Group Five builds a great place to work

Jesse Doorasamy, executive director: human resources at Group Five

Jesse Doorasamy, executive director: human resources at Group Five

If you’re going to build a successful business, you’ve got to build your people — and Group Five, a leading African construction, concessions and manufacturing group, is doing just that.

“We come from a history of being a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense construction company, but we have in the last few years consistently evolved into a construction and investment business culture that’s more focused on creating an empowering working environment,” says Jesse Doorasamy, executive director: human resources at Group Five.

“This is in the context of our strategy: the business is becoming increasingly financially sophisticated and internationally focused, with interests in the rest of Africa, Europe and beyond,”

With such clear vision of the future, recruiting and retaining the best possible people for the job by offering a work environment of choice is the key differentiator for the Top Employers South Africa industry leader in construction.

“Our talent strategy is to load our entry-level base with the best available talent the market has to offer each year through our bursary programme,” says Doorasamy.
“We then develop and retain this talent through our in-house Group Five Academy.”

As a result of this strategy, more than 85% of the company’s senior management positions are filled by leaders it has developed and retained over the years. To ensure the talent strategy remains relevant and leading, it is reviewed each year to continuously adapt to the progression of our business strategy.”

Certified as a Top Employer every year since 2010, Group Five is clearly seen as an employer of choice in the South African construction industry. The company has responded to the confidence that new recruits place in it by implementing a comprehensive induction process.

“We have a three-phase induction process that encompasses new, promoted and transferred employees,” Doorasamy explains.

On the first day of employment, or as soon as possible after that, new employees spend a day with the Group Five Academy, learning the detailed history of Group Five, its strategy and structure. They are also taken on a tour of the head office, and are taught about the company’s sophisticated biometric access, security and safety protocols, as well as how to make the most of the on-site coffee shop, gym, canteen, clinic, travel assistance centre and other social facilities.

The rest of the first phase of orientation sees employees spending two days learning about their business unit and work systems and processes. They also do one-on-one time with their line manager to learn more about what is expected of them.

The second phase of orientation occurs four times each year, and sees the various departments sharing information about their portfolios in a one-day event, providing new employees with insights into areas such as corporate communications, branding, health and safety, IT and risk.

The final phase of induction happens twice a year, and involves new employees enjoying breakfast with the executive team. Each executive committee member takes the new recruits through what has made them successful in their careers, and provides a broad overview of their portfolio within Group Five.

The Group Five Academy plays a broader developmental role in the company over and above its role in the induction process by offering differentiated skills development programmes, including construction skills such as bricklaying, plastering, carpentry, welding and machine operation. In addition to skills training, the academy places strong emphasis on safety training.

The academy also offers an in-house Engineer School, Quantity Surveyor School, and Foreman Development Programme that cover very specific content related to these disciplines.

Group Five offers leadership and management development training in partnership with various business schools, and its executive team have completed programmes at the likes of Harvard and Insead Business School.

“In addition to all of these, we offer a High Flyer Development Programme focused on fast-tracking high performing and high potential employees for accelerated development into senior leadership positions,” says Doorasamy.

The company has adapted its performance management system in line with current trends, measuring employee performance and attitude.

“We have specifically designed our system to encourage two-way communication on how both parties in the performance conversation can assist one another,” says Doorasamy. “This has vastly improved the quality of the performance management outcomes in terms of removing obstacles to performance, as well as agreeing on development objectives.”

The company has a robust succession planning strategy in place, with employees showing good performance and attitude being earmarked for future development opportunities.

When it comes to remuneration, it is Group Five’s policy to pay between the 60th and 65th percentile of the market for competent and performing employees, though the company also offers generous incentives based on contract profits and delivery.

“We are pleased with the outcomes of our remuneration policy, remuneration design and the comprehensiveness of the benefits we offer when it comes to retirement funding, death and disability cover, and education cover for dependent children,” says Doorasamy.

Extra benefits include enhanced annual leave after five and 10 years of service, and international travel for development of senior and top management. The on-site crèche, canteen, coffee shop and gym at the company’s Waterfall Park head office are subsidised.

A strategy is only as good as the people who know about it and understand it, and Group Five places a priority on regular internal communications about recruitment and training opportunities, using technology and the power of face-to-face encounters to spread the word.

“We have monthly staff briefing sessions across all our business segments,” says Doorasamy. “These are ‘town hall’ type meetings where anything important and urgent is raised, and they are discussions between employees and leaders.”

In addition to these sessions, the chief executive has two informal sessions with all employees at the Group Five Head Office concerning the company’s interim results and final results, as well as a more formal, longer session with the top 150 leaders of Group Five, where the strategic successes and revisions are shared together with operational and financial updates.

“We use our intranet to clearly articulate our talent strategy, career paths and development planning for our employees, and we always open our training sessions with a recap of our talent strategy, and how that particular training session feeds into our business strategy,” he says.

It’s all well and good to have insights into the strategy and structures, but when learning more about the realities of a business’ working environment, there’s no better way to gain real insights than by asking someone like Doorasamy what makes Group Five a Top Employer in his opinion.

“I started in the organisation 10 years ago as a human resources manager in one of the Group Five business segments,” he says. “Today, I’m the head of HR for the whole company. I have travelled all over Africa, I have set up our office in the Philippines, and I have travelled much of Asia seeking talent for the execution of our strategy. In these 10 years, I have grown in my career, and have benefited from financial rewards — and all of this in a very dynamic working environment, with a great team! What else can one really ask for?” 

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