Genuine transformation

Nashua BEE 2.jpg

These days transformation is on everyone’s lips, but unfortunately, more often than not, it’s for the wrong reasons. Recent headline-grabbing stories of unprecedented racial tension have revealed a greater need to intensify efforts to achieve real transformation in South Africa.

In business, the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) policy is key in economic and business transformation, but it doesn’t come without its challenges.

Despite the many challenges, some South African companies have been pioneering the way and have made great strides in setting policies in place to affect real change in the work place, making a concerted effort to achieve true transformation beyond a scorecard.

Among them is Nashua South Africa. The company claims that part of its B-BBEEE success story is the appointment of a dedicated transformation manager. Nashua’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Lindelwe Kunene, says the company acknowledged the need to constantly help employees accept and embrace change, while staying motivated and engaged in the process. Therefore, four years ago, it appointed its first transformation manager in the company’s 43-year history. Since his appointment, Bhavik Khoosal and his team have worked hard to increase the number of EE candidates in the business, upskill employees and go beyond simply complying with legislation to properly embed change in the business.

BBQ caught up with Kunene to find out more about this incredible success story.

Can you tell us about the importance of proper transformation and an all-inclusive business environment?

Transformation should be an all-inclusive journey at any given time and it should be about a shared value system initiating and creating equal employment opportunities to talk to business practices. It should allow for an evolving business environment.

Talking about transformation beyond a score card: how do you see this trend, and what are the real implications of this kind of mind set, opposed to gunning for score card status?

I think we need to take it one step back and understand the objectives of BEE, which include: empowering more black people to own and manage enterprises, achieving a substantial change in the racial composition of ownership and management structures, promoting access to finance for black economic empowerment, and promoting human resource development of black people through various upskilling interventions. Reading this from South Africa’s black economic empowerment strategy document, I took a quote: ‘No economy can grow by excluding any part of its people, and an economy that is not growing cannot integrate all of its citizens in a meaningful way’.  So if businesses are approaching BEE for the sake of ticking the box, we will ultimately have no economic and skills growth and this will all be a fruitless initiative. However, if companies stay true to the objectives and work towards finding the right balance in the workplace and greater community, it will become habit to empower black people, which will result in better growth and economic sustainability. It is a strategic imperative of all businesses to ensure empowerment and economic growth.

You have previously said that BEE is not something South Africa should just be complying with---we should be integrating and affecting real change. Can you please expand on this?  

We need to ensure that Employment Equity (EE) and BEE form part of the business’ strategic agenda in order not to allow it to disappear from the minds and mouths of stakeholders. We cannot lose sight of what we still need to achieve. In our business EE and BEE are discussed every week and action items are assigned with definite timelines in order to ensure that we affect real change and not just have words on paper. Real change has to address the black percentage at each level, which needs to be weighed against the economically active population (EAP) targets. Therefore, real change talks to effecting the right actions across all the five pillars of BEE. This is key in guaranteeing progressive change that benefits all stakeholders.

Can you please share with us the successes and challenges your company had to face on its transformation journey?

Challenges have ranged from difficulties in sourcing the right EE individuals with the required skills at the top and senior management levels. The demographics in the business are also a challenge, particularly when you are addressing the skills development pillar, as the targets have been increased and aligned to the targets weighted as EAP at management control level.  However, no challenge is ever without a solution, and so the codes have provided a balance by allowing for the training of unemployed black people. This means that by offering learnerships and other in-house accredited training, we can look at employing some of our unemployed trainees upon successful completion of the course, alternatively we train them in a way that encourages absorption into our other businesses.

Nashua appointed its first transformation manager four years ago and you have seen some amazing results. Can you take us on this four-year journey and share your experience regarding increasing the number of EE candidates in the business?

It has been a very challenging journey and one that will not end soon. The first step towards transformation at Nashua was simply recognising the need to change and gaining consensus amongst stakeholders. Through proper talent recruitment we have managed to source qualified candidates with the right skills and bring them on board to bring valuable input to our business. We are gradually achieving our plans in senior management and will certainly do the same at top management level too. We have trained most of our EE candidates through initiatives that talk to management development. We have plans to develop the leadership skills of more EE candidates so that we can start creating a talent pool that will talk to our succession pipeline.

Do you think enough companies in SA are really recognising the need to change and acting on it?

I think attempts are being made, but they are still not at the level that they should be. Some companies have opted for radical change and this has worked very well for all beneficiaries. Others have ended up fronting, which has just made their exercise expensive, without bearing any fruit. Companies should be careful of falling into the trap of engineered compliance as this is not in the spirit of true BEE compliance.

Is government doing enough to promote the need to change?

I think government is. When one looks at the amended codes, the rules have become stricter. Take for example companies that want to do business with any kind of government body (be it, applying for a tender, purchasing a state-owned asset or entering a public-private partnership) will have to ensure that they are 100% BEE compliant. However, Government cannot promote change alone, it is the responsibility of all parties participating in the economic platform.

You believe that businesses need to look beyond short-term fixes and invest in longer-term strategies. Why is that?

Short-term fixes can range from EE appointments in management roles, but many companies in South Africa sell products which they do not manufacture and we fall into that category. So long-term strategies would look into how we start creating local production from cradle to grave. How do we make our environment dependant on us, opposed to procuring goods outside of South Africa, let alone Africa?

Can you please give some advice to other companies that might want to follow in your footsteps?

You have to make BEE a standing agenda point, not only in your agenda, but your strategic KPIs should without fail make room for BEE and make leadership accountable. Show the opportunities and advantages, and most of all show the economic value. Measure the steps you have taken, and what you have not taken, and determine what the impact will be if not actioned accordingly.

What are your top no-no’s when it comes to implementing a process of real transformation at companies in SA?  

·       Not measuring the economic value that BEE compliance brings to the business;

·       Failure to incorporate BEE into your strategic agenda;

·       Fronting;

·       Ticking the boxes for the sake of it; and

·       Seeing BEE as a cost, and not as an opportunity.

Is there anything else you would want to share with our readers?

Understand your business landscape and only then start doing small but relative things in line with what you want to achieve, as they will roll-up into the bigger picture. Make it a habit to talk and implement BEE so that it becomes a lifestyle of the business--- do not just knee-jerk reactions.









Lindelwe Kunene.jpg Nashua BEE.JPG
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