Corporate Culture

Creating an employee environment conducive for personal and business growth

By September 15, 2014September 30th, 2017No Comments

According to James R Maxwell’s 2005 ‘Journal of Organisational Culture, Communications and Conflict’ article, any organisation must offer employee education programs, let them be involved in decision-making, and have adequate reward systems to foster an empowered corporate culture.

Janine Hills, CEO and founder of Vuma Reputation Management says, “Along with this, organisations should see their employees, and the contributions they make, as important business assets.”

By empowering employees in giving them full expression, they become more competitive in the emerging economy with heightened productivity and a better quality of life. For organisations that do not have employee empowerment cultures, it may be seen as inappropriate for employees to offer feedback or suggestions to management.

Hills adds, “This means management might never hear what could be operation-advancing suggestions from those who are closest to the clients and their problems, or those that can simplify and enhance operational streams with inventive ideas.”

Instilling an employee empowerment culture in a company that currently has a strict, top-down management system can be challenging. Often when employees make their own decisions with more freedom, there’s always the chance something can go wrong that may have been prevented with stricter management.

However, Hills reckons if an employee empowerment culture is based on training and trust, it’s unlikely that things can go seriously wrong. Unless they are frontline people with huge responsibilities that can damage the company’s reputation.

To prevent this, she has the following advice. “The most import aspect is to, from the outset, employ professional front-line people with exceptional talent and capabilities, individuals with the aptitude to take the company to new heights without having to keep an eye 24/7.”

Employee empowerment is based on the concepts of job enlargement and job enrichment. Job enlargement is changing the scope of the job to include a greater portion of responsibilities. Job enrichment is increasing the depth of specific job functions with information and training to successfully carry out responsibilities and to be able to make better decisions.

Employees should also show initiative and confidence to take on extra responsibilities or training. As an example of this, Hills talks about Sharon, who had been with Vuma for the past two years and clearly crept into everyone’s hearts. “Sharon is a true case of hidden qualities and skills not being overlooked, which easily and often happens in companies.”

Sharon started at Vuma as cleaner and was later given the opportunity to become receptionist with sterling results. “She’s simply great, always receiving everyone with a welcoming, warm and friendly greet the moment you walk through the door, like a bunch of yellow daisies,” smiles Hills.

Sharon grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and after schooling at Bernard’s High school completed hairdressing and beauty therapy courses. She came to South Africa looking for a better future and found work at an accommodation establishment in Cape Town.

Thereafter Sharon moved to Joburg and stood in for a friend as housekeeper at Vuma’s offices in Rosebank. “I loved working for Janine in her home office, and I guess since she saw the potential in me, offered me a full-time job,” says Sharon with satisfaction.

As time passed, Hills saw the increased zeal and willingness in Sharon, and gave her more and responsibilities to complete, eventually advancing to receptionist. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” says Sharon. “I am so eager to do anything Janine wants me to do. Janine has taught me step by step, and groomed me with more and more responsibilities to where I am today.”

Sharon wants to keep on working close to Janine, maybe one day becoming her PA, “And then maybe have my own client portfolio one day,” says Sharon.

“My aim now is learn as much as I can from Janine – she really knows her stuff. She loves what she’s doing and loves her clients, always willing to go the extra mile. And that’s also the way I want to be, go the extra mile, keep my head up and be strong, even if something sometimes hurts, just like Janine does every day.”

According to Sharon, Vuma’s corporate culture grew into being a warm and caring team, “We are all friends, even family, always there for each other. If I see someone is not feeling well on any particular day, I better it with a cup of camomile tea,” she smiles softly.

Another example is Betty who is currently employed as cleaner and part-time receptionist, but that’s hardly all she does. Hills immediately saw her talents and readiness to grow, and often gives her various responsibilities around the office. “Which she completes with due diligence, much to my approval,” says Hills.

Betty was born in Pretoria and previously worked at the South African Institute of Engineering. “But now at Vuma where everyone welcomed me with open arms, I have the opportunity to assist in preparing for media training workshops Vuma presents for clients. It gives me the opportunity to grow into a full-fledged administrator for one day,” she says with a glint in her eyes.

Betty has a teaching background in languages and enjoys imparting her knowledge to others, reminding them of their roots and never to forget where they come from.

“Languages are very important to me as it represents our various cultures and values. It’s okay to learn and speak English for communicating effectively in the global world, but we should never forget our birth language as that is who we are deep down.”

Organisations are often seen as an inverted triangle of power. In the traditional view, management is at the top while customers or clients are at the bottom. Which is certainly not the case at Vuma. In an empowered environment like that of Vuma, clients or customers are at the top, while management is in a support role at the bottom.

“It’s thus important for leaders to realise that refined leadership skills are essential in a culture of empowerment where it’s more important to motivate and assist subordinates to perform and achieve their personal goals in line with the organisation’s, rather than to control them.”

Hills stresses, “For this reason, it’s vital to determine what a person’s core identity, values and beliefs are, and ensure these are in line with that of the organisation, before employing them.”

This is important, since an empowered organisation specifically utilises four elements: shared vision, shared competencies, shared resources, and shared support. Accordingly, every employee makes a contribution and has a voice in how the organisation achieves its goals and objectives.

Hills states, “The degree to which the individual’s voice is recognised, will depend upon their specific position and experience within the organisation. Each employee has the information to know how his or her individual decisions impact the organisation, and while all are not equal, all are respected and recognised at Vuma.”

“Since individuals are the change agents, they must be consistently maintained, nourished, and improved through communication, common purpose, and willingness to serve,” advises Hills.

“Corporate identity, reputation, values, trust, pride, skills development, fairness, valuing what people have to say, or valuing their input in the work space, let employees not only feel proud of what they do, but also make them realise you as a business care about them, and therefore they become more invested with a willingness to serve.”

Just like Sharon and Bettie who are true assets with the effort they put in. “No matter how small or tapered their responsibilities are, they do it with dignity and attentiveness, in a way that humbles everyone at Vuma. I am so proud of them,” says Hills with a happy and gratified smile.



Leave a Reply