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In 2015, HEINEKEN separated from its Brandhouse JV. HEINEKEN SA’s HR Director, Njabulo Mashigo, shares with Alan Hosking some of the inside information about how they created a new culture for the “new” company.

How was the restructuring of HEINEKEN managed after the separation from the Brandhouse JV?

The first thing was the legal separation process, just making sure that we were compliant with the conditions set by our JV Agreement and the Competition Commission. We had labour law imperatives to observe such as the several 197 transfers from Brandhouse into HEINEKEN we had to deal with.  This happened over phases. Needless to say, we also had to make sure that the absolute basics were in place to welcome the now new employees of HEINEKEN South Africa.

Brandhouse employee transfers constituted a third of the organisation. We also had Sedibeng Brewery employees, a stand-alone HEINEKEN Brewery producing for Brandhouse prior the separation that also had to be integrated into the new HEINEKEN South Africa.

What has been the highlight of the process for you?

I think the highlight for me was creating over 300 new jobs that hadn’t existed before, which enabled us to contribute to the creation of employment in South Africa, which we all know we so desperately need.

We now have over 900 total staff complement in our organisation. On boarding was interesting because some time we had one or two people joining us. In a big month, there would be five or ten people starting, then we sometimes had batches of 30 or 40 people being transferred because we didn’t have one big transfer from Brandhouse.

We marked our 1 year anniversary (the official separation announcement from the Competition Commission) on 1 December 2016 with a huge celebratory cake marking to mark this milestone.  So that’s our official date but, in terms of the full operation, 1 April is what I would say is when we were fully running and in absolute control of our business

With people coming from different entities, was there a clear on-boarding process?

The on-boarding process has been interesting because, while we were a start-up, we were still part of a much bigger organisation. HEINEKEN international has been around since 1864 so we had quite a lot to learn about HEINEKEN as a company. We’ve focused our on-boarding on two core elements:

1. The HEINEKEN stories – HEINEKEN, the organisation, its Dutch origins, it's becoming an international organisation; and
2. Who we are as Heineken Southern Africa; and the importance of Heineken SA to the region and international business all of this intentionally crafted to create the connection with our employer brand.  We ensured that our MD Mr Ruud van den Eijnden presented in almost all on-boarding processes.  That way he also got to connect with his employees whilst they also got to know him a little better.

We have more than 80,000 employees around the world, so it’s important to know who we are in that context because that always helps people to remember they are part of a bigger entity. From a regional point of view, we in South Africa are part of the African, Middle Eastern, Eastern Europe region.

The South Africa Story talks to why we thought the separation from the JV was best for us.

We like to tell people our South African Story. Inevitably we have hired across the liquor industry such as SABM/InBev (former SABM), Distell and other FMCG companies to contribute in creating our proudly South African entity

So, in terms of the composition of our “new” organisation, it has been very important to look at how to bring all of these cultures together and then start to create a HEINEKEN culture. You can imagine with a third of our organisation being ex Brandhouse and another third being ex Sedibeng, those were pretty dominant cultures. We also have enough SAB InBev and Distell people for that to have an impact, so it was very important quite quickly to ask what the HEINEKEN behaviours are, who we are as HEINEKEN, and really start to seek clarity around the culture we wanted created. We therefore had to “HEINEKENise” people from that perspective, and from a cultural point of view – whilst ensuring they do not lose who they are for that is the rich diversity we wished to bring to our SA organisation.

How would you describe the HEINEKEN culture?

A huge aspect of it, and a big difference for a lot of people, is our entrepreneurial spirit, so one of our behaviours is to act like an entrepreneur. I picked that one specifically out of the five because it takes some adjusting for a lot of people. Almost in every instance, all the people that came in from other organisations were used to a more hierarchical, top down, structure, almost waiting for permission to do something.

From a HEINEKEN point of view, especially with the senior people that we recruited, it was a case of saying to them, “OK, so what are you going to do now? You need to own it. Being a start-up, almost every process, everything you touch, can have your fingerprints on it.”

We had hired senior people to run our various teams and divisions and the organisation, so it was about quickly getting them on board and getting them to own their behaviours and saying to them, “Go out and conquer. Be entrepreneurial!”

People were asking, “Can I? Can’t I?” so we did a lot to manage their uncertainty by, for example, setting up leadership forums which looked at our executives and all their direct reports to cascade the power and the leadership. It was interesting for me to see how people felt everything revolved around six or seven people, the executives. It was therefore important for us to say to people, “You have the leadership.”

