Investing in people has paid off
Regular and constructive engagements continue to strengthen our relationship with organised labour
Drawing heavily on his 18 years of human resources experience at the then SA Breweries, particularly when it was taken over by AB Inbev, Khaya Ngcwembe has contributed to Lonmin staff adjusting to the reality of the looming takeover by Sibanye-stillwater.
Having joined the Lonmin team as executive vice president of human resources in May 2017, he has found himself at the deep end of building trust with a majority union, enhancing the ownership of communication with more than 30,000 employees and dealing with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).
The biggest change with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) was on having principled, open and frank discussions and setting timelines by which decisions had to be made or implemented without its backing. Removing a host of smaller unions from recognition agreements as per the agreement with Amcu also deepened trust between the two sides.
Building a trusting and solid relationship with Amcu was also important as there were benefits that flowed through to dealings with the DMR.
“Lonmin has its business in one location, and with a strong union there is a heightened risk profile that requires us to manage things differently.
Human resources delivering on its commitments on deadline underpins the relationship with Amcu and the workforce. Regular meetings with the Future Forum — where labour and management discuss the financial health of shafts and the company — has also improved relationships.
“We spend a lot more time on engaging with our employees. If you have them as an ally then there are fewer referrals to the DMR and it becomes an easier and more productive relationship to manage,” he says.
But it was during the AB Inbev takeover that experience of a disruptive operation in a corporate kicked in for Ngcwembe.
“At times like this, people want your leadership and to see you as a leader, so you must engage with them as such and not as a victim, particularly given the length of time such complex mergers can take.”
Khaya Ngcwembe: People are key to the entity’s profitable operations