Our people

We were inspired by the resilience of our employees and their strength in adversity.

Human Resources (HR)

Our HR division is responsible for managing the organisation's talent and ensuring Growthpoint's sustainability through succession planning and transformation. We endeavour to create a positive work experience for each of our employees while protecting the interests of the organisation and ensuring that it meets its objectives. This year specifically, we played a critical role in safeguarding the safety and wellbeing of employees during the Covid-19 pandemic, while ensuring business continuity at an unprecedented time of disruption. We continue to strive to be an employer of choice.

Employment Equity (EE) and transformation

Growthpoint is committed to offering a diverse and transformed work environment; one which provides equal opportunities for all employees while also giving special consideration to employees from designated groups. We take steps to promote equal opportunities in the workplace by eradicating discrimination in all our employment policies and practices, and by applying affirmative action (AA) measures to redress imbalances in employment experienced by designated groups. We do this to ensure their equitable representation in the workplace.

Growthpoint has fared well in achieving the transformation objectives as stated in its transformation strategy. From an HR perspective, we manage transformation internally, and in 2018 we implemented a three-year EE plan with annual objectives. We also appointed a Diversity and Inclusion Forum to monitor and evaluate progress against the plan and ensure that our transformation aims were met. Our EE plan forms part of our transformation strategy, which is reported on each calendar year. Our existing EE plan is effective to the end of 2020 and we will create a new one to take us forward in 2021 that will include more elements focused on employee health and safety. It will form the basis of our future work and communication.

In FY20, we made inroads in achieving our employment equity aims, especially at senior, middle and junior management levels. EE is still a challenge at executive level, where we did make some progress during the year, but not sufficient to meet our targets. While we continue to make gradual headway in our numerical goals at the executive level, we have to be realistic about the progress that can be made through succession planning given the minimal turnover of executive staff and the temporary recruitment embargo due to Covid-19.

We believe that the important work being done by our Diversity and Inclusion Forum can be enhanced through improved engagement with employees and making them aware of what the company is doing in the area of transformation. In the new year, we will be considering various methods of appropriate monthly communication with employees to improve engagement.

Employee value proposition (EVP)

Our employee value proposition is based on total rewards and development opportunities, which include some of the following:

Covid-19 and our people

Covid-19 has defined FY20 in many ways, and affected every one of our employees, as well as our HR activities. We have taken a disciplined and multi-faceted approach to address the impact of the pandemic on our people and our operations and, understandably, prioritised the associated concerns.

In addressing the issue of remuneration during the business disruption experienced because of Covid-19, we first needed to understand the impact of the pandemic. Even before the lockdown was announced, the organisation began gearing itself up to manage the crisis. We considered various strategies and assessed our level of preparedness. This included our readiness for remote working, given that some staff could work remotely while others, based on the nature of their jobs, could not.

Options we explored included partial remuneration for those unable to work and providing assistance in accessing relief benefits. However, given the undue pressure on our national social system and considering our duty of care towards our employees, we decided to pay all employees in full, because any inability to work was through no fault of their own. We were also acutely aware that many of our people were facing additional financial burdens, such as supporting relatives and friends who were unable to work during the hard lockdown and beyond. The financial and employment security we were able to give our employees was received with gratitude and relief and embodied the kind of employer we strive to be. We at Growthpoint have been doing everything we can to ensure the personal, social, emotional and financial wellness of all our employees during the pandemic.

We are inspired by the resilience of our employees and their strength in adversity. Those in some business units who found themselves with reduced workloads during the hard lockdown, made themselves available to help those who came under increased pressure. We have seen "the power of us" at play now more than at any other time. Our corporate culture has been pivotal in helping us cope through this crisis.

We further supported all our staff by sourcing and providing the necessary PPE to ensure their safety. We reviewed our policies on cell phone and data claims and increased them to remove barriers to effective remote working. To remove obstacles of accessing any required Covid-19 testing for our staff, we engaged with our health and wellness partners and, where they were not already doing so, we asked them to consider a special benefit for our employees to ensure that the necessary testing costs do not diminish their out-of-hospital benefits. We also developed a plan to manage repatriation, which enabled the return of any employees abroad who wished to return to RSA.

