/ 27 November 2009

Joburg Markets sets HR standard

It’s the biggest market in the world for fruits and vegetables, its facilities place it in a league of its own and a recent survey shows that 82% of Joburg Market’s employees are proud to work for the company.

In a relatively uncertain year that affected most sectors, the Joburg Market (formerly known as Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market) is
recording significant growth and continues to show amazing resilience despite the recessionary woes.

This, says shared services executive Sello Mashilwane, can be attributed to its peoplecentred approach, which enables the company to unlock creativity in the workforce.

‘The innovation of our staff differentiates us from other employers and we encourage them to share their ideas. It makes them feel important and stay loyal.”

Fast-tracked training is especially important if one considers that many of the market’s employees have immense technical knowledge, gained from years of working in the environment, but cannot read or write.

Employees are divided into categories, such as critical skills, hard-to-fill positions, succession priority and scarce skills, and are trained accordingly. Retention within these categories is a human resources priority.

Other job opportunities exist in several business areas, including shared services (human resources, IT, legal and administration), finance, operations, security, marketing and strategic support.

Mashilwane says that salaries have been carefully evaluated to ensure that all employees are paid a decent wage.

‘Although money is not the primary motivator for success, it is important and we offer higher-than-average salaries to lower levels of employees. No one gets paid less than R5 000 a month and all staff qualify for basic benefits, including medical aid.”

The company also offers all the traditional benefits, including annual and sick leave, study leave, four months fully paid maternity leave, as well as family responsibility leave.

Because of the nature of the business and its operating hours, all operational employees work a 40-hour flexitime week over six days.

He is quick to point out that Joburg Market has emerged renewed from an era of massive mismanagement, poor staff morale and inadequate systems.

‘Under the current executive team, which has been in place for about two years, the business has staged a remarkable turnaround. It has made a profit for the past two years and been given two clean audits from the auditor general.”

Staff morale is high and stakeholder relationships have improved. He views the market’s biggest plus as its strong belief in the collective.

‘Each person is important and every individual who makes a small difference has a big impact on the sum. This is an environment where everybody is a team player and success is the result of team effort.”

The organisation’s biggest challenge, he says, is to become an employer of choice, attracting staff of the right calibre rather than being just a training ground for young people.