled even a producer to link up to a larger supply chain and eventually deliver their goods to an international market. So the supply chains are made up of many merchants supplying goods, logistics, and brokering agents all working cohesively together using the specialist management functions of the platform. The process has become so popular that whole villages have been focussed to cater for specialities required. Rural Cuntao (Rural Taobao) is the term coined for this product. For example, we visited a Taobao village that focused on manufacturing shoes.
A typical production element for this type of supply chain
Perhaps in the African context this is not yet possible due to the still relatively low penetration of smartphones. But companies like Huawei are developing innovative ways of increasing access in rural Africa at a much lower cost than previously. This involves new communications technology to optimise usage across the frequency band and much more efficient infrastructure (e.g. much smaller tower networks needed to support this than previously).
Huawei showcasing some of their technology goods
It was fascinating and inspiring to see how fintech in China is being used to offer digital finance, and how funding products are offered to all areas of the populations. Below are summed up keys of what we would like to pervade our thinking going forward:
Scale. The awe-inspiring size of the audience Chinese digital finance companies reach and the pace with which they are growing is staggering.
Data and AI. The use of data and AI to understand all aspects of this customer base and enable in-depth offerings at incredibly low default rates.
Innovative lending products. Drawing on the vast amount of information available to focus specific credit products to specific sectors.
Reaching rural communities. The coordination of all sectors to reach out to the underserved and provide innovative products to get them onto the platforms. Then providing the supply chain management to keep them on.
A new approach to data sharing. Customer data is seen as an asset that can be shared with competitors to improve your own offering and the value to the customer.
Understanding customer needs. Constant focus on what customers use in their everyday lives and adding platforms and products around this.
Cool, but how does this affect my business?
At Lulalend, we are looking forward to using these insights to add to and shape our strategic thinking to offer a better experience to the SME owner. A lot of the concepts we saw are already incorporated on some level in our platform so it was amazing to get insight into the most advanced platforms. Lulalend are on the forefront of championing digital lending in South Africa and a lot of what we have seen will result in direct improvements or those inspired by the strategies seen:
- Increased refinement and accuracy of our machine learning models to assess a business.
- Increased use of AI technology to drive down fraud and risk, so that better rates could be offered to customers.
- Pragmatic usage of AI in the application and onboarding process, including serving customer queries. Being a data driven company, a big part of what we do is around handling and processing data, and there were some great lessons to see how truly big data is being handled.
- Deepening the relationships we have with our partners to compliment and leverage different services.
- Increasing the potential base of the local SME ecosystem by focussing on alternative methods of credit assessment, rather than being totally reliant on credit bureaus for this.