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Hi5 Industry Manager & Practitioner Interview: Dalila, HR Manager, Capita SA

Dalila, tell us what you do & how you got started in your HR career?

I started out in my career working for a company called Emmanuels: a staffing solutions and recruitment provider. I started right at the bottom there, in the role of a recruiter, but -quite quickly- got promoted into an Account Manager. As the Account Manager, I looked after a small contact-centre client in Bellville (which is in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa) and within my first year in this role we had succeeded in becoming the sole and exclusive supplier to this client’s account — this is after our having had only one temporary employee there when I started managing this account!

I was at Emmanuels for 7 years, after which I worked in some other HR providers as Operations Manager, before eventually moving into the HR Manager role at Capita SA about 5 years ago.

When it comes to getting feedback from employees about the organisation, what approaches do you use and which do you think work well?

We receive employee feedback through a number of processes.

Each of our divisions has their own Employee Forum, which are conducted on a monthly basis. The Head of each department is responsible for their Employee Forum. Each month, they conduct a 360 review and feedback process with employees. During this process, there is discussion with the employees to get their direct input and feedback, including the opportunity to raise any issues and concerns that they have. Getting this employee feedback and input is important, but what we really want to see is that the change then happens in that Department: the change in response to feedback provided by the employees during the Employee Forum process.

It’s important for our employees to see things happen in response to their feedback, not just hear things about what we might do. Employees only feel ‘listened to’ when they see how the company actions their feedback. I believe as an organisation and as an employer that we’ve gotten this right in a lot of ways.

In addition to our Employee Forums, throughout the year we do regular ‘Pulse’ Surveys on Employee Engagement & Wellness in order to get a sense of what’s happening in the organisation and to assess if there’s any specific areas we need to action to ensure the continued satisfaction of our staff.

And, we also use Performance Management, which we do in a positive and constructive way to engage with our employees and communicate with them. We work very hard to create a positive perception of performance management amongst our employees, so that they don’t just see it as a negative experience that is about poor performance or ‘managing them out’, so to speak. That’s not the case here and it’s not how we use performance management. Performance management has to be seen by the staff as being about improvement, development, their future career progression opportunities, etc.

All these initiatives that we do seem to be working, as we’ve seen noticeable drops in staff absenteeism and attrition in the last year or so. That’s been fantastic!

What do you think causes staff attrition & what are some of the ways to increase staff retention?

You know, staff attrition is a funny thing. Looking at our industry (the BPO & Contact-Centre sector) and the people working in it, employees can move quite freely and quite quickly for the smallest things sometimes.

In order to hold onto individuals in an organisation in this industry, you have to really try to tie into their emotions. If you don’t give them meaning and a purpose in their work (and in their place in the organisation), then it can be very easy for them to leave your company.

I think that the reason attrition is so high in our industry is because employees don’t feel they have a sense of purpose in their work or they haven’t bought into their line manager. Instead, staff perceive that all the company and line manager cares about is only the performance metrics and so that’s all they’re managed for by their line manager.

As a result, when this happens and when employees are only managed around their performance metrics, then there’s too little engagement and focus on the relationship: the relationships that they have with their line manager, with their colleagues and with their employer.

When this is the dynamic in an organisation, throwing coffee machines and other ‘perks’ at staff to try retain them (as great as these things are) they prove very superficial. These ‘perks’ do have an impact but it’s not a sustainable and lasting impact for retaining your staff.

I think when an organisation can develop policies and processes (and a culture of managerial behaviour that engages with staff in a way that shows them that their line manager and the company cares about the employee as an individual and cares about their career, then that company will be successful in attracting top talent and keeping their employees working for them for a lot longer.

For me, this is where your Employee Engagement Strategy becomes so important. An important part of an employee engagement strategy is to align it with your company’s values and have it underpinned by these values, so that you make an emotional connection between each employee with the company’s values.

It’s all about having a real conversation with employees and developing a real relationship with them, over and above discussing their performance metrics. It’s also about communicating to them why their work matters and in demonstrating to them that they’re in a place that is committed to helping them grow their career there.

Usually, this level of interaction with an employee needs to be delivered by their line manager, but other roles players (including the executives and HR) have a part to play too.

What is the role of peer-to-peer recognition in developing an organisation’s culture & for improving staff retention?

It matters, especially for creating that emotional connection an employee feels for the company, their line manager and with their colleagues.

I think that technology channels and platforms can be really helpful in facilitating and empowering employees to communicate with one another and acknowledge each others successes in a very good way.

We have just such a platform here and it works really well by allowing employees to give each other a ‘shout out’ when a colleague is successful in their work or living the company’s values or just saying ‘thank you’ for something. I think people really like that! I think people really like being recognized and being praised.

I think this sort of thing has done a lot for our organisation and its culture.

It can help create a visible culture of camaraderie amongst the staff that acknowledges we’re all in it together and we’re all here for each other — a ‘brotherhood’ of sorts. It does bond people within an organisation. When people feel an emotional bond with their colleagues (and with the company) it makes them less likely to want to leave the company and it makes it emotionally ‘harder’ for them to leave for another employer. Again, I think this is something that we’ve got right here too.

Thanks for sharing, Dalila!

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