As the economy began opening up, and more staff were allowed to return to work, we completed an environmental scan to ensure that our various offices were ready to receive our employees. This exercise involved sanitising, fogging and procuring temperature scanners and PPE, among other supplies, as well as communicating with employees to ensure they had a good understanding of what was required in terms of hygiene and other behavioural rules. Importantly, we put plans in place for any who might test positive for Covid-19.

Making sense of how to implement specific social distancing and hygiene methods in the work environment was not easy, as we were working with conflicting messages. Where there were contradictory requirements from different authorities, we always chose the safest action. For instance, what was considered a safe distance between workstations varied from 1.5m to 2.0m and we chose to keep ours 2.0m apart. The safe desk layout was checked each morning to ensure the infrastructure remained intact, and hygiene officers were appointed to sanitise them daily at regular intervals.

Our objective was to ensure that every step forward in opening our offices did not result in a step backwards in curbing transmissions. Reinforcing the effectiveness of our efforts, we passed a surprise government inspection of our Sandton premises, which reinforced the effectiveness of our efforts.

The team has done a fantastic job and we include in this the security staff at our offices. Conducting the scans and sanitisation protocol is critical, but the manner in which these are handled is equally important, and both are being done kindly and with utmost respect and care. As the developments around the pandemic and the national response change daily and weekly, we constantly adapted and improved our own responses.

We kept constant contact with the 144 staff members who were unable to perform their jobs during the hard lockdown to reinforce our support and to ease their worry at a time when many across South Africa were losing their jobs. Our efforts were enhanced by those of our wellness partners. This situation informed our return to work. We prioritised the return of these non-working staff members in line with their wishes.

Another important psychological factor that arose was our employees experiencing childcare and frailcare pressures during the lockdown. We put policies in place for this and communicated them to staff. Growthpoint does not have a set, formal policy on flexible work hours and under normal circumstances, such arrangements are made between employee and manager. We are keeping an eye on this area in the light of the demands of additional childcare, for example, or the additional precautions that those who are self-isolating or dealing with comorbidity factors in their home environments may need to take.

Considering Covid-19's impact on our business, processes and operations, we have put a hold on filling all non-critical positions. This moratorium will be reviewed as the market and business conditions change.

Our employees are seeking more communication than ever before, and we have addressed this through email and platforms created on WhatsApp to reach those at their workstations and those who are not desk-based. This has been supplemented by occasional personal calls to confirm our understanding of each person's preparedness and pinch points.

Our retail team was at the coalface of the effect of the lockdown, with management teams suddenly becoming responsible for the behaviour of the customers at our shopping centres. They became soft targets for abuse from authorities attempting to enforce the new and often ambiguous regulations. The work of these teams required around-the-clock dedication at times. To protect our people from burnout, we applied staff rotation and continued with our employee wellness support.

Social issues also emerged during the lockdown. Sadly, we were not immune to the increase in genderbased violence at this time. We became aware of employees who were being abused within their lockdown environments and, among other interventions, prioritised their return to the workplace.

Our HR team itself was under great pressure, with additional demands and the need for normal business processes to continue, and we communicated regularly to deal with the challenges. The team stepped up their efforts to stay on top of Performance Development Plans (PDPs) and industrial relations issues. Digital training was ramped up online to ensure that our employees understood how to use all the online tools available to them.

Our priorities, similar to other divisions, were to keep Growthpoint functioning and productive, and to immediately tackle the tasks that were crucial to achieve this. Our centres of excellence and business partnering supported this. However, it was necessary to narrow our focus, which resulted in our initiatives for staff grading and salary scales being paused and our employee engagement survey being delayed. The freezing of vacancies inevitably restricted our transformation efforts. It will be some time until our environment settles and stabilises into a "new normal" and until this happens, we will remain agile in tackling the challenges which emerge.

Health and safety

In our workplace, this is led by our dedicated Health and Safety Forum, whose role has taken on increased importance and prominence in the current context. Covid-19 falls within this ambit and, understandably, became a key focus. The pandemic has highlighted wellness as a risk in our business and we are exploring additional ways to manage this risk. Our compliance with all elements of national health and safety regulations and requirements remains non-negotiable. With the OHSA in mind, we are doing everything to make sure the work environment is incident free in all regards, including Covid-19 transmission to the extent that this is possible. At end June 2020, no Covid-19 cases had been contracted in our work environment. We ensure that anyone who contracts Covid-19 receives the right support.

