CHRO Community Conversation hears how Momentum created belonging and employee engagement during organisational change


Incorporating EVP, trying to better understand the needs of employees was key says Dr Dieter Veldsman.

In this week’s CHRO Community Conversation, hosted in partnership with Workday, Dieter Veldsman, group executive human capital at Momentum Metropolitan, shared insights into the role of organisational identity in creating a sense of belonging and employee engagement during times of change.

Dieter said he would focus his presentation around the question: “Can a Leopard really change its spots?”

He took the audience back to 2010 when the merger started between Momentum and Metropolitan and positioned the creation of MMI Holdings through the merger process. Dieter explained that the name MMI was a combination of the two original brand names. “We originally wanted to find a middle ground between the two organisations that did not position any name above the other.”

He shared that, just after forming the merger they went through a process of centralisation, which in hindsight was not aligned to the natural way of doing things or culture of the business. The business was used to empowering people to make decisions and the perception was that the operating model at the time was inhibiting effective decision-making.

He explained that the period post the merger saw a steady decline in performance and market share with significant leadership changes happening across the group during 2017.
“There was a realisation that things needed to be reset and we had to get back to doing what we were good at as an organisation”.

Resetting and going back to basics
At the end of 2018, the group launched the Reset and Grow strategy and from a people perspective, they were confronted with a few fundamental questions: “How do we get our people to commit to the brand? How are we designed and how do we work? Who are our people? And how will we motivate and care for them along this change journey?”

He provided a brief overview of their approach:
“Our first focal point was to rearticulate our purpose, which was really a process of leadership alignment to create shared understanding and meaning, and to find out how we can be more inclusive from a purpose statement perspective.

“The purpose: ‘Enabling businesses and people from all walks of life to achieve their financial goals and life aspirations’ allowed every individual and business in the company to identify themselves in this purpose statement and see meaning beyond it.

“This process also led to the official rebranding of MMI to Momentum Metropolitan. The name MMI was not only neutral, it was also hard for employees to identify with and did not resonate with the consumer brands that lie at the heart of our story.”

Dieter said they changed how they were designed, “And reverted back to where the natural energy and strength of the organisation was by reorganising into decentralised and empowered end-to-end product value chain businesses.”

He added that it was wonderful to see how these changes energised their people and organically, employees launched a ‘Count Us In’ campaign across the group to commit to the CEO’s call to Reset and Grow.

“To capture the hearts of people, we first needed them to make a conscious decision that they wanted to be part of this journey – the organic ‘Count Us In’ campaign was exactly that, a visible and authentic commitment to the change.”

He shared that, “We acknowledged that we also needed to get to know the talent in our business and implemented internal initiatives, such as our PeopleConnect platform to help us understand who our people are, their ambitions and where they belong in the organisation.

“We are very relationship-driven as an organisation and we acknowledged that we needed to bring people together around a meaningful story and we took this to heart in a lot of our work around culture and engagement.”

The company also incorporated this insight into the employee value proposition and tried to better understand the needs of employees by building consumer profiles of their employees based upon their key characteristics and needs.

Even though the journey is still in progress, Dieter mentions that a key lesson has been that you cannot separate who you are from what you do; implying that organisational purpose, identity and story need to align to successfully lead any change journey.

Dieter closed the session by reflecting on his opening statement: “Can a leopard really change its spots? As long as it authentically acknowledges that it is a leopard and does not try to be something else, anything is possible.”

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