HR Indaba Africa 2018: Happy Sandpit shows business leaders how to get culture and employee engagement right

This Johannesburg-based Think Tank helps executives to unlock the potential in their people capital.

With only a day left before the inaugural HR Indaba, the anticipation from partners is palpable. In this article, Colin Browne, the founder of Happy Sandpit speaks about why he is looking forward to the event.

What is Happy Sandpit?

“We are a think tank specifically focused on the intersection between organisational culture, leadership and employee engagement. Our work allows companies to leverage those key elements of their people strategy to generate better performance and improve operational efficiencies. We achieve this through a number of methodologies, but often the starting point is just getting people leaders to understand how engagement works, what the key drivers of engagement are, and where to start in delivering it in their own organisations. One way we do that is through our Three Day Field Trips which run throughout the year, during which we take executives from all over and immerse them in six or seven culture-first companies to see how they drive employee engagement, teamwork and voluntary behaviours such as loyalty, performance and accountability.

“In September, we took a group of 20 executives to Comair, We Buy Cars, Cerebra, McDonald's, Missing Link, King Price Insurance and Anglo American Platinum and in November, we’re going to Hollard, Nando’s, Microsoft, Entelect as well as King Price Insurance, Cerebra and Missing Link, which are among South Africa’s most fascinating organisations. On top of those, we run regular roundtable research sessions under the name Culture Club, a full range of full day and multi-day interactive workshops and we also have a number of games we have developed such as the culture stress-testing game called Iceberg, which uses the Titanic as a backdrop to test an organisation’s own values.”

This seems to a very unique service that you offer. Do you have competition and how has the response been from the market?

“You're right in that there aren't many companies that do what we do, even from a global perspective. In fact, we wanted to take executives over to visit companies the United States earlier this year and we discovered that this kind of thing doesn't happen over there. You would think it would be a place where there is a lot of this kind of activity but there isn't. So we are quite happy to be bringing something that is genuinely new to the market.”

What are the main issues that your clients grapple with that you are able to assist them with?

“We strongly believe that the biggest challenges relate to human-to-human interaction, communication and underlying beliefs. While there are enough commonalities for us to be able to identify broad subject categories however, these are very different from organisation to organisation. I guess the most sweeping description of what we do is we help you to tackle the underlying philosophy of your people practices, policies, leadership ideals and so on, in order to remove the points of greatest friction from your organisation and get people working together better.”

Why have you signed up for the HR Indaba?

“I believe anything that expands the conversation about how to align HR with the strategic needs of the organisation can only benefit organisations and create better employee experiences. I am more than happy to get involved in any event that can help to advance the HR field and I think that is what the HR Indaba will do.”