Put people first – for the next 100 years and more

The people agenda will enjoy increasing priority for many years to come.

The business environment is dynamic and impacted by various internal and external factors that present challenges and opportunities, while affording HR professionals the opportunity to deliver a distinct proposition. The fast-paced new world of work opens exciting possibilities for HR to drive business through people and organisational culture.

To remain successful, a business strategy must inform our proposition, and this strategy should be nimble and implemented efficiently to ensure that the organisation attracts the right people with the right capability at the right time, and helps them to grow and realise their potential, while contributing to the prosperity of the company. At Sanlam, we have spent more than 100 years prioritising our people and the African continent, while adapting with the shifts of time and progress.

In executing our strategy, here are some insights we have learned during our journey:

Cherish people first, always 

Irrespective of the rapid changes the Fourth Industrial Revolution 4IR and other factors bring about, people will always be the greatest asset and differentiator for business. Sanlam continuously reviews its Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to keep pace with what people value in terms of culture, connectivity, flexibility, balance, growth opportunities and rewards. We are also flexible about accommodating the working preferences of different generational workforces and new ways of working.

Foster innovation through diversity

People are pivotal in advancing company culture in the context of 4IR. At Sanlam, we know we learn and grow from the ideas and innovation that come from our people. It’s through diversity and inclusion that we can leverage the skills and agility to thrive and remain relevant. As opportunities abound across Africa, it’s vital to recruit and develop diverse talent. Diversification creates resilience. It’s also proven to improve profitability and productivity.

Leveraging collaboration is critical 

Operating across diverse geographies requires a considered approach to collaboration. Sanlam has a partnership model in the countries where we operate. We know leveraging diverse business clusters and encouraging teams to work together creates the collaboration and synergies necessary to grow and sustain performance. We collaborate internally and compete externally. That’s predicated on a values-based culture where there is respect for all stakeholders.

Doing well by doing good fosters incredible goodwill 

Society is increasingly calling for companies to be forces for good. HR plays a critical role here. This is something Sanlam has always stood for with our Wealthsmith™ philosophy. As a Top Employer, we know top talent wants to work for businesses with values that resonate with their own. Sanlam runs numerous CSI programmes like our Blue Ladder Schools project, which has improved math literacy for over 71 000 learners to date. Our HR team complements this work by overseeing the guidelines and facilitating an environment for employees to support CSI initiatives both at Sanlam and at charities of their choice through volunteering, staff giving, and other social giving platforms.

Readying people for the new world of work 

Predicting the roles of tomorrow isn’t easy. Some roles will become obsolete, many will transform, and other new roles will be created. To be future-fit, we need to look forward, always. Our HR teams are working with leaders to focus on new capabilities like design-thinking to be able to define and solve exponentially more complex problems differently. From a talent management perspective, we’re ensuring we have the right capabilities to grow. That means continuously looking ahead to proactively develop skills for the future.

We focus on technological as well as human skills – these are capabilities robots just don’t have: our human capacity for collaboration, problem-solving and creativity. We strive to ensure there’s easy access to continuous learning so employees can refresh their skillsets. Sanlam does this through learning and development modules including leadership, mentoring and technical skills development as well as targeted programmes like our Future Leaders and Graduate Programme. Careers are also evolving to non-linear paths, and we find that exponential learning and mobility of talent across our various businesses creates great opportunities to build enterprise talent with capability that is portable from one business to the other.

Creating shared value and embracing sustainability

As we compete to attract talent against a backdrop of scarce skills, it is our culture, integrity and values that define us. As HR visionaries, we should constantly think about long-term sustainability in an African context. To create shared value, we need to do business while doing good. We need to integrate sustainability into our environment, social and governance practices. We must support the business imperative to build a better Africa for the next generation to inherit.

Conclusion

Sanlam’s HR value proposition is simple. For the next 100 years, we’ll continue to prioritise our people and this planet. Our people agenda is integrated with our business strategy and our mission to be a force for good. Our vision is growth – for the individual, the business, and Africa as a whole. Now in 34 African countries, we continue to elevate our EVP for our 21 000+ staff.

We have called, and always will call, Africa our home. We remain unwaveringly committed to investing in this continent’s potential and her people. As our business evolves, our HR will adapt alongside it. That’s the way to be future-fit and to provide shared value for all stakeholders. Accordingly, we will continue to play our rightful role in helping our business to invest in our employees’ potential and, as a result, Africa’s potential.

Jeanett Modise is the Chief Executive, Group Human Resources at Sanlam.

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