Altron's Dolores Mashishi on building the workplace of the future

In an upcoming webinar, Dolores will explain why implementing Workday is key to continuing Altron's remarkable turnaround strategy.

Dolores Mashishi joined Altron in 2017 as group executive for human capital and has since been responsible for the people aspect of the company’s successful turnaround strategy. She will be presenting a webinar on Wednesday 19 August about the workplace of the future and the critical role that technology will play in Altron’s continuing transformation.

Workday’s South African Managing Director Zuko Mdwaba, one of the country’s leading HR tech experts, will also share some thoughts on what it takes to prepare your organisation for the future of work. He will also address Workday’s fantastic growth in South Africa and its ability to deploy remotely and faster than most other solutions.

From a disparate organisation with nine entities and seven different HR policies, Altron has become a unified organisation with people performance at the heart of its success – all in the space of less than three years.

Technology has been a crucial cornerstone of this remarkable transformation and Altron proudly went live with its new Workday-powered Altron OneTouch platform in July 2020, right in the middle of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Three years ago when from MTN CEO Mteto Nyati took the helm at Altron, Dolores was among the group of new executives charged with executing an ambitious turnaround strategy to transform the business into a technology company. This Wednesday, Dolores will lift the veil on the hard work it took to derisk and consolidate the business and drive its new values. She will specifically focus on the role of a comprehensive tech solution, the management required to get the most out of your tech platform, the opportunity to empower your employees and the cost, productivity and management benefits that lie ahead.

“As head of HR, when the turnaround started, I was part of the strategy, which for me is very important. We spent two days working to understand how the strategic goals for revenue generation link with the people strategy, so they were working hand-in-hand from day one. It helps when you have a CEO who understands that marriage. And then my job became executing the strategy to make sure that the team pulled people through it.,” says Dolores.

“We looked at the kind of people that we have in the Altron executive team and the mix of people we put together allowed us to co-create values based on how we wanted this vision to work, and how the brand outside should start to work and be executed. Everything that you see unfolding is not by default, it’s by design.”

Singing from the same hymn sheet

Dolores says that when they began the journey, it was agreed that the first three years were going to be about values and making sure that those values are brought to life in the organisation.

“Everyone knows what behaviours are going to help us achieve the strategy. Everyone you bump into at Altron can tell you about the 2-5-1 strategy – double EBITDA in five years within one Altron strategy. We are now in the second year of implementing that strategy.

That real work began with the HR roadshow, which saw Dolores travelling to all their operations to build the brand from within the organisation. From the UK to Dubai and Mozambique, she personally went to address employees about the company’s vision and why people were a major part of the strategy. 

“For the ones I couldn’t get to personally, we did a webcast. But I reached 80 to 90 percent of the people. There’s an army of 8,500 people at Altron, and we really needed to pull them on board, so that whether they are in the UK or Australia, they were all speaking the same language and having the same experience,” says Dolores.

Another thing that was key was to corporatise Altron, which before, had never had a head office before. Various operations had been either absorbed or acquired and left to run as separate entities and, when Dolores joined, there were about eight or nine standalone operations, each with their own structures, finance, marketing, and so forth.

Says Dolores: “So we needed to make those into one entity. They had nine employment policies, so as you can imagine, there was a lot of pushback. All of a sudden, the MD is going to get targets that have been informed by other variables. So we went through quite a lot of that in year one. The MDs became part of the leadership team. That’s how we introduced collaboration, and it is beginning to work.”

Since introducing Workday, Altron now uses data analytics to drive and tweak the strategy because everything they do is based on data. Prior to Workday, HR was not an area in which Altron was able to harness a lot of analytics. But now with the data they have been able to collect, Dolores says they have been able to do amazing things, especially because they have a data analytics practice in one of our operations wherein they are able to do amazing things with data.

Bringing the value of inclusivity to life

By starting with the values and the behaviour that support those values, Dolores says they changed small things that meant a lot to people. For example, before this process, there used to be annual awards whereby the top performers in the company were recognised but the process wasn’t transparent. People never knew who would get the awards or why – and they went to the same people every year.

“So, in 2018, for the first time, we used technology to open the nomination process, allowing everyone to nominate whoever they wanted. We then had three steps to shortlist nominees and a committee to evaluate each of them. It was very inclusive. And on the night of the awards, we made a huge deal out of it, and just like that, you saw a change in people. They felt that they had let us know that the process wasn’t working, and we’d responded to it. And with inclusivity as one of our values, we felt that we had lived up to that.”