Engaged employees make for more productive businesses

Vanisha Balgobind, Executive Head of HR at Exxaro.

How does engaged employees make for more productive businesses during a time of Covid-19 and economic hardship? We asked Vanisha Balgobind, Executive Head of HR at Exxaro.

Putting employees at the centre of business decisions even in the face volatility will lead to performance and continued resilience that drives growth.

In 2020 the Covid-19 global pandemic unleashed a new era of change for companies worldwide, whose survival and growth could influence the lives of millions of employees and their families.

As lockdown restrictions were imposed to contain the spread of the virus, company leaders had to find novel ways to mitigate the risk to profitability and sustainability.

The leaders of companies in the mining, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors where employees must be on site were the most impacted and required to shift their focus from pure operational efficiencies to employee-wellbeing. Exceptional circumstances called for exceptional leadership.

To achieve sustainable productivity, companies had to innovate, implement systemic and technological changes, and exhibit a resolve and commitment to excellent human resources policies and people practices.

In a country of great inequality and poverty, we believe this starts with a commitment to providing the very best workplace environment for our employees to thrive, both personally and professionally. We put our people-first and strive to be progressive, diverse and inclusive, and by continuing to place an emphasis on people, irrespective of challenging times, they can support the business in finding innovative solutions to our most pressing challenges.

Being certified as a Top Employer this year reflects Exxaro’s dedication to a better world of work. Despite the challenging year we have experienced, Exxaro has continued to demonstrate the power of putting its people first in the workplace. This aligns with our core purpose to power better lives in Africa and beyond.

As the Covid-19 lockdown sparked retrenchments, we chose instead to stay committed to sustain our employee-centric culture, values and behaviours underpinned by our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to the adverse impacts on global health systems and economies, businesses faced the significant hurdle of supporting their people in adapting to new ways of work.

An important element of our success was our Employee Value Proposition (EVP), the benefits and rewards system we offer our employees for their commitment, skills, and capabilities. It is premised on the pillars of sustainable growth and impact; diversity and inclusion; safety, health, and wellness strategies.

Our policies and procedures comply with labour relations best practices and relevant legislation. Our talent management strategy guides the sourcing and development of employees across the organisation. The strategic workforce pipeline, along with talent planning development are geared to maintain our status as an “employer of choice”.

We empower female employees, who make up 24% of our workforce. We grow this talent pipeline through our professionals-in-training programme, which enrolled 38% female candidates in 2020 and 39% of our university bursaries were awarded to female students in engineering and mining disciplines.

This emphasis on diversity leads to sustainable human resource governance which is underpinned by a comprehensive suite of policies that cover employment, labour relations, occupational health and safety and training and education. We have consistently been striving to achieve our employment equity targets over the past five years, which up to 2022 align with the Mining Charter III promulgated in 2018.

Leadership and management development is a critical pillar of our people development strategy that aims to transform zones of influence with individual and fellowship development.

Human resource development initiatives reduce core skills shortages in the mining industry. Our programmes which include learnerships, skills internships, adult education, along with coaching, fast tracking, formal study programmes all accelerate technical and functional skills development. This is all done with the focus on making sure that employee development is done in line with employee representative aligned with our diversity and inclusion strategy. In 2020, we spent R227-million (5.04%) of our payroll on training and development.

Value-adding people solutions afford a fulfilling work experience with growth and development. Our adaptable culture reflects our willingness to learn and improve as it strives towards achieving its Sustainable Growth and Impact strategy. We are continuously intensifying our employee engagement efforts to share critical information and changes which includes feedback from employees through our culture and engagement survey.

Our evolution and continued success as a people-first industry leader is therefore attributable to our people-oriented philosophy, that all employees are responsible for making the business a positive place to be. We believe that ownership through contributing to performance and innovation every day, can drive us to new heights. Harnessing diversity and unique individual skills and opinions enables us to achieve exceptional outcomes.

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