PPC's Phindokuhle Mohlala says their Change Ambassadors have been a godsend

Phindo introduced Change Ambassadors to ease turbulence in times of transition and uncertainty.

PPC Group Executive for HR Phindokuhle Mohlala says the company was better able to weather the Covid-19 storm with the assistance of the Change Ambassadors in the organisation whose role is to assist in cascading specific actions and skills in times of transition and uncertainty. During lockdown Change Ambassadors, other than PPC leaders, have been helpful in keeping organisational morale up and keeping contact with colleagues. This ensured that the organisational culture remained intact and kept most of our employees engaged during a time when isolation and anxiety threatened the mental wellbeing of employees.

“They have been invaluable to the organisation," says Phindo, adding that the Change Ambassadors also act as the sounding board for interventions that the company introduces.

Phindo introduced the Change Ambassador initiative after it worked well in her previous role as HR Vice President at ABB, where there was a dedicated team of individuals from every department in the business whose responsibility was to help facilitate change in the organisation.  When she proposed the idea to the executive committee at PPC at the end of 2018 she received support even though PPC had never heard of such.  Phindo and her team motivated employees in every part of the organisation to participate and those who volunteered were taken through a rigorous change management training programme. 

“I always say that you can have the most impressive asset register in the industry but without the people to maximise the return on those assets, you will not succeed.”

The process

On how they identified the people who would become Change Ambassadors, Phindo says her team sent an invite to everyone in the organisation outlining the changes that were going to be taking place in accordance with the company's strategy and asked for volunteers to help drive it. In those early stages, the idea was met with so much enthusiasm that people volunteered without knowing exactly what it would entail.

"We asked each and every department to be represented by at least one or two people and up to five people in the large areas such as operations. We ended up with about 110 volunteers."

Phindo then brought in a consultant in March 2019 to train and provide them with the relevant skills.  The process started with a one day workshop with the objective of establishing clear change concepts.  Subsequent to the workshop, Ambassadors had to go through 5 modules that entailed:

  • Adapting and Coping with Change – Module 1
  • Working with others in a change process – Module 2
  • Communicating with others in a change process – Module 3 and 4
  • Consolidation – Module 5

The initial focus of the training started with teaching the Ambassadors to understand human behaviour because “for you to be able to make change through others, you have to come to grips with the fact that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. You need to understand that people have different personalities and learn how to approach those people."

After each module, they had to go back to the organisation and implement what they had learned.  The first module required that they do an analysis of different personalities within their teams using the DOPE (Dove, Owl, Peacock and Eagle) model. 

"And that's how it all started," says Phindo

Invaluable to the business

The Change Ambassadors completed their modules just before the lockdown and are now functioning as change agents in the organisation. They also provide invaluable advice on how best to connect and engage with the workforce on various topics.

The Change Ambassadors have since played a critical role in the process of PPC's review of the organisational culture, the values, code of conduct as well as the employee value proposition.   They played an important role during the completion of the employee engagement surveys by motivating their colleagues in their respective functions and operations to complete the survey. That led to survey participation rate of 70 percent which is a good result based on the benchmark and considering that PPC conducted the survey for the first time since 2016.

"With every intervention we introduce, we would involve our Change Ambassadors.  They helped the site HR teams facilitate focus groups when we were in the process of developing our employee value proposition," says Phindo.

"They also provide feedback on how change initiatives have been received within PPC and how we could improve and get better buy-in from the employees.”

That said, the Change Ambassadors are not just yes men and women who simply do the bidding for the organisation.  They are our employees and do voice speak out if they don't agree with a particular idea.  That open and healthy dialogue about what and how things can be done is in line with one of our values “Our People Our Strength”.