Winner of the 2018 award for Excellence in the Management of People, category for large enterprises

Our adjudicator Ann Naicker shares with us their experience of Netstar

Why face time is so important in this digital era

In this age of digital communication, there is less and less need for face-to-face communication. More accurately, perhaps, there is a perception that there is less and less need for it.

Not at Netstar, where management by email or app has not replaced good, old-fashioned face time.

At least on a quarterly basis, the company’s MD and other senior leaders participate in “employee townhalls” at their head office in Midrand and conduct “leadership roadshows” in their regional offices across South Africa with their  1 200 employees with the objective of keeping employees aligned to the company’s purpose and strategy. 

“It is the way of life where employee engagement is concerned”, says Pamela Xaba, Head of Human Capital at Netstar.

While Skype or the like would be easier, quicker and cheaper (and is used for other types of company communication), feedback from employees is that the roadshows and the quarterly townhall meetings are enormously popular and make a meaningful difference in the company’s efforts to deepen employee engagement.

“People can see what we look like and sound like; it makes us approachable and human as senior leaders,” Pamela says. “As senior leaders, we need to tell employees what the strategy is and why decisions are made so that they don’t hear it from others. If people aren’t sure of the strategy, they don’t know where you are going. People shouldn’t second-guess the company. They should know what it stands for.”

While keeping employees abreast of company strategy and direction is a prominent part of the townhall meetings, Netstar’s senior leaders do as much listening as talking at the townhall meetings, she adds.

“If you ask people what they think, and if the environment is open and transparent, they will come up with solutions – really good ones, too – and get excited about being part of the journey,” says Pamela.

Just as important as listening to people’s ideas is, following up and seeing them through is also key.  “So at the next townhall meeting, we will give feedback on the input that came out of the previous round,” says Pamela, adding that this is part of putting the Netstar values which include openness, honesty and  integrity, embracing diversity and inclusion, getting things done and enjoying doing it   into practice.

So even in this digital era, face time matters, and is here to stay.

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