Employee wellness

We are cognisant that the health and financial ramifications of the pandemic have increased mental health issues and stress, and we are also aware that Growthpoint is a high-performance environment. We boarded six employees this year and, in most cases, this was because of stress-related or predisposing factors. Wellness is not an event, it is an ongoing process, so we strive to be purposeful in how we deal with employee wellness. Our staff wellness days have been a key indicator of the health of our employees, but these have moved online with lockdown and, while they continue to be of some benefit in this format, they no longer provide the same value as a measure. Our employee wellness initiatives are designed around the main health concerns highlighted through our wellness programme.

Ethics barometer survey response

Our response to the findings of our ethics barometer survey, as was reported last year, continues. Overall, the results found that Growthpoint is ethically fit, but areas of focus were identified to improve the treatment of employees and our organisational culture and practices. The clearly defined areas within Growthpoint where the most effort needed to be invested were addressed, in large part, through our Diversity and Inclusion Forum.

Industrial relations

Many of our actions revolve around industrial relations issues, performance management and fair disciplinary procedures, because staff performance is linked to pay. In FY20, there were 38 industrial relations matters relating to misconduct and performance management, compared to 31 in FY19. This included one dismissal for harassment, in line with the policies we have put in place to ensure zero tolerance of harassment.

We believe that good industrial relations improve employee morale. Employees work with passion when they feel that the interests of both employer and employees are aligned and this increases productivity.

Staff turnover

We monitor our voluntary staff turnover, which this year was 4%. This is an acceptable level that is on par with the market. Including dismissals, total staff turnover was 7%.

Policies and procedures

We create systems to ensure a standard approach for our employees, and this year we developed a remuneration policy, revised grievance policy and we prioritised our human rights policy. Communication and staff training on new and updated policies will be offered on an e-platform in the future.

We intend to implement ESG considerations as a KPI for senior management that will affect their remuneration as it does that of the executives, but are still working on the hard measures that would define this KPI in FY21.

Grievance procedure

Employees with grievances can raise their concerns directly with our HR department and receive advice on how best to address the matter. As intended, this year we revised our grievance procedure and, once approved, we will embark on a communication and awareness drive about it. Labour and human rights issues can be addressed through our independently monitored whistle-blowing hotline, and we encourage employees to raise concerns about workplace malpractices without fear of victimisation or reprisal.

Growthpoint has a whistle-blowing policy that allows one to raise concerns about malpractice without fear of victimisation or reprisal.

(If you suspect underhanded deals, theft, sexism, racism or ageism, report it!)

Any whistle-blower will remain anonymous!

0800 167 463

Talent and succession management

We aim to ensure that our work environment and conditions are attractive and conducive to optimising employee potential. Ensuring that new employees are aligned to our culture and values is key to this success, as is career development for existing employees.

Career advancement came into sharp focus this year and as we matched people with different positions in the light of changing business needs, staff members were able to advance their skills and expand their knowledge. This meant that in FY20, we were able to promote 16 people.

Training and leadership development

Our training priority in FY20 was to facilitate succession planning and employment equity. Emphasis was thus placed on learning and development, especially among our graduate associates and our junior and middle management staff. This is evident from our focus on learnerships during the year.

As part of our succession management and career development focus, we identify knowledge and skills gaps in the company and address them with specific performance development plans. We also have multiple initiatives at the leadership level, including informal coaching and mentoring. Learning and development allows our employees at all levels to thrive.

We increased our online training capacity significantly this year to ensure this critical function was not impacted by Covid-19 safety procedures. By doing this, not only were we able to continue with our planned training, we also provided digital training on various programmes and applications to support staff who were working remotely, as well as crucial training on our new IT system, MRI.

For us, the Covid-19 crisis highlighted the difference between managers and leaders. Managers manage processes. Leaders step up to lead their teams forward and it has become clear that we need leaders now more than ever. Where necessary, we empowered our managers with virtual leadership courses to give them tools they could use while working remotely and, in future, apply directly in the workplace. Leadership skills also became crucial for employees in non-managerial positions as they needed to step-up to the plate and work remotely without being micromanaged.

Labour and employment practices

We comply with various labour laws, including the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Labour Relations Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Skills Development Act and the OHSA. Over and above legislation, we strive to be a good corporate citizen and have policies and processes in place to ensure that we offer equal or more favourable employment conditions than those required by law. Growthpoint is not a unionised environment but places no restrictions on employees' freedom of association.

