Winner of the Excellence in the Management of People award for 2017, category for Medium Enterprises
People management: no end in sight
Never be lulled into thinking that your people management practices are as good as they can get. No matter how well they have worked up to now, and how hard you have worked at them, something will invariably come along and upset the apple cart.
“There is never a situation where we can say we’ve arrived. There is always something that needs fixing. People management is about constant fixing,” says Teryl Schroenn, CEO of Accsys, payroll and people management specialists.
Accsys won its first tt100 award for excellence in people management in 2007 and has since won the title several more times, including in 2016 and 2017.
Part of its strength is understanding that excellent people management is a constantly moving target.
Accsys experienced this for itself in late 2017 when Transaction Capital acquired the company from BCX and Telkom, says Teryl. “This caused huge upheaval and a lot of uncertainty among our staff.”
Communication was both the solution and the problem. “No matter how well you communicate, if people have their own particular viewpoint, they do not hear you,” she says.
“This was a huge learning curve for us. We found that doing all the correct things wasn’t enough. We have had to dive deep to make sure we are all on the same page and that the same message filters down and all the way through.”
One change introduced with this in mind is to require every manager to hold formal one-on-one meetings with everyone reporting to them, once a month.
“One-on-ones are critical if you really want to talk to people,” says Teryl. “The moment you lose the connection, they feel disconnected. The employee surveys we have done show that more than anything, people want to be appreciated and seen to be an important part of the company’s success.”
Another recent change has been the up and coming introduction of “Let’s talk” sessions, linked to a revitalised suggestion box system. “People put their suggestions – which can be anonymous – into the suggestion box and then we will sit down and discuss them at a Let’s talk meeting.”
Teryl emphasises that good people management is “about reacting to change as well as being proactive. You have to do both. And you have to be ruthlessly honest with yourself when things are not going well and accept that things do not always go the way you had planned. Then you’ve got to address the issues and fix them.”
Winner of the Management of People award for 2017, category for small enterprises
The art of balance and bringing out the best in people
Everything in life is said to be about balance and for X/procure® Software, managing people means walking a fine line of a particular kind. On the one hand, there must be sufficient structure to provide leadership and direction; on the other, the company’s culture should be quirky enough to allow for some fun and individuality.
Relaxed yet organised. Hardworking yet playful. Open yet coordinated. These contrasts sit comfortably side by side at X/procure®, whose electronic procurement software is used by well over 60% of South African pharmacies to purchase pharmaceutical, surgical and front-shop products.
“Being serious when it matters, and more relaxed when appropriate, works well for us, enabling us to work seamlessly while enjoying our working environment,” says managing director Corne Korb.
Serious people management matters include performance management, training and development, succession planning, the annual climate survey for employees and induction for new recruits.
“We might be a small company of 35 people, but we pay as much attention to people development as much bigger companies do,” says Corne. “When our people are skilled, motivated and fulfilled, the results show up in our relationships with our customers.”
Succession planning is a big deal at X/procure®, which is part of Primedia Unlimited, and all key senior staff members are part of a mentorship programme to groom the next generation of leaders. “We believe in skills transfer and promoting from within,” says Corne, who is himself a product of the company’s grow-your-own timber approach, having started out as a computer technician and worked his way up.
Other crucial people management elements at X/procure® are employee wellness, which includes healthcare screening, the annual climate survey for employees and the strong focus on training and development. “For four weeks every quarter, different divisions attend training on a one-day-a-week basis, linked to their personal development plans and key performance indicators.”
The lighter side of life at X/procure® is its custom of celebrating successes, birthdays and memorable milestones – and its appreciation of good jokes. Humour can be an excellent way to break the ice and take some of the pain out of stressful situations such as job interviews, says Corne.
“For me, interviewing someone for a position isn’t just about asking them the difficult questions but also getting to know the real person, which is easier when they are relaxed rather than all tensed up. For me, it’s all about bringing out the best in people. That’s the essence of our culture.”