Altron's Dolores Mashishi on having a values-led response to Covid-19

Dolores explains why organisational culture and values have been central to all their decision-making.

Altron human capital group executive Dolores Mashishi says the shift to virtual interaction is nothing new for her and her direct family members who fall into various groups and risk categories and have grown accustomed to staying in touch with people from afar. 

Her partner lives in Switzerland, two of her three boys study in CT, and her 75-year-old dad stays in Rustenburg, while she is in Johannesburg.

Speaking at one of the CHRO Community Conversations, she said: "This is everyday life for me because that's how my partner and I converse and connect. It can be a little exhausting in the sense that you need to treat each and every member of the family differently because they are in different circumstances. When you add to that, the number of work interactions that now also have to take place virtually, I can understand if there are some people who are 'all zoomed out', so to speak." 

That said, Dolores finds comfort in the fact that, as HR leaders, they are used to dealing with issues that have a far-reaching impact. Whether it's a merger or mass retrenchments, HR is often in the frontlines whenever there is an external force that destabilizes the organisation. 

“We are the ones that have to go back to the basics of taking steps for managing that uncertainty...And that often means you very quickly become the face of the organisation," she says.

In her case, she is constantly conscious of the fact that everything the leadership team says and does is going to impact 8,500 people in the organisation and, for her, it is important to ensure that the organisation lives up to the promises that are being made. 

At Altron, the focus has very much been on the essence of our culture and organisational values. Altron is rooted in building a social economy culture where every individual is an activist in their own right, which means that everyone has taken responsibility for understanding the pandemic, how it affects not only them but also the person next to them, as well as the impact on the organisation as a whole. 

"It's time to stand up as members of society and say, 'what is my contribution as a social being?' We drove our approach and response to the crisis based on those values.  We are all connected somehow and if we don't understand how we impact one another, we could end up being in a very bad state." 

Altron has ensured that everybody in the organisation is made aware of their role in helping the sustainability of the organisation. As part of those discussions, employees have decided to donate their leave to those that have been on lockdown and are on negative leave. 

Dolores believes that bigger organisations are in a better position as compared to small businesses, which will likely have to close down as a result of the lost revenue. HR leaders are more than before leading with a human touch to ensure that the organisation they represent are driving that mindset within their employees.