We stand against child labour and forced labour and all our employees are aged 18 years or above. Forced or compulsory labour does not apply to Growthpoint, but it is an issue of which we are acutely aware as it exists globally in a variety of forms. The most extreme examples are slave labour and bonded labour, but debt can also be used as a means of maintaining workers in a state of forced labour. Indicators of forced labour can also include withholding identity papers, requiring compulsory deposits and compelling workers, under threat of being fired, to work extra hours to which they have not agreed.

Employee statistics   FY20   FY19
Number of employees        
– full time employees   623   598
– contractors   36   26
Net property income per employee (R)   595 992   402 743
Average tenure of employees (years)   8   8
Annualised attrition rate (%)   7% of which
4% was voluntary
  11% of which
7% was voluntary
Number of industrial relations cases   38   31
Average age of employees (years)   45   42
Minimum CTC – lowest level of employee (R pa)   112 590   108 000
Direct investment in employee training (Rm)   4.5   4.6
Total cost of employee training (Rm)   5.5   6.5
Number of employees trained   1 103   740
Hours of training per employee   8   10
Total number of sick days   1 926   2 041
Weighted average number of sick days per employee   3.1   3.3
Number of physical injuries   0   0
Days lost to incidents   0   0
Serious occupational injuries   0   0
Fatalities        
– full time employees   0   0
– contractors hired by HR   0   0
– Third party contractors   0   1

HIV/Aids

We respect the confidentiality of every employee. Growthpoint does not discriminate based on HIV/Aids status, nor do we test employees. The conditions of affected and infected employees are managed and supported by our extensive employee wellness programme. Based on information provided by our largest medical aid provider, the HIV prevalence rate within our organisation is estimated to be between 4% and 6%.

Human rights

Growthpoint believes human rights are sacrosanct and is committed to upholding them, including freedom from discrimination of any kind. As such, this year we introduced a human rights policy. In line with the country's Constitution, we do not tolerate any form of hate speech and we believe every individual has the right to live the way they choose. Furthermore, our commitment to human rights includes indigenous rights. Growthpoint is dedicated to good corporate citizenship.

The Black Lives Matter movement was a prominent force in social discourse in South Africa, and around the world, during the year. We remain committed to building a space without racial bias and tension. Racist conduct is a dismissible offence, and we have dismissed two managers over the past three years for this unacceptable conduct.

Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

We value our employees and are proud to offer a programme to support them and optimise our success. This voluntary, confidential programme helps all our employees, their families and management work through various life challenges that may adversely affect their job performance, health and personal wellbeing. The services offered through our EAP to employees with personal and/or work-related concerns include assessments, counselling and referrals for added services. Employee challenges include a wide range of issues such as stress, financial issues, legal issues, family problems, office conflicts and alcohol and substance abuse.

Our programme often also works with management and supervisors to provide advance planning and employee preparedness for situations such as organisational change, legal contingencies, emergency planning and response to unique traumatic events.

Supporting our staff in difficult and uncertain times

SA's economic challenges, now intensified by the Covid-19 crisis and several other factors, are understandably having an impact on our staff. Growthpoint is working to assist our employees in dealing with the financial and social impact this is having on them. With our continued programme of property sales to streamline our South African portfolio strategically, we have found ways to minimise the risk of retrenchment for our staff. Our EAP services also support our people who are trying to manage the stress of the burdens that the economy and pandemic is placing on them.

 

Employee per gender (%)

 

Employee race profile (%)

 

FUTURE FOCUS

The intensified pressure that Covid-19 is exerting on an already challenging economic environment has heightened the urgency of achieving streamlined performance. We are a capital intense business and need to work smarter going forward. In the past, our merger and acquisition activity has resulted in the unforeseen consequences of job fragmentation, which we have managed down through natural attrition, and culture dilution, which has proven difficult and costly to manage. Having learnt this, we are now vigilantly guarding against culture dilution in order to support our performance.

As a business, it is essential that we are decisive and effective. Integral to this is the ability of our leaders to act at the correct level. When executives are strategic, senior staff are managerial and mid-level employees are tactical, we avoid undermining the empowering structures that we have put in place. Now more than ever we need to avoid role compression, be less rigid and more empowering.

Throughout this report, we have mentioned several strategic priorities for FY21. These include setting our new EE plan, transformation strategy and related targets, as well as conducting a staff engagement survey.