Peace of mind

Employee well-being, regardless of a hybrid working model, is paramount to the JSE, says Palesa Ntoagae, the bourse’s new HR Director

Peace of mind

Q: Please provide a brief background and the highlights of your career.
A: Prior to joining the JSE, I spent 15 years at the Standard Bank Group in various roles, and also held varying roles within Deloitte, Nedbank, KPMG and Bidvest Panalpina Logistics. My greatest highlight was sponsoring a women’s development programme that saw a 40% improvement in female succession for country exco roles in Standard Bank’s southern region. I currently serve as a director in a few NPOs that focus on skills training, women’s empowerment and community upliftment.

Q: What is the strategic role of HR within the JSE’s overall growth plans?
A: We want to continue to attract the best talent in the local and global market to support our diversification plans of growing the inorganic strategy. HR is the culture custodian responsible for shaping an attractive employee value proposition – which internally we call the Human Deal –and ensuring that the employee experience across various touchpoints makes our employees feel like they matter and are prioritised to show up their best – regardless of where they may be coming from. The past two years have proven that the best employers are those that provide crucial support to employees. We want to focus on strengthening employee resilience by repositioning and enhancing the Human Deal, launching refreshed well-being initiatives, and exploring other emerging work models that may be fit for purpose.

Q: How successful is the JSE’s hybrid model of working, and how does this enhance the employee experience?
A: We’ve focused the experience on three ‘buckets’, namely technology, infrastructure and culture. The aim is to ensure the working experience is a seamless one, be it working from home or at the office. We’re at the start of implementing our hybrid way of work and are deliberate in maintaining flexibility as a standard for our employees to decide the best workspace for them, depending on their priorities and agendas. We’ve also agreed to take a ‘remote first’ approach, and we’re not prescribing a minimum number of days for employees to be at the office. Our building has been redesigned to cater for up to 60% of our employees. The employee experience is powered by an app called WhizzPass, which enables self-service booking for staff to reserve office space. The environment is touch-free as much as possible to minimise infection and maintain health protocols. We’ve issued employees with office chairs for their home workspaces to support their ergonomic health and a funding allowance to support those wishing to invest in a power back-up solution in the event of a power outage.

Culturally, we’ve also ensured that the office is the best place to be by introducing personal services for employees such as vaccination boosters on-site, a dietician, chiropractor and beautician. Depending on the number of people scheduled to come into the office, we plan to create moments of ‘wow’ by arranging surprise goodies. We have invested in training to ensure leaders know how to show up during this transition period and partnered with Panda, a mental well-being support service to ensure mental-wellness challenges are identified early on for just-in-time intervention before any situation can worsen. To enhance physical and social engagement, we have monthly hikes and a ‘week of walking’ where employees are encouraged to walk during short meetings.

We also continue to emphasise business etiquette and protocol when working remotely. There are other activities planned for the year to inculcate and protect the family spirit that connects employees at the JSE.

Q: Has the type of working style stimulated or changed effective management styles?
A: We’ve learnt that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We realise that we have to accept the different work models that emerge from the hybrid model and respect what makes sense to everyone without creating perceived unfairness.

Q: What emphasis is being placed on the mental health of employees, given the fears created by the pandemic?
A: This is big on our radar and it falls under our employee-resilience pillar. We therefore continue to invest in various support programmes offered to employees to address mental well-being, and have extended this support to include our employees’ immediate families. The Panda App, referenced earlier, is one way we do this, and we continue to explore other proactive initiatives to ensure our employees know where to go for help, and that they have the tools to assist with self-diagnosis for early intervention.

Q: How do you build an agile learning culture and respond to ‘global’ needs?
A: We drive continuous learning and development as a standard and have a massive budget targeted at skilling and reskilling our staff. We’ve invested in additional MOOC [Massive Open Online Course] learning platforms that allow employees access to a variety of learning materials that may assist them in their roles and other areas that aren’t primarily included in their functions. Our design principles are geared towards mobi, first for ease of access and to promote a spirit of learning in the work as a standard. Internally, we share how different divisions are learning in the work to ‘normalise’ the different team norms that have emerged as part of future-proofing the skills of our employees. Advancing the right talent is also a key strategic area of focus and we’re looking at partnership opportunities with other exchanges globally to provide our employees with exposure beyond SA.

By Kerry Dimmer