MTN Group CHRO Paul Norman on how employees became the focal point of their growth strategy


The group's global EX strategy highlighted superior employee experience as a critical business imperative. 

Research shows that companies can significantly boost revenue growth by paying as much attention to the employee experience as they do the customer experience. Speaking at the launch of Deloitte's 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, MTN Group CHRO (and CHRO Awards nominee) Paul Norman explained how the business heeded that wisdom and put employee experience at the centre of its growth strategy. The global EX strategy sought to create the best employee experience by focussing on performance management, onboarding, and agile learning initiatives that were supported across all functions and levels of the company. 

"Because technology drives a lot of what we do, we were confronted with disruption very early and that forced us to rethink the way we behave as a business," said Paul, adding that, as an evolving Telco, MTN had delved into other markets that were linked but also quite separate from their core business.

"We are moving into Fintech where we are going to be competing with the Discoveries of this world. We are also in insurance and digital media. We have our own versions of Spotify and Whatsapp for Africa. But if we are going to thrive in each of those markets we have to think differently about how we are going to attract and retain talent."

In order to differentiate itself, the company sought to focus on one thing - the human experience - introducing neuroscience-based engagement and coaching aimed at finding ways to ensure that people were empowered to develop and find purpose in their work. 

3 high-volume journeys

One of the immediate challenges that the company faced was where to start. But, after many debates were had and ideas pitched, leading to feel-good gestures from the company like having cake to employees on their birthday, they changed their focus to applying their EPIC principle of customer experience to employee experience programs. The EPIC principle, Paul explained, involved making it EASIER for employees to get things done at MTN; creating a PERSONALISED experience that met each individual's unique ambitions and preferences; putting employees IN control of all aspects of their career, from performance and work-life balance, to rewards and benefits;  and, lastly, fostering a relationship that enabled them to build a strong emotional CONNECTION with MTN. 

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"We pinpointed areas with the highest volume of employees coming through or engaging with the organisation and created a strategy based on what we called 'high-volume journeys'. These were processes that most, if not all, of our people have to go through. It was in this context that we began to mirror everything we did for customers but with an HR lens," said Paul. 

The Global EX strategy that was put together focussed on three high-volume journeys: Performance As A Culture, where the goal was to instil a performance culture by improving engagement experiences to embed transparency empathy and care; Experiential Onboarding, which was aimed at exponentially enhancing first-impression experiences for new employees: and Agile Learning, which targeted learning for growth and impact to equip employees with futuristic skills and to develop a rewarding culture of continuous learning. 

It was a major undertaking that required commitment from every corner of every business. The Performance as a Culture journey alone required cross-functional support from over 1500 employees and not just the HR community.

Global Rewards Day

In search of one symbolic action to tie it all together, MTN created 'Global Rewards Day' where 12 000 people across the continent would be rewarded on the same day that annual financial results would be released, with every CEO rallying behind one message - when the business wins, you win. 

The campaign got the whole business excited and one that day, every single employee was paying attention to the performance of the business.

"Now our employees are full of life and aren’t afraid to come up with innovative. ideas. It's not always easy but they find solutions to make a difference and create remarkable experiences for our customers," said Paul.

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