Employment good and proper: A good ‘deal’ for our people

The phrase “people are our greatest asset” is bandied about very frequently among large corporates in South Africa, but being really invested in the experience of staff who work for us is vital to getting our HR practices right says Enid Lizamore, people executive at Santam. Putting our own people at the centre of what we do as HR, and as leadership in the business, is really the only way to create a strong reciprocal relationship, whereby staff feel valued and proud to work for Santam, and the organisation can have solid expectations of people going the extra mile.

So what is an employee value proposition (EVP) really about? In addition, how is Santam going about creating one?

According to Lizamore, creating a compelling value proposition is always a work in progress. You can never stop assessing, testing and somehow improving what it is your people are getting as part of their employment “deal”. It is important to say that at Santam, we do not think the deal is the salary someone is paid or the bonus they might earn or the benefits we offer as part of a financial package. Of course, those things matter and are part of what we offer as an employer, but they do not differentiate us.

For us, the opportunity for employee growth, the chance for people to learn and a healthy organisational culture is what really creates a unique and powerful offering for our current and prospective staff that differentiates us from other employers. It is about offering our people employment good and proper, just as we offer our clients insurance good and proper. We are all about managing talent right and doing it to a higher standard — that is really our organisation’s EVP.

Are we getting it right all the time? Definitely not. Clearly, some aspects of our Santam employee value proposition are not quite where they should be. That is why the Top Employers certification process is useful, because it helps us focus on those people practices, which can really positively contribute to the experience an employee on the ground is having. Practices such as on-boarding new joiners effectively and ensuring that people are fully inducted into their local teams is certainly something we can improve upon. It is also clear that transparent and aspirational succession planning is something that we should enhance, and that will definitely help to embed our value proposition promise of a commitment to career progression and growth for our staff.

The Top Employers certification has also been a valuable aspect of crafting our EVP, because it helps us manage the expectations of staff. It seems a strange thing to say given that many companies articulate their EVP as a marketing effort, which specifically aims to “sell” the organisation. We have found that being able to benchmark and assess our people practices against competitors and well-known employers actually helps us contextualise and explain to Santam staff that they are already working for a great employer. What some employees believe they are entitled to or can reasonably expect from their employer, is just beyond what the organisation can or should do. That is where the reciprocity comes into it — we, as the business need to do our part, but then, so do our staff.

So what HR practices will Santam focus on in the future, to enrich the EVP? On a practical level, obviously, people practices such as recruitment and performance management are vital to the EVP, because they directly affect how our new joiners feel about being part of Santam family, and how they are supported and recognised once they start to deliver for us. However, we are also committed to improving other aspects of the staff experience, such as the technology through which our staff interact with HR-type information about themselves and the business. We know our people need a more sophisticated and integrated offering.

Ultimately for us at Santam, it is about being excellent at managing talent, shifting and evolving culture and ensuring leadership are on their A-game. If we, as the HR team, can really enable and lead those agendas through our practices, initiatives and policies, then we are confident that the experience our people will have of being a Santam staff member will be best in class and a really strong value proposition. 

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