Because of the entrepreneurial spirit, there’s a lot of room for one of our behaviours called “learn to improve”. It's about knowing you can make mistakes and try to figure things out as long as you're learning in the process. It's about always perfecting and improving the process. We looked at how to tap into each other’s’ strengths to actually try to create this new organisation.

One of our priorities has been corporate branding and just telling our story as HEINEKEN because a lot of people even up to late last year, even though it's been in the news and in newspapers, are still not clear if we are Brandhouse or SABM/InBev, so we've been trying to tell the corporate story and the intention is that quite quickly now in this year still, we also want to hang our employer brand on that.

How do you approach Talent Management?

We have quite a young workforce. Our call centre is probably where you’ll find the youngest grouping of people – in their 20s and where our future talent lie. I think it's great. Of course, we do get a lot of experienced people coming in from HEINEKEN to share some learnings with us. South Africa has the potential to be a future talent hub for HEINEKEN global so there are high expectations about the talent we can produce.

Globally we are quite strong in learning and development. We've got a global talent management team and within that you find the leadership development as well.

Are you feeling any pressure regarding retention?

Retention hasn’t been too much of an issue yet. It's something we are conscious of and it’s on our Priority Plan. We have defined what for us would be a regrettable loss and look for ways to keep our talent engaged.

Does technology play a large role in your work?

Being part of a global community, we already interact quite a lot virtually with our colleagues via Skype and we run a lot of our meetings and webinars on a regular basis to share learning and manage the global calendar. I find for our workforce here it has been a matter of establishing patterns, so for our commerce function we don’t want people sitting at their desks. We want them out in the market. We're trying to also HEINEKENise that process of visibility in the market and they work off tablets and a reporting system to capture what’s happening in the outlets and all of the things they are busy with. I think it’s an area we will grow more into, definitely.

What has been fulfilling for you?

Building the one culture – building the HEINEKEN culture to HEINEKENise our people. If one or two people come from a different organisation, they kind of fall in with whatever the new way of doing things is, but when there are enough people who have come from other entities, it’s even more important to be clear on what works and what doesn’t work at HEINEKEN. We almost have to do a bit of undoing, if I could put it that way, before we actually put in the new foundation without being imposing on people. Everybody comes with their good attitude, everybody understands what role they are expected to play in the organisation.

We also have what we call Leadership Expectations. Our Leadership Expectations talk about delivery, direction, connect, shaping and role modelling, and those are fairly new for our entire organisation globally. It's rewarding to already quickly see how this is embedded into how our leaders do things. Are we being a role model? Are we focusing on delivery and those kinds of things? It's all about the culture. I think of course it was also making sure that we had all the critical roles filled. That's now done.

Another big highlight for me is the alignment journey of new executives forming an organisation.  We all had to spend quite a lot of time last year forming as a team, so we invested quite a lot of time into that, deliberately learning each others’ styles, insights and how to work together, doing a lot of strategy things together, and having quarterly check-in sessions. We really took the organisation on a journey and made sure that we were aligned. I think that's been one of our biggest achievements.

What would you say to other HR Directors?

We definitely build a lot of our credibility as HR on the day-to-day basics. Nobody is interested in your sexy Talent Management Strategy if your leave days or your salaries are wrong. I think HR builds a lot of credibility with that – it's not unique to HEINEKEN. For me, in a start-up, it was an interesting moment to have an opportunity to scan our environment to identify our key stake holders, in our case the FoodBev SETA, and build key stake holder relationships from a compliance and labour legislation point of view.

One also needs to tap into already well organised networks within one’s company. For me, it's been about how to tap into the network around me to actually help me to be successful. I think that's been one of the big things. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes the process already exists within other operations or within our own. How do you get that to work for you? When you're in a situation like ours (HR Directors), you have to educate people. We had to educate people not only because we were a start-up but also because we had a lot of foreigners in our leadership teams where people had to be educated on skills development or the BEE or a range of other things. I think it's been nice to partner with those entities in educating and getting the leadership on board. It's also where we've been able to build relationships. You can see some people waking up and really thinking, “Wow! OK so this is why we have to do that,” and appreciating it. And then, of course, I think it’s seeing the CCMA or whoever as your friend and not your enemy, if you are using them in an appropriate way.

One also needs to surrounding oneself with good, credible, strong people in your teams. For me, this time last year there was just so much happening and I was building an HR team myself and now the whole team is about 18 people with some of them on a temporary basis. When you’ve got strong people who are good in specific their areas of expertise, you can do more than you ever imagined possible.

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