Despite global doom and gloom, Stats SA in their latest gross domestic product (GDP) report, state that the construction industry in South Africa reportedly grew at a rate of 11.2% in the fourth quarter of 2020. In line with commonly held belief, these results indicate that the sector holds the potential to stimulate economic recovery and create much-needed jobs post the pandemic. 

Best people practices in a post COVID 19 worldMarlize Fourie, Group HR executive at GVK-Siya Zama, says: “The industry is known for being able to unlock employment potential and is therefore well placed to embrace progressive people practices and upskilling employees to ensure that they are trained and equipped to deliver in a demanding, challenging environment.”

Drawing from the company’s own experience, Fourie believes that companies have to be innovative to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world and shares how GVK-Siya Zama is working towards becoming a more people-centric organisation through initiatives that nurture and develop their employees across the country. 

Employee career conversations

Performance management has long been regarded as a key human resource management and employee engagement tool and GVK-Siya Zama has refined their processes to extract more value for both employees and the company to motivate staff and promote career growth. “In an environment with a very flat management structure such as ours, the challenge is to create more meaning and fulfilment that continuously stimulate staff for growth and personal development,” Fourie notes that the pandemic has also brought about changes to traditional roles and have forced many employees to re-evaluate the way they approach their jobs. 

Fourie elaborates that the company will be taking their career conversations with employees to the next level this year. “We are going to start focusing on employee assessments supported by authentic performance conversations. This is a two-way conversation that promotes robust feedback and the drafting of effective personal action plans. On a broader level, it provides employees with a platform to raise concerns, provide diversity and a different point of view and share ideas for changes that will improve the workplace and the company as a whole.”

Peer learning

Mentoring, information transfer and education have also come under the spotlight at the company and Fourie says “peer learning is a popular HR buzz word and we’ve found that in our environment small, internal micro-learning sessions offer a more hands-on approach to training employees who are better suited to practical sessions than classroom tuition. The majority of our teams are based on-site and this method of learning is proving to be far more effective than traditional teaching methods.”

Fourie explains that their micro-learning sessions normally run over an hour or two and tuition is facilitated by an in-house subject matter expert. “This adds a great deal of credibility to the sessions, makes complicated concepts accessible and promotes skills transfer.”

Embracing technology

While still a very hands-on, practical industry, the pandemic has forced the company to embrace technology and maximise the potential offered by platforms such as MS Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp. “In the early scramble to ensure that our desk-based staff were equipped to work from home efficiently and in a very short space of time with no real lead-time to prepare, we had come to realise and embrace the value of digital communication and virtual meetings. Our teams work seamlessly across many different platforms both internally and externally and it has changed the way we communicate and interact with clients and colleagues. It has afforded us greater productivity and exposure and we don’t foresee a return to face-to-face meetings as an exclusive way of communicating and doing business.”

Staff engagement survey 

Measuring employee engagement is critical to company success regardless of industry and an engagement survey is a great way to find out whether employees are still happy in their roles and aligned to the brand promise and vision.

“It was the pandemic that first prompted us to do a staff survey last year as we were anxious to find out how our employees were coping at home. This year we’ll be taking it a step further with a staff engagement survey asking employees for honest opinions around our people practices and company leadership. We take staff surveys very seriously and once analysed and distilled, we’re committed to making the required adjustments to accommodate suggestions that improve life in the workplace at GVK-Siya Zama.”

“We believe that being a people-centric business is the key to our success. Paramount in this endeavour is maintaining open and authentic channels of communication with employees. If not much else, we have the pandemic to thank for this insight".

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Wilhelm du Plessis
Email: constr@crown.co.za
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Erna Oosthuizen
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