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In Unusual Times, We Choose Business as Usual

The training and development of our most valuable resource, our people, is a necessity, not a nice-to-have.

Often, in times of crisis and uncertainty, training and skills development is one of the first things to go, in an effort to centralise focus on survival. But for us, investment in our people is the very definition of business as usual. You see, tools, chemicals and systems alone do not equal the food-safe environment that is our priority at every site. Instead, it’s the people on the ground that complete the winning formula.

We believe in having empowered, knowledgeable staff managing the hygiene of food processing facilities. The benefits speak for themselves. But that’s a continuous process for a network of our size, encompassing around 3800 staff, many of whom serve on the front line, filling crucial roles in ensuring the food safety standards that help feed South Africa safely.

That’s why we’ve partnered up with Ecowize High-Performance Solutions (EHPS), a training institution accredited with the Services SETA. Through this partnership, we can offer qualifications to our employees that are registered with the South African Qualifications Authority’s (SAQA) National Qualifications Framework.

The COVID-19 pandemic did not limit the appetite at Ecowize for the development of our people and the driving force was ultimately the benefit it held for our end-customer. Instead, Ecowize remained resolved to move forward, overcoming the obstacles presented by the pandemic.

In early 2020, we kicked off with 100 learnerships, 74 filled by current employees with unemployed learners from outside the company filling the remaining spots. The training was initially held in Johannesburg and Cape Town, flying learners in to participate in this invaluable process.

With the hit of COVID-19, we knew we needed to adapt. With very little time and a whole lot of determination, we made the shift to virtual training, providing tablets to each site and ensuring their connectivity. It was well worth it – in total, 80% of learners qualified for their formal and accredited qualification.

We’re so proud of the start we’ve made that we’re kicking off with another round of learnerships, this time adding Cleaning Supervision. In empowering the next generation of cleaning professionals, we deliver on our strategic objectives.

The virtual arena has also given us an incredible forum to engage and interact with our valuable teams. We care about our Ecowize family, which is why we rolled out virtual training aimed at helping employees deal with all the emotions brought out by the strange times we’re living in. We recently introduced online financial planning training, available to staff and their partners.

Both of these interventions were inspired by feedback on the actual needs of our frontline teams. We listen and react to improve the lives of everyone that works at Ecowize. We have a company-wide Telegram communication platform, Toolbox Talks (digital conversations), our monthly CEO coffee talk live event and a monthly newsletter. One of our priorities as a business was to make sure our employees can rely on us to educate them about all the essential facts around COVID-19 and which processes to follow.  We translated crucial information into 8 different languages, all in an effort to keep everyone on the same page as we navigate the present and work towards a brighter future for everyone involved.

Another programme that we’re proud we’ve maintained throughout, empowered by the online space, is the launch of a new staff appreciation monthly series. Every month, staff nominate a colleague for the monthly e-Buntu Ambassador Award, based on who lives out our values, loudly and proudly.  We believe our values help us grow and develop and create the future we want.  We’re very excited to host the finale this month to crown the top ambassador for 2020.

If you think about it, there’s no such thing as “usual”. There’s always a reason not to do something. There’s always a reason to wait for a better time. But at Ecowize, when the going gets tough, we toughen up and get going. Because that’s what our people deserve, and that’s what our clients deserve. So that’s exactly what we’re going to deliver, every